Thursday, March 24, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Zimbabwe

The protests in Zimbabwe kicked off on February 23, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Zimbabwe is known to me mostly through political cartoons in recent years portaying the leader Mugabe as a spoiled self-destructive brat. That wasn't a whole picture, but it lumped him in with Kim Jong Il on the list of leaders America didn't like. I'm interested in observing more about how his denizens respond to him.

Basic History
Zimbabwe's official name is the Republic of Zimbabwe. Geographically, it is located in the southern part of Africa. Important bordering countries include: none that are related to these protests going through Africa and the Middle East, at least not yet. The capital is Harare. The population is estimated at 12.5 million people. The three official languages are English, Shona, and Ndebele.

Zimbabwe's most recent leader is President Robert Mugabe. He was elected to Prime Minister in 1980. He has been President since 1987, when the office of the Prime Minister was abolished. He was one of the leaders in the liberation movement against white minority rule.The President is the head of state and Prime Minister is the head of government. The Prime Minister is Morgan Tsvangirai. He was the biggest opposition candidate againt Mugabe in 2002 and 2008. After the election in 2008, he chose not to run in the run-off election. After negotiations, he was sworn in as Prime Minister in January 2009. The move was seen as the formation of a coalition government. I wonder if such moves as this that didn't lead to improvements are the reasons so many opposition groups don't want to negotiate with the leaders of their respective countries to see about forming coalition governments.

In terms of  independence, Zimbabwe gained independence from the United Kingdom. They declared their independence in 1965, but it was not recognized until 1980 when they held their first free elections. It is a long story I suggest you look up. But Zimbabwe used to be Southern Rhodesia; it's had a couple of names over the years that would depend on who you asked and what type of colony/country/settlement they were claimed to be. The name Rhodesia no longer exists to name any African country. That land is now Zambia and Malawi and Zimbabwe. For years after they declared their independence, it wasn't recognized by the UK, but they have been an official independent country since 1980.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: lack of basic human rights, government corruption, election tampering, voter intimidation, economic distress.

Zimbabwe's government prohibited state owned media from reporting the full extent of the uprisings sweeping across northern Africa. They have charged 45 students, trad unionists and activists with treason, accusing them of watching news videos of the uprising in Egypt and plotting to topple Zimbabwe's autocratic president. This was done in late February.

Zimbabwe is another country I struggled to find a lot of information on. But here is what I've pieced together the best I could for you. On Facebook, calls went out for people to come out and protest on March 1st in the capital city of Harare. They were to protest and call for an end to Mugabe's 31 year rule.

In the days leading up to the planned protest, there were accusations towards those organizing the protests are traitors. There were also accusations of the police and security forces being on the side of Mugabe's ruling party instead of the coalition "unity" government. They were called out in their preparations to handle the protests as interested only in keeping Mugabe in power and keeping Zimbabwe "in the dark."

Also during this time, there were accounts of planes leaving Zimbabwe for Libya to send mercenaries to assist that country's leader, Qaddafi, in holding onto power through attacks on his own people. He has openly condemned the UN attacks and sees them as a problem like the ones his own country faces when they have negative interference from world leaders. They have no problem with economic aid, but they have a big problem with military intervention and with sanctions.

Zimbabwe is facing sanctions now as a result of Mugabe's actions recently. He has his citizens signing a petition for the past couple of weeks to protest the sanctions. He says the sanctions are leading to economic woes that are at the root of some of the problems facing his country. But the reason the sanctions are in place is because he wants to hold an election this year to end the coalition government set up in 2009 after calls of election fraud left him with no other choice.

A perfect example of the economic problems is airlines failing to pay pilots. There are pilots in Zimbabwe on strike right now because they aren't getting paid. But getting back to the national protest. It was organized for March 1st. But when the day arrived, the streets were peaceful. Reports show large number of security officers, ready and armed to handle the protests. Some believe the protest never happened because of fear of retaliation. In Zimbabwe, treason carries a sentence of death. The 45 who have already been arrested are dealing with that now. They have been beaten and tortured.

The streets of Harare were extra empty on March 1st and the organizers are said to have gone back to the drawing board to figure out how to get the people out to protest. This whole situation is sad that the people of Zimbabwe are dissatisfied with the way their country is run but as things currently stand, there's not much they can do about it.

If anything new arises, I will do an updated post on this blog.
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