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Africa Ignores a Mote in Its Eye

This is Africa's week on the world stage. It began Saturday with actual stages in many countries where rock stars played up the continent's needs during the "Live-8" concerts. That was followed by an African summit on Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesday a Group of Eight summit opens with a heavy focus on aid to Africa.

But ignore the guitar chords and diplomatic accords for a minute. A better window into what really ails Africa, and what can be done about it, is playing out in Zimbabwe, scene of the latest human-rights disaster in Africa after Darfur - the tragic crisis that still lingers.

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This week, a representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will finish up a probe into the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean urban-dwellers to rural areas since May 19 by armed paramilitary police. This mass exodus, dubbed Operation Drive Out Trash, is the latest crude attempt by strongman Robert Mugabe to smash a rising political opposition to his rule, which is spiraling downward with increasing violence.

Mr. Mugabe's quarter-century of mistakes has left his country's economy in ruins. Some 4 million people are in urgent need of food relief, about 80 percent of workers are jobless, and tens of thousands have fled the country. Many opposition supporters have been killed.

On Saturday, leaders of the Southern African Methodist Church said there was "little doubt that we are witnessing a tragedy of unprecedented enormity" in Zimbabwe, adding: "We have on our hands a complete recipe for genocide."

At the least, it's a humanitarian disaster, and Mr. Annan's probe reveals he may be inclined to ask for armed international intervention. The 1994 Rwanda genocide, and the lack of political will to stop it, is still very much on his conscience.

The fact that the African summit didn't say boo about the Zimbabwe tragedy shows just how much the West should be wary of giving more aid to nations whose leaders can't even speak out against Mugabe.

Annan did boldly tell the 53-nation summit that people "threatened with such terrible crimes are entitled to look for protection not only to their regional neighbors, but also to the international community as a whole." And taking a lesson from Sept. 11, he added that "ignoring failed states creates problems that sometimes come back to bite us."

Well, Zimbabwe's starting to bite. Refugees are pouring out, hunger is rampant, and violence escalates.

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Ginning up foreign aid is fine.

But doing something about Zimbabwe's spouting volcano is urgent.


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