The Herald (Harare)

11 June 2007

Zimbabwe: Era of Puppet Politics Over

opinion

Harare — IN her book, Terror Laws (2004), Jenny Hocking quotes a certain Pastor Niemoeller as saying: "In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I did not speak up because I was not a Communist.

"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up because I was Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Those in opposition and their sympathisers wonder and even complain about Sadc's stance on Zimbabwe.

They do the same about South Africa's policy of quiet diplomacy.

One Arthur Mutambara even inferred that the African Union is a "Club of Dictators" just because he feels the AU is not doing his bidding on Zimbabwe.

Recently, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete gave an interview in the United Kingdom and alluded to the fact that the situation in Zimbabwe is made all the more difficult by many people who have adopted a very simplistic and reductionist view of what is at play.

He even outlined the demographic complexities of the African society, saying the sanctions regime on Zimbabwe is only an urban song with very little or no relevance to the general peasantry of the rural population.

He told those who were questioning him that Zanu-PF's people-based policies sold better in the rural areas compared to the free market policies advocated by the opposition, policies that readily appeal to the majority of urbanites.

Unfortunately for the opposition, urbanites are always in the minority in Africa and could be dwindling with emigration for Zimbabwe.

While Mr Kikwete's analysis is clearly a pragmatic way of looking at our political situation as it relates to the African response, another way to look at it is the political history of the continent, especially as it relates to the traditional imperial regime.

Unlike the character in the opening paragraph who found herself isolated in times of trouble, it would appear the African ruling elite might have taken a lesson from the books of history and are clear that power lies in solidarity.

They seem to be saying, when they overthrew Kwame Nkrumah we did not speak because we said we were neither communists nor Ghanaians.

When they overthrew Milton Obote and installed Idi Amin, we did not speak because we said we were neither communists nor Ugandans.

When they killed young Thomas Sankara we did not speak because we said we were neither socialists nor Burkinabe.

When they killed Samora Machel, we just cried a little because we were neither communists nor Mozambicans and when they also murdered Patrice Lumumba we did not do anything because were neither Congolese nor communists.

They know that when they invaded Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan they said nothing because they were not Panamanians, Grenadines, Iraqis or Afghans.

However, the meaning of imminent and potential danger from the elite presiding over the current imperial authority has now become an apparent reality and not a mere possibility.

African leaders seem to be looking back in history and are saying now they are after Cde Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

They say we are neither Zimbabweans nor have we ever embarked on land reforms.

Be that as it may, they seem to be telling themselves that they have seen enough of these imperial machinations orchestrated by the same old Western faces; decade after decade, century after century and country after country.

While speaking against the emperor seems to be still too costly to contemplate for many of the African leaders, what seems to be easier is shunning the emperor.

By refusing to condemn Zimbabwe, African leaders are flatly refusing to be the megaphones of Britain and its allies in the bilateral conflict between Harare and London.

By declaring that the EU-African summit can only materialise with the presence of Zimbabwe, the AU is saying the era of silence when the powerful come after your neighbour is now gone.

By standing their ground and saying none other than Zimbabwe will chair the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, African leaders are sending a clear message that the era of parroting the master's voice or complying with the master's imperial machinations is over.

By insisting that he cannot condemn or criticise President Mugabe, Mr Thabo Mbeki is using quiet diplomacy to tell those pressuring him that the era of puppet politics in Africa is long gone and if it has not, he is not going to be one of the lackeys.

This is the politics that Tony Blair only managed to grasp on his farewell tour of Africa, after spending a wasted bad decade trying to hijack the likes of Mr Mbeki.

While they came in the name of anti-communist and anti-socialist wars in the last century, it is rather unfortunate that the current onslaughts are actually disguised as "humanitarianism" rather than mere economic ideology as was the case then.

Now the imperial onslaughts on targeted "dissidents" are mainly premised on the human rights regime.

It does not matter to the United States that the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights was first adopted on December 16, 1966 and they only ratified in 1992.

It also does not matter at all to the US ruling elite that their Senate ratified the ICCPR with a reservation that the convention would not be recognised in the US laws, in other words US citizens cannot rely on their domestic law to enjoy the rights in that convention.

Despite all this, the US and its allies, some of whom do not even have a Bill of Rights in their domestic laws still somehow have the temerity, audacity and open face to claim championship to the human rights regime.

It has been strongly argued that the current anti-terrorism laws adopted by the US, the UK and other Western countries are no threat to the mainstream Caucasian in the Western community but a dangerous tool of oppression, exploitation and vindictiveness towards members of the minority, especially Islamic Arabs, other Moslems as well as minorities living in the West.

This is evident with all other laws in the West if one was to look at the ethnic composition in Western prisons.

There is a general trend that the minorities suddenly find themselves in the majority when it comes to prison populations.

The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment commonly referred to as CAT, is the other international piece of legislation widely used in the human rights regime. Once again the US is the self-proclaimed champion of the furtherance of this convention, especially to the often taunted "authoritarian regimes and dictatorships".

This championship to the throne of the human rights regime comes on the backdrop of a United States that has awarded itself what it calls "extradition" powers where the US ruling elite have empowered themselves to export both suspects and non-suspects of terrorism to countries where they can be tortured for purposes of extracting information. If one is believed to know of some terrorist activity, never mind if they were in effect part of it, they could still be exported for torture to countries of Washington's choice if they are not sent to the US's own torture centres like Guantanamo Bay.

What is baffling the world today is that the human rights regime is being taken advantage of by countries whose own human rights records are in tatters especially when it comes to how they have been implementing their foreign policies.

People are not blind to Iraq, they are not blind to Afghanistan and they are not blind to the treatment of minority and indigenous groups in some of the Western countries.

A good human rights record is not one where you make your own people enjoy human rights at the expense of others. Rather, the letter and spirit of international practice as expressed by such legal tools as the ICCPR and CAT is to create harmony and benefit for the generality of humanity; those in ethnic and racial majority as well as those in the minority.

A good human rights record is not created by one country loudly proclaiming the evil of others and pointing its big finger at the shortcomings of others. Neither is it created by one country championing humanitarian intervention in perceived areas of poor human rights record. Rather, a good human rights record just comes by respecting the letter and spirit of international law when it gives us such provisions as the ICCPR.

The weakness of others does not make up for one's own evil deeds. Just like in domestic law where the law is sometimes used as a tool of exclusion, exploitation and repression, the human rights regime has been used by big powers as a tool for political expediency and the advancement of capitalist interests.

This is why people have begun questioning whether or not the human rights regime is in the right hands. In his farewell speech in December 2006, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan voiced similar concerns as he appealed for better world leadership from the US.

This is the global politics against which President Mbeki has been asked to find a solution to the political and economic problems in Zimbabwe, a country which is undoubtedly one of the major battlefields where the human rights-inspired Western offensive is at full throttle.

Mr Mbeki will have to be at his best to see beyond trivialities and address the root causes of the problems away from the media propaganda frenzy.

That won't be a tall order if the West adopts Tony Blair's latest position.

Reason Wafawarova is a Zimbabwean studying in Australia.

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