Happy birthday to a kleptocrat

Mugabe at a 2009 African Union Summit.

While most of my news attention has been on what’s been happening in Ukraine (given the recent violence, many are hoping that the recent accord can help calm things down), I thought I’d put together a quick post about Robert Mugabe, who is celebrating his 90th birthday today, making him not only the longest running but perhaps oldest dictator in Africa.  At least, according to Wikipedia…please let me know if you know any current leaders who are older!

 Last year, during the funeral for Nelson Mandela, Mugabe claimed that Zimbabwe’s independence movement inspired South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle.  However, he is probably better known for his political brutality (including an ethnic cleansing in 1982 that wiped out around 20,000 people) and for taking a once wealthy Rhodesia and turning it into one of the poorest countries in the world.  To quote Jeffrey Sachs, “Zimbabwe is a case where the traditional explanation of miserable rule is a sufficient explanation for a country’s ills…” (The End of Poverty, p. 194).  In fact, his rule was so bad that Queen Elizabeth stripped him of his honorary knighthood back in 2008.

Mugabe’s rule is the very definition of a kleptocracy (“rule by thieves”).  While 72.3% of the population lives below Zimbabwe’s own poverty line, Mugabe himself is worth nearly $5-10 billion thanks to his country’s diamond resources, making him one of the wealthiest dictators in the world.

Seriously, I think Versailles is less ostentatious.
For more images of Mugabe’s palace, click on the image.

So happy birthday to Mugabe, because whatever you think of his rule, he’s had a long – and very interesting – life.

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