Friday, 12 December 2008

A case for intervention

Zimbabwe long ago became that most tragic of things - a country where the expectations are so low that each week's latest disaster fails to rouse much interest. The suffering of its inhabitants becomes less shocking. The economic collapse becomes a joke, with the currency as its butt.

It is simplistic to believe Zimbabwe was a shining beacon of excellence once. However the UN Food Programme was not feeding over half the country's population ten years ago. Through fear of being branded neo-colonialists, lack of interest and the worse form of moral relativism (see the second part of our moral relativism piece soon) the rest of the world sat back and did nothing. In 1990 the writing was very much on the wall - Mr Mugabe attempted to move the country to a one party state. In 2000 the land reform programme took to violently purloining land from farmers - obviously repellent behaviour, but the relativists wondered if past injustices made this more acceptable.

This week the disassociation with reality has continued. A cholera outbreak is taking lives near the capital and on the border with South Africa. Cholera sounds an antiquated disease, and it is. There is no reason for anyone in Zimbabwe to die of this disease, but we are barely surprised after the country's past, that another tragedy has befallen the nation.

It is time for the world to act. A force comprised of EU or NATO troops (the UK alone would play into Mr Mugabe's hand) is required to remove Mr Mugabe and support the transition to a government with an MDC presidency. The hand-wringing will, of course, commence. No amount of worry over the sovereignty of the country will change two facts. Firstly, the power-sharing deal is failing, and failing pitifully. Secondly there is a 2005 UN mandate that requires the world to protect people from crimes against humanity. When half a country is starving through the corrupt policies of a violently-preserved president the crime is all too plain to see.

Do not wait for the UN security council to act. The morally-bankrupt actions of China and Russia lead to a veto on any attempt to hold Mr Mugabe to account. The people of Zimbabwe cannot wait any longer for the UN to reform its decision making bodies. The senseless deaths through politically-inspired violence, starvation and disease have to stop. It's time to get a plan in place, to make an ultimatum and, if then required, forge an international force to depose Mr Mugabe permanently. The UN grants clear moral authority to do this. If China and Russia won't step up to the plate, then the rest of the world must.

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