Liberia Now, Zimbabwe Next?

President Charles Taylor's resignation from Liberia's presidency and his exile in Nigeria is not only a welcome relief for the war-torn land he so misruled, but also perhaps a bellwether for other discredited dictators. Indeed, Zimbabwe's elderly President Robert Mugabe, who is 79, must now be reckoning with the inevitability of his own political demise.

True, no rebel troops are yet besieging Harare, no US warship with 2000 marines hovers on the horizon, and President George W. Bush has not demanded that President Robert Mugabe step down after 23 years in office. But there are nonetheless striking similarities in the crises that have bedeviled the two African nations. Those similarities are providing Zimbabwe's citizens with the hope that they may soon see the back of Mugabe.

Before going into exile, Taylor turned over the presidency to his long-time ally, Vice President Moses Z. Blah, who is to rule until a new transitional government takes over. Similarly, Mugabe is known to favor transferring power to an interim government led by his long-time ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, if he decides that the time has come to step down.

Like Blah, Mnangagwa is widely unpopular, and he lost his parliamentary seat in the 2001 general election. Mugabe, however, immediately appointed Mnangagwa, who is much feared and often linked to allegations of corruption, as Speaker of Parliament.