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Friday, 19 October 2007

AU sacrifices assistance to Africa to accommodate a dictator




by Tanonoka Joseph Whande

It never ceases to amaze the world how African organizations, which are always bankrolled by western or European governments and NGOs, always have the audacity to harass their benefactors at will.

The African Union (AU), a falsely assembled union of economically and politically barren and fragmented African countries, each pursuing their own agenda and no richer than the tuck-shop at the corner of the street, is refusing an invitation to attend a summit in Lisbon unless all are invited.

NEPAD’s much publicised requirement of good governance suddenly no longer applies; African leaders want to be feasted and dined while, back home, citizens bury the dead.

For reasons that are hard to understand or explain, the whole of Africa appears to be held hostage by one man, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

It seems the dictator has found his way into the psyche of all who occupy State Houses across Africa for none has dared to confront Mugabe on issues affecting the region and the continent. African leaders, who cannot concentrate on the development of their respective countries but divert their attention, not to solving the Zimbabwean crisis, but to accommodating a wayward president, sacrifice the well-being of their own nations and their economies in support of a politically and economically destructive dictator.

People in Zimbabwe are fed up with Mugabe and the world is fed up with him. Only African leaders are not fed up with the man because someone else, Europe and the west, is giving them relief and subsidies.

Africa is being invited to an EU summit in Lisbon, Portugal, this coming December.
British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is the lonely voice from Europe’s so-called democracies who has categorically stated that he is not going to attend the Lisbon summit if Mugabe is invited to attend. Brown cites Mugabe’s political and human rights record along with ‘his behaviour as president’ as reasons why he cannot sit down with Mugabe.

Over the years, Mugabe has been invited to attend these international meetings hoping that they would engage him in talks and influence him towards better behaviour. None of those attendances bore fruit. It appears as if he was made worse.

Some countries, notably Britain, the US and Australia, imposed limited sanctions, including travel bans to selected countries on him, in an effort to make him sit up and take notice.

The current bone of contention concerns the Lisbon summit. Apparently, it is only those leaders outside Africa who see the number of people being killed by Mugabe, who see his human rights violations and the deliberate starving of innocent children and the elderly.

“Zimbabwe, inspire of the crisis, is an African country and we are defending principles here,” says an AU Peace and Security Committee official, who wisely refused to be named. He went on to espouse the principle of non-interference, adding that the AU had asked Mugabe to talk to his opposition.

“We resort to interference only in extreme cases of violence or genocide. It is not the only country not to respect democracy. Look at Togo, Niger and others. Zimbabwe’s problem is mainly with London. It’s a bilateral issue and is none of our business. If the Europeans really insist on this point, the summit risks falling through.”

The old goats still spout non-interference even in the face of extreme cruelties. What the AU is saying is that it is okay for a president to kill a couple of citizens since they only intervene “in extreme cases of violence and genocide.” Fiddlesticks, what did the AU do in Rwanda except non-interference?

I almost wish I were a dog because the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals do a better job taking care of animals than the AU does in taking care of a single African. Look at how the AU confuses the world and causes unnecessary deaths in Sudan when outside help is there and available.

They proudly tick off African countries that do not respect democracy as if they are talking about African countries that have won the World Cup. People are being killed in Zimbabwe and, to the AU, it is a bilateral issue with Britain (it’s not) and is none of their business (it is). Just what is the AU’s business? And the AU considers people, especially Zimbabweans, to be stupid enough to believe that the problems we are having are between us and London?

The AU should just disband; they are causing and condoning the deaths of Africans. John Kuffour and Alpha Konare should be ashamed of themselves.

“On this file, the AU’s position is clear and resolute. All member countries should take part in the Lisbon Summit,” said another AU high ranking official. “As Zimbabwe’s Head of State, Robert Mugabe should take part.”

Last Thursday, AU Commission Chairperson, Alpha Omar Konare, and the current president of the organization, Ghanaian president John Kuffour, re-affirmed their position to visiting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

“We want the next EU-Africa summit to be a success and herald a new partnership. All Africans should be invited. This is the basis of this new partnership,” Konare said.

Needless to say, Mugabe’s political and economic behaviour and destructive policies continue to wreak havoc on Africa, in general, and on SADC, in particular. But African presidents don’t see anything wrong. To them, America and Europe are the culprits.
“African nations are very keen to have the summit take place since it can only be to the benefit of both sides,” said Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s ambassador to the EU. He said the EU would “use the meeting to sign a document for the release of €985 million of budget support to South Africa over the next 6 years.”

Sooklal did not say what South Africa will be giving the EU. Benefit to both sides indeed! And these people want to boycott the summit, where they are mere beggars, just because they want someone, who is cannibalising a nation, to sit amongst them in Europe.

Don’t South Africans deserve assistance that is due to them and not be forced to sacrifice their well being for the survival of a tyrant who is killing defenseless people elsewhere?

That is Africa.

Despite his appalling record in mediation, South African President Thabo Mbeki was, once again, tasked by SADC to talk to Mugabe and his opposition compatriots and bring them to an understanding.

Mbeki insists that there is progress in the talks. He appears to be right in that, three weeks ago, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change capitulated and made concessions that continue to baffle not only the Zimbabwean rank and file but people worldwide. One of the items included the MDC’s voting for a constitutional amendment that short-circuits democratic practises by allowing Mugabe to pick (or ‘anoint’, as they say) his own successor.

Zimbabwean people were outraged and viewed this as betrayal.

But Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the larger faction of the MDC, is now in North America “on the first leg of a two-nation tour to appraise party supporters and pro-democracy groups on the progress made so far at the SADC led mediation talks.”
People in Zimbabwe are still shell-shocked and are without adequate briefing.

Tsvangirai ignores the suffering people who have always given him all the support he needed from the infancy of his ambitions and who are amazed and rather hurt, confused and doubtful of his latest parliamentary move and goes away somewhere to explain things that the Zimbabwean rank and file want to know but are not being told. There is fear of betrayal and suspicion that the MDC, particularly Tsvangirai, is collaborating with ‘the enemy.’

This can’t be the progress that both Tsvangirai and Mbeki are talking about, could it?

The behaviour of SADC and the African Union led Zimbabweans to believe that Africa cares more about Mugabe than the Zimbabwean people. But now the MDC is agreeing to things they, with massive support from the people, rejected in the watershed Constitutional Referendum of 2000.

Of course, there is money in the diaspora, isn’t there?

*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Botswana-based Zimbabwean writer.

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