After Mugabe, Zimbabwe Will Need Help
By Todd Moss and Stewart Patrick
Global Beat Syndicate
WASHINGTON—After a quarter century of his iron rule, it is
to imagine life in Zimbabwe without Robert Mugabe. But that day is
coming soon, and when it does, the international community will need to
respond quickly. Even though Zimbabwe is not at war, international
donors should be thinking about Zimbabwe's recovery as if it were.
The southern African country is on the verge of collapse, held together
by Mugabe himself, and his regime's days are numbered. Although
resilient and cunning, he is also 81-years old. Political tensions are
high, the military is nervous, and the government is dead broke.
by Mugabe since its independence in 1980, Zimbabwe is now an
international pariah. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lists it with
places like Burma and North Korea as an “outpost of tyranny.” It has
quit the Commonwealth and is on the brink of expulsion from the
International Monetary Fund. Mugabe's rantings, including a recent
tirade comparing George Bush and Tony Blair to Hitler and Mussolini,
only further his isolation.
he is gone, a new government will face the tragic consequences of
his misrule. Zimbabwe has suffered so much that it now shows extreme
characteristics typical of a society emerging from violent conflict.
State security forces and militias have terrorized civilians, committed
gross human rights violations, and disrupted political opposition. The
economy has shrunk by at least one-third since 2000—a meltdown worse
than full-scale civil wars in Congo, Sierra Leone, or Ivory Coast. A
few years ago Zimbabwe exported food. Today, up to half the population
needs donations to survive. Unsurprisingly, one in three Zimbabweans
have voted with their feet and fled the country.
it is impossible to predict what the political transition will bring,
the United States and its allies must not get caught flat-footed.
Mugabe's departure will create a “golden hour,” a brief window of
opportunity to help set the country on the right path to sustainable
peace and economic recovery. Setting up a plan, starting on the day
after Mugabe's fall could be too late; the time to start contingency
planning is now.
the next government in Zimbabwe is sufficiently distanced from Mugabe
and his cronies, the international community should launch a
coordinated response that is both ample and agile. The main impetus for
recovery will, of course, have to come from within Zimbabwe itself. But
the major international donors—the World Bank, the IMF, UN agencies,
and the British, American, and South African governments—will need to
support the locally-owned recovery plans.
how far Zimbabwe has fallen, any recovery strategy should draw
lessons from post-conflict reconstruction in places like Bosnia, East
Timor, and Afghanistan. Because Zimbabwe's troubles are, at the core,
political, getting the politics right is a necessary precondition. The
international community can help smooth any transition by providing a
“contact group” or helping establish a caretaker government. The donors
can promote security and the rule of law by supporting reform of the
police, military, intelligence services, and the courts. There may also
be a need for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission or a war crimes
tribunal, both of which could use external backing.
economy will also have to be rebuilt. The immediate priority will be to
provide food to the hungry, shelter to thousands displaced by their own
government, and short-term assistance for those returning to start
over. Donors can set up a Zimbabwe Reconstruction Trust Fund to
coordinate external aid and assist the transitional government in
drawing up sensible recovery plans. Pledging early and for a five-year
recuperation period would also build momentum and raise the chances for
success. Finding ways to raise farm productivity and generate
employment will also be essential for both economic and political
get started, the Bush administration should direct the State
Department to start considering options now. A Zimbabwe version of the
Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba might also be useful. We
should also begin working with allies, sharing information and strategy
to ensure a more nimble and effective response.
is no reason to keep these efforts secret. Diplomatic etiquette aside,
there are benefits to making this an open and consultative exercise.
Letting Zimbabwe's people know that they have not been forgotten and
that the world stands ready to help once Robert Mugabe is gone could
even help to bring about that day a bit sooner.