To Blame For
By Ghali Hassan
The British and U.S. governments have condemned and demonised the Zimbabwean government of President Robert Mugabe. They imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, and claim to be committed to democracy, human rights and ending the suffering of the Zimbabwean people. Aren’t they crying wolf?
A brief history is instructive. During the British colonisation of Zimbabwe (1898-1979), thousands of Zimbabweans were rounded-up and sent to “reservations” and concentration camps or forced to labour as slaves in mines and plantations. The British-installed law prevented Zimbabweans from owing and cultivating arable land because most useable farmland reserved for white (settlers) farmers. British savagery was designed to terrorise the population and destroy black farmers. For decades, white settlers who made up less than 1 per cent of Zimbabwe’s population of 12 million people but controlled 70 per cent of the country's arable land reaps the benefits of British-imposed horrors of an apartheid system in Rhodesia, today’s Zimbabwe.
After independence, the Mugabe’s Government embarked on a program of land reform aimed at redistributing land to black Zimbabweans. Britain under Margaret Thatcher agreed to compensate (‘its kith and kin’) white farmers, but in 1997 the British government (under the war criminal Tony Blair) reneged on its promises to provide compensations. The main aim is to destabilise Zimbabwe and incite Zimbabweans against each other. In addition, Britain and the U.S. ordered the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut off aid to Zimbabwe and began a campaign of economic sanctions and anti-Mugabe propaganda. This deliberate destabilising campaign accompanied by funding the Western-oriented and manipulated opposition led by the opportunist Morgan Tsvangirai in a bid to remove the elected Mugabe’s Government from power. With the help of inherently racist British media, led by the BBC propaganda, Zimbabwe is unfairly depicted as a pariah state led b a “dictator”.
Perhaps the greatest misconception about Mugabe is that he is some sort of a dictator. While Mugabe is not a saint, and the 2008 elections were questionable, Zimbabwe was and still is an example of free and fair democracy in Africa. Mugabe is simply thumbing his nose at the British and telling the West, that Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and you should stop meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe.
It is important to acknowledge that after decolonisation, Zimbabwe achievements were unique among African nations. Zimbabwe health care services and education were ranked high among developing nations. There has been massive growth in the provision of education. In 2005, adult literacy was estimated at 92 percent (the highest in Africa, with 95 percent for males and 89 percent for female), up from only 39 percent in 1962. The British-U.S. sponsored economic sanctions and interference in Zimbabwe internal affairs, directed at undermining and weakening Zimbabwe, are causing hardship to most Zimbabweans.
The West’s cliché of “defending” human rights and spreading “democracy” is an imperialist fraud aimed at manipulating public opinion and justifying aggression against weaker, defenceless nations. From Asia and the Middle East to Latin America and Africa, the West’s best friends are the world’s worst dictators, or U.S. “friendly dictators”.
Among the worst of these brutal dictators has been President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. The oil-rich West African nation is just one example of many repressive regimes in Africa, including Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Swaziland and Uganda that receive U.S. militarised aid. According to Ken Silverstein of Harper’s magazine, Zimbabwe looks like Sweden by comparison with Equatorial Guinea. Yet, Zimbabwe is demonised and considered an enemy of the West. In May 2008’s rigged elections, when Obiang’s party won 99 per cent of the vote, not a single Western media outlet had the honesty and courage to report the fraudulent results and were accepted as democratic. Obiang came to power in 1979 after he toppled and executed his uncle in a military coup d'état. Francisco Macias Nguema was a monster who murdered as many as 50,000 Equatorial Guineans (10 % of the population) during his long rule. Obiang is not very different from his uncle. He was his uncle defence minister. In Silverstein’s words, Obiang is “a killer. He is a murderer. He is a torturer and a crook. And he is a thief”, who siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars from the people of Equatorial Guinea into his family U.S. bank account. Obiang is the “worst dictator in Africa”, added Silverstein. (For more on EG see: Ken Silverstein, U.S. Oil Politics in the “Kuwait of Africa”, The Nation, April 22, 2002). And because he doesn’t trust his own people, Obiang relays on Moroccan mercenaries to provide for his internal security.
As President Robert Mugabe is deliberately demonised in the West, particularly in Britain and the U.S., Obiang is welcomed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a “good friend” of the U.S. And the abysmal human rights record in Equatorial Guinea and the crimes committed by the dictator and his cronies have received little media attention in the West. Despite the wealth generated by oil, nearly half of all Equatorial Guinea children under five are malnourished and live in miserable condition without potable water or electricity. According to the CIA World Factbook, Equatorial Guinea is “ruled by ruthless leaders which have badly mismanaged the economy”. But because of oil, the “poster child of undemocratic practices” is considered one of America’s most valuable allies in Africa today.
Meanwhile, to divert world public attention from the ongoing genocide in Iraq, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has decided to pursue (bogus) charges against President Omar Hassan al-Basher of Sudan. The charges brought by prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo are part of a campaign to bully and demonise Developing World leaders, who refused to bend to Western-imperialist dictates. The aim is designed to incite more violence and bloodshed. It is a deliberate attack on the current peace negotiations for a lasting peaceful settlement in Sudan.
Since the 2003 illegal invasion, the U.S. and Britain are directly responsible for the killing of more than 1.3 million innocent Iraqis, mostly women and children. Hundreds of Iraqis, including women and children, are imprisoned and tortured in U.S.-run prisons throughout Iraq. According to UNHCR estimates, at least 5 million Iraqis were displaced. Of these, at least 2.8 million Iraqis are internally displaced persons (IDPs) faced worsening living conditions. More than 2 million Iraqis have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.
Moreover, it is revealed recently that the U.S. State Department, in collaboration with UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are planning to relocate Palestinian refugees from Iraq to Sudan. If Sudan is one of the most violent places on earth – as the ICC alleges –, why relocate Palestinian refugees from Iraq to Sudan? In other words, if Sudan is not safe for Sudanese, why it is safe for Palestinian refugees fleeing Iraq under U.S. military Occupation?
As I write these lines, Iraqis are being killed, displaced, imprisoned and tortured on a daily basis. Would prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo consider bringing criminal charges against Bush, Cheney, Tony Blair and their accomplices for waging a systematic campaign of genocide, war crimes – including murder, rape and torture –, and crimes against humanity in Iraq? Overwhelming evidence shows that they have deliberately misled the world and masterminded an illegal war of aggression and mass murder against the Iraqi people, and so they should be persecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It is important to remember that the ICC was never in a position to indict the Israeli war criminal, Ariel Sharon even after the Israeli Kahan Commission found him "personally responsible" for the massacre of 2000 innocent Palestinian civilians at Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982. To this day, Sharon remains unindicted criminal. But Sharon is not the only criminal the ICC has turned blind eye to his war crimes, many Israeli war criminals are criss-crossing Europe without fear of persecution.
It is evident that the ICC is a politically motivated tool promoting Western imperialism. From its inception, the ICC has been engaged in corrupt criminal justice system, including the illegal persecution of former President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošovic. No one should be surprised if the ICC decides to bring charges against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Finally, years of economic sanctions and Western interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs have degraded Zimbabwean economy and destroyed people’s lives. The shortage of oil and electricity supply, and the inability of Zimbabwe to import raw materials and spare parts decimated Zimbabwean industrial and agricultural productions. In November 1998, the IMF imposed unpublicised sanctions against Zimbabwe, by warning off potential investors, freezing desperately needed loans to Zimbabwe and refusing to negotiate Zimbabwe’s debt. A year later, in September 1999, the IMF suspended its support for economic adjustment and reform in Zimbabwe. And in October 1999, the International Development Association (IDS), a multilateral development bank, suspended all structural adjustment loans and credits to Zimbabwe; in May 2000 it suspended all other forms of new lending leaving Zimbabwe desperate for needed funds. (For more on Zimbabwe see: Gregory Elich, Strange liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. Llumina Press, 2006).
Faced with these difficulties and challenges, the people of Zimbabwe have to reconcile their differences and continue the independent path to build a prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe for all Zimbabweans. Their struggle to defend their independence and democratic rights is an imperative of international solidarity.
Zimbabwe’s tragedy is a Western-created tragedy. Western leaders who pretend to be committed to democracy, human rights and ending the suffering of the Zimbabwean people are crying wolf. If the U.S., Britain and their allies are as committed to democracy, human rights, the roles of international law and civilised norms as they claim to be, then they should first end their murderous Occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
is an independent writer living in Australia.