Mugabe’s empty AU speech

African statesmen applauded President Robert Mugabe as he officially opened the 25th African Union (AU) assembly on Sunday in South Africa, in his capacity as the continental bloc’s chair. The problem is, those African leaders, unless they were just fawning, did not see through the hypocrisy, inconsistencies and contradictions in Mugabe’s speech.

Tawanda Majoni
Tawanda Majoni

While he was to some little extent honest in blaming Africa for the current social, political and economic crises bedevilling the continent, his remarks failed to adequately acknowledge his own and other African leaders’ roles in creating the crises.

Mugabe chose to ignore salient but ugly realities about the typical African political leadership. Instead he largely chose to heap blame on external, Western machinations. For him, the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 was purely a result of a regime change agenda by Western machinations countries. The reality, of course, is far more complex than that.

Mugabe conveniently ignored the fact that Gaddafi was a political demon whose evil deeds played into the hands of the West. He conveniently forgot to tell the world that Gaddafi was an iron-fisted terror monger with a tendency of looking at his critics as rats and roaches. Gaddafi sponsored a number of terror wars in Africa and beyond. He was directly involved in the Lockerbie bombing of 1988 that killed 290 world nationals.

Rebel movements

In fact, Gaddafi had stepped on the toes of many African leaders through his sponsorship of rebel movements. The Arab world was also happy to see his back because of his support for Hamas in its war against Israel. No leader in the world has ever managed to attract as many enemies during his tenure as Gaddafi did.

In his speech, Mugabe blamed some conflicts that have erupted in Africa on the tendency by African leaders to try and extend their rule illegally. I would have applauded him as well for saying so, but there is much cynicism and hypocrisy in that statement.

While there are several cases of African leaders that have tried to rule beyond their constitutional mandates and this must be rapped in no uncertain terms, Mugabe forgot the fact that, even in his position as the AU chair, he is also to blame.

All elections in post-colonial Zimbabwe have been disputed. They have been based on violence and electoral fraud. The 2008 presidential run-off which forced SADC and the AU to intervene marks the height of the illegality that Mugabe sought to blame on others.

So, instead of clapping their hands in applause, the African leaders who sat in the Sandton Convention Centre auditorium should have asked him whether killing, maiming and persecuting the electorate during the run-up to the June 27 presidential run-off was legal. The point is, you can’t expect Africa to be free of conflicts when its supreme organ, the AU, is led by a president who is heavily guilty of the excesses he is busy blaming on others.

Fanning wars

The AU chair said the West was fanning wars in Africa and the developing world as a way of gaining space to exploit natural resources on the continent. I leave the involvement of the West in this for another day, but I am disturbed by Mugabe’s tendency to blame all sins great and small on the industrialised north.

What he conveniently forgot to mention was that post-colonial African governments have played a very big role in denying their citizens the opportunity to enjoy the benefits and rewards of the exploitation of their God-given resources. I would have taken him seriously if he had acknowledged that the Mozambican war between 1977 and 1992 that pitted Frelimo against Renamo was partly due to the Marxist government’s failure to distribute wealth evenly among the people.

But I need not go so far because Mugabe, even as he delivered his traditional anti-West diatribe, is a legendary example of a leader who is good at fighting the people as he exploits the resources. The Marange diamonds fiasco speaks to my argument eloquently.

Many people died in the diamond fields as soldiers and other security agents descended on Marange while the ruling elite, mostly working in cahoots with the Chinese, looted the gems. Hardly anything went to treasury. Today, there is nothing to talk about that very important natural resource. I don’t see where the West fits in that. Instead, I see a heavy presence of the East.

Short memory

(ASF), complete with a Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) outfit. That is wrong. Africa doesn’t need a super army. It is expensive to maintain and we don’t have the resources to sustain it. I am surprised that the Old Man has such a short memory regarding military intervention and enforcement. He chairs SADC whose Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (OPDSC) expressly states that military enforcement must be adopted only as the last resort.

He must have been reminded that Swaziland unsuccessfully lobbied for military intervention in Madagascar in 2007 when Andry Rajoelina toppled Marc Ravalomanana.

The regional body finally opted for a transitional arrangement after realising that resolution of the crisis through military means was unsustainable.

Instead of wasting time barking about standby armies, Mugabe and other African leaders must realise that the continent needs accountable, selfless and democratic leaders who stand to serve their people. Such leadership is the best tool to prevent conflicts on the continent. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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