Thursday, September 25, 2008

A reformed Mugabe?

Here's a piece in today's New York Times noting that Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe will be addressing the United Nations today. When was the last time time that happened? As one of the most oppressive dictators in the world, I'm not sure they smile upon leaders like that...then again, Iran's president has made a few addresses in the last few years, maybe I just haven't been paying close enough attention.

Mugabe is talking today, of course, due to the power sharing agreement he reached with Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party. (Here's the Economist's take on the deal.) Many are very doubtful that this agreement will hold any water, but Mugabe is as much economic actor as any, and I think he's got decent reason to try, at least in the short term, for this to work. Aid is ready to flow like water from a broken dam into Zimbabwe, and we all know that aid intended for citizens more often than not ends up in the pocketbooks of leaders. Mugabe's got such a horrible track record that any action above slaughtering the opposition party's members-- his recourse for a March electoral loss, by the way-- will be viewed as an improvement by the development community as a whole. So if he could act only pretty bad, just not really bad, then he'll stand to gain quite a bit.

Clearly, the rule of law has been very minor in Zimbabwe, so the ability to back up this agreement with any sort of legitimacy is going to be tough. Nonetheless, I feel somewhat optimistic about this agreement. Zimbabwe could use better days.

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