Tuesday, March 20, 2007

As the world squirms

At the risk of repeating myself, I've had just about enough of the world's instant outrage over Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. Following a harsh, but typical, crackdown on an street protest by the Movement for Democratic Change, western governments started to appear to outdo one another in the vehemence of their condemnations of Mugabe's notoriously violent and inept rule. My question is this:

Where the hell has this attitude towards Mugabe been for the past two and a half decades?

After a brief post-independence honeymoon in the early 1980s, when a magnanimous Mugabe played the role of a new capable breed of post-colonial African leader, Mugabe's true colors as a repressive dictator started to emerge. In 1982, a mere two years after achieving independence, Mugabe invited a North Korean military attachment to train an elite Zimbabwean army unit that was created for the purpose of massacring Zimbabwe's Ndebele people for the allegedly unpardonable sin of lending political support to one of Mugabe's domestic political rivals. The world heard hardly a whisper of disapproval about what Zimbabweans called gukurahundi from any of the nations now blasting Mugabe on human rights.

For years, the world looked the other way as Mugabe put the screws on Zimbabwe. Nobody particularly cared, for example, when Mugabe started outlawing the existence of a free press inside Zimbabwe, or condemned one of Africa's wealthiest nations to poverty with his cronyism, corruption, and half-assed, state controlled Marxist economic plans. After all, some rationalized, it wouldn't be "productive" for western nations to criticize an emerging African nation. Some could take it the wrong way, don't you know.

The same nations making the most noise can rightly claim that it didn't care about Mugabe's rapid transition from president to dictator, but they cannot truthfully claim that they didn't notice. Mugabe, for his part, made absolutely no effort to hide his authoritarianism, and assailed any foreign criticism of his rule as quasi-racist neo-colonialism. By the time Zimbabwe's life expectancy had become the lowest on earth, and Zimbabwe's inflation the highest on earth, Mugabe had been a dictator for decades.

And now, the same countries spouting this gibberish about pious concern for Mugabe's victims are calling for action. Wait, action? What action? Does anyone think slapping economic sanctions on Zimbabwe will do anything but hurt the people who are already dealing with economic ruin? A sporting boycott? Are they serious? But both of these appear to be brilliant ideas into saving Zimbabwe compared to the ultimate bad idea: letting the United Nations handle it. In fact, if there is an institution on earth that Robert Mugabe is less afraid of than the United Nations, it has yet to appear. Call it naivete or call it passing the buck, but the west is jumping on an opportunity to express maximum moral outrage (which looks good on cameras) while simultaneously eschewing any real solutions that would topple the Mugabe dictatorship and restore some semblance of economic, social and political normality to the nation he's turned into one the world's biggest disasters.

Here's a hint: Mugabe is a dictator. His overriding concern is the acquisition and maintenance of power. His greatest fear is being ousted from power. Not sternly worded memos from the United Nations. Not further economic sanctions on the people he doesn't give a damn about anyway, but power.

One final hint: he's not going to relinquish power voluntarily. Someone will have to take it away from him against his will. Do you get the picture, now?

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