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The cautionary tale of Zimbabwe's autocratic president

Tens of thousands of protesters gather today in Harare, Zimbabwe, in "a euphoric gathering that just days ago would have drawn a police crackdown." Photo: Ben Curtis / AP

"Africa's postcolonial 'Big Man' era may be ending: Zimbabwe leader's fall holds warnings for other autocrats," the L.A. Times' Ann Simmons and Laura King report on the front page:

  • What happened: "The collapse of Africa's colonial order set in motion the almost Shakespearean trajectory of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe: from fiery liberation hero to avaricious dictator to seeming victim, in frail old age, of his own misrule."
  • Why it matters: "For other African leaders who wield Mugabe's longtime brand of power, marked by ruthless campaigns against domestic enemies and scornful dismissal of scolding by successive U.S. administrations, the Zimbabwean president's fall is a cautionary tale."
  • The problem: "The Human Rights Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks closed societies, says countries in Africa that it considers democratic — 14 in all — are outnumbered by 19 full dictatorships and another 19 it calls 'competitive authoritarian regimes,' in which autocrats allow elections to be held while engaging in serious anti-democratic abuses."
  • A sign of hope: "J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center said the way in which the move against Mugabe had been orchestrated pointed to the 'slow spread of constitutional order and the norms of legality' in Africa."
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