Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hentoff: the shame of the African Union


Hentoff's JWR column blasts the AU for ignoring and empowering Mugabe's genocide (ironically, his VillageVoice column merely blasts Gitmo, suggesting that to the left in NYC, restraining violent prisoners is a greater crime than genocide of the non PC)

Our world has no shortage of brutal dictators (a phrase that itself seems redundant). Among the most increasingly ruthless tyrants is Robert Mugabe — once the liberator of Zimbabwe from white colonialism, now the scourge of its black citizens. ...


A stinging 200-page U.N. report by Kajumulo Tibaijuka, an expert in rural economics from Tanzania, emphasizes that the Mugabe government's "indifference to human suffering" has been caused by "a disastrous venture based on a set of colonial-era laws and policies that were (under white rule) used as a tool of segregation and social exclusion." (But strangely, she does not target Mugabe directly as the cause of this suffering.)

Recently, on a liberal New York radio station, WBAI, I was describing how Mugabe has caused an unemployment rate of 70 percent, ruinous inflation, the pervasive decline of Zimbabwe's once bountiful harvests and the savage punishment of dissenters, inflicted by his merciless youth militia. A caller to the radio station identified himself as an American black pastor and a human rights activist around the world.

He admonished me for not giving Mugabe credit for rescuing Zimbabwe from having been "a white-ruled plantation." I told him the country still is a plantation — ruled by a black master.

Yes, and I worked in Liberia when IT was a country ruled by a "black master", a fact that was ignored by all the world, who saw only black faces and didn't recognize the tyranny...and I had to flee that poor country when the locals staged a coup, leading to 2o years of civil war...which was worse...and one worries that Zim is heading the same direction...

Also scandalous in these crimes against the people of Zimbabwe is the silence of the African Union, formed five years ago to prove that the continent can take care of its own problems — and protect economic, political and human rights.

A July 7 front-page story in the Financial Times began: "Kofi Annan yesterday urged African leaders to break their silence over actions by governments, such as Zimbabwe's, that were undermining the continent's credibility in the eyes of the world." The U.N. secretary-general emphasized: "What is lacking on the continent is (a willingness) to comment on wrong policies in a neighboring country."

But in the same article, Olusegun Obasanjo, president of Nigeria and presently the chairman of the African Union, defiantly said he would "not be a part" of any public condemnation of Mugabe.

Moreover, as The New York Times reported on July 6: "Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia are among those (African nations) that have praised Mr. Mugabe's economic policies in recent months," or even more appallingly, "have stopped protesters from criticizing them."

Also insistently silent on the rampant ferocity of the Mugabe regime is Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, who has long claimed he is pursuing "quiet diplomacy" in his dealings with Mugabe. His "diplomacy" is so quiet that its alleged results have not reached these black citizens in Harare....

They have also been abandoned by the justly venerated Nelson Mandela, who has marred his autumnal years by refusing to say a word in criticism of Mugabe. I asked an African, a longtime human-rights worker concerning the continent, why Mandela will not speak, when his condemnation of this horrifying injustice would, should he offer it, reverberate around the world.

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