Sunday 19 August 2007

Damn the Mugabe apologists

Not more than one

It only takes another ancient freedom or liberation fighter of old who helped assume independence for his country through seemingly democratic means than then turn into a dictator with bizarre political and economic policies that were ruinous for the fatherland to bring things into focus again.

This seems to be the story of African liberation fighters, men who have failed to convert their tenures in leadership into one of elder statesman worthy of respect and adulation. Apart from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Africa would be hard pressed to find one who commands both authority and respect in the global scene as a leader who can be called upon to address matters with objectivity.

The Global Elders group launched at Nelson Mandela’s 89th birthday does not include one ex-African leader of the 53 countries apart from the man himself – that is as damning as it can get for the kind of leadership we have had in Africa.

Power drunk freedom fighter fossils

One fossil got unearthed during the multiple tremors that makes Zimbabwe an economic disaster and political quagmire a Kenneth Kaunda who was once the Dictator-President of Zambia.

Now, I remember his novel Zambia Shall Be Free being one of the literature texts when we in secondary school and a good deal of the content was hardly anything we kids in Nigeria of the 70s could identify with, however, Zambia had already been liberated and in the hands of Africans for the best part of 13 years.

Mr. Kaunda typifies the typical African big-man mentality that assumes political power through “democratic” means and then elevates that mandate into a monarchist tenure developing a personality cult around themselves and suppressing all opposition and dissent

Within 6 months of assuming power in 1964, he instituted a state of emergency which remained in force till 1991 when due to failed economic policies and international pressure he called multi-party elections and was voted out.

He never took the cue from the other great African leader – Julius Nyerere of Tanzania who ceded power in 1985 and though they belong to the same crop of national leaders who espoused ideologies of African Socialism along with Kwame Nkrumah, they never really understood how to manage their countries into thriving democracies or economic power houses.

Post-independence issues

There are however, things that Mr. Kaunda can be commended for because as Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, Nyasaland became Malawi, Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and South Africa came under black majority rule, all these leaders concentrated their efforts on the liberation struggles of their neighbouring countries.

When these countries became independent, there were imbalances in political and economic clout. A good deal of the economy and assets were in the hands of the colonialists who in fact were also citizens of these countries albeit Caucasian.

There were problems with the modalities for the redistribution of wealth and property; one can say the old colonial powers were not entirely the most prudent or cooperative in help even out the imbalances and impatience ensued as African leaders implemented rash policies that have now resulted in the mess we find many countries in.

There might have been some good in appropriating assets of the white members of society, however, these were not done at fair value and when these properties were seized there were no competent personnel to hand these business and properties over to and many economies ran into difficulties – Zimbabwe being the country breaking records in basket-case history.

There is history and there is the present, we are products of our history but we cannot continue to use history as an excuse for meeting the contemporary issues of the day. It shows that we have refused to learn from history, work on our present issues and prepare to enter the future with hope and courage.

Feed the hungry child

The best analogy I can give to this situation is the case of a child who is starving to death who having been abducted and cared for by strangers is forcibly released back to its parents but the parents have neglected to address the present perilous hunger problem because they have been wronged by the abduction. Yes, the abduction charge needs to be dealt with by adequate means, but the child needs nourishment now. The child here represents the country, the politics, the economy and the everyday life of people in these frontline countries.

No conviction no pressure

So imagine my disgust with the leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who meeting in Lusaka, Zambia were dishonest, spineless, insincere, lacking courage or conviction and worthy of derision as they could not bring any pressure to bear on President Robert Mugabe about the problems in Zimbabwe which are already flowing into their countries.

This is just unbelievable, and it makes observers of issues in Africa really despair of possibilities of development or progress if these leaders cannot tackle what is evidently an untenable political and economic situation on their borders because of that kinship of the liberation struggle that took place over generation ago.

There is a saying in my language that goes thus – If two brothers meet up in a room to discuss serious matters and come out smiling, they probably have been insincere with each other especially where evidently there is a problem to be addressed.

The new slavery – poor leadership

To top this, Mr. Kenneth Kaunda presents himself as an apologist for Mr. Robert Mugabe by invoking history and colonialism to explain away the problems in Zimbabwe, no matter what the freedom fighters went through, the situation they have brought their countries to is unforgivable.

Well, if anything is clear, the policies, decisions and politics that brought Zimbabwe to its knees were implemented by black African men and not the colonial powers of old, some might say, it was better when the colonialists were the rulers - the sooner we recognise that we are just as culpable with regards to the problems that Africa has, the earlier we can begin to solve them.

Meanwhile, the kind of message sent out from the SADC would make other countries outside Africa wonder if it is not time to just forget about doing anything in Africa if their leaders cannot honestly and truthfully encourage progress and condemn poor governance.

Human compassion compels us to try and see beyond these leaders and bypass them to help fellow human beings who are in a new kind of slavery, one that refuses to be bold with the truth. It is to their shame and history would surely cast them as villains if they won freedom to bring more destruction on their fatherland.

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