Two posts down I mentioned some of the good news regarding political trends in Africa. Obviously there are exceptions however, and among them, one country stands out: Zimbabwe. Its dictatorial leader Robert Mugabe has followed a policy of mass killings and arrests that has driven a quarter of the country’s population into exile. His economic policies, meanwhile, have resulted in an inflation rate that the International Monetary Fund predicts will soon reach 100,000 percent, a figure so vast it would be almost impossible to imagine if it were not actually happening.
Is there any hope at all for Zimbabwe? The Wall Street Journal thinks so. It has published a profile of opposition leader Arthur Mutambara, who has endured torture at the hands of the Mugabe regime. The Journal describes Mutambara as an inspiring figure, one who can bring an American audience to its feet by delivering the following words:
“We Africans are responsible for our problems, and we must take charge of our lives,” he said in a commanding, deep voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones. “We must move away from aid to genuine investment. We must ensure that after getting rid of a dictator we plant deep roots for the rule of law and actually improve the lot of the people. So when we who believe in democracy triumph, I ask you to judge us harshly if we fail to live up to our promises.”
In addition to his message of self-reliance, Mutambara also stands out for his accomplished personal background. As the Journal sums it up:
Mr. Mutambara led student demonstrations against Mr. Mugabe’s corrupt Zanu-PF party at the University of Zimbabwe until 1991, when he won twin Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships and departed to study science at Oxford. He received a doctorate in robotics in 1995 and went on to become an associate professor at MIT, a visiting scientist at NASA and a management consultant at McKinsey.
In Canada we recently saw two academic intellectuals, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, compete for the Liberal leadership, both of whom could conceivably become prime minister. Here’s hoping that if one of them does so, something similar will have already happened in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe cannot be displaced soon enough.