African leaders must condemn Mugabe
- From: "Zvakanaka" <lalapansi@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 05:51:04 +0200
African leaders must condemn Mugabe
New Vision, Uganda
Tuesday, 11th December, 2007
By Kofi Bentil
AFRICAN Union leaders who met their European Union counterparts at the
weekend are supposed to represent our future but when it comes to Robert
Mugabe they are stuck in an ideological time-warp: Mugabe is a
freedom-fighter and Zimbabwe is a victim of Western depredations, including
threats to boycott the meeting.
Even democratically-elected Ghanaian President John Kufuor, Chairman of the
African Union, recently observed equivocally: "When the leader of the
opposition gets beaten up, for good or ill, naturally all concerned should
At least Mugabe is honest: "Some are crying that they were beaten. Yes, you
will be thoroughly beaten. When the police say move, you move. If you don't
move, you invite the police to use force," he said about trade union
activists arrested in September last year.
Paralysed by hero-worship, the Southern African Development Community summit
in August supported Mugabe's claims of a UK plot, our Heads of State gave
Mugabe a podium and a standing ovation in Kenya in May, most of them backed
Zimbabwe's cruelly ironic election to the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development this year and the whole AU boycotted a 2003 summit with the EU
because Mugabe was excluded. Their pretext is the sacred mantra of
non-interference and respecting sovereignty-meaning the sovereignty of
ruling cliques, not of long-suffering citizens.
Our leaders have to recognise that Mugabe is not an ideological dictator in
the mould of their heroes Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Julius Nyerere in
Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia or Milton Obote in Uganda, nor even like
ideologues such as Hitler, Stalin or his own hero Kim Il Sung: he is a
straightforward kleptocrat determined to hold on to power at any cost.
Even the democratic African leaders, including Kufuor and South Africa's
Thabo Mbeki, like to hear Mugabe blaming the West for Zimbabwe's and all our
ills, as he did in Nairobi at May's Common Market for Eastern and Southern
Africa (COMESA) summit.
He was applauded for complaining about commodity prices being fixed by the
West, although free markets do not fix prices in the way that African
governments fix prices and monopolise commodity sales.
SADC leaders in Lusaka even backed Mugabe's claim that Zimbabwe is a victim
of economic sanctions although the only measures, by the EU and the USA, are
travel and financial restrictions on about 130 members of the ruling clique
(in fact, the UK is the second biggest provider of humanitarian assistance
SADC executive secretary Dr. Tomaz Salomao said in November: "for us they
are sanctions and our approach has been to have them lifted."
Many also shared Mugabe's economically-ignorant call for self-sufficiency.
But no developed country is self-sufficient in commodities (nor even most
manufactured products) and we Africans cannot live on a diet of cocoa beans
and tea: selling it is much more profitable.
Manufacturing and adding value are great economic aims but they do not
happen successfully by government decree. right now, Africans suffer heavy
import tariffs for essential inputs (such as fertiliser) and medicines,
state control of exports, lack of property rights, obstacles to private
enterprise and a ubiquitous corrupt bureaucracy.
Yet our leaders do not accept that the key to our future is allowing our
people to create wealth: we cannot free ourselves from poverty without
economic freedoms such as property rights, the rule of law and free markets.
But the Mugabe version remains attractive because we all like to believe
that our failures are someone else's fault. And Mugabe remains in power
after 27 years, at the age of 83!
It seems true that evil men live long but that is because every day an evil
man lives is like eternity to the oppressed.
Neither South Africa's "quiet diplomacy" nor Western restrictions on
money-laundering can influence a man who is cocooned in delusions and
treated with deference by his neighbours. Our new crop of elected African
leaders, blithely talking of an African Renaissance, should be emboldened by
their own democratic authority to face up to people like Mugabe (and the
leaders of Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia).
They should make Mugabe unwelcome at civilised meetings like the EU-AU
summit in Lisbon and put legal pressure on him by consensus, as West African
leaders did to force out Charles Taylor in Liberia.
Our leaders managed to evade any action at the recent Commonwealth Summit
because Zimbabwe is no longer a member but the AU-EU summit puts Mugabe
centre-stage: he attended the summit and Britain's Prime Minister Gordon
Brown boycotted it. They should heed the call of Ghanaian former UN
Secretary-General Kofi Annan who said recently: "Africans must guard against
a pernicious, self-destructive form of racism that unites citizens to rise
up and expel tyrannical rulers who are white, but to excuse tyrannical
rulers who are black."
Before embarrassing themselves again, our leaders must come to their senses
and join the huge majority of Africans who reject the barbaric Mugabe: by
embracing economic freedoms to save their own countries, they would offer
hope to Zimbabweans for the day after Mugabe.
The writer is a lecturer at Ashesi University and a consultant in business
strategy in Accra, Ghana
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