Stand By Their Man
Isn't it an accepted policy of the United Nations not to hold human-rights-abusing nation members up to public scrutiny and the potential of finger-pointing blame-and-shame?
So why would we anticipate that the union of Southern African leaders would do otherwise? The West, it is true, condemns the actions of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. For that matter, so too does Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. And we all know what that earned him, a good sound beating that threatened his life, a treat he shared with many others of his supporters, all who decry the actions of Mugabe.
Actions resulting in the confiscation of white-owned farms handed over to Mugabe's cronies. Thousands of farm workers left unemployed in the process. Once-productive land allowed to lie fallow, unproductive. Zimbabwe's past reputation as an African breadbasket of plenty evaporated, as did its exports. And the vast countryside, due to a double-whammy of drought and lack of foresight, starving.
Robert Mugabe, whose idea of solving the critical issue of endemic poverty and starvation is to plow under urban shanty towns and force their inhabitants to flee to the countryside to starve there, out of sight, out of mind. Problem solved. Robert Mugabe, whose arrest and imprisonment of any dissenting opinions, beating and torturing dissidents has become a worry and a shame in the eyes of Zimbabwe's neighbours.
This leadership convention was to have made the effort to approach and reproach, and it did neither. The clear and unequivocal condemnation by Zimbabwe's Southern African neighbours anticipated by the West simply failed to materialize. The scandal and arrest and beating of Morgan Tsvangirai notwithstanding - even having taken Mr. Tsvangirai and his supporters into another custodial arrangement prior to the meeting, to stifle dissent.
Instead, the statement that was issued read in the most innocuous way; "The extraordinary summit reaffirms its solidarity with the government and the people of Zimbabwe" was what it declaimed. Mind, the host of the summit, Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete did call upon South African President Thabo Mbeki to spearhead efforts to 'promote dialogue' between the rival political parties in Zimbabwe.
On the quiet, and in their abashed defence, Tanzanian officials let it be known that they were privately more critical of Mr. Mugabe. "The...leaders expressed deep concern to President Mugabe about the situation in his country" said an anonymous official. "They told him it's unacceptable and warned that it might spiral out of control. Therefore they pressed him to accept dialogue with the MDC."
The leaders of the summit, he explained, had agreed to Mr. Mugabe's demands to a public statement that might be seen to be favourable to his leadership. "Zimbabwe was quite uncomfortable with a harsh communique, so it had to be adapted", the official said.
So indeed, yes, it had.
Labels: Crisis Politics