President Bush made it clear he wants Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to leave the office amid reports of worsening humanitarian disasters, including a deadly cholera outbreak, on Tuesday.
"As my Administration has made clear, it is time for Robert Mugabe to go," Bush said in a statement issued by the White House. "Across the continent, African voices are bravely speaking out to say now is the time for him to step down."
"These leaders share the desire of ordinary Zimbabweans for a return to peace, democracy, and prosperity," the U.S. president said. "We urge others from the region to step up and join the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to Mugabe's tyranny."
Under Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron-fist for nearly 30 years, the one-time prosperous country has turned into a basket-case where unemployment is about 80 percent and inflation is at a mind-boggling 231 million percent and rising – the highest inflation rate in the world.
Yet despite running the country into the ground, Mugabe has refused to step down from office. He has used the military, which is loyal to him, to squash any opposition and dissent.
Most notably, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the most votes in the general election in March, was forced by Mugabe loyalists to pull out of the runoff election.
Mugabe loyalists had killed, wounded, and kidnapped Tsvangirai supporters during the presidential campaign, causing the opposition leader to withdraw for the sake of saving the lives of MDC members.
MDC claims at least 70 of its supporters had been killed since the March election.
As a result, the unchallenged Robert Mugabe was able to claim victory and remain president of Zimbabwe for a sixth term.
Following Mugabe's claimed victory, President Bush and many western countries declared the election a sham and refused to recognize Mugabe as Zimbabwe's leader.
With Zimbabwe's political power struggle still unresolved, the country is now battling a cholera epidemic that has already claimed nearly 775 people since August, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday.
Dr. Eric Laroche, head of the WHO unit on health action in crises, said that the overall cholera cases in Zimbabwe are now at 15,141, according to CNN. He added that up to 60,000 people could be infected if the epidemic worsens.
In an interview with CNN, Laroche from the Zimbabwean capital of Harare said that "the epidemic is clearly on the increase."
"I think it's going to last for several months," he said.
Another worrying factor is that the current outbreak has a high fatality rate because many infected persons are not able to reach health centers in time or the centers lack the medications to treat them.
Despite the evidence, Zimbabwean officials have brushed aside WHO's warning and claim the cholera outbreak is under control. The country's information minister argued the West caused the health crisis and was using the outbreak as an excuse for military intervention, according to CNN.
Cholera is an infectious intestinal disease caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
International Christian humanitarian agencies World Vision and Baptist Global Response are on the ground in Zimbabwe working to combat the cholera epidemic.
World Vision has distributed 500 cholera kits in the country, where one kit has enough supplies for 50 people. The kit contains water purification tablets, disinfectants, cholera drugs, re-hydration kits, and surgical materials such as gloves and sanitizers.
The agency's humanitarian and emergency affairs director in Zimbabwe, Daniel Muchena, explained that the rapid deterioration of the country's health system is due to lack of adequate clean water supply and lack of a system to dispose solid waste.
Lack of hygiene practice by vendors, food outlets, and a migrating population has also contributed to the country's health problems, Muchena said.
Besides President Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Kenyan premier Raila Odinga and South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu have called for Mugabe to step down from office.