Christiane Amanpour: Happy birthday, President Mugabe!

posted at 10:01 pm on February 21, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

I’m trying to imagine Amanpour giving an equally non-judgmental and upbeat birthday tribute to, say, John Boehner. Amanpour tweeted birthday wishes for the 89-year-old Zimbabwe leader along with this online video, which is one dash news report but mostly sounds like a toast at someone’s 33 Years of Brutal Power-Mongering Party.

Amanpour’s intro encompasses the tone pretty well:

“Imagine a world leader four years older than the Pope who’s been in power for 33 years and shows no sign of calling it quits,” Amanpour said. “Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, is 89 today, and celebrated modestly by his standards — with a cake and a gift of 89 cows, we’re told. But a lavish birthday party is planned for next month, complete with a soccer match and an all-night concert, at an estimated cost of $600,000, which is a hefty price tag for a country whose finance minister said just last month that it had only $217 left in the national bank. A $30 million infusion followed.”

She does not mention that Mugabe has stayed in power for 33 years through campaigns of state-sanctioned violence against political adversaries. He’s also used starvation as a GOTV effort by restricting government food supplies to his supporters during the famine he created by confiscating farms and letting them go to waste. As for Mugabe’s last presidential “election,” he actually trailed opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 48-43 percent in initial balloting, but because neither man won a majority vote, they were to go to a run-off. Strangely enough, Tsvangirai withdrew from the run-off as violence escalated against his supporters and he was eventually muscled into a power-sharing deal.

Amanpour does mention Zimbabwe is a “blighted landscape for the economy and for human rights,” but doesn’t go into detail about such problems. Instead, she shows a video clip of herself asking Mugabe in 2009, “Why is it so difficult to leave power,” and “Are you going to stand for election again? Can you tell us?”

Mugabe is running, against Tsvangirai again, and it wouldn’t have taken much for Amanpour to track down some of the human rights violations he’s perpetrating to win. A quick Google search brings up an article from this week’s, “The Economist,” which I’m betting Amanpour would swear to reading cover-to-cover weekly.

AFTER more than a year of stalling and name-calling, President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, locked in an unhappy ruling coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have agreed to hold a referendum on a new constitution on March 16th. Since all Zimbabwe’s main parties have endorsed the document, it is almost certain to be adopted by a big majority. That in turn should pave the way for general and presidential elections within a few months, certainly by the end of the year. If the elections are free and fair, they could finally spell the end of the 89-year-old Mr Mugabe’s 33-year reign.

Really? Few Zimbabweans think Mr Mugabe and his party’s leading lights, especially the military and security men who have come to dominate his party, would ever consider ceding power—whatever a new constitution may say—to Mr Tsvangirai and his friends, whom they still excoriate as traitors. The heads of the armed forces, police and prison service have insisted that they will never serve under a President Tsvangirai. Even in the past few weeks the brutally ubiquitous Central Intelligence Organisation and police have been arresting, beating up or harassing leaders of civic groups, such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise and the Zimbabwe Peace Project, and ransacking the offices of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the most assiduous and valiant of the independent monitoring groups.

In a bizarre move, the police also announced a ban on radios that are incompatible with state-owned stations which routinely vilify the MDC. Such stations have become popular in rural areas, where more people are listening to foreign-beamed broadcasts hostile to Mr Mugabe and Zanu-PF. “We have information that some unpatriotic individuals are distributing radios in rural areas,” said the police spokesperson. “We have arrested some people and confiscated such devices.”

These are the people who lecture me about my moral compass when I suggest maybe we should do something to prevent our debt from equaling 100 percent of our GDP. I’m an out-of-touch, heartless monster, Robert Mugabe’s a plucky political leader with real sticktoitiveness, and Lena Dunham’s an everywoman. Tell me more.

Flashback: The Guardian eulogizes Nizar Rayan in 2009.

And, Christiane Amanpour’s Top 10 Silliest Moments from her 2010 stint at “This Week.”


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