Mugabe set up militias for political violence

The Times of London buries the lede somewhat in their look at political violence in Zimbabwe.  They start off by recounting a horrifying story of how the baby of an opposition leader got maimed by goons in the employ of Robert Mugabe, but wait until several paragraphs to report that minutes of high-level meetings show he was directly involved in the creation of militias to conduct this violence across the country.  Mugabe and his henchmen wanted to avoid having the military attack civilians directly, and instead unleashed thugs in their stead:

Leaked minutes of the Joint Operations Command (JOC), which has orchestrated the violence since Mugabe lost a first round of voting in March, revealed that it is willing to wipe out opposition supporters.

A 10,000-strong youth militia loyal to the Zanu-PF has been created to enforce its wishes in case regular army units refuse, according to Zimbabwean human rights agencies.

“It’s a deliberate nationwide strategy to reoccupy space so all space is occupied by the Zanu of Mugabe,” said Jon Stewart, a director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum.

Minutes of one JOC meeting show that supporters of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, “will all be internally displaced. The target number is two million supporters”.

Technically, this does not qualify as genocide as it is not based on ethnicity or religion, but operationally it amounts to the same thing.  They wanted to make millions homeless as a threat or a consequence to political opposition, and they hired goons to do it.  The minutes prove beyond any doubt that the wave of political violence didn’t come from the MDC as Mugabe alleges, nor as a grassroots movement from fringe Mugabe supporters, but as a deliberate campaign of mass murder and ruthless intimidation.

Small wonder, then, that Mugabe sought to distract attention from his role as murderer-in-chief by asking Morgan Tsvangirai to attend his inauguration, which the MDC leader quickly refused:

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai rejected an olive branch offered by President Robert Mugabe on Sunday after a widely condemned election which African observers said was scarred by violence and intimidation.  …

Tsvangirai rejected the invitation and said the inauguration was meaningless after an illegitimate poll. He said he would ask the African Union not to recognize Mugabe’s re-election.

Mugabe spokesman George Charamba told Reuters the invitation was “done in the spirit of the president’s wish to reach out … It is a major step towards political engagement.”

At least the Bush administration has taken some action.  Yesterday, he announced that new sanctions will be developed, both here in the US and at the UN:

Bush called for strong international action against top regime officials and was sharply critical of the political violence during the campaign, which saw 85 opposition activists killed and more than 3,000 injured.

“I am instructing the secretaries of State and Treasury to develop sanctions against this illegitimate government of Zimbabwe and those who support it,” Bush said in a statement Saturday.

“We will press for strong action by the United Nations, including an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and travel ban on regime officials,” Bush said. “The international community has condemned the Mugabe regime’s ruthless campaign of politically motivated violence and intimidation with a strong and unified voice that makes clear that yesterday’s election was in no way free and fair.”

Mugabe has not paid a price yet for his thuggery, and neither have his henchmen.  The actions by the US are a good start towards correcting that, but we should also consider sanctioning the Mbeki government in South Africa in some manner for their defense of a murderous, genocidal regime.