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Bob Davis: Peace in Zimbabwe?

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Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe

Stevie Wonder is a musical genius, not a political scientist.

Nothing confirms this fact more than a line celebrating the end of one nation’s colonial rule and a transformation into Zimbabwe in his 1980 song “Master Blaster (Jammin’).”

Wonder sang:

“Peace has come to Zimbabwe

“Third World’s right on the one

“Now’s the time for celebration

“Because we’ve only just begun.”

Unfortunately for residents of Zimbabwe, peace was the last thing that came to many of them under the decades-long rule of their president, Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe resigned last Tuesday, ending 37 years in power.

The streets were filled with celebrations following the announcement. “I can’t describe the feeling of being in Harare right now,” one Zimbabwe journalist tweeted Tuesday. “Christmas has nothing on this. Harare has gone totally berserk.”

“I’m excited for myself, my baby, the whole nation,” Mildred Tadiwa told The Guardian newspaper. “My daughter will grow up in a better Zimbabwe.”

A summation of conditions in Zimbabwe from Human Rights Watch makes clear why so many were dancing in the streets this week: “The government of President Robert Mugabe continues to violate human rights without regard to protections in the country’s 2013 constitution. It has intensified repression against thousands of people who peacefully protest human rights violations and the deteriorating economic situation. Police use excessive force to crush dissent, and violate the basic rights of civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and government opponents. Widespread impunity for abuses by the police and state security agents remains. President Mugabe has undermined the independence of the judiciary and of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) through verbal assaults on the two institutions.”

Beyond that, the economics under Mugabe’s leadership were staggering. According to the World Bank, about three-quarters of Zimbabweans live on less than $5.50 a day. At one point during the last decade, the unemployment rate was estimated at 90 percent, per the CIA World Factbook. In July 2008, national inflation was 231 million percent. Poor nutrition has led to 27 percent of children suffering from stunted growth, according to the World Bank. And since Mugabe took the reins of power, the average Zimbabwe resident has 15 percent less wealth than in 1980.

Two Guardian reporters on the ground in Zimbabwe nicely summed up Tuesday’s political earthquake across Africa and the world: “Mugabe’s fall will reverberate across a continent where hundreds of millions of people still suffer the excesses of authoritarian rulers, are denied justice by corrupt or incompetent officials, and struggle to hold even elected governments to account.”

Will this make good on Wonder’s line about peace coming to Zimbabwe? Let us hope.

Bob Davis is editor and publisher of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or bdavis@annistonstar.com.

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