Zimbabwe Review

Reflections on Zimbabwe

A predictable but fascinating AU summit in Egypt

Posted by CM on July 1, 2008

I am surprised that there are some people who really hoped African leaders attending the African Union summit in Egypt would pull some kind of Zimbabwe crisis “solution” out of a hat.

The AU is not famed for taking strong stands on anything, for one. Two, the AU has no real leverage over Mugabe. Even if they had uncharacteristically chided him publicly, how would they effect any decision taken against him?

Three, our old colonial masters the British and the current world emperor the US have just never learned how much their treatment of Africans in the not too distant past still elicits very strong emotions against them when they are perceived to be throwing their weight around . The shrill carping from their capitals of UK prime minister Gordon Brown and US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice about what the gathered AU leaders “must do” about Mugabe was not at all helpful. It simply gave the leaders a splendid reason to withdraw into their “anti-colonialist” psychological bunker.

Why is it that despite centuries of close proximity to us as our lords and masters, the Western world has learned so little about the lingering psychic effects of their controlling every aspect of our lives, and the instinctive resentment against a perceived replaying of old roles? If they really wanted to be helpful at the AU summit, they went about it exactly the wrong way.

Is it really possible in 2008 that Mr. Brown and Madame Rice, herself of African stock, did not understand that their kind of megaphone ‘diplomacy’ of ‘you must do this to Mugabe’ would not only fail, but even cause the defensive rallying around Mugabe of even those AU leaders who realise how much catastrophe the man has caused?

Four, very few of the AU leaders have electoral credentials that are any better than Mugabe’s, so it was rather optimistic  to expect that they would take him on. Prior to his departure for Egypt he had effectively blackmailed the AU leaders by challenging those who felt they had cleaner electoral records to speak up, with a rather predictable silence as the response.

Prime minister Raila Odinga of Kenya, the only leader to publicly lament the crooked electoral process by which Mugabe claimed his 6th term in office two days ago, was strangely but not surprisingly not in Egypt to face the fierce Mugabe, who loves a brawl and is not at all embarrassed to fight rough.

Previous mild critic Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia, who predictably was called all sorts of names by Mugabe regime officials when he correctly referred to Zimbabwe as a “sinking ship” last year, would have sat next to Mugabe at the summit, according to alphabetical seating by country name.

But strangely the ailing Mwanawasa, 59, suffered a stroke immediately on arriving in Egypt and spent the duration of the summit in hospital! It was almost as if the thought of sitting next to the fit, spry and currently livid and combative Mugabe, 84, was too much for him.

Did Madame Rice really expect that the best Arab friend of the US, Egyptian host president Hosni Mubarak, no stranger to fixed elections in his 27 years in power, was going to be in a position to spank Mugabe for holding a crooked election?

The predictability of the summit not taking any kind of strong stand against Mugabe did not mean the meeting was dull or lacked drama.

Some British journalists provoked Mugabe into a sputtering rage by one of them asking him how it felt “to have stolen the election,” and by what right he claimed to be president of Zimbabwe.

Oh boy, that did it, as the journalists knew it would. Mugabe’s enraged response and the journalists being wrestled away by security staff were filmed for posterity and broadcast around the world. At home Emperor Mugabe is accustomed to only being asked reverentially posed softball questions by a compliant state propaganda media. But apart from that, Mugabe would have found the ‘provocation’ of being asked what he called “stupid questions” by British journalists, and at an African Union summit, a little too much to bear. The apoplectic Mugabe’s voice shook with rage as he found yet another excuse to rail against the British.

If the journalists were looking for gripping footage for their news broadcast, they got it alright. No doubt many of their viewers in the UK and much of the West and in many sections of the rest of the world will find the exchange to be confirmation of their view of Mugabe as a rogue. But I’m willing to bet that there are also many parts of the world where the British journalists handed Mugabe a major propaganda coup.

To the ‘Mugabe is right’ brigade, his ‘performance’ was classic, vintage Mugabe at his best and precisely what they love the man for: telling off the British.

The drama with the journalists could not have been expected, but everything else that happened was entirely predictable.

As far as contributing anything meaningful at all to the resolution of “the Zimbabwe crisis” the AU summit  was an absolute, predictable non-event.

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