US, world influence over Mugabe limited
Despite President Bush's strong words Tuesday, few levers exist to force Zimbabwe's leader out.
President Bush's eleventh-hour call for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to step down may have little realistic chance of influencing the African strongman. But it says much about the international community's failure to bring down the world's worst tyrants.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Bush this week joined British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in declaring that the time has come for Mr. Mugabe – one of Africa's last lions of liberation from white minority rule, but also a despot who resists democratization – to step aside for new leadership.
Zimbabwe, once Africa's breadbasket and relatively prosperous, is sinking into chaos over the failure to implement a power-sharing accord reached in September between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
On Tuesday, Bush said, "It is time for Robert Mugabe to go."
But with Bush about to leave office, the international community showing little appetite for taking a forceful stand, and the African Union shying away from anything more than dialogue to resolve the crisis, most analysts see little impact from Bush's words.
"It's good to hear this kind of declaration, because it shows the international community is with the people, but it's far from enough to make a difference," says George Ayittey, a prominent Ghanaian economist and a professor at American University in Washington. "The regime won't be moved by words."
Zimbabwe already stood on the verge of collapse, with a worsening food shortage, services at a standstill, and the economy in chaos. But now, an outbreak of cholera has affected more than 14,000 people and caused more than 600 deaths, according to the United Nations.
Members of Mugabe's inner circle of supporters say the world – and in particular the "white West" – is trying to use the cholera outbreak to impose its wishes on a sovereign country.
No mechanism to deal with dictators
But what Zimbabwe may illustrate more graphically is how ineffective the world remains at addressing the problem of entrenched dictators.
In a recent interview summing up her experience in the Bush administration, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "still really appalled at the inability of the international community to deal with tyrants."
Singling out the cases of Zimbabwe and Burma (Myanmar), Ms. Rice said the world remains unable to mobilize "international will" to take on tyrants.