Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Mugabe-AU Chair Paradox

Last week the African Union held its Summit - the highest decision making organ of the AU - in which, according to many people mostly from the West, the bizarre happened. President Robert Mugabe was appointed the AU Chairman for the next one year.

As the AU chairperson, President Mugabe is the ceremonial head of the AU. And as the AU Chairman, Mugabe will be the official representative of continent in various international forums including the G8 and G20 summit.

Across the African continent, the appointment of President Mugabe as the AU Chairman has attracted both praise and condemnation in equal measure.

There are many Africans who consider his appointment as a positive and very sensible move by the AU heads of states. There are also just as many Africans who find his appointment a disgrace to the continent and see it as retgrogressive move by a despot riddled club of AU heads of states.

So what are we to make of Mugabe's appointment? And what does his appointment say about us Africans?
Personally, the way I see it Mugabe's appointment is both notoriously ridiculous and very sensible at the same time. Those who are appalled by his appointment are right and those who are delighted by his appointment are also right, perhaps more so.

Before I answer the burning question of why I think so, first let me address the issue of whether or not it is even possible to hold two opposite and conflicting views about an issue at the same.

Most young people should be familiar with the pop star Taylor Swift. In her hit song 22, Taylor Swift captured a certain confounding aspect of our human nature and that is our rather strange ability to hold two conflicting feelings about something at the same time.

In the song, 22, Taylor sings about being happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. As you will agree, happiness and lonely are strange bedfellows but amazingly, it is possible for a human being to harbour both feelings at the same time.

So yes, we're very much capable of having two opposite views about an issue at the same and Mugabe's appointment is one of those issues that is both ridiculous and very sensible at the same time. Ridiculous because Mugabe is essentially a despot, pure and simple. Sensible because he is a thorn in the flesh of Western powers whom we would very much like to spite for their condescending attitude towards Africa.

In the study of government or political science if you like, Mugabe's appointment as AU Chairman is considered a protest vote. Kenyans and especially the residents of Nairobi should be familiar with the phenomenon of a protest vote.

The election of Mike Sonko as the senator for Nairobi was as ridiculous a move by the people of Nairobi as it was sensible. Sonko is a deadbeat rascal who is doesn't deserve much less qualify to have the honor of representing the people of Nairobi. But both he and Mugabe are elected to high office to which they are unworthy by virtue of protest vote.

In the end, all this goes to prove one thing: voters are not stupid. The very same voters who elected a scallywag as their senator exercised caution when it came to their choice of a governor; preferring the sober Evans Kidero over the reckless Ferdinand Waititu.
Whether or not the Nairobi governor has lived up to the expectations of the residents of Nairobi is another story for another day.

For now, let us be proud of ourselves as Africans for duly appointing a worthy Chair of the AU and let us look forward to him representing us in the various international forums and more so the 41st G7 summit which will be held in Schloss Elmau, Bavaria, Germany on June 7–8, 2015. In your face!

1 comment:

  1. David,
    I agree with you that Mugabe’s election is an interesting political statement, but we should not view this as simply a means of spiting the West. One should not forget Mugabe’s role in his country’s liberation struggle, including the struggle against apartheid in SA, as well as his defense of Africa’s dignity in general. This explains why Thabo Mbeki never criticized him, despite Western pressure — and many of us approved Mbeki’s stand.
    The truth is that, from the time of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, and the victory in 1979, and onwards throughout the 1980s, Mugabe was a hero to all of us. We admired him for achieving reconciliation between those who had fought on opposite or rival sides during the struggle, and for not throwing the white population out but instead, ensuring their security. You’re too young to know, but if you knew the arrogance and racism of these White Rhodesians, you’d still be admiring Mugabe for his pragmatic approach — as we still do, despite the fact that he is not aging as graciously as we may have hoped, and has become somewhat… difficult. But even this is understandable: after trying “softer” ways of making those sorely needed land reforms, with little success, he decided to act more forcefully, and in so doing, made a number of wrong moves, especially as regards some of his white population, thereby incurring those terrible sanctions.
    These sanctions were unjustified, disproportionate as well as unhelpful, and they ended up being perceived as merely vengeful, a kick in the nose by the nasty West, as punishment for Mugabe refusing to be their obedient servant. We tend not to realize that the powerful hate one who defies them much more than one who tries to hurt their economic and other material interests – since their power preclude any real hurt in that area. Remember that famous pyramid of needs: when one has all the wealth he wants, then he wants power, and when he has that, then he wants domination, then absolute, unchallenged domination, to the point where he alone speaks, and when he has spoken, no one else should utter another word.
    This is what Mugabe refused to accept. Unfortunately, he has gradually turned into something of an autocrat – but not a despot, as you write. He still has his country’s best interests at heart, but the stubbornness with which he has conducted his battle for sovereignty has so irked the masters of the world that they have decided to make life quite miserable for his country. He has failed to appreciate the obvious fact that no poor African country can afford the kind of stand he has taken. I’m sure you’ve listened to his UNGA speeches, and know what I mean. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCbiK_L0_mY ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftHnnMnBlzA).
    In fact, Mugabe is lucky the US/UK regime-changers did not invade his country as a “humanitarian measure” - or, rather, his country’s resources are not sufficiently attractive. But in fact, these sanctions have been a veritable act of war, not just oppression, and in this context, the continent is indeed making a statement, as you rightly note. a statement both against these criminal sanctions and about their respect for this leader’s role in Africa’s post-colonial history.
    But whatever his faults, we still respect him, for his fearless, uncompromising stand, and for the wonderful speeches in which he expressed these strong views on behalf of Africa’s sovereignty. One of his most famous speeches was delivered at the opening ceremony of the 8th Non-Aligned Summit, which he hosted in Harare, in September 1986. I still remember this speech, because I had the honour of interpreting it. It was very elegant and incisive, and everyone was quite transported…
    These are some of the reasons why we old hands cannot agree that Mugabe was elected simply to spite the West: we still consider him a great African leader, an Elder Statesman, while regretting that he has not aged more graciously. He has not lost our respect.