The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe detained opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and senior aides for eight hours, after Tsvangirai returned to the country to campaign for his June 27 runoff election against Mugabe. Tsvangirai’s party said that 65 members have been killed since the first round of balloting in March. Mugabe, at a United Nations food summit, blamed Zimbabwe’s economic problems on Western sanctions. (BBC News)
What the commentators said
Chalk it up to Mugabe’s “sense of humor,” said Alex Ely in Foreign Policy’s Passport blog. Even as “his people suffer from government-induced starvation and out-of-control inflation,” Mugabe was living large “at the U.N. food summit in Rome.” Arresting Tsvangirai is merely Mugabe’s latest contribution to the “sad state of affairs in Zimbabwe.”
International indifference is permitting Mugabe’s “campaign of terror,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). The U.S. and African leaders need to step up to end his “cynical and bloody bid to hang on to power.” Detaining and killing opponents is bad enough—his latest outrage is to stop allegedly opposition-aligned foreign aid groups from distributing food to “hundreds of thousands of hungry Zimbabweans.”
If anyone is using food as a political tool, said Stephen Gowans in the blog What’s Left, it’s “the U.S. and its allies.” By cutting Zimbabwe off from credit, foreign investment, and development aid, the West is actually “creating the misery” in Zimbabwe—and then trying to use that "collective punishment” for political ends: to hound out Mugabe. Can you blame him for moving to “eclipse Western interference in the election”?
And yet, there’s Mugabe in Rome, in the West, “demanding more aid,” said Ed Morrissey in the blog Hot Air. Regardless of how much Tsvangirai is allowed to campaign, or “whatever the votes actually indicate,” Mugabe will be re-elected. And “apologists like Thabo Mbeki of South Africa” will assure that he can also continue to ruin his country. But if the U.N. can’t do anything other than invite him to food conferences, why does it “exist at all?”