07/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Obama/Zimbabwe: Best of Times/Worst

Here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I'm seeing first hand that all those reports about how excited Africans are about Obama have not been exaggerated. The customs agent in the airport, upon seeing my U.S. passport said, "Obama! Do you really think he can win?" I told him that I thought he had an excellent chance. "That's good," he continued, "But I really thought it was going to be Hillary."

After Florida, Ohio, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, America, once the world's beacon of democracy, had dimmed to a faint flicker. Obama's winning the nomination has already done so very much to restore our nation's historic luster. An Armenian Ethiopian and a consultant to emerging democracies I had dinner with tonight said he was so excited about the prospect of Obama's becoming president that he had already started fermenting gesho hops for the barrels of tej (honey wine) he was planning to serve at his huge celebration in November.

He then said he had been getting ready to go to Zimbabwe but of course now that's off.

For years the world has known that President Mugabe of Zimbabwe had turned into a tyrant, a thug and a criminal. America has almost no power in that area and Zimbabwe's former colonial power Britain has tried for years to push him out.

The UN resolutions condemning Mugabe are a great start and the African Union, based here in Addis, should weigh in immediately as well.

But words and resolutions won't solve this tragedy. What or who can?

Thabo Mbeki. The South African president has been Mugabe's enabler. Although South Africans themselves want Mugabe gone and are pressuring their president to act, he has refused. He feels he owes Mugabe a huge debt for sheltering the ANC during apartheid and somehow he thinks that debt is greater than the destruction of Zimbabwe and the deaths of thousands. The world community needs to put pressure on Mbeki to cut Mugabe loose now. He can offer him asylum if he'd like, put him and his goons up in villas in Cape Town for the rest of their lives, but Mbeki needs to tell Mugabe that he must step down immediately.

And why should Mbeki listen to the world now when he hasn't in all these years of terror?

The World Cup in 2010. It will be held in South Africa and it is as important to them as the upcoming Olympics are to China. If global sponsors threatened to pull back from the World Cup Mbeki might finally be forced to throw his old friend Mugabe out with the trash where he belongs.