What’s happening in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe is a country in turmoil. Once a British colony known as Southern Rhodesia, it’s last white government declared Independence (UDI) from the UK, rather than allow a transition to a representative democracy. The UDI sparked a period of civil war, from which energed the new nation of Zimbabwe, led by Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe was a prosperous country, with plentiful resources. Over the years, Mugabe centralised power and became more dictatorial, favouring particular individuals and tribes. Today Zimbabwe is ravaged by hyperinflation, political violence and poverty. White-owned farms have been confiscated and redistributed, often leading to decreasing yields. Combined with years of poor harvest through drought, death now stalks Zimbabwe in the form of hunger and rampant HIV. Those who stand up to the regime risk imprisonment, torture and murder at the hands of the government.

But there is still hope. In the latest election the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) looked to have won a majority. Robert Mugabe has refused to hand over power and may be trying to rig the recounts in contested seats. Meanwhile international pressure is being brought to bear on Mugabe to step down. A ship carrying arms and ammunition from China, bound for Zimbabwe is being turned away from coastal ports. Activists fear that Mugabe is readying himself for a fight for power. The country stands on the brink of civil war. Neighbouring South Africa, which holds that balance of power in the region, favours a “quiet diplomacy” approach, but other nations think that a much stronger line needs to be taken.

Having forced a run off, Robert Mugabe’s thugs have wasted no time; beatings, torturing and murder of opposition activitsts has been rife. The opposiotion leader Morgan Tsvangirai has pulled out of the contest, fearing further reprisals against the people. Whilst the international community expresses outrage, it remains to be seen whether they will take action.

Meanwhile the people of Zimbabwe struggle to survive. About one quarter of the population have fled the country. The remainder face life in a country where the average life expectancy has dropped to 37 year for men and 34 for women, the lowest in the world.

You can find out more about Zimbabwe in general here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zimbabwe

An overview of the recent election can be found here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2008/zimbabwe/default.stm

International pressure may be forcing the shipment of arms to be returned to China:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7360438.stm

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) website is here:

http://www.mdc.co.zw/default.asp

The Zimbabwe government’s opinion can be found here (but it takes a long time to download):

http://www.gta.gov.zw/

Amnesty International’s independent view on Human Rights in Zimbabwe can be found here:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/africa/southern-africa/zimbabwe

After weeks of protracted negotiation between Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, it seems as if a power sharing deal has finally been reached:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7611459.stm

Many cynics wil be saying “I told you so”, but it appears that the power sharing agreement is in jeopardy after Robert Mugabe unilaterally appointed members from his party to key ministries within the Zimbabwe government, in contravention of the plan agreed with the former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7666493.stm

Zimbabwe’s “new start ” has faced many challenges, but there is hope:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2008/zimbabwe/default.stmStudy

February 2010: Seizures of white owned farms continue. There is an attempt to find out exactly who owns what, but this is blocked: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8492320.stm

March 2010: Whilst some things seem to be gradually improving in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s firm grip on power continues. Whilst splashing out on yet another lavish birthday party, the suffering of his people has reached new lows. Here the plight of children in Zimbabwe is exposed:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8538587.stm

Use these resources and others to develop your own opinion on the situation in Zimbabwe.

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