When Will the Fallout Begin in Zimbabwe?

What happens now? Who can free the people of Zimbabwe from a dictator who has staged-managed his own re-election — again, and whose government thugs and their supporters, in this campaign alone, murdered at least 90 political opponents, including children, injured 10,000 Zimbabweans and drove another 200,000 from their homes?

The presidential run-off Friday in Zimbabwe, in which President Robert Mugabe was the sole candidate, has been denounced by Western countries after reports of physical force aimed at voters who failed to cast their ballots for Mugabe and after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out last Sunday to avoid more violence against his supporters.

"They said they were forced to go and vote, early in the morning," said Nelson Virri, a Zimbabwean refugee, speaking in South Africa. "The soldiers and the police and the youth of ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, Mugabe's party] were around the village pushing them to go and vote in the polling stations."


Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty USA, told ABC News, "I don't know if there is a way to bring [Mugabe] down."

Mugabe came to power 28 years ago as a revolutionary hero for racial equality, but then became a racist. He drove white farmers from their land, isolating himself from Western trade. The economy is so damaged that a loaf of bread cost billions of Zimbabwean dollars and weighs less than the money needed to buy it.

So, what next? One theory is that Mugabe, now that he has bludgeoned his way into staying in power, will try to cut a deal for power sharing to avoid civil war.

This week, Mugabe himself told reporters in Zimbabwe, "In good spirit, we will listen to those proposals, discuss them with [the opposition]. But not because we are being dictated to by the outside world."


But few outsiders are buying Mugabe's vague hint of compromise.

President Bush announced new sanctions, which an aide said could include wider travel restrictions on Mugabe supporters.

But there is a carrot as well as a stick. Bush said the United States is ready to support a legitimate government with development aid, debt relief and normalization with international financial institutions. And The United States will continue to provide food assistance to more than 1 million Zimbabwe people and AIDS treatment to more than 40,000.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week, "It's time for the international community to act. ... It's hard to imagine that anybody could fail to act given what we're all watching on the ground in Zimbabwe."

Under a United Nations resolution on war crimes, passed in 2005 and supported by Zimbabwe, Mugabe could, in theory, be put on international trial for crimes against humanity for failing to protect his citizens from ethnic cleansing or mass atrocities.

But that would require agreement within the Security Council, where Mugabe still has friends who could rescue him with a veto.

It's no secret that those with the best chance, some say any chance, of influencing politics in Zimbabwe — or sending in peacekeepers — are Zimbabwe's African neighbors.

"There is no doubt that the most effective pressure against Mugabe has to come from African nations," Amnesty USA's Cox told ABC News. "Those are the ones that possess the most legitimacy."

Africa's leaders all will be meeting in Egypt next week to ponder what to do about Zimbabwe, but Mugabe will also be in attendance, daring other Africans to say their hands are clean.

He warned in a pre-election speech, "I'll want to see a country which will point a finger at us and say you have done wrong. I will want to see that finger and see whether it is clean or dirty."

Clean hands or not, fellow African leaders must now decide whether they can continue doing little and risk chaos if the Zimbabwe crisis turns into civil war and spills into their own backyards.