as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Monday, June 30, 2008

zimbabwe's mugabe: from liberator to pariah.

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, flew to Egypt on Monday for an African Union summit, where he's expected to face pressure from other African leaders who want him to negotiate with his country's opposition. Mugabe was hastily sworn in for a sixth term as president Sunday after a widely condemned runoff election. The opposition boycotted the vote.

When independent Zimbabwe was born after a liberation war against white minority rule, there were high hopes for reconciliation in the new nation. Mugabe — a highly astute scholar and the political brains behind the struggle — was to head the new government. "Our theme is really one of reconciliation," Mugabe said at the time. "And there is no intention on our part to use the advantage of the majority we have secured to victimize the minority. That will not happen."

But after defeat in 2000 in a referendum that Mugabe hoped would entrench his hold on power, he retaliated. His supporters targeted minority white farmers and black farmworkers — the backbone of the economy. White farms were often violently occupied.

Journalist and commentator Heidi Holland has known Mugabe since the early days. She recently published a book, Dinner With Mugabe: The Untold Story of a Freedom Fighter Who Became a Tyrant. Holland says it's important to understand that his love-hate relationship with Britain and white Zimbabweans, as well a poor and austere Catholic upbringing, underpin many of Mugabe's much-criticized actions today.

"As things started to go wrong — very early on — when the whites of Zimbabwe, former white Rhodesians, voted racially against him five years into his rule, that was the beginning of it," she says. "And he couldn't tolerate it. … When he's rejected or humiliated, he reacts with revenge, he gets revenge, and I very much fear that's what he's doing right now. He's getting revenge against his own people in the rural areas because he knows they rejected him in the March election."

Holland says former colonial power Britain, the United States and other hostile Western governments must be careful not to box Mugabe into a corner. She warns a wounded animal boxed into a corner is a dangerous adversary, and a defiant Mugabe could come out blazing. And she says ordinary Zimbabweans, who've suffered a campaign of terror meted out by Mugabe's security forces and thugs, could end up suffering more violence and oppression.

-excerpt from NPR

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