A big threat to global security is currently brewing in the bowels of Southern Africa (pun intended). Due to deteriorating social, economic, and political conditions in Zimbabwe, cholera is quickly spreading throughout Southern Africa. Although this disease pops up ever now and again throughout the continent, the fact that the epicenter – or its ground zero – of this current epidemic is in Zimbabwe means that there is little holding it back. Hundreds have already died and many thousands more are likely to get sick in the coming weeks.

My choice of words above were purposeful. I think it is about time we treat this as one of the greatest threats to security throughout Southern Africa and we should respond appropriately. Like the attacks in Mumbai a few weeks back have been called “India’s 9/11”, this could be Southern Africa’s.

Happily, someone with a lot more experience in this territory also agrees with me:

“The fact is there was a sham election, there has been a sham process of power-sharing talks and now we are seeing not only political and economic total devastation … but a humanitarian toll of the cholera epidemic.”

“If this is not evidence to the international community that it’s time to stand up for what is right I don’t know what will be.”

“And Robert Mugabe is simply trying to cover the fact that he’s taken a country, which was once one of the jewels of Africa, made it into a center of starvation and now of rampant disease that threatens its neighbors.”

“We ought to call it as we see it.”

Those are quotes made by outgoing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during the past week at various public appearances. Despite the fact that she sees this as a reason for the international community to intervene, so far no country has. Part of it is that I think the US government has been so burned in the past in Africa they are hoping the African Union will step up and fix the problems. But so far, the AU has not been terribly effective at responding. So then what?

Given that the Bush administration in on the way out and the Obama administration in on the way in, and given the global economic crisis, it will probably be months before this issue will surface on US foreign policy agendas. By then tens or even hundreds of thousands may have fallen victim to this disease.

I agree that we ought to call it as we see it, but “WHO” is we?

To read more, check out the rest of my blog.

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