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Opinion: There's hope yet for Zimbabwe

It is imperative that the people build a better future.

One critical focus area that will have to be dealt with is the rampant official criminality of the past three decades. From the army atrocities committed in the province of Matabeleland in the mid-1980s to the use of torture and assassination of political opponents by security services, there are important decisions to be made about who will be held to account. Models for balancing justice with reconciliation can be found elsewhere on the continent, in countries like South Africa and Rwanda.

Then there is the question of how to rebuild a state administration that has been converted from serving the people to serving the regime. Courts, the police, the army, and the education system will all require new leadership and a dramatic reordering of priorities.

Perhaps the greatest challenge will be luring home some of the millions of Zimbabweans, black and white, who have fled the country to seek opportunity elsewhere. Many of the best and brightest, including teachers, nurses and lawyers, can be found in South Africa and the U.K., where they have put down roots, started new lives and are raising their children. Given sufficient funding, roads, schools and hospitals can easily be repaired or rebuilt, but the human infrastructure is vastly more difficult to construct.

The good news is that there are still citizens left in Zimbabwe — human rights activists, independent journalists, business people and others — who possess the merit and morality to help restore sanity to their nation. For them to succeed, Zimbabwe’s friends need to do more than simply provide money and goodwill; they need to begin to laying the intellectual and organizational foundations for a brand new nation.

Christian Hennemeyer has lived in Africa for over 20 years and currently works in the democracy promotion field in Washington D.C.