Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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Enabling Chaos and Terrorism in Africa
One of the abiding tragedies of Africa is the twin curse of brutal and corrupt leaders and the unwillingness of the region's less brutal leaders to take corrective action.

The latest, long-running train wreck is Robert Mugabe's thuggery and kleptocracy in Zimbabwe, a once proud and prosperous nation now boasting only the highest infant mortality rate in the world and some of the worst inflation.

As Arnold Tsunga writes in today's Washington Post, Mugabe is not single-handedly destroying his country. He is enabled by the weak, pathetic and tragic lack of leadership of his enablers, the leaders of other southern African nations, to face the crisis he has wrought.

At a recent African summit following the naked aggression of Mugabe's thugs, including the beatings of main opposition leaders then the public bragging about it, the other leaders were worse than silent. Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete announced that he an other leaders were "in support of the government and people of Zimbabwe." So much for the policy of "quiet engagement" in working with Mugabe. It is more like public endorsement.

There is no question of historic factors such as colonialism, slavery and exploitation causing deep and lasting effects in Africa. But it is these self-inflicted wounds by the "Big Men" of Africa that have allowed the cancer of corruption, brutality and despotic rule to spread and last.

This is akin to paying lip service to cracking down on drugs while publicly bragging about distributing heroin and crack on the streets.

This is a crisis that extends far beyond Zimbabwe. By creating (and standing by and/or encouraging it), southern Africa is creating the conditions for the spread of terrorism and chaos. Not only Islamist terrorism, although we have seen the Islamist ability to exploit such conditions in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia and elsewhere. The conditions for armed revolts that degenerate to the level of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda or the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone, are now ripe.

Zimbabwe is particularly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs and terrorists (the transnational criminal groups are already operating, the terrorist are likely too). Mugabe, operating criminal state, offers many advantages, as Taylor in Liberia did: access to diplomatic passports and state banking facilities; payment in valuable natural resources and commodities; control of the borders to allow the entry, exit and protection of its allies; and a monopoly on public security forces to protect those operations.

Taylor exploited all of those to the maximum. It is hard to imagine Mugabe has not learned those lessons well.

The danger then is to all of us. As al Qaeda and Hezbollah exploited Liberia for financial reasons and strengthened their positions, so they will in Zimbabwe as well. As chaos spreads, the cost in human terms will be dire and the economic cost of remedying the situation further down the road will be staggering.

But the solution is not in the hands of the West, but in the cowardly hands of the Mbeke's of Africa, who enjoy a measure of freedom and prosperity in their own countries but are unwilling to lift a finger to stop the abuses in Zimbabwe. South Africa controls the supply of electricity, food, credits and much more to Mugabe's regime. It is stunning that a government that exists in some large measure because of the willingness of the international community to impose sanctions on a racist regime is unwilling to take even minimum steps to insure the freedom of others.

As Tsunga wrote: "If Southern Africa's leaders finally break their silence about the catastrophe in their neighborhood, this could be the year Mugabe leaves office and Zimbabwe reintegrates itself into the world. Or they could remain silent and complicit, and this year could mark the beginning of an even steeper decline into oppression."
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