…Zimbabwe, whose fragility makes it an instructive test case. This is a nation liberated, looted and then ground to dust by a single man: Robert Mugabe. Elections in 2008 were stolen by Mugabe’s ruling party, but they produced an uneasy coalition government, with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. Zimbabwe is now simultaneously attempting to write a new constitution, control periodic outbreaks of Mugabe’s brutality and prepare for elections that may take place later this year.
Into this volatile situation comes, of all people, Julian Assange – not generally recognized as an expert on the politics of southern Africa. His recent leaks exposed the name of a member of the ruling party who talked about its internal divisions with an American official. In another secret cable, then-U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell provided a frank assessment of Tsvangirai as a “brave, committed man,” who is also a “flawed figure,” prone to indecision and “questionable judgment in selecting those around him.” Another cable detailed a secret meeting between Western officials and Tsvangirai in which he supported continued economic sanctions to pressure Mugabe, even though Tsvangirai needed to publicly oppose sanctions for political reasons.
A few of the revelations nicked Mugabe and his family, revealing their ties to the blood diamond trade. But most of the disclosures have eased the life of the dictator. The ruling party is now hunting for traitors, based on information from the leaks.