Mugabe's Malaise: Stifling Africa's Development. (Global Notebook)

By Litman, Leah | Harvard International Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

Mugabe's Malaise: Stifling Africa's Development. (Global Notebook)


Litman, Leah, Harvard International Review


Even as the Iraq weapons inspection dilemma occupied UN attention, one fledgling organization was able to obtain enough floor time to gain a full endorsement from the UN General Assembly.

Reaffirming the UN commitment to the 1991 Harare Declaration, which created a forum for African cooperation to foster democratization and economic progress, the General Assembly endorsed the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). NEPAD, which is a program--not an organization--spearheaded by the leadership of Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa, has been embraced as a panacea for Africa's chronic poverty and instability. Even as leaders such as South African President Thabo Mbeki, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan pledge their support and efforts to the success of NEPAD, anti-democratic leaders--notably those in Libya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe--threaten the entire initiative. In particular, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's destructive political and economic policies endanger NEPAD's prospects of reviving the economic and political situation within Africa.

One of the principal goals of NEPAD is to boost economic vitality in many African countries. The program hopes to foster a sense of economic cooperation within each country to spur economic revival across the continent. Mbeki recently urged the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOC), a prominent South African organization, to become less racially divisive. As a result, many African business leaders signed agreements with NAFCOC to show their support for racial integration in the South African economy. Nigeria, another endorser of NEPAD, is addressing its own domestic economic issues, including the industrial disparity between northern and southern parts of the country. A high-ranking advisor to Obasanjo held an initial meeting to formulate solutions to northern Nigeria's industrial shortcomings, which exacerbate regional tensions.

Leaders hope that domestic reforms within their countries will establish economic credibility and allow for increased international investment and new trade agreements. Regionally, Nigeria has attempted to foster economic integration among African countries by implementing fast-track programs similar to the US Trade Promotion Authority. Member states are also seeking investment from abroad individually; Nigeria negotiated a trade agreement with Morocco, Kenya set up a delegation to monitor trade disputes with Egypt, and other free trade agreements are still pending.

As other African states pursue such positive initiatives, the situation in Zimbabwe has only regressed. Mugabe's policies defy democratic principles and incite local ethnic tension. Land redistribution programs, which transfer land from white citizens to "native" Zimbabweans, remain the subject of international concern. Land transfers have increased the wealth of political cronies and have fueled public resentment of such figures. Mugabe's policy of uprooting individuals and seizing their farms has created a displaced persons crisis within Zimbabwe that increases civil chaos and economic instability.

Mugabe's anti-democratic policies have also undermined the foundations of political legitimacy in Zimbabwe. After rejecting proposed verification and monitoring efforts for the national elections in March 2002, Mugabe claimed victory despite widespread international accusations of corruption and election fraud. Such beliefs were substantiated by reports from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a group in opposition to Mugabe, which claimed that he "makes no commitment to a return to democratic legitimacy." Additionally, election reports from MDC and other opposition groups were filled with reports of violence at the polls including beatings and the use of tear gas. …

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