Written by Daniel Elombah
The ‘crucify him’ crescendo is rising in the west. The chorus since the last week is deafening: The European Union today joined calls for Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to step down from the leadership of his crisis-hit country. “I think the moment has arrived to put all the pressure for Mugabe to step down,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters ahead of a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels. The European Union foreign ministers were expected to tighten sanctions against Zimbabwe’s government in a new bid to force the country’s leader Robert Mugabe to step down.
British Foreign Secretary David Milliband and his Dutch counterpart, Maxime Verhagen, are spearheading a tougher stance against Mugabe to protest the dire humanitarian crisis in the southern African country. Milliband said Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic and health crisis showed Mugabe had to go. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had Last week branded the Zimbabwean government a “blood-stained regime” on Saturday and urged the international community to tell President Robert Mugabe “enough is enough. Brown said food shortages and a cholera epidemic, which has killed hundreds of people, had become an “international rather than a national emergency” that demanded a coordinated response. And the US Secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice pontificated that the international community should have acted militarily long time ago to chase out Mugabe.
The archbishop of York, John Sentamu – who appears to be more white that the whites, echoes the refrain, calling on the international community to admit that power-sharing efforts in Zimbabwe had failed and to remove Robert Mugabe from power. In a newspaper article, the second-highest figure in the Anglican Church compared the situation in Zimbabwe to what he faced in Uganda under Idi Amin, and called on African leaders to step in. He said, “The time has come for Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women and for justice to be done”.
I personally, sincerely believe that what Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe is appalling. A government that is incapable of taking care of the needs of its people has lost its legitimacy. As aptly stated in the American Declaration of Independence; Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed to affect their Safety and Happiness. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government. Evidently, the Zimbabweans are suffering under Mugabe but they lack the powers to tell him to go. The system has broken down, inflation has assumed cosmic proportions and cholera is currently decimating the population. No clean drinking water or affordable medical care is available. In this scenario, the current peremptory norm of international law obliges the international community to intervene but it is unsettled what forms the intervention should take. It appears that Mugabe would rather go down to hell with Zimbabwe than give up his powers in order to attract international aid.
That having been said, the patronizing attitude adopted by the western leaders makes it more difficult for African leaders to pressure Mugabe to go. Robert Mugabe is still seen as a hero of the anti-colonial struggle. Moreover, no self respecting African leader would like to seen to be taking marching orders from Condoleezza Rice and David Milliband.
Even among a large segment of Zimbabweans, Mugabe is still seen as a hero who took bold actions to restore stolen land, from white farmers to its legitimate owners. To be sure, his adopted methods have brought misery to Zimbabwe, but the reaction of the west, especially Britain had only aggravated the situation. Mugabe won almost 50% of the earlier balloting in the last election that was largely adjudged to be free and fair to trigger a run-off. That his party lost the parliamentary poll but failed to clinch the majority votes in the presidential election says something about the credibility of those elections. It is significant that after the lections, Mugabe himself alleged that the election was rigged in certain areas. A recount was ordered which merely gave the same returns. This is better that than what goes for elections in Nigeria.
If the west has learnt any lessons from their forays into the Arab world and in Iraq they should steer clear in Zimbabwe, they should play second fiddle and only play a supportive role to the African Union. When dealing with peoples they judge to be inferior, western powers often assume patronizing postures that instead of helping out, often worsens the situation. They are wrong. They are wrong in Iraq, they are wrong in Myanmar ( Burma), they are wrong in Sudan. The attempt to export democracy to Iraq backfired.
Could we compare Zimbabwe to either Sudan or Myammar ( Burma)? In Myanmar about 100,000 people died and almost 65,000 rendered homeless, the country ravaged by flooding and disease. The actions of their military rulers directly contributed to the deaths and misery; there was no talk of a military intervention. Why? In Sudan, 200,000 black Africans have died in the hands of their Arab tormentors and up to a million rendered homeless. The situation is a classic example of where either unilateral or multi-lateral military intervention is justified under the 1949 Genocide Convention. The AU appears incapable of calling Khartoum to order but the EU, UK and The US adopts siddon look. Why? Isn’t it hypocritical for the UK and the US to orchestrate military solution for Zimbabwe where regular elections are held, while adopting siddon look towards Sudan and Myanmar?
Africans generally deplore what is going on in Zimbabwe. However, students of African history are equally aware that the seed of the crisis in Zimbabwe was planted by the British. Just as they equally know that when it comes to African affairs, the EU, Britain and the US has no credibility. Their sordid record in Rwanda, Kenya, the Congo, Angola and Namibia completely disqualify them to lecture African leaders on what is good for them.
Raila Odinga has called on either the African Union or the UN to send troops to dislodge Mugabe from Power. He has the credibility to speak, he is a democrat, he ‘won’ an election in Kenya and is now the Prime Minister of that country. Let Kenya summon a meeting of at least the East African Countries and tell us how many troops they will contribute. Remember, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania sent the armed forces that chased the infamous Idi Amin Dada of Uganda away from power. Let Kenya lead the way and others will follow.
By openly calling on African leaders to intervene militarily in Sudan, the western countries risk achieving exactly the opposite. Our leaders would think twice about appearing to be puppets, dancing to the tune of their western masters. What prevents Gordon Brown, David Milliband or Condoleezza Rice from having a discreet conversation with the AU leaders? But NO, they would like to cry more than the bereaved, to generate news and appear good before their electorates. It is ridiculous to see Milliband and Co, trudging the Congo forests searching for peace just to get photographed by the Press while they go home empty handed. In contrast, Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit achieved a ceasefire in the area and he convinced Laurent Nkunda to negotiate. Obasanjo achieved a ceasefire Milliband achieved a photo-op!
Nigeria needed no prompting to intervene in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone but through to form, the west came much, much later and took the glory. Today, the western media credits Tony Blair and not Sani Abacha and ECOMOG with achieving the Peace in Sierra Leone. South Africa and other member countries of the SDDC should be left to solve the problem in Zimbabwe; western leaders only complicate the situation when they weigh in with their ill-advised comments. Thabo Mbeki had a breakthrough before he retired and today other South Africans are still weighing in.
Time is running out for Robert Mugabe, but if the EU, the UK and the US are not careful, they would merely prolong his death pangs.
Daniel Elombah LLM