Since President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned
farms in 1999, the country has been plunged into a state of severe economic and
political decline. Though whites in Zimbabwe made up only 1% of the population,
they controlled approximately 70% of the commercially arable land in the
country. When that land was allocated to political supporters of Mugabe,
agricultural production saw a sharp decline and the country now faces high
inflation and severe food shortages. Once known as a jewel among Africa’s
countries, it is now known to possess one of Africa’s toughest regimes.


Zimbabwe has a history of conflict between white settlers
and nationals that has only been exacerbated by Mugabe’s extremist mode of
thought. His tradition of heavy-handed leadership and anti-Western sentiments
has bred a nation filled with political strife and repressive governance.
Restrictive media laws and hostile attitudes toward political opposition have
caused an increase in violence and hostility between the Zimbabwean people and
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front)
government. In 2005, the government demolished many poor slum areas in an
effort to “drive out the trash.” After this period of forced
evictions, internally displaced persons and refugees are suffering not only
from a loss of employment and food insecurity but are also believed to live in
credible fear of persecution. Because they are looking for work, many of the
refugees crossing the border into countries such as South Africa have been
named “economic migrants” and therefore cannot be considered true
political refugees.

In July of this year, a summit of African heads of state
provides an opportunity to mobilize efforts to protect human rights in
Zimbabwe. Additionally, with a presidential election only a year and a half
away, pressure from neighboring countries to change Zimbabwe’s leadership may
be the best option for ending the crisis. The international community should
work toward monitoring the election process and ensuring that civil society can
cast its vote. Although many international organizations continue to bring
attention to the crisis, Zimbabwe deserves a greater call to action.

A country profile for Zimbabwe can be found at:

See the latest updates on Zimbabwe from the ICG: [link dead or removed, 2014]