Too good to be true

We knew it was too good to be true. Recently, we were rejoicing that a body of the African Union had finally had the guts to issue a statement criticising Zimbabwe's appalling human rights record. But the resolution, passed by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights imploring the Afri

can Union to condemn Zimbabwe for a range of abuses, has been thrown out by the organisation’s Council of Ministers. The reason? Certain procedures were not followed. What a pathetic excuse!

Of course, we should not really be surprised by this. The surprise was that the resolution ever made it as far as it did. After all, the majority of African leaders who make up the AU were not popularly elected. The current chairman, Sudanese leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been condemned by the international community for his dictatorial rule and the way in which he has suppressed people in the Darfur region.

His fellows include leaders such as Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the despotic head of Equatorial Guinea, and the likes of DRC’s Joseph Kabila who shot their way into power. These are some of the people who decide on human rights for Africa. They don’t know the meaning of the words. So we cannot really expect anything from this motley bunch of dictators.

But there is hope. A few years ago the report by the commission would never even have made it to the Council of Ministers. There are many who are interested in human rights in Africa and are working away behind the scenes to change things.

There are also a number of African heads of state who believe in democracy, such as John Kufuor of Ghana, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Botswana’s Festus Mogae. They may be outnumbered at the moment but we beg them to continue highlighting the tragic plight of the majority of Africans. They need to be bold enough to cast their lot, not with the handful of oppressors, but with the multitudes of decent people who deserve a better deal.

From today, Thursday, the heads of state will meet in Khartoum at the AU’s annual summit. The delinquents among them will no doubt congratulate each other on how they have skilfully managed to outwit the democrats and stifle debate on the appalling behaviour of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

We hope the democrats will somehow manage to distance themselves from the despots. Perhaps they could stand apart when the time comes for the happy family group photos.

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