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Mugabe and the U.N. vs. the Whistleblower

Doug Bandow writes in the American Spectator about the case of our client Georges Tadonki, who challenged political corruption in Zimbabwe and paid for it with his job.

In 2008 Tadonki had been on station for six years and predicted epidemics of both cholera and violence. Journalist Peta Thornycroft interviewed Tadonki at the time, concluding that the OCHA official was unafraid to speak the truth, making him “another kind of UN voice—one that I was not used to in Zimbabwe.”

Unfortunately, UN country chief Agostinho Zacarias apparently was a more traditional international bureaucrat and dismissed Tadonki’s warnings. By the end of the year 100,000 people had been infected with cholera and thousands had died. Zacarias “forced us to put the figure very low,” explained Tadonki: Months into the epidemic the UN still was predicting only 2,000 cases. During the election campaigns hundreds also had been killed by government thugs, who succeeded in derailing democracy.

It turned out that Zacarias, long ago active in FRELIMO, the Mozambique guerrilla force, knew Mugabe when the latter was fighting against Zimbabwe’s white supremacist government. Zacarias also was a friend of other ZANU-PF officials. After the ruling party dismissed charges that the country was in crisis, Zacarias produced assessments blaming the country’s problems on such factors as lack of rain.

In April 2008 Tadonki warned UN headquarters that the country team was “not prepared to face the consequences of an emergency silently in the making” and hesitated to respond “to acts of political violence.”Zacarias denied the charges as Zimbabwe descended into deadly chaos.

Naturally, no good deed went unpunished. After extended discord between the two UN officials, Tadonki was fired in January 2009, in the midst of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian travails. Formally he was blamed for releasing cholera statistics without required approval and he received a poor performance review, but there was little doubt that the action was retaliation for being right and embarrassing Zacarias—who now serves the UN in South Africa. Nevertheless, top officials in Turtle Bay backed Zacarias.

Read more on the Spectator.