Sunday, May 13, 2007

Zimbabwe to head UN Development Commission - Not a parody

It would be hard to make this stuff up, but unfortunately it's true.

For 2003 the African bloc in the UN, whose turn it was to pick the country heading the UN Commission on Human Rights, chose Libya. Then in 2004, just as the campaign of mass murder and ethnic cleansing in Darfur was reaching a crescendo, the government of Sudan was given a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.

How could they top that? It's not easy, but they're trying.

For two decades after Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) won independence with the end of white minority rule in 1980, Zimbabwe was one of the most economically successful countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2000, the government of Robert Mugabe has systematically destroyed Zimbabwe's economy as part of its brutally single-minded effort to hold on to power. (For some details, see Zimbabwe, the land of dying children.) This year, the African bloc got their turn to decide the chairmanship of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and they have picked the government of ... Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe may have left 700,000 of its citizens without accommodation by bulldozing their homes, caused millions more to starve after violent land seizures that destroyed farming and so mismanaged its own economy that it has the world's highest inflation. But it has been chosen to head a United Nations body charged with promoting economic progress and environmental protection. [....]

Not only has the regime of Robert Mugabe persistently used violence to repress all criticism, raping, torturing and beating opponents, but it has also turned development back by decades. [....] According to the World Bank no country has seen its economy shrink so much in peacetime.

The USAID Famine Early Warning Systems put out an alert last week warning that total food production in Zimbabwe for this season would meet only about 50% of its needs. It predicted that it would be less than half last year’s harvest, which left 1.5m dependent on food aid.

It added that the prevailing foreign currency shortages and high inflation, which had reached 2,200% by March according to the Central Statistical Office, would make it difficult for the government to import the necessary food. [Etc.]
As Mick Hartley observes, "It's good to see that their sense of humour hasn't deserted them." But it's a pretty sick joke.

--Jeff Weintraub
Mick Hartley (Politics & Culture)
May 11, 2007
Sustainable Development

Four years ago Africans chose Libya to head the UN Commission on Human Rights. It's good to see that their sense of humour hasn't deserted them:
Britain and other Western nations were fighting a rear-guard action last night to block Zimbabwe from heading an influential United Nations organisation responsible for development.

Despite running one of the world’s most disastrous economies, Francis Nheme, the Zimbabwean Environment Minister, is expected today to become chairman of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the body that monitors the environment and development...

The chairmanship of the body rotates annually among the five board members, each of whom represents one of the world’s regions. The next chairman should be the representative of an African country. But when the African bloc on the 53-member organisation proposed Zimbabwe last month, other nations reacted with disbelief and demanded a vote...

Many African leaders still revere Mr Mugabe as the revolutionary commander who fought white rule in Rhodesia during the 1970s and went on to lead an independent Zimbabwe out of the colonial era.
Here's Rosemary Righter:
Zimbabwe’s triumph is certain because it is Africa’s nominee. Under an unwritten UN rule, this was Africa’s “turn” in the seat, so what Africa says, goes. African governments clearly appreciate the example Zimbabwe sets in tackling global warming.

Why, only this week the Mugabe regime announced that households are to be rationed to four hours of electricity a day. No matter that the reason for this enforced curtailment of consumption is the catastrophic mismanagement of Zimbabwean resources: results are what count.

Nor is this President Mugabe’s only pioneering contribution to curbing global warming. Few people can lay their hands on petrol these days, and with inflation at 2,200 per cent and soaring fast, fewer still can afford it. Tractors rust on the farms that made Zimbabwe an African breadbasket. Hoes are ever so environmentally friendly. Mr Mugabe’s land “reforms” threw not only white owners, but 350,000 black families who worked for them, off the land and out of work. Result, maize production is down by 80 per cent, so Zimbabweans are doing their bit by having only one meal in two or even three days.

They are also dying earlier, at 35 instead of 60 in 1990, and, along with the absence of medicines for all but the elite, the spread of HIV/Aids to a fifth of the population is doing wonders for population control. Pity that people are forced to cut wood for fuel, but nothing’s perfect.
And Jan Raath:
Zimbabwe is on or near the bottom of every international indicator of human endeavour. The 40 per cent crash in GDP in the past nine years is the worst in the world for a country not at war. Per capita GDP is down to what it was in 1953. The average age of adult mortality is 36 years.

This descent from being sub-Saharan Africa’s second-most-developed nation was not the blind, feckless slide into poverty and tyranny that came with the end of colonial rule nearly everywhere else in Africa. It began in earnest 20 years after independence and was wilful and sustained. Mr Mugabe saw the writing on the wall: his people had had enough of him.

His response was to send out wave after wave of destruction, starting with the agriculture industry. “Ian Smith [the former Rhodesian Prime Minister] says I destroyed his beautiful country,” Mr Mugabe said a few years ago. Then he added: “Good.”

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