US Could Influence Regime Change in Zimbabwe, Analyst Says

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The United States could force a regime change in Zimbabwe without great difficulty, and without the need to resort to force as was the case the Iraq, a political analyst said here.

Dr. Gerrison Ikiara of the University of Nairobi said U.S. doesn't need to use military force to bring about political change in Zimbabwe, as it had a record of influencing regime changes in Africa without firing a bullet.

He cited the fall of Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, and the late Kamuzu Banda of Malawi.

With focused attention, the U.S. could "use the opposition and civil society to make Zimbabwe ungovernable," and hence precipitate the fall of President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe is accused of direct responsibility for the political and socioeconomic crisis currently gripping the southern African country.

Ikiara was commenting on reports about renewed U.S. demands that Mugabe resign to pave the way for fresh presidential elections.

Reports cited an unnamed State Department official as saying Zimbabwe's neighbors had to realize the seriousness of the problems Mugabe had brought upon his country and southern Africa in general.

"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally-supervised election. He [President Mugabe] stole the last one; we can't let that happen again."

"It has to be internationally-supervised, open, transparent with an electoral commission that works," the official added.

Analysts said the comments were largely directed at President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who has emerged as a key Mugabe ally in the region, and says he is pursuing "quiet diplomacy" with the embattled leader.

Ikiara attributed Mbeki's inaction on Mugabe to the support the latter offered exiled South African political organizations during the apartheid era.

"Mbeki, however, remains the best route through which Mugabe can be prevailed upon to resign," he said.

South Africa borders Zimbabwe to the south and is its main trading partner.

Zimbabwean officials have been quick to dismiss the reported U.S. calls.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba said the demand was not news, while spokesman for Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party, Nathan Shamuyarira, said the U.S. should respect the "wishes of Zimbabweans."

"If the Americans don't want to accept our legitimacy, it is their own problem," he said. "They can go to hell. There will be no new elections here."

Nonetheless, Mugabe in a media interview showed a rare conciliatory approach when he
said he was ready to meet with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai - but only on condition he recognized Mugabe as the rightfully elected president.

Meanwhile a civil disobedience campaign continues, and a national workers' strike began Wednesday.

Ahead of the strike, security agents arrested senior trade union officials, eliciting a statement of condemnation from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which said it supported the labor action.

Experts have attributed Zimbabwe's economic crisis to a controversial land reform program, aimed at giving commercial, white-owned farms to black peasants to farm but in the end benefiting wealthy elites close to Mugabe.

Land confiscations have resulted in farms not being worked, leading to food shortages. Many farm workers also lost their homes and livelihoods when the farmers they worked for were expelled, sometimes violently.

The U.N. World Food Program is currently feeding more than five million Zimbabweans, out of a total population of 11.3 million.

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