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African summit troubles

July 1, 2008

African Union summitAlthough Zimbabwe got all the headlines, the official theme of the African Union summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was water.
That made it all the more surprising for thirsty delegates that there was none for them to drink.
Journalists covering the summit had other complaints.
Usually, these meetings are a glorious chance for reporters to grab quotes from normally elusive heads of state as they glide through the plush halls, flanked by aides and bodyguards.
But the Egyptians had other ideas at this summit. Maybe it was a sign of the sensitivity of the discussions, with Zimbabwe’s election crisis overshadowing all other topics. Or perhaps it was an indication of the immensely tight security around Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — who escaped an assassination attempt at an African summit in Ethiopia in 1995.
Local security officials banned reporters from entering areas even two halls away from where the leaders were meeting.
A few news crews still got through, but some scuffled with President Robert Mugabe’s security men late on Sunday — the 84-year-old leader was himself knocked about. After that, security became even tighter, with journalists confined only to a smoky, overcrowded press centre.
Reporters like me and Reuters colleagues Opheera McDoom and Cynthia Johnston were banned from going to interview leaders even after their aides came to escort us to see them.
At least one official was advised not to enter the press room — to avoid provoking a crush. Egyptian security said they couldn’t guarantee the safety of officials.
Meanwhile, journalists were barricaded in one end of the building, with no food provided apart from two coffee breaks during the 12-hour days. Those offerings were devoured in seconds by a ravenous pack, depriving those who weren’t quick enough for even a dry piece of cake.
AU officials griped about the lack of hospitality too.
“This is the worst summit ever,” said one experienced AU official.

Comments

I must say, I am really disappointed by the complete lack of enthusiasm and passion by the ordinary Africans. It is as if the only African with a voice and with anything to say are our leaders.

What do the ordinary South Africans think of what their President Thambo Mbeki, is doing. As a Zimbabwean I have always looked at SA’s free press and freedom of expression with envy. But what good is a free press and freedom of expression if when it matters all is heard is a few disgruntled murmurs. Many South Africans may well be saying “There is no crisis in Zimbabwe!” as President Mbeki said. After all Zimbabwe is many miles away and off their radar; even with an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans now living in SA. Still, when President Mbeki blundered along on the aids issue a few years ago, this was a serious problem in their own houses; the was but a public murmur.

My advice to my South African brothers and sisters is; freedom of expression is like talent; use it or you will lose it!

The AU Summit was held in Egypt and I thought Egyptians across the board would have dismissed the whole thing initially as just another Africa talk shop at the Egyptian tax payers’ expense. But when they heard the Zimbabwe election fraudster was in town they sat up and paid attention. After all when was the last time Egypt held free and fair elections!

So the Egyptians, like so many other Africans who have been denied an meaningful say in the governance of their country, would be interested in how Mugabe was treated. They would have cheered and applauded the strong condemnation of Mugabe by PM Raila Odinga and the Vice President Mompati S Merafhe of Botswana. As such condemnation would be sending a very clear message to the Egyptian President, the dictators and despots at the Summit that failure to hold free and fair elections will no longer be tolerated.

There is dying need for a vibrant and heated debate in which we, Africans, take an active part. Our leaders (the only ones really enjoying freedom of expression), hold animated discussions; of one fearful of saying the wrong thing and of, one day, being caught out. So some of them, like Mugabe have taken the added precaution of banning all foreign press they could not control. Among themselves their have taken great comfort in singing each other’s praise “great achievements” even in the face of overwhelming evidence of incompetence, corruption and failure.

By openly criticising Mugabe’s failure to hold free elections what the few African leaders was more than just speaking the truth. They were demonstrating that Africa had come of age for the courage to self-criticise is the true mark of maturity. Mature enough to know and understand that there is nothing to be gained by pretending not to see one’s weakness and that by dealing with one’s shortcomings openly one will emerge an even stronger person.

The internet was definitely opened great opportunities for ordinary people throughout Africa to interact and exchanges views. In a country like Zimbabwe where most of the print and electronic media are government controlled- there is only animated debate allowed- the internet should provide an invaluable outlet. Yet there is hardly anything happening on this Blog or any other web site. Having been denied a say for all our lives now we find we have lost our voice and can think of hardly anything to say. Even on such matters as free and fair elections on which the destiny of a whole nation is determined!

I pray and hope that more and more Africans will find their voices, reclaim freedom of expression as their own and use it so that they are well informed. And well informed, hold our leaders to account. Good governance will remain but a pipe dream without an informed and articulate electorate.

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

African nations MUST clarify whether or not they truly believe in the democratic process.

They also need to decide whether psychopathic murderers should be allowed in their midst.

Mugabe – the new Hitler/Stalin figure – has broken all the rules of decency and has proved himself to be a complete and utter monster. He is covered in the blood of his own people.

That the AU failed so publicly to condemn this murderous thug has severely damaged the credibility of the AU.

The AU appears to appease or even support despotic and maniacal rulers.

That is a very sad indictment and something the AU should be thoroughly ashamed of.

Posted by The Truth Is... | Report as abusive
 

I disagree with both Wilbert Mukori and The Truth Is… above.

It is essential that Africa and African stop being commanded by ethnic-Europeans diktats, interest standards.

Africa and Africans has to stand by, and swim or sink its own decisions as inspired by the spirit of Muhammed Ali who refused to join the brutally belligerent USA in wanton, US-serving war in Vietnam.

Democracy is a merely a word. It is inert. What matters is the practice of the political system in place in a country.

The so said virtues of democracy does not prevent the unholy ethnic-European cabal of Britain and the USA using military might, to wreak deaths of thousands of people and destruction around the globe among non-European peoples.

The so said virtues of democracy does not prevent the British tribalistic ethnic-European support of disproportionate ethnic-European control of economic resources in Zimbabwe.

Democracy is a ‘system’ which when installed permits the USA to institute government change around the world by stirring and funding domestic political strife around the world instead of military assault.

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

Hubert Taylor

You hurt the West and everything the West stands for, in this case democracy. Frankly that is not important and irrelevant here. Would you, Hubert, condemn the intimidation and murder of innocent people- assuming you accept holding a different political point of view to that held by the government of the day is NOT a crime? I have also assumed that the respect of human life is not a uniquely Western concept.

If your answer is YES then Hubert you and me agree on the meat of the matter and that is good enough for me.

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert Mukori, I am sure that there are many things that we are likely to agree upon and also points of disagreement.

By my comment, I seek balance and even-handedness. ‘Not western balance nor eastern balance’, simply a single standard by which anyone who commits alleged misdemeanour, might be judge; whether the person is US President, UK Prime minister, or Zimbabwean President. Indeed whether of the west, east north or south.

Many years ago as a long term member of the British Army I was ready to do my bit to defend, I repeat, defend, human freedoms, and in particular the freedom of UK citizens. I would have been disappointed to have been party to wanton, pre-emptive mass killing of people, on the back of what many now consider to have been political spin and possibly lies.

Democracy is what we in the UK and elsewhere term our form of governmental politics at this time in UK evolution – it has not always been so. My personal politics, like my religion is for me as is yours for you. You would perhaps not welcome an attempt by me to force change upon you. The problem as I see, is not democracy, but forced democracy.

By this token it would seem unreasonable, by brutal misuse of arms, our political tyrants (such as Premier Tony Blair or as President George Bush ) to seek to force-feed our principles to our human cousins in other political, social and developmental domains.

I hope this retry has help to make clear my view on this point, Wilbert.

Regards

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

Hubert Taylor

Yes you last contribution has made things as clear as mud! What I tried to make you understand is what Mugabe has been doing should be condemned not because it does not meet the West or the British’s standards of democratic value. It should be condemned because it is evil, period.

You are sold on Mugabe’s twisted logic that it is the West who want regime change in Zimbabwe whilst he continoues to refuse the people of Zimbabwe a free vote to decide the matter. Mugabe has been beating and killing people in Zimbabwe recently because they voted for the wrong person. You, Hubert, think this is proof of “forced democracy”. Amazing, simply amazing!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert your opinion is a matter for you, and rightly so.

My opinion is that action upon the assessment as to whether or not Zimbabwe is being governed, is a matter for Zimbabweans. As a citizen and resident in the UK I say, it is not my Government’s place to incite government change in Zimbabwe nor encourage and incite political strife in Zimbabwe.

If the UK Government considers that Zimbabwe is not acting according our Government’s satisfaction or pleasure, I say unequivocally, Wilbert, let our Government first stop is appalling killing and destruction overseas, before deigning the preach good behaviour to Zimbabwe or any other country.

I contend Wilbert, that UK citizens share joint burden/responsibility for the conduct of our Government.

By exchanging views and reasoning to gain understanding of alternative views seems to me a path to enhance understandign – and perhaps wisdom.

Regards.

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

It would seem by some of the comments made here that some people are living in the past – time warped in the 60′s and 70′s. If some of the logic used here had been applied to South Africa then that country would have decended into a terrible civil war that would have consumed all of southern Africa. No Britain does not have to be perfect to condem Mugabe and call for punitive measures against his regime. The actions and sanctions against the Apartheid government were right and morally justified just as the call for action against the Zanu Pf government in Zimbabwe is right and morally justified. Perhaps the MDC should set up a government in exile that progressive countries in Africa and elswhere can recognise as the legitimate government elected by the people of Zimbabwe.

Posted by Tashinga | Report as abusive
 

Tashinga, clearly you have given thought to this matter, and arrived at a considered opinion. It is of course the facts behind a conclusion, that informs reasonable discussion. To provide for such discussion, please expand, if you will, the fair assertion by you that,

The actions and sanctions against the Apartheid government were right and morally justified….

As you appear to write with authority, please (including any other knowledgeable reader) inform discussion with answers to the following questions as you can,

Which Apartheid government?

What was done to reform the ownership of (say ill-gotten)economic acquisitions under Apartheid?

Who within the Apartheid country/countries to which you refer, had the courage to take up arms in Africa, against the morally heinous Apartheid ethnic-European regime(s)?

When would did the reign of ethnic-European racial-supremacist oppression (which morphed into Apartheid begin?

Regards,
Hubert

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

Hubert still you do not understand. Why do you say “it is not my Government’s place to incite government change in Zimbabwe nor encourage and incite political strife in Zimbabwe”? I will tell you why, because deep in your psycho you believe Mugabe’s propaganda and, like him, you simply will not want to believe that ordinary Zimbabweans can possible have anything to say on this.

I am a Zimbabwean and I know millions of my fellow country men, women and children want a regime change in Zimbabwe. We have wanted it for along time. As I said before the country’s media is tightly controlled by Mugabe so the people have no chance to have their voices heard. People have tried to hold peaceful demonstrations and the regimes has used brutal force to stop all but party approved gathering. We have tried regime change using the ballot but that avenue too was slammed shut in our faces. Innocent Zimbabweans have been murdered for no other reason other than that the dared exercise their right to vote. Mugabe’s campaign of terror and murder is still going on right now because he wants the people to accept him as president!

Hubert, please tell me and my fellow brutalised Zimbabweans: What else do you want us to do to convince you that it is not the British, Americans or anyone else but US who desperately want regime change in Zimbabwe?

The UK was literally begged for US assistance and later for the Americans to join in the fight during the Second World War. Many Commonwealth countries joined in. I knew an old man who fought in that Great War on the side of the Allies. Was that just outsiders poking their big noses in British – Germany affairs? Hitler and Mugabe are two peas out of the same pod- the later even sports the barb Hitler moustache. God, some people can really be narrow, thick and slow – when it suits them!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert, by putting further questions to me I guess concur that it is right that we, each and all, present as best we can with clarification as my be sought, the facts upon which we base our opinions.

Then with understanding and mutual respect we each arrive at successively, better informed conclusions that may be respected, each in its own right.

Unfortunately, I am not sufficiently well read to be clear without being ‘long-winded’ so I am left to do my best to be clear.

Wilbert, you say and ask -

you speak for yourself and fellow brutalised Zimbabweans

I [You] know millions of my[your] fellow country men [Zimbabweans], women and children want a regime change in Zimbabwe.

What else do you[me, Hubert] want us to do to convince you[Hubert] that it is not the British, Americans or anyone else but US who desperately want regime change in Zimbabwe?

I reply Wilbert, as follows -

• I am pleased we are reading and discussing each others views and our bases for our views.

• My points are directed at my own actions and to present my views and facts to encourage my fellow UK citizens to consider the matter too.

• I seek to speak to my (UK) Government to do my tiny bit as a citizen in the process of Government decision making.

• It is your right and duty or choice to show courage to say as you see fit to those of your choosing.

• It is your right and duty or choice to exercise courage and act with fortitude to effect changes
at take ownership of the outcome with individual and national pride.

• If you need my acceptance of your views and wishes for yourself and your country (Zimbabwe) it is for you to present your facts, views and arguments in hope or endeavour to persuade me. The alternative is for you to feel either that you have a right to my sympathy, support and understanding.

• You imply that millions of Zimbabweans what Government/political change in Zimbabwe,if an overwhelming proportion of the population wants change, change will inevitably occur in time in Zimbabwe as has happened in all human societies since time immemorial. You may well know the millios who call for change but do you also know how many Zimbabweans prefer no change?

Zimbabwe of course, lived through over a century of even more brutal racial abuse of ethnic-Africans by ethnic-Europeans. Their may be a need to show a readiness to show deference and patience under ethnic-African leadership to counter-balance submission under ethnic-European segregation and exploitation.

As mentioned before, I speak as an ethnic-African citizen and resident of the UK, who, in the interest of the standing of Africa and Africans, wants to see Africa nations act in their own interest and be willing to pay themselves, for the human cost of social, economic and spiritual developments.

Personally, I no longer wish for Africa and Africans to imitate Europe and European attitudes, but rather to live and develop in a manner and at a rate determined by Africans in the circumstances of Africa. By such Africa with command respect and relate and trade with the rest of the world on the basis of mutual respect – not as fake imitations.

For my part for example, as you may already understand, though ethnically African, apart from inevitable but faded genetic strands, I am a clone of British-European life my way of history; my ancestors having been exported to the West Indies.

Now Wilbert, I ask of you, rather than chastise me or be abrupt with me for my views, please instead seek to present your views, facts and arguments so that you might persuade those who read you, please.

Regards,
Hubert.

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

Hubert

Well was that a lesson in English, on how to present ones “facts and arguments”! You do have the command of the Queen’s language – I will be the first to admit that I do not. What a pity you do not have the facts and arguments to match.

Are you telling me then that there are millions of Zimbabweans who want Mugabe in power and things to stay as there are- super-hype inflation, the worst the world has ever seen, no food in the shops, weeks on end without water and/or electricity, etc? And to live is constant fear of being brutalised. Life expectance has dropped from 60 years in 1980 to 34 years in 2006 and today it is probably 27 years or even lower. And you, Hubert, want to tell me and anyone else who might happen to be reading this, some one would freely choose to have such a life!

Your line of thinking, your facts and arguments, is not new. Throughout the years of slave trade and then during colonial rule many learned and very articulate individuals justified slavery and colonial oppression on the grounds that “Africans do not feel the pain and hardship. No, not in the same way whites and other more delicate races do!”

There are some whites still in Zimbabwe, white Zimbabweans, who are being picked on by Mugabe’s thugs. Or do you think because they lived in Africa, they must have a thick skin and so they do not feel anything.

By the way Britain has a lot more than a moral obligation to assist Zimbabwe today, it is duty bound.
1) Zimbabwe was a British Colony and like all the other of her colonies Zimbabwe wealth, blood and sweat contributed to British prosperity.
2) If Britain had been firm with Ian Smith and supported the moderate whites led by the late Sir Garfield Todd Zimbabwe will have turnout differently. So by supporting a hardened white racists Britain allowed extreme Black Nationalist like Mugabe to emerge.
3) Mugabe has always been a ruthless and heartless tyrant; he instructed his freedom fighters to deliberately target innocent white civilians during the civil war, for example, just as thugs have targeting thousands of equally innocent black civilians since 1980. After independence Britain over compensated for their initial error by showering Mugabe with praise, the British government even had him knighted. Some knight in shinning armour!

Hubert, was it you who read Mugabe’s knighthood citation? With your command of “facts and arguments” man you were born for such a role!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

Wilbert, though I do not see to be self deprecating or overly modest my educational background is basic, but, I tried hard to be as clear as possible to help us to positive, courteous interaction. Where I fail please excuse me and read around my error or fire-back a question.

Grant me please, a little leeway to be direct in saying it may be unproductive for us to continue our ‘chat’ unless we can both agree to refer to absent third parties in civil terms. I do hope we might overcome this ‘wee’ obstacle.

For example I am unwilling to respond to your comment immediately above, because (again for example), your refer to – Ian Smith and to Sir Garfield Todd but by contrast, you refer to Mugabe and to Mugabe thugs.

You refer to whites and to black civilians which mean little to me in a discussion about intra-country and inter-country matters.

In conversations between us please allow me to refer to people in-terms of the nation, country, or continental origin. That way I/we might avoid nonsense of reducing person/people to a mere colour and avoid mixing of colours with ethnicity; as in – black, white and Asian, for example – British/English, Asian, Chinese, black.

By black I guess you mean of African ethnicity and by white of European ethnicity.

If you think we are able to continue a conversation, in order to make constructive headway, please, let me invite you to refer back to my posting at 11:40 am GMT (today, 4 July) and invite you to continue by replying as clearly and directly as you are able, to the questions I asked for clarification of your earlier posting.

Regards
Hubert

Posted by Hubert Taylor | Report as abusive
 

Hubert

That anyone should even suggest that there can be one Zimbabwean black or white would freely choose to have Mugabe given what he has done and continues to do is an insult. If you do not see that then, yes the only “facts and arguments” you and me can trade is you insulting my fellow Zimbabweans black and white and me. I will reply and in my own way tell you that you are not such a smart guy yourself and prove it! So the ball is once again in my court. QED.

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive
 

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