Zimbabwe should have been a model of multiethnic democracy and economic growth. Mugabe didn't have to be as wise as Nelson Mandela to make his nation work; he just had to avoid being a madman. Unfortunately, that's exactly what he turned out to be. And the world stood by and did nothing while he ruined a country.
Black Americans have flocked to start businesses in South Africa; a few have sought citizenship in Ghana, which is offering the gimmick to draw entrepreneurial black Americans to live there. But none of that attention was ever turned toward Zimbabwe, which might have turned out differently had international pressure been brought to bear on Mugabe.
Instead, other African leaders turned a blind eye, afraid their own human rights records might be examined if they turned up the heat on the Zimbabwean dictator. Inexplicably, political leaders such as former
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"Our black leadership has been utterly ineffective in dealing with the autocrats and dictators in Africa who are not white," said Richard Joseph, political science professor at Northwestern University and director of its Program of African Studies. "Our collective black leadership -- organizations, church groups, civil rights organizations, civil rights leaders -- have not provided that leadership, and the African people have paid the price. It's shameful."
When I visited Zimbabwe in 1983, its black intelligentsia was high on hope, convinced they could provide a model for black rule. After a decades-long guerrilla war against the whites-only government of then-Rhodesia, black nationalists had finally brokered a peace accord, which led to elections that put Mugabe in power in 1980....
Zimbabwe offered the chance for a fresh start -- and, for a brief shining moment, it looked as if Mugabe would get it right.... He left in place an independent judiciary; he embarked on a literacy campaign for the country's uneducated black citizens; he called for racial reconciliation, urging Zimbabwe's 200,000 whites -- including its nearly 50,000 white farmers -- to stay and keep Zimbabwe free and prosperous.
But when poor blacks became impatient with the pace of change, Mugabe responded by allowing thugs to seize the farms of white landowners and turn the land over to his supporters. The agricultural sector quickly collapsed. Mugabe also began a brutal campaign against political opponents, shutting down opposition newspapers and taking over the courts. The country is a shell of its former self.....