Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another atrocity in Zimbabwe

Another day, another terrible story out of Zimbabwe.

As if cholera wasn't killing off his citizens fast enough, today the Guardian is reporting that President Robert Mugabe has unleashed a brutal war against illegal diamond miners in Zimbabwe.

According to the Guardian, Zimbabwe security forces have begun firing indiscriminately from helicopters with machine guns at illegal diamond miners in the eastern part of the country. In past weeks police conducted bloody raids on the miners using tear gas, dogs and machine guns, often shooting miners as they fled. There are no good statistics on how many miners have been killed because some miners were quickly buried by friends in near the mines, while other bodies lie unclaimed at local hospitals.

Many of the miners who have turned up in the thousands are not really miners at all, they are former farmers, students, even professionals (like teachers and civil servants) who turned to digging for diamonds as the only way to make a living in Zimbabwe's wrecked economy. A few have struck it rich, but many just eek out a living by finding a few small, low-quality diamonds. Mugabe's government is eager to prevent illegal mining because the diamond region, supposedly, belongs in part to Mugabe's wife Grace, and because with the country's agriculture and tourism sectors in tatters, diamonds are one of the very few things Zimbabwe has that can earn the country money.

Meanwhile Mugabe has declared Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak "over". Of course Mugabe also claimed that elections earlier in the year were free and fair, so...The UN though tends to disagree with Mugabe, claiming that around 800 people have died so far with 16,000 believed to be infected and the outbreak no where near under control. The UN estimates that up to 60,000 people could be infected if no action is taken quickly. And South Africa has declared a state of emergency in a border province because of the cholera-stricken refugees streaming in from Zimbabwe.

President Bush has added his voice to the chorus of world leaders (including Nicolas Sarkozy from France and Gordon Brown from Great Britain) calling for Mugabe to step down. Calls from Western leaders though only strengthen Mugabe's resolve - he paints all of the problems he's caused Zimbabwe: the failing economy, food shortages, cholera outbreak, etc., as a plot by Western powers to turn Zimbabwe back into a colony.
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