Monday, June 30, 2008

The Elders Press The African Union On Mugabe

Portrait of the butcher as an old man. (image via AP)

The big question at the African Union summit is: What To Do About Mugabe? This is a very sensitive issue that needs to be finessed via diplomacy and some soft power as backup. Nelson Mandela, the great African statesman, struck the right tone -- one of regret suffused with political principle -- last week when he roundly condemned the dictatorship of Mugabe. Overheated rhetoric from the West and western news media outlets, however, only causes Mugabe -- and some African leaders, by the way -- to dig in their heels and support Zimbabwe against charges of "Western influence," and "neo-Imperialism." For a certain generation of Africans -- people over 60 years old, primarily -- the anti-imperialist struggle is still an existential one. We cannot stress how important it is for the West, especially Britain, to calm down the fucking tone of their rhetoric on Zimbabwe. It could actually become counterproductive, provoking pro-Mugabe stances in people otherwise receptive to the critique of tyranny.

Ideally, Senator Barack Obama would find time on his schedule this week to leverage some of his massive soft power in Africa to give a nuanced speech damning Mugabe and his regime. That would allow African heads of state the maneuvering room to get out from under the shadow of Mugabe's stale anti-imperialist rhetoric that the West -- the BBC, in particular -- feed with their disproportionate coverage of Mugabe's tyranny, which counter productively reminds Zimbabweans of the disgustingly racist colonial history of the British-backed Ian Smith regime. Wouldn't the British like to forget about that noxious little episode? From Bloomberg:

"In his opening address at the AU summit in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said greater political will would be required to resolve the conflicts on the continent.

"Africa must fully shoulder its responsibility and do everything in its power to help Zimbabwe's parties to work together' to overcome its current challenges, he said.

"A group of international statesmen, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, urged the African Union to appoint a special envoy to mediate talks between Mugabe and the opposition to create a transitional government and prepare for free elections.

"The group, known as The Elders, said leaders at the AU summit should 'clearly state that the results of the poll were illegitimate. They occurred under the cloud of targeted political violence, precipitating the withdrawal of one of the two candidates.'"

And for those who question The Corsair's lifelong crusade against African dictator chic, one needs only go here (published: October 2003). More here.

No comments: