17 August 2007

Do African leaders give a damn about their people?

Africans have good reason to distrust and dislike the West. Europeans enslaved millions of them, murdered millions and stole and exploited their continent. The memories of such atrocities cannot fade easily. However, that was then. For African leaders to allow that experience, as horrific as it was, to interfere with what is best for their people today, is simply irresponsible. And yet that's exactly what they are doing in the case of Zimbabwe and its president, Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe is a psychopathic thug who has reduced his nation to utter impoverishment. And yet, at the
Southern African Development Community summit meeting this week, he received what the Guardian referred to as a "rapturous welcome" from his fellow leaders. And South African President Thabo Mbeki supports Mugabe's claim that his country's woes are due principally to UK-orchestrated sanctions.

Mugabe's claim is of course nonsense. It wasn't the UK that expropriated white-owned farms, major contributors to the Zimbabwean economy, and handed them over to his party's favourites. It wasn't the UK that drove 700,000 city-dwellers out of their homes. It isn't the UK who tortures and murders political opponents. This is all Mugabe's work, and it's vintage Mugabe.

After helping liberate his country from colonial rule, Mugabe showed his true colours. He consolidated his power by using a North-Korean trained military unit to inflict massacres on the
Ndebele people, the main source of his opposition. Twenty thousand died, mostly innocent civilians.

Nonetheless, the new country showed great promise, becoming perhaps the most stable and economically successful country on the continent. But eventually people began to tire of Mugabe, serious opposition grew, and once again the real Mugabe emerged. His scapegoating of the whites and the brutal suppression of his opponents has created an economic chaos and political wasteland that would have embarrassed his colonial predecessors.

Zimbabweans face hunger, even starvation, as the shops empty of food, and inflation hits 20,000 per cent making money worthless. Thousands of business people have been arrested for failing to obey Mugabe's arbitrary economic measures. A third of workers are unemployed. Millions of Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population, have fled the country. A
s African leaders applaud Mugabe, Zimbabweans face the bitter reality that they were better off under the colonials. They hardly had less freedom and at least they had enough to eat.

African leaders may continue to treat the West with suspicion and scorn. History gives them the right. It doesn't give them the right to justify the rule of tyrants.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Bill.

    Maybe the reason why other African leaders don't seem to know something about Robert Mugabe's "true colours", it's maybe because the information don't seem to cross borders very easily in Africa. Or secondly, we can make a hypothesis that African newspapers don't have a budget comparable to a Western newspaper. However, since I don't know a lot of stuff about Africa, what happens on some parts of this continent always leave me speechless.