The Story behind Mugabe's Crackdown

This story in today's Washington Post is an incredible indictment of not just Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the tactics he used to steal the election, but it also should bring shame to the African leaders who continue to back his rule despite overwhelming evidence that there is nothing legitimate about the outcome of that election.

The story begins last March 30 when notes taken at a meeting between Mugabe and his security forces shockingly reveal that the dictator announced he had lost the election and was going to concede in a speech the next day.

He was stopped by his cronies in the military who no doubt feared the prospect of investigations and trials into their murderous, corrupt rule if the opposition came to power. The military then guaranteed that if Mugabe would announce a run off election, that they would make sure he won.

The tactics were straight out of the darkest chapter of African misrule:

Mugabe, the only leader this country has known since its break from white rule nearly three decades ago, agreed to remain in the race and rely on the army to ensure his victory. During an April 8 military planning meeting, according to written notes and the accounts of participants, the plan was given a code name: CIBD. The acronym, which proved apt in the fevered campaign that unfolded over the following weeks, stood for: Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement.

In the three months between the March 29 vote and the June 27 runoff election, ruling-party militias under the guidance of 200 senior army officers battered the Movement for Democratic Change, bringing the opposition party's network of activists to the verge of oblivion. By election day, more than 80 opposition supporters were dead, hundreds were missing, thousands were injured and hundreds of thousands were homeless. Morgan Tsvangirai, the party's leader, dropped out of the contest and took refuge in the Dutch Embassy.

This account reveals previously undisclosed details of the strategy behind the campaign as it was conceived and executed by Mugabe and his top advisers, who from that first meeting through the final vote appeared to hold decisive influence over the president.

In effect, the military is now in power in Zimbabwe. And tragically, this is where regional African leaders could have stepped in and solved the crisis by working out a reconciliation package similar to what has happened in other countries. But there is not the vision or the will to do so amongst the half dozen leaders who fear that if they don't give legitimacy to Mugabe, that their own tyrannical rule would become shaky.

Read this whole shocking story in the Post.