Archive for June, 2008

June 30, 2008

Africa’s not Going to Clean up its own Mess

by Gedalyah Reback

Robert Mugabe is one of the greatest douchebags of all time. The man held no reservations about taunting humanity with an old-school, autocratic suppression of his people, killing dozens of opposition organizers and chasing his main rival out of the country. The UN has barely batted a wink at one of the cleanest acts of evil in modern human history. The Nazis could not have gotten away with such a blatant assault on the democratic process.

In the meantime, the African Union (AU) is watching Mugabe walk into their summit in Egypt. There have only been condemnations. They have not even enforced their policy of not recognizing unelected, especially malicious, leadership. But according to the BBC, the AU will not be so quick to act. Robert Mugabe is standing tall, and the countries of the world are letting it happen watching vicariously on youtube.

What are the supposed greats of international politics like Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela to do? Their legacies are weak, and calls for dialogue by politicians all over Africa are reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain’s position that negotiations would tame the Nazis (

Mandela once sent himself into Sudan to investigate whether or not the war crimes by the Sudanese government constituted genocide. Such weak, shallow campaigns to differentiate minor acts of mass murder from major ones are awkward and belittle the cause of the Sudanese, and set terrible precedent for Zimbabweans.

There will be no African troops invading Zimbabwe or deposing Mugabe. The continent is too dominated by weak willed leaders, even defenders like South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has gone out of his way to stonewall criticism of Mugabe. But there is so much symbolic value in the position, and gives an important perspective to anyone who prefers to look at the world through idealists’ eyes. One reporter writes:

“What about the place of South Africa as a global leader in democratic renaissance? If Mr Mbeki cannot clean up the mess in his own backyard, how can South Africa give hope to Africa and the world?” (

Mbeki is a lost cause according to his biographer, Mark Gevisser, who wrote about the gravity of his failure in the Wall Street Journal last week ( Mbeki is too personally close with Mugabe, and too occupied with the increasing isolation coming out of South Africa. There will be no military or financial sieges coming from that country against Mugabe, and thus won’t be one at all.

But if Mugabe were younger, and wanted to make a charismatic argument to non-Zimbabweans that his innovative and historic regime were under siege, as he argues in his own propaganda, than Africa would be dealing with a crisis comparable to 1930s Europe. That continent had been torn asunder by years of regime changes, revolutions and savage war. It took a second one to knock any sense into the continent.

The question is whether or not Africans will be able to overcome their tribal rivalries in the Northeast, their resource rivalries in the Northwest, and their political carnage in the south to actually support each other instead of kill each other. They have chosen to form an African Union, and they’re going to have to justify there’s something worth uniting about.

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