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Two days after a petrol bomb blasted through his office, Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai Biti, warned that his country might be on the brink of another Rwanda-like genocide. "I just hope we avoid a Rwanda where the military is in control, law and order breaks down, and there is total violence," he told the Guardian.
Biti is not your average minister. He's a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the unwilling coalition partner of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party. The MDC beat Mugabe at the polls in 2008, but when the president refused to step down, neighboring South Africa brokered a deal for both parties to share rule. Despite their supposedly equal power in government, the MDC has been effectively sidelined in recent months, the victim of threats, arrests, and political marginalization. Mugabe still calls the shots. Tired of ruling with even these minimal checks from his MDC partners, Mugabe's party has vowed to call elections this year. The MDC fears that the result will be even further intimidation and violence.
The greatest tragedy in all this may be that life in Zimbabwe is actually improving. Beginning in 2008, the coalition government pulled the economy out of free fall and began to end the international marginalization of recent years. Public health, too, is improving, after a low point in 2008 when a cholera epidemic infected some 30,000. The family here buries one of the dead.
DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images