Friday, March 30, 2007

Neighbors "at one" with Mugabe

What on earth were people expecting?

The buzz leading up to today's meeting of the South African Development Community (SADC) centered around "what are Zimbabwe's neighbors going to do about Robert Mugabe and his demolition of Zimbabwe"?

For weeks, western governments and eminent personalities such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been requesting, nay, demanding that Mugabe's neighbors work together to bring an end to the seemingly interminable crisis in Zimbabwe. So again, what would the response from Mugabe's neighbors be now that the eyes of the world are fixed squarely on them?

Frankly, I find it nothing short of appalling that otherwise sensible journalists and media pundits would even frame this as a "question". Where the hell have they been for the past 20 years? Anyone who has a shred of sense could have told you the obvious answer in advance:

Nothing.

That's right - nothing. After the summit, all 14 leaders issued a statement pledging support for and solidarity with Robert Mugabe. No matter how disastrous Mugabe's misrule, no matter how dismal the human rights situation is, no matter how low the life expectancy drops, no matter how high the inflation or unemployment, there's not a single thing Mugabe's peers will say, much less do, about it.

Back when African summits were regularly derided as "meetings of the dictators' club", it was considered bad form for one dictator to denounce another dictator for, well, being a dictator. Since then, African nations have made considerable progress replacing some of the old "big man" dictatorships with more democratic governments. However, the buzzwords "democracy", "accountability", and "African solutions to African problems" are fine sentiments, but to date, completely meaningless when dealing with problems like Robert Mugabe. Just as in the days of the dictator club, African leaders are loathe to criticize someone like Mugabe, who was, after all, a hero of Zimbabwe's war of independence and a crucial ally in the anti-apartheid struggle.

South African president Thabo Mbeki is one such leader who owes his career to the leaders of South Africa's neighbors, like Mugabe. Dictators like Mugabe, who provided political assistance to the African National Congress, and military assistance to the party's military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe, were thousands of times more valuable to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa than anything anyone outside Africa did for South Africa. Old comrades stick together, right? And after all, if anyone starts putting pressure on Mugabe, might people start talking about the lack of political freedoms in their countries? They certainly don't want to see that trend taking off.

Right. So when Thabo Mbeki assured the world that it was engaged in "quiet diplomacy" with Mugabe, it was because saying "frankly, we're friendly with Robert Mugabe and want to keep it that way" doesn't play well in the international press. After all, the new democratic South Africa might actually have a moral obligation to provide leadership in the region, right? I can see why Mbeki might want to nip that sort of heavy political responsibility in the bud before the world expects to rely on South Africa to play a role proportional to their economic and political influence to assist Africa's transition from dictatorships to democracy.

Of course, it's somewhat unfair to single out Mugabe's neighbors for their inaction when the rest of the world can't be bothered to do anything except issue a constant stream of self-righteous indignation. As the Rwandan genocide proved, a non-stop stream of indignant condemnations by the powerful will alleviate some of the guilt over doing nothing to stop the problem in the first place. Even when the catastrophe has burned itself out, and people start pointing the finger at you for doing nothing, you can shrug your shoulders and hastily respond that you had only the best of intentions all along.

UPDATE: I don't imagine this surprises anyone, either.

UPDATE II: Thank you, Joshua Wanyama, for linking to this article, and welcome African Path readers!

2 comments:

kenya77 said...

While the situation in Zimbabwe today is appalling and the actions of President Mugabe are high handed and oppressive the west should shut up and stay away from Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe would have been a democratic and thriving country had it not been for western interference that has given uncle Bob the cover and the excuse to hang on to power . It is western interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe that led to the degeneration of Zimbabwe today.

Instead of engaging the old leader in a respectful and cordial manner, Gay activist had to try and humiliate Mr. Mugabe and the brits had to in their arrogance fail to fulfill land compensation agreements that where part of Zimbabwe’s independence right.

Though the problems in Zimbabwe can be traced to Mr. Mugabe, the British and Australian governments have played a catalytic role in the spiral of Zimbabwe out of control .1. by their shameless interference and neo colonial attitude towards the leadership in Zimbabwe and 2.in the refusal to complete the Compensation that was due in the post independent Zimbabwe to ensure the smooth transition of land from white owners to black Zimbabweans , something that the British can not run away from .

Ever so often, Western countries try to rewrite history in their favor but when it comes to the truth, the truth never changes .Robert Mugabe must and should do the honorable thing and allow democracy to thrive in Zimbabwe. However, the west cannot hide behind Democracy in order to achieve their own selfish closet agendas.


The opposition in Zimbabwe(and indeed across africa) must rid itself of Neo colonial influences and put the well-being of Zimbabwe(&Africa) first above all else. The United Kingdom should stay away from African affairs and let Zimbabwe chart her own destiny.

Zimbabwe is for all Zimbabweans and the West should not feel that they should have a greater say on zim’s affairs. I certainly do not like what is happening in Zimbabwe but it always raises an eyebrow when as an African I see Britain trying to show more concern for Zimbabwe that even Zimbabweans themselves. Stay away from Zimbabwe! Stop giving Mugabe an excuse to run down our brothers.

A Zimbabwe under Mugabe is still far much better than a Zimbabwe under British stooges

Joshua said...

I couldn't have said it any better. Until all the stupid leaders learn to become accountable, we are heading for more trouble. You can work so hard for freedom and democracy and in one meeting throw it all away. That is what happened.