Knock Mugabe of his perch

By July 14, 2008Article, Atlantic Eye

RABAT, Morocco, July 14 (UPI) — African leaders, led by South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, have blathered diligently and said nothing about the disgraceful conduct of Zimbabwe’s strongman Robert Mugabe. The notable exceptions are the ANC’s Chairman Jacob Zuma and Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. It is revolting that African leaders can let Africans be slaughtered by a petty criminal of the highest order.

The grand suggestion to come out of the African Union meeting in Egypt is as half-witted as it is an insult to African people. You asked Mugabe to form a unity government in Zimbabwe — which he promptly and arrogantly rejected, walking embarrassingly over all of you in the process. WOW, guys, it must have taken a great deal of brainstorming to come up with that idea. First, Mugabe steals the votes, murders his opponents, violently beats his own people — yours as well — and then the best suggestion you have is a unity government.

If the approach to Rhodesia had been as halfhearted as your clarion call in Egypt, there might just still be a white government in Salisbury. In those days you fought for human rights, asked for boycotts of Ian Smith’s government. You called for violent action and were even prepared to use it. I gather, and maybe I am daft, that there is a difference when whites are slime-bags compared with one of your brethren.

I am wondering if you are suggesting justice is indeed a matter of color. Whites, it seems, should not be racists or criminal, but it is perfectly acceptable when it is one of your own. I am more than happy to be corrected on this issue. Personally, I think racism should be rejected in all its forms.

The fact is that while Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai are both Shona, most of the conflicts in Africa are tribal-based. You can call us racists all you want, you may call us colonialists, and you may say we cut up your land in an unfair way.

It is mostly — and regrettably — true.

But African leadership since the fall of colonialism has been abysmal. You, the leaders, have mostly stolen from your own people, treated democratic principles with contempt, bought as many weapons as you could from anyone willing to sell them to you while your own people have wasted away.

African culture is old and esteemed. Africa has its own rules. Many of us in the West do not understand African rituals, tongues and tribal identities. We barely know any of your languages, and when we do, probably speak them badly.

But surely you cannot accept the culling of your own friends, families, children, women and seniors. I know elders are of prime importance in Africa. Is that why you are not standing up to Robert Mugabe, despite his revolting criminal behavior?

Students often ask me about Africa. They know I have advised projects there. They know I invite people of color to give guest lectures. And they — the Africans, Europeans and Asians — do not understand your reaction to Mugabe at all. I have given up trying to explain it to them. Frankly, I am the wrong person to do so. They should be hearing it from you, not me.

They should be hearing you — all of you, and not just the few who have done so — condemning Mugabe’s actions. They should be seeing you stridently fighting to bring down his government. They should hear you using words that give them hope that you believe in human rights, fairness, justice and the rule of law.

Personally, I think Robert Mugabe deserves to be offed — before or after a trial. His actions themselves warrant punishment. His treatment of Zimbabweans is shameful. I am pained watching it happen. Are you not pained as well? Some might think he is paying you hush money, and giving you weapons, and thus it is easy to turn a blind eye to justice. Never mind the economic, social and health effects it is having on all of southern Africa.

I have met Robert Mugabe. He was a guest of the Global Panel Foundation in the early ’90s. Back then the world thought he would bring his country — once the breadbasket of Africa — back to civilization.

At a small dinner he spoke of the need for an independent Africa, good leadership, the rule of law and integrity. He was indeed charming, thoughtful and intense. But we all know the flip side of brilliance is insanity.

This “white boy” asks you step over your shadow and solve a problem that only you can solve. Having the Russians and Chinese veto the recent U.N. Security Council resolution is a pathetic first step.

(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society for International Cooperation.)