Monday, December 15, 2003

In his weekly letter to the nation Thabo Mbeki addresses the recent Commonwealth conference and the failure to lift Zimbabwe's suspension. He doesn't say anything surprising and the only thing that really interests me is the way that he tries to insinuate that his support of Mugabe is linked to a principled refusal to surrender Africa's dignity in the face of Western hostility:

"Our poverty and underdevelopment will never serve as reason for us to abandon our dignity as human beings, turning ourselves into grateful and subservient recipients of alms, happy to submit to a dismissive, intolerant and rigid attitude of some in our country and the rest of the world, towards what we believe and know is right, who are richer and more powerful than we are."

To be honest, Mr President, all that your actions are succeeding in doing is confirming the West's worst suspicions about African nations. Mugabe is almost a caricature of everything bad about Africa and yet, instead of making a dignified stand against him, you appear to have gone beyond even what is required in the course of normal diplomatic duty in supporting him. Your attempt to unseat the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and then to have the suspension lifted not only exposed your lack of commitment to democracy and human rights (which you committed yourself to when espousing the principles of the African renaissance) but also revealed just how isolated you are in holding such views. How many countries supported your gambit, ten, eleven out of a total of almost sixty? Supporting a tyrant does not enhance your international standing, nor does it show you to be a man of principle. What it does do is reveal you to be paranoid and stubborn and, frighteningly, quite willing to sacrifice 12 million Zimbabweans on the altar of a commitment to some fuzzy notion of solidarity.

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