With his election as the new African Union chairman, he has been spared no insult. Most of those outraged by his election are totally ignorant about Mugabe, Zimbabwe, and the events that have, and are taking place in that country.
Here is a man the West loves to hate, but it wasn’t always so. Mugabe fought alongside patriotic Zimbabweans to end the racist regime of Ian Smith. The promise, and the reason for the uprising and the battle for independence was land, that’s it. A very tiny white minority of European settlers controlled Zimbabwe’s land and hence her economy, leaving the majority native blacks to literally scavenge off their own lands. Needless to say, the land was ill-gotten, as is always the case with imperialism. The results for those natives who dared to resist European encroachment and defend their land, tens of thousands lost their lives, and even more lost their land, hence their livelihood.
With the success of the uprising, and Mugabe emerging at the head, he was the hero who was going to reclaim their land as the new head of state. But he didn’t seem to act fast enough.
The new country has just witnessed a genocide, as described in some quarters. “A moment of madness” as Mugabe himself will later admit. Tens of thousands were tortured, others fled into exile, some lost their homes. Some of the accounts recounting the event accused the Mugabe loyalist force of forcing them to sing the praises of Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, while dancing on the mass graves of their relatives and neighbors total madness and callousness.
This event, as brutal and inhumane as it was, didn’t matter to the British monarchy. Mugabe was their man. In fact, few years after this incident, the monarchy conferred on him the title of Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Bath, testament to how proud the crown was to him for his good governance. This was in 1994, barely ten years after the atrocities, despite cries from rights groups and concerned Zimbabweans/Africans. At this time, he was ‘towing the line’ – leaving the white settler lands and their owners alone.
In a statement regarding the decision to revoke his knighthood and impose the succeeding sanctions, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated: ‘This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided.’ (Source: Daily Mail). In case you wondering what rights abuses caused the ‘revulsion’ that warrants such decision, well the official story line is that the violence that marred the 2008 elections in which up to 200 people died and there was ‘systematic torture’ and intimidation of opposition sympathizers was unacceptable. But in truth, that was just a cover story, they didn’t care about the thousands of lives lost in Matabele land, they do not care now. The truth is Mugabe couldn’t say while being a threat to their interests in Zimbabwe. Their declaration was in reaction to Mugabe’s pursuing the “Third Chimurenga” (revolutionary struggle). This was his land reform policy that was never favored by the West.
The systematic killing of 20,000 natives, who rose up in opposition to Mugabe in the early 1980s because the land they fought for was no where to be found, somehow got missed by the same media houses currently vilifying Mugabe as undemocratic and mad.
When Mugabe made headlines after the 2008 elections as a result of the ensuing violence, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said the following in response to a question from The Telegraph that if he thinks Mugabe should be removed by force, he replied; “Yes, by force – if they say to him: step down, and he refuses, they must do so militarily.” When Mugabe brutally quelled rebellions in the 1980s, killing thousands of his own people in Matabeleland region, there was not a single Liberation movement or voice to condemn his actions. So when the killing of 200 could garner harsh condemnations like the one from the respected Bishop Tutu, it makes one wonder if we only render our opposition to things after our former colonial masters point it out. Seem like the solidarity march in Paris by African leaders wasn’t a first. African Lives matter too!
What about the post election violence in Kenya that saw the deaths of about 1,300 people? A case that saw the president appearing before the ICC. Of course he was cleared of any wrongdoing, but how different are the circumstances here? Which is worse, 200 dead or a thousand more?
Tony Blair just got celebrated by Save the Children for being “philanthropist of the year.” I wonder what the maimed and traumatized Children of Afghanistan and Iraq think of that. What happened to our African moral preachers’ voices in condemning that?
I am not trying to justify what Mugabe, Uhuhru Kenyatta, or any other African leader did in their capacities as chief executive, we as Africans should be able to see things for what they are and devise mechanisms for holding leaders accountable based on our own standards and values. Until we do, we will remain divided, backward, and worse; the laughing stock of the world.