The Herald (Harare)

12 August 2005

Zimbabwe Under Siege

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Harare — It is a matter of urgency that Zimbabweans and Africans recognise that those we call friends, those that we are inviting to our dinner table because they preach the language of democracy and human rights declare war on us when we try to rectify colonial imbalances, writes United States-based Kenyan author, Mukoma Wa Ngugi, who was in the country to attend the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.

As a Kenyan residing in the United States and having come to Zimbabwe to give a talk at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, I am of the opinion that this should be stated boldly and simply - war has been declared on Zimbabwe.

It is not the conventional war of invasion, shelled out buildings and bodies strewn in the streets, properly speaking, Zimbabwe is under siege.

And a siege is only a prelude to conventional warfare, behind the sanctions, the vilification of Zimbabwe by international media and Western leaders, there is more to come - the wheels have already been set in motion.

It is up to us, a collective "we" in and out of Zimbabwe to stop them in mid-revolve.

The declared and the undeclared sanctions have one sole purpose - to make the basic necessities that are ordinarily taken for granted outside the reach of Zimbabweans, to make life so unbearable that the citizens, in an overwhelming and massive flood would rise up against their government.

Already common goods that oil the wheels of life, like petrol are scarce.

Foreign currency, another form of colonialism that forces African countries to be dependent on the (United States) dollar, is scarce.

In short, the economy is suffering and with it the working and middle classes.

It is important that we draw a distinction between economic sanctions such as those declared against apartheid South Africa and those that have been declared against Zimbabwe.

In South Africa, it was the ANC (African National Congress) clearly representing a majority of the South African population that called for the sanctions.

In South Africa, the argument that the sanctions would hurt the same people they were supposed to be helping as advanced by the then President of the United States (US), Ronald Reagan, was countered by the fact that black South Africans had nothing to lose.

Without a vote, assassinated and jailed at will, forced into inferior education that fostered servitude, sequestered in the Bantustans (and) already on the peripheries of the South African economy except as labourers in the mines and homes of the white population - black South Africans literally had nothing to lose.

Sanctions would hurt the same economy that sustained apartheid. Sanctions could only take the bread from the master's dinner table.

For the slave, the master's farm burning, is a form of liberation.

But for Zimbabwe, (however), the sanctions literally hurt the worker, the farmer, the ordinary citizen who has invested in the economy: Who as a matter of fact sacrificed life, body, limb and mind to bring an end to colonialism.

And the opposition that called for the sanctions is not representative of marginalised Zimbabweans; it only represents a segment of (urban) society.

In Zimbabwe, it seems to be an open secret that the opposition is supported by the powerful nations of the West.

Traditionally, sanctions and boycotts have been the weapons of the weak against the powerful. They have been an attempt to bring the powerful to dollar sense. But what happens when sanctions become the weapon of the already powerful that are bent on owning and controlling world resources?

What happens when the aggressor usurps the language of the transgressed?

Why has the West heeded or rather instigated the call for sanctions?

The United States and Britain are engaged in what was first an invasion that became an occupation of Iraq. A war that from the very beginning sidelined the United Nations.

(A war) Whose orchestration sought to make the United Nations irrelevant, in spite of the fact that the UN was formed to make arbitrary and unjust war a thing of the past, post the Second World War?

Between 1990 (shortly after the first war on Iraq) and 2002, it is estimated that one million Iraqi children died as a result of the sanctions initiated by the United States.

As we speak, thousands of Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the second war on Iraq. Close to 2 000 American soldiers from working class backgrounds have died in the same war.

The tragedy is that all these deaths were needless as a result of what, in a saner world would be termed an illegal war or conquest.

It is estimated that (former Iraqi President), Saddam Hussein killed two million Iraqis. The Americans in the last sixteen years have come very close to matching him and this is in Iraq alone.

In the United States, the Patriot Act has given the (American) government powers that a democratic dictionary would term dictatorial - people suspected of terrorism can be detained indefinitely, can be tried in front of military tribunals, can be tortured under state guidelines (an oxymoron) or contracted to third parties for torture.

As we speak, in the US a good number of political prisoners like Leonard Peltfier are still in jail and others like Mumia Abu Jamal are on death row.

Asatta Shakur, an African American revolutionary who has been exiled to Cuba since the 1970's has seen her bounty raised to one billion (United States) dollars three months ago by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) essentially turning her into a prime target for an assassin's bullet.

Historically, the United States was founded on a genocide campaign against the native American and slightly later slave labour and has suppressed resistance by lynching, hanging and assassination on its very own soil (let us remember the Black Panther leaders) or abroad (let us remember Patrice Lumumba).

The US that now claims to be protecting human rights and spreading democracy has refused to be a signatory to the International Crimes Court (ICC) and the list goes on.

Martin Luther King Junior, who was protesting and organising against the war against the Vietnamese called the United States the greatest purveyor of violence even as it was preaching democracy and human rights.

I am quite afraid that remains true today.

In short, the United States cannot meet the same standards it seeks to have the rest of the world impose on Zimbabwe.

Let us then choose our friends very carefully.

Why has the West instigated the call for sanctions against Zimbabwe or properly speaking why is Zimbabwe under siege from the West?

Let us think of Zimbabwe as Africa's Cuba.

Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is not an economic or military threat to the US and Britain. Both do not posses nuclear weapons (though the hypocrisy that the nations with the highest and most lethal weapons of mass destruction can legislate degrees of militarisation should be pointed out).

Like Cuba, in Latin America; Zimbabwe's "crime" is leading by example to show that land can be redistributed - an independence with content.

If Zimbabwe succeeds, then it becomes an example to African people that indeed freedom and independence can have the content of material liberation.

Like Cuba, Zimbabwe is to be isolated and if possible, a new government that is friendly to the agenda of the West is to be installed.

Racism, sexism, colonialism, any form of oppression or superiority is based and sustained on the myth that one nation, one race, one class or one gender has the natural right to make laws and the excluded heed the laws they did not help create.

Zimbabwe's "crime," in the eyes of the West is to illustrate boldly that no one race, if we may recall Aime Cesaire, has the monopoly of resources.

It is a matter of urgency that the Zimbabwean and the African recognise that those we call friends, those that we are inviting to our dinner table because they preach the language of democracy and human rights declare war on us when we try to rectify imbalances.

Our history reveals them as the same agents of colonisation that now wear the guise of a democracy without content.

It is a matter of urgency that the African recognise that the fight for Zimbabwe speaks to the larger question of what independence means when the very same conditions we waged a struggle against persist and are protected and nurtured by our governments.

Our own struggle for independence with content will succeed to the extent that Zimbabwe succeeds.

It is a matter of urgency that the Pan-Africanists, the human rights activists, the political activists and the artists take a stand on the economic and political siege against Zimbabwe.

And by the same token link what is happening in Zimbabwe to Latin America, the Middle East and the rest of Africa and find ways to consolidate the struggle for a world in which democracy has the content of a true liberation.

It is important that the Zimbabwean, acting as an agent of liberation and not the West, push the government to continue on the path toward a true liberation and oppose it when it errs not with an eye on bringing it down, but on challenging it not to lose sight and vision of a freedom with content.

There is much at stake.

Finally, it is equally important that Zimbabweans realise they are not alone. Solidarity is expressed in many ways.

A friend of mine in the United States, on my telling him that I will be attending the Zimbabwe International Book Fair asked me to take a bit of what he termed as liberated soil. I am proud to say I will not let him down, I did find liberated soil and will be delivering it back to him.

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