Tuesday, July 8, 2008

AU must force Mugabe out of power


Last week in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the African Union once again vividly demonstrated why it is not worthy of the respect of Africans.

Instead of locking Mr Robert Mugabe, the illegally self-declared president of Zimbabwe, out of its summit, the AU inexplicably embraced him. This disgraceful act, together with the AU’s call for Mr Mugabe to share power with Mr Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, gives a measure of legitimacy to a sadistic despot who should be sitting in prison.

Significantly, the AU’s weak-kneed response tells the world that Mr Mugabe is not the only sick man of Africa.

Visceral distaste
I have now developed a visceral distaste for all things Mugabe. Take his valiant struggle against barbaric British colonialism, for instance. What good is that history if all he has done with it is to destroy the country he so heroically fought for? The other totem that he pulls out of his bag of tricks is sovereignty. While no African can gainsay the importance of this universal principle, what good is it if all Mr Mugabe does is use it as a shield to oppress his people?

Take the hypocrisy of the West over the Zimbabwe crisis, for example. What good is recognising that hypocrisy when all Mr Mugabe does with it is insist that former colonial and racist powers have no right to oppose his brutalities? Mr Mugabe is adept at using all kinds of canards to escape responsibility for the ruin of Zimbabwe. Even if I agreed with him on his critiques of the West – and I do – I could never in a million years condone his despotic rule.

The West can go hang
It seems that the only thing that matters to Mr Mugabe is Mr Mugabe himself. As far as he is concerned, the West can go to hell, or “hang” as his lackey angrily told reporters at Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday. But the truth of the matter is that Mr Mugabe actually means to tell Zimbabweans to go “hang.” After all, he has no power over the West. His power – the crude instrument against an impoverished population – can only be wielded against his own people, not the West. I am deeply saddened that Mr Mugabe’s stellar history has turned into such a racist caricature of the stereotypical African tin despot.

Ruins of Zimbabwe
I remember that day in 1980 when he led Zimbabwe to freedom. For those who do not remember, Bob Marley, the iconic reggae star, performed at the independence celebrations to signify the renaissance of a country and continent from the chains of bondage. All that hope is now gone, replaced by – ironically – the ruins of Zimbabwe. What is in Mr Mugabe that makes him so sick? Is there something in his history or childhood that can explain his deep psychosis?

I am not a psychologist, but I will advance a hypothesis. In his person, Mr Mugabe embodies two of the three most damaging traumas that Africans have been put through in the modern era.

The first is slavery which, to my knowledge, did not directly affect Mr Mugabe. The second is colonialism, which defined the man and shaped his political identity and understanding of power. The third, and final, one is Cold War post-colonialism which stunted Africa’s political growth. Of the latter two, I believe that it is colonialism that was most responsible for Mr Mugabe’s psychological damage. His dialectical relationship with whites has forged his identity.

White domination
Mr Mugabe’s life – like that of many Africans his age – was marked by white domination from his childhood through adulthood. It was after all only a mere 28 years ago that he seemingly wrested Zimbabwe from whites. But, in fact, white domination of Zimbabwe continued in agriculture and other sectors of the economy until he ran everything into the ground. Even today, when many white Zimbabweans have fled the country, Mr Mugabe still sees himself as fighting against white oppressors.

To him, white oppressors are everywhere – if not in Zimbabwe, then in the West. He is obsessed with them. Is he merely hallucinating? Or is there some truth in his phobia?

Global power
Only a fool would not admit that the West or the global North – which is dominated by whites – controls global power and wealth. In that sense, Mr Mugabe is right to be resentful that the West exercises control over Africa. But that fact should be the reason why he must free and empower Zimbabweans, not oppress, kill, and pillage them. How else would Africa free itself politically and economically from the West if Mr Mugabe and his ilk continue to destroy their countries?

Historical traumas
The only fruitful answer to the historical traumas that Mr Mugabe and other Africans have suffered is to create open and free societies where the vast potential of Africa can be realised. Killing Africans to protest at Western domination makes no sense. Africa must choke off the Mugabe regime – through diplomatic isolation and cutting off all economic, political, and military links. Starve the regime to death. I do not believe that a military intervention disguised as peacekeepers – as Prime Minister Raila Odinga has suggested – is the answer. Military action is a last resort against a sovereign state in exceptional circumstances like genocide or a horrible civil war.

This is not the case in Zimbabwe. I am also not too crazy about a so-called Kenya-style solution. Instead, what is needed is a transitional government to organise free and fair elections in a year. I am confident that Mr Tsvangirai and the MDC would sweep the polls in a free vote.

Out of power
Mr Mugabe must be sent into retirement, and it is the AU that must do it, not the European Union or the United States. The latter can support African initiatives to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis, but they must not lead Africa in this effort.

That is why Africans and the AU must step up and squeeze the sick man of Africa out of power. Otherwise, Mr Mugabe’s continuation in power makes the entire continent sick.

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