From the Editor’s Keyboard

The West versus Mugabe

23 May 2008 at 22:43 | 733 views

By Charles Quist-Adade, PhD.

I am no admirer of Robert Mugabe. In fact, I am turned off by Mugabe’s stubborn and single-minded zeal to rule Zimbabwe for life. However, I am equally appalled by the double standards of Western governments and their parroting media who have made Mugabe a whipping horse as they turn a blind eye to other African power-drunk despots.

Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has been in power almost as long as Mugabe and Colonel Gadaffi has ruled Libya a dozen years longer, and both have brutalized their people too. Elections in both countries do not come anywhere close to those in Zimbabwe. But where is the West’s outrage? Where are the sanctions to force Egypt and Libya to mend their ways?

This is in no way to justify the actions of the Mugabe government; neither does it suggest that one form of autocracy is better than the other. The issue here is the one-sided rendition of the "Zimbabwe story" by Western media and politicians. They cry foul in
Zimbabwe and yet perpetrate similar things against their own people. If you don’t believe me ask Native Canadians. They will tell why they are planning massive demonstrations prior to and during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

What are Mugabe’s sins?
The ongoing elections stalemate in Zimbabwe offers a lucid lesson in selective justice by Western politicians and media. The Zimbabwe saga also provides a clear picture of selective perception by Western media. Yes, Western eyes see what Western eyes want to see; Western ears hear what Western ears want to hear in Zimbabwe.

For the last several years, three charges have been leveled against the beleaguered Zimbabwean leader: One, he has entrenched himself in power for far too long (since 1980). Second, he has ruined the otherwise thriving economy through mismanagement and corruption. Third, he has a terrible human rights and democratic record.

Yes, Mugabe has sinned, and he deserves to be taken to task. However, while Mugabe may be guilty as charged, there are questions that cry for answers. The first question is: (1) Whether Mugabe is the only long-ruling African president. The African and “Third World” political landscape is dotted with many leaders who have entrenched themselves in power even longer than Mugabe.

Let’s look at the facts: The following African presidents have either ruled longer than Mugabe or are about to catch up with him: Omar Bongo of Gabon, 41 years: Muammar Gadaffi; 37 years; Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, 27 years and counting.

President Paul Biya, already 26 years in power, has reportedly just received parliamentary support to change the constitution again so that when his current term ends in 2011, he can run again for another seven years. Where is the West’s outrage? Are Cameroonians different from Zimbabweans when it comes to democracy? Don’t Cameroonians deserve more democracy?

The second question, which logically follows from the first one is why has the “international community (“read “the West”) singled out only Mugabe among the scores of long-ruling African leaders for roasting-more so when Mugabe’s 28 years is only slightly above the average? At the heart of anti-Mugabe diatribe is the land redistribution issue. After years of listening to Western sermons of “go slow on land reform,” Mugabe, who only a few years ago was considered in the West to be one of Africa’s finest rulers, found the temerity to take on the powerful white landlords in Zimbabwe.

Only when Mugabe raised “the spectre” of land redistributions in earnest did western leaders and the media begin to question his actions. Surely, his human rights abuses, corruption and economic mismanagement did not begin yesterday!

Kith and kin politics
The third question is: why is the West united in its condemnation of Mugabe. The answer to this question can be couched in this simple aphorism: “Blood is thicker than water.”

To be precise, Euro-American blood running through the veins of Euro-American kith and kin across the Atlantic Ocean is thicker than the African water running through the Limpopo River. This is simply a kith and kin matter, with no two ways about it. Otherwise, why are the other 20 or so African presidents, whose economic, democratic and human rights records are not better than Mugabe’s, left off the hook? The answer lies in the simple fact that they are not threatening white land interests in their countries.

It would be utter naďveté for one to believe the cock and bull story peddled in the “international media”, including the Canadian establishment media, that the “international community” wants Mugabe out purely for altruistic reasons (“they love the poor Africans so much they want Zimbabweans to have more democracy”). As one African journalist explains: ... “there is everything imperialistic, white, British, [and] American’ about it. It is, in fact, kith and kin politics wrapped up in genuine concern for the “poor” Zimbabweans.”

That explains the West’s uninhibited zeal to bankroll the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which promises to go soft on land reform if it should come to power. The Zimbabwean land issue is no different from those of neighboring South Africa and Namibia, where there are also kith and kin white farmers. The domino effect of a successful land distribution processes in Zimbabwe is one difficult to predict and its major concern to westerners.

The western media’s one sided and hypocritical rendition of the Zimbabwe story deliberately ignores or obfuscates one other truth; Frankly, Mugabe has become a convenient whipping boy of the West because he mustered the courage to thumb his nose at the West.

Double standards
As an African newspaper observed recently, in April last year when Nigeria’s opposition rejected the results of the presidential election won by Umaru Musa Yar’dua, and alleged that the election had been rigged, “the international community” turned a blind eye. Over 200 Nigerians died in both pre-and post election violence, yet did we see any of the Western leaders and their media crying foul in Zimbabwe today, raising hell over Nigeria? If this is double standard, what is?

The trans-Atlantic unity to manipulate public opinion both in the West and in Africa in order to unseat an African leader is also not new. As New African reports, on February 6, 1964 when the coup against Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was being planned in Washington, William C. Trimble, then director of the State Department’s West African Desk, wrote a memo to his bosses entitled “Proposed Action Program for Ghana”, which said in part”:

"Although Nkrumah’s leftward progress cannot be checked or reversed, it could be slowed down by a well conceived and executed action program. Measures which we might take against Nkrumah would have to be carefully selected in order not to weaken pro-Western elements in Ghana or adversely affect our prestige and influence elsewhere on the continent.

US pressure, if appropriately applied, could induce a chain reaction, eventually leading to Nkrumah’s downfall. Chances of success could be greatly enhanced if the British could be induced to act in concert with us.

Intensive efforts should be made trough psychological warfare and other means to diminish support for Nkrumah within Ghana and nurture the conviction among the Ghanaian people that their country’s welfare and independence necessitates his removal."

A year later, the policy had worked so well that the American Ambassador in Ghana, William Mahoney, was able to tell the CIA director, John McCone, at a meeting in McCone’s office on March 11, 1965: “Popular opinion is running strongly against Nkrumah, and the economy is in a precarious state.”

When President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was overthrown on 1966, Robert W. Komer (national security assistant to President Lyndon Johnson) is quoted as writing this congratulatory assessment to the president on March 6, 1996: "Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests in Africa than any other African."

The bloody military takeover is now known as CIA tele-guided coup d’etat, and the question of the day is whether Mugabe will suffer the same fate as Nkrumah. Your guess is as good as mine.

* Dr. Charles Quist-Adade(photo), originally from Ghana, is a PV Special Correspondent and Managing Editor of Afri-Can magazine, edited and published by PV’s Gibril Koroma. Charles also teaches Sociology at Kwantlen University College in British Columbia, Canada.