Mugabe's shameful apologists: African Union, etc
- From: yared22311@xxxxxxxxx
- Date: 9 Aug 2005 10:38:08 -0700
Mugabe's shameful apologists
By Nat Hentoff
Published August 8, 2005
Many more black citizens of Zimbabwe -- who have suffered for years
under the dictatorial rule of Robert Mugabe -- are now without hope of
liberation. On July 22, London's Daily Telegraph reported: "Armed riot
police and youth militia of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF Party are
rounding up homeless people who have sought refuge in church
They are among the more than 700,000 victims of Mr. Mugabe's
"Operation Restore Order," that as the July 24 International Herald
Tribune reports has bulldozed "shacks, workshops and market stalls
across Zimbabwe's urban center." (Many of the now-homeless adults in
such neighborhoods voted against Mr. Mugabe in the last
government-rigged election.) Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on
adequate housing at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, told the June
11 New York Times that suicides are rising as the desperate displaced
people "just have nowhere to go."
A stinging 200-page U.N. report by Kajumulo Tibaijuka, an expert in
rural economics from Tanzania, emphasizes that the Mugabe government's
"indifference to human suffering" has been caused by "a disastrous
venture based on a set of colonial-era laws and policies that were
[under white rule] used as a tool of segregation and social exclusion."
(But strangely, she does not target Mr. Mugabe directly as the cause of
Recently, on a liberal New York radio station, WBAI, I was
describing how Mr. Mugabe has caused an unemployment rate of 70
percent, ruinous inflation, the pervasive decline of Zimbabwe's once
bountiful harvests and the savage punishment of dissenters inflicted by
his merciless youth militia. A caller to the radio station identified
himself as an American black pastor and a human-rights activist around
He admonished me for not giving Mr. Mugabe credit for rescuing
Zimbabwe from having been "a white-ruled plantation." I told him the
country still is a plantation -- ruled by a black master.
Also scandalous in these crimes against the people of Zimbabwe is
the silence of the African Union, formed five years ago to prove that
the continent can take care of its own problems and protect economic,
political and human rights.
A July 7 front-page story in the Financial Times began: "Kofi Annan
yesterday urged African leaders to break their silence over actions by
governments, such as Zimbabwe's, that were undermining the continent's
credibility in the eyes of the world." The U.N. secretary-general
emphasized: "What is lacking on the continent is [a willingness] to
comment on wrong policies in a neighboring country." But in the same
article, Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria and presently the
chairman of the African Union, defiantly said he would "not be a part"
of any public condemnation of Mr. Mugabe.
Moreover, as The New York Times reported on July 6: "Tanzania,
Namibia and Zambia are among those [African nations] that have praised
Mr. Mugabe's economic policies in recent months," or even more
appallingly, "have stopped protesters from criticizing them." Also
insistently silent on the rampant ferocity of the Mugabe regime is
Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, who has long claimed he is
pursuing "quiet diplomacy" in his dealings with Mr. Mugabe.
His "diplomacy" is so quiet that its alleged results have not
reached these black citizens in Harare described in the June 11 issue
of The Economist, after the government obliterated their neighborhood:
"A barefoot widow and her two children stand in the ruins of their
shack, their meager belongings gathered under plastic sheets... they
now sleep in the open with nothing to protect them from Harare's bitter
cold. With tears in her eyes and a broken voice, she shows a lease and
receipts for rents she has paid. "I have nowhere to go," she laments."
(Mr. Mugabe says the demolitions have ended, but the government has
said that before. In any case, he is again responsible for ruthless
crimes against his own people.)
They have also been abandoned by the justly venerated Nelson
Mandela, who has marred his autumnal years by refusing to say a word in
criticism of Mr. Mugabe. I asked an African, a longtime human-rights
worker concerning the continent, why Mr. Mandela will not speak, when
his condemnation of this horrifying injustice would, should he offer
it, reverberate around the world.
The human-rights worker replied that Mr. Mandela still sees Mr.
Mugabe "as a liberator of his nation in the long, bitter struggle on
the continent in which so many, including Mandela, suffered so much. He
will not condemn this man." Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme of Cameroon, a
consultant on international law, wrote in the July 15 New York Times:
"What is at issue is an Africa where dictators kill, steal and usurp
power yet are treated like heroes at meetings of the African Union."
What will debt relief for (some of) these rulers do for the widow
and her two children in Harare who have no place to go? Their condition
cannot be reported in Zimbabwe's two largest, independent and
best-selling newspapers, the Daily News and the Sunday Daily News. Now
silent, their licenses to publish remain denied by Mr. Mugabe.
Once again, the African Union, like the United Nations, has been
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