Engineer/blogger Tony Allwright, wrote an editorial in the Irish Times suggesting that the West must intervene in Zimbabwe and throw out Mugabe.

He’s quite logical about the whole thing, and points out

In 2000, British prime minister Tony Blair deployed a crack task force to Sierra Leone, which in just six weeks defeated rebel forces who had been waging civil war for nine years. …At the first sight of professional soldiery, you can be sure the Zimbabwe army and police, who have no idea how to deal with anyone who isn’t an unarmed civilian, will discard their weapons and uniforms and simply melt away, much as Gen Mengistu’s powerful, 400,000-strong army in Ethiopia did when confronted with rag-tag opposition in 1991.

He didn’t mention Tanzania’s Army easily throwing out the murderous dictator Idi Amin, so he is correct in pointing out that dictators who hire thugs to terrorize people are not as strong as they seem, especially against professional soldiers.

In some ways, I agree, except that things aren’t that easy.

The problem is: What then?

If you look around, you’ll find Sierra Leone is not exactly heaven on earth, and Ethiopia is now being threatened with famine, while Uganda has had several civil wars since Idi went to live a life of Luxury in Libya.

Let’s throw out Mugabe. Fine.

The first problem: Who would do it?

The Irish? Sure. Just send a couple dozen Garda down. No problem…except who flies them there, and who keeps them in supplies?

That would take a country, like France, the UK or the US. who have the airplanes, helicopters, etc. to do this. But even the US would have trouble keeping their troops supplied by air. So unless Mozambique or South Africa would allow supplies to enter their ports, you have a problem.

A better idea would be to get some US or UK Special Forces to train the Zim diaspora to fight, and let them enter and take over. That’s how the Taliban was overthrown. But of course, the Northern Alliance that overthrew the Taliban was already in place with an army when the US was attacked. They were helped with US supplies, US Special Forces, and the US AirForce, and voila, they started to win.

But in Zimbabwe, as far as I know, there is no official opposition army hiding in Botswana or near Beitbridge. It would have to be started from scratch.

So the real question now is: What nearby country would allow these troops to be trained, and allow them to be supplied via their ports?

Another problem: Such special forces trainers don’t grow on trees. After the hysteria following the Iraq war, expect the US to crawl back into it’s isolationist shell. And no, a President Obama who knows little about Africa and less about the military, won’t risk annoying his pacifist base to save lives even if they are from his father’s continent.

The UK? No, maybe ten years ago, but now the PC types have taken over, so don’t expect backbone and troops from the UK anymore.

A better idea: Blackwater or a similar firm. They could do it easily.

So my proposal is to hire a security firm based in South Africa, have them train people from Zimbabwe in a liberation army, and invade. It would take a lot of money, and cooperation of nearby states, but it could be done.

But what about the aftermath?

Ah, that’s the real problem.

The aftermath of intervention would be Iraq redux: with ex military/police and “green bombers” terrorizing the countryside.

Forget UN Peacekeepers: They patrol to “keep the peace” but don’t fight gangs. If they did, a half a million Rwandans would still be alive. And many are there for the money that they bring their governments. Don’t expect them to blend in with the locals.

Yet pure combat troops, especially from a Western country, would be resented.

Now, such terrorist/radical/ criminal gangs (they overlap, you know) can be destroyed, but it takes a multiprong approach, similar to Magsaysay’s elimination of the Huks here in the Philippines, or Bush’s commitment to “the surge” (which succeeded because of three years work building up the Iraqi military and police) that has managed to pacify a war weary Iraq.

Remember, even “green bombers” have mommies and brothers and cousins, so they could hide out blending with local people and come out to make things nasty. You have to go after them with a “carrot and stick” approach: Surrender and get a job, or get killed.

And you have to make your cops/military people friendly. Get a peacekeeper presence that sits back and doesn’t defend people but steals and rapes, and you won’t solve anything. The military has to help the local people. Need a school? No problem. Sargent Shiri will come with his men and help the villagers tomorrow. Having problems with the mayor requesting a bribe? We’ll look into that too…

Step one Pacification and safety.

Step two: Build up basic government/police force, build schools, staff them, reopen hospitals, staff them too, open shops…build up the infrastructure.

Step three: Rebuild the economy.

Presumably, once things are safe, the diaspora will head home, but only if jobs are there.

Who will pay the bills until Zim is on it’s feet?

Western countries giving grants will help, as will NGO’s,  but in the long run you need private investment.

China is already there, so their investment would expand. (China is a two edged sword: They will take out minerals etc. that they need and supply cheap goods, but the cheap goods undermine local businesses trying to start up).

There are discussion on African business sites about investors waiting in the wings until things stablize and then they plan to start shops and businesses.

In other words, throwing out Mugabe is the easy part. Making a stable government to allow economic recovery is the hard part.

And the danger is the chaos and even civil war that could happen if Mugabe was thrown out by outsiders, or by a poorly trained Army that lacks discipline and quickly descends to looting and pushing people around.

So until South Africa, or Botswana, or Mozambique, is willing to allow a professionals to  train a Zimbawean liberation Army on their soils to start their country’s liberation, I say: let Mugabe stay. He can’t live forever…

As the proverb says: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know (who could be worse). Better a stupid dictator than chaos and civil war.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket and she writes about human rights in Africa at Makaipa Blog. 

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