"An evil remains an evil whether practised by white against black or black against white".
- Robert Mugabe, 1980.
If only that African dictator Robert Mugabe could internalise those words of his, uttered on the eve of independence in 1980, we might have been spared all that canard about "Western colonialism and imperialism," which has been used to mask his naked oppression of his fellow black people in that tragic land of Zimbabwe.
Fortunately, through one of the relics of British colonialism - a competitive electoral system - the people of
The country has sunken
Morgan Tsvangirai, whom all indications show has won over Mugabe in the recent elections, might not turn out to be vastly different from Mugabe, but there are inducements which can be given by the
Mugabe has sunk
More alarmingly, life expectancy has dropped from 61 years in 1990 to 37 for men and 34 for women in 2006. And UNICEF estimates that well over one million Zimbabwean children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Mugabe's disastrous economic policies, exacerbated by his misguided policy of expropriating the land of white , have plunged the country into ever-deepening crisis, complete with his autocratic and criminal rule. The manufacturing sector has almost ground to a halt and producers are operating below one-fifth of capacity.
The private sector has been crippled by Mugabe's plans to indigenise 51 per cent of major commercial enterprises. Price controls and other failed strategies of the dogmatic Left have guaranteed the ruination of the economy.
Over three million Zimbabweans are estimated to have fled the country, many to neighbouring
This kind of mindless, supposed Pan-Africanism and African nationalism can be seen in the magazine New African which, in its May 2008 edition ("
Parallels are then drawn with Chile, though the writer noted - apparently with some relief - that in the case of Mugabe he "still managed to hang on and split the vote 50-50 with the opposition", while managing to keep his life, unlike Allende.
Mugabe had been saying since 2000, when he began his forced expropriation of the land of white landowners, that the British were working to overthrow him and that they were funding the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The New African magazine quotes foreign minister Dr Stanley Mudenge as being told by former British foreign secretary, the late Robin Cook : "Stan, you must get rid of Bob (Mugabe)" The magazine says the Zimbabwean foreign minister was shocked. But Cook reportedly went on: "You heard me right. You guys must get rid of Bob". Mudenge then said something which is very significant and which is the sentiment of many in the progressive movement: "So long as you want him out, we want him in."
Cook then told him, according to the report: "Don't say we didn't warn you. If you don't get rid of Bob, what will hit you will make your people stone you in the streets!" And then New African ends, "Cook's words nearly came to pass on 29 March!"
Africans, who have suffered under the cruel and tyrannical hands of the white colonialists, and the progressives throughout the world, who have understood how Western imperialism has suffocated the lives of large numbers of people, have to find a way around a knee-jerk support for dictators with black faces and those with an anti-Western posture. That you are anti-colonialist and an anti-imperialist does not give you the right to oppress people, deny them freedom of association and freedom of expression.
This is why I have always maintained that
And, too often, they have carried out their atrocities under the shield of "territorial integrity" and "national sovereignty". What gives political leaders the right to oppress and commit crimes against people simply because they are locked up in borders over which they have political control? The debate which is raging in international law and politics over the Westphalian notions of sovereignty and "non-interference in the internal affairs of states", as opposed to "the responsibility to protect" people in the global commons from human rights abuses must continue - for the good of humanity.
Countries have signed international treaties and conventions and they must live up to them or face punitive actions from the international community. The African Union has been impotent in dealing with the barbarities of African countries, because of the legalism over territorial integrity and sovereignty. Mbeki has been engaging in quiet diplomacy for a long time, while Mugabe continues his plunder of people's rights and to murder his opponents.
There is too much hypocrisy and double-standards among African leaders and progressives when it comes to principles. For many, it is not the principles themselves which are sacrosanct but which side happens to be espousing them.
As the International Herald Tribune says in its April 17th edition ('The Silence of Mbeki'), Despite the fact that in late 2007 Mbeki presided over secret negotiations between Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition on a new constitution which included major reforms and democratic safeguards, Mugabe rejected Mbeki's efforts and conducted the elections under the old constitution. (And he still does not want to give up power though he has lost on all counts.)
Says the International Herald Tribune: "Mbeki's refusal to condemn Mugabe and lead a regional diplomatic front to pressure him to honour the vote - either by holding a fair runoff or stepping down - is particularly disappointing because he and other anti-apartheid activists condemned Western countries for precisely that sort of softball diplomacy during the 1980s. When the African National Congress called for universal suffrage and sanctions against the apartheid regime, the Reagan Administration, instead, pursued a gradual policy of 'constructive engagement'". And that, of course, was condemned.
Says the Council on Foreign Relations October, 2007, report titled Planning for Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, "Many within Zimbabwe and in the international community had pinned their hopes on the South African Government for effective international action to help resolve Zimbabwe's crisis.
Many of us might recoil from the right-wing vituperation of George Ayittey, distinguished economist at
But we can't go on blaming all of
Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org