The world is suddenly paying a measure of the attention that is necessary to the democratic crisis in Zimbabwe, where strongman President Robert Mugabe has used violence and intimidation to prevent the competitive election that would surely have forced him from office.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela is leading a chorus of condemnation for what Mandela describes as the “tragic failure” of Mugabe as a leader of his country and as an advocate for Africa.
Even President Bush, who has not exactly been a leader when it comes to addressing the concerns of southern Africa or promoting democracy (in Africa or the U.S.), has denounced Mugabe’s use of military, police and paramilitary thugs to impose a result that could not have been secured by the electorate.
Bush is right to be making noise now. And he may even be right to propose sanctions against the Mugabe government, although sanctions always seem to fall harder on innocent citizens than upon the dictators they are supposed to target.
But, as usual, even when Bush gets a foreign-policy issue, he does so after he might have been able to avert murder and mayhem.
The same goes for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who can barely be bothered to pay attention to African affairs.
And what of Barack Obama, who critics, including McCain, suggest is inexperienced and inept when it comes to scanning the globe for trouble-spots and responding to their challenges?
The likely Democratic nominee, far from having to play catch-up, is in the forefront.
Having rallied fellow Senators Joe Biden, D-Delaware; Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut; Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin; Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska; John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, as co-sponsors — and working in conjunction with the late Tom Lantos, the California congressman who made human rights in Africa a priority during his tenure as chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs — the senator from Illinois moved last spring to get the Congress to pay attention to what was unfolding in Zimbabwe.
On June 26, 2007, Obama won unanimous Senate support for a resolution condemning Mugabe’s disregard for democratic processes and calling for U.S. action to prevent the degeneration of circumstances on the ground in Zimbabwe.
Obama’s resolution condemning violent acts by the Zimbabwe government, serves as a powerful reminder that some officials get it while others get lost.