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  Zimbabwe: at the crossroads

Unless urgent action is taken to defuse tensions over land ownership, achieve a working relationship with the new opposition party and rescue the economy, Zimbabwe is headed for major public unrest, possibly worse, by the end of this year, according to a new report released today by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Zimbabwe’s economy is in free-fall, with GDP forecast to plunge between 10 and 20 per cent in 2000, and inflation, unemployment and interest rates all well over 50 per cent and rising. Public discontent is running high – particularly in urban areas, which voted heavily for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the country’s recent parliamentary elections.

Zimbabweans have no-one but their President to blame for their country’s disastrous decline in recent years. His mismanagement of the economy, reckless manipulation of the issue of land ownership, and costly military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have contributed to the mounting sense of crisis. Much will now depend upon Mugabe’s willingness to take note of the massive shift in voter sentiment and to reconstitute his government as an effective, responsible administration, rather than a continuation of the old discredited regime.

The ICG report urges the international community – including donor governments, the European Union, the Commonwealth and the international financial institutions – to demand concrete action from the government in Harare in return for further support. Specifically, the Zimbabwean government must act swiftly to:

- restore the rule of law, by enforcing court orders condemning recent land invasions and arresting and prosecuting those responsible for pre-election violence;
- seriously address the country’s economic crisis; and
- end Zimbabwe’s costly and destructive military involvement in the DRC.

In the absence of such action, the report calls for a new round of diplomatic and economic measures to be considered, including:

- Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth;
- Suspension of Zimbabwe’s privileged trade access to the European Union; and
- travel restrictions on senior officials of the ruling party.


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