As the leaders of the transitional government in Zimbabwe work to restore the rule of law and fulfill the will of the people in their troubled land, they are turning to their neighbors and the international community for aid in restoring Zimbabwe’s troubled economy.
The request for billions of dollars to restore social services and meet other needs comes amid the worst global economic downturn in more than 70 years, and many nations will be hard pressed to comply. Nevertheless, at a recent meeting in Washington a group of major donor nations, including the United States, said they are committed to supporting the Zimbabwean people to bring democracy, stability and prosperity back to their country.
Zimbabwe needs significant foreign support to help rebuild its decimated farm and business sectors, its paralyzed health care system, and its crumbling infrastructure. President Robert Mugabe's mismanagement and dictatorial rule turned what was once the breadbasket of Africa into an economic basket-case.
Furthermore, Zimbabwe is hundreds of millions of dollars behind in payments on its debts to the International Monetary Fund, African Development Bank and other lenders. Not a pretty picture.
With the entry of opposition leaders into a transitional government in February, however, the picture got a little brighter. The United States and others in the international community commend the efforts of the new government to achieve goals set out in the September 2008 Global Political Agreement negotiated with the help of the Southern African Development Community. These goals include restoration of the rule of law, economic stability, political freedoms and protection of human rights.
Much work still needs to be done, however.
Additional steps must be taken to affirm a commitment to reform, such as the immediate release or formal filing of charges against all political prisoners, an end to farm seizures, the establishment of credible leadership at the central bank authority, and a commitment to fair and credible elections in a timely manner.
Provided that Zimbabwe makes positive progress in these critical areas, the U.S. and other donors are ready to support Zimbabwe's rebuilding with targeted assistance. Meanwhile, significant humanitarian needs will be met with continued support for feeding, health services, water sanitation, HIV/AIDS, cholera and other important programs.