Human rights – a huge step forward for Africa

An organ of the African Union has made a bold statement for the first time since the Mugabe regime returned Zimbabwe to the dark ages. It is commendable that the commissioners were able to speak honestly on the Zanu (PF) regime's appalling erosion of human rights, particularly over the past five yea

rs.

We now look forward to the continental body distancing itself from its lily-livered past, where it remained culpably silent in the face of mounting evidence of atrocities by various African dictators.

There are several sickening examples of this complicity – notably the massacres in Uganda under Idi Amin, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Somalia under Siad Barre, Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone and Zaire (now DRC) under Mobutu. The list is endless.

However, we find it disturbing that, after passing a resolution condemning Zimbabwe, the commission authorities seemed reluctant to publicise the matter. The report had to be leaked to the press by a conscientious official who was dismayed by hush-up attempts in the higher echelons of power.

The failure by the African Commission on human and peoples’ rights to release a formal statement gave the Zimbabwe government an ideal opportunity to deny, initially, the existence of any such report.

When it became obvious that the report was indeed official, the Mugabe regime attacked it – predictably and childishly accusing the commission of kowtowing to western paymasters.

We utterly reject the double-speak by the AU – and the South African government for that matter – who try to justify quiet diplomacy by arguing that they want to avoid antagonising Mugabe, in the hope that he will be more amenable to persuasion. Some hope. If they cannot read the writing on the wall by now, after five years of madness, their powers of judgment and discernment are questionable to say the least.

The fundamental flaw in their premise is that Mugabe is a reasonable man who can, sooner or later, be made to see the error of his ways and thus change. What a fallacy! Mugabe is well aware that he is transgressing all the AU’s, and indeed the world’s most fundamental human rights principles. He is resorting to this because it is the only way to stay in power. The majority of Zimbabweans have made it abundantly clear that they no long want him or Zanu (PF) to govern them.

African leaders must simply condemn and isolate him. He should be left under no illusion that there is any vestige of support for him on the continent. The credibility of the African Union and its organs, including of course South Africa as the continental powerhouse, are at stake. Africa’s leaders ignore this watershed at their peril.

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