Forget Mugabe — help his people

IT has been more than 10 years since cholera swept through refugee camps in Zaire.

GOAL’s job was to bury the bodies. Scarcely a night has passed since that I have not been haunted by images of the children piled high on the death trucks.

They are always the first to die. Sometimes a child might be discovered still alive under a mountain of corpses.

Cholera spreads at lightning speed and bodies must be disposed of immediately.

Its spectre is now rising over Zimbabwe — a nation robbed, starved and bankrupted by Robert Mugabe. It is now being left to the mercies of one of the most terrible diseases imaginable because of the west’s embarrassment.

Mugabe has been isolated by the international community which has literally let him get away with murder. Over his 28 years in power he has visited unbelievable suffering on his people. They have absorbed and endured the cruelties because they had no choice. But the west has done nothing.

Surely the international community will not allow its bad conscience for the past to prevent it from acting now? This would be a shame beyond all shames.

Some 40,000 people died in Zaire within weeks once cholera struck.

In Zimbabwe the toll could be higher still because the entire water supply has been contaminated. We have seen the pictures of police and soldiers batoning doctors and nurses off the streets.

Their crime was to let the world know the hospitals are hopelessly understaffed, ill equipped and underfunded, to cope. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on the west to bring Mugabe before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Mugabe has transformed Africa’s bread basket into a basket case itself. He will not help his people, he never has. Now threatened by a full-blown cholera epidemic they cannot be abandoned again.

Failure to help when it has the power and the means to do so makes the west complicit. It will also send a signal to every other opportunistic tyrant in Africa — of which there are many — that anything goes.

Zimbabwe’s problems are fixable. The international community must act. Mugabe’s sins may be many but his people have done nothing to deserve their fate. He can be dealt with — but right now Zimbabwe needs urgent help to stave off disaster.

John O’Shea

GOAL

PO Box 19

Dun Laoghaire

Co Dublin

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