Thursday, December 11, 2008

Zimbabwe: In need of strong medicine

Pressure grows on Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, who says that the cholera epidemic is over

THE delusion of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, appears to know no end. In a televised speech on Thursday December 11th he announced that a cholera epidemic, which continues to ravage Zimbabwe and to spread to neighbouring countries, is over. “I am happy to say…that there is no cholera” he claimed, just as the World Health Organisation had reported that 783 people have so far died of the disease and that over 16,400 people have been infected. As he spoke, officials in South Africa declared a disaster area in a part of the Limpopo region on the Zimbabwean border, as a result of desperate refugees spreading cholera.

Mr Mugabe’s denials are calculated to deflect international pressure as the United Nations Security Council prepares to call a special session on Zimbabwe, perhaps as early as Monday. The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, spoke this week of Zimbabwe’s suffering a “humanitarian emergency of colossal proportions”, and is expected to push for targeted UN sanctions against Zimbabwe’s government (in addition to existing European Union ones). Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and George Bush, America’s outgoing president, have both called for Mr Mugabe to step down. In July a UN Security Council resolution to impose targeted sanctions (travel bans and asset freezes) against Mr Mugabe and his acolytes was blocked by China and Russia, with South Africa also dissenting, on the ground that Zimbabwe posed no threat to international stability. The blocking duo can hardly still argue that case with a straight face as neighbouring countries are threatened by refugees and cholera. ...


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