Njoroge Wachai at PostGlobal

Njoroge Wachai


Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily. He was Africa Correspondent for the Science and Development Network (SciDev.net), a UK-based web site highlighting science and technology issues from developing countries. He also freelanced for the Switzerland-based Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO). Njoroge was a press fellow at the Wolfson College, University of Cambridge for four months in 2003, where he researched the role of alternative press in the democratization process in Africa. Njoroge currently lives in the U.S. He has studied Journalism and Technical Communication at the graduate level. Close.

Njoroge Wachai


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Mugabe Finds Friends in African Union

The African Union (A.U.), as an entity, is a toothless bulldog. And those eagerly expecting it to loudly and harshly condemn Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe – for terrorizing Zimbabweans and holding a one-man phony election – are day-dreaming. They don’t understand this ineffective body’s inner workings and composition.

They’re mistaken to think that the parley at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh will ameliorate the grave political imbroglio engulfing Zimbabwe. Instead, I bet, the A.U. clearly seems gunned to strengthen Mugabe’s stranglehold of Zimbabwe. Why? Because the A.U. can’t purport to stand for values such as democracy and respect for human rights. Were the A.U. a subscriber to these values, it’d be burning midnight oil to banish Mugabe from its midst. To the A.U., there doesn’t seem to be a crisis worth emergency intervention.

Sample this. The meeting’s host, Hosni Mubarak, while delivering the opening speech, couldn’t even include Zimbabwe in his list of countries needing emergency intervention. But what do you expect of a man who has ruled Egypt with an iron fist for close to three decades. He jails critics- from politicians, lawyers, journalists, bloggers, to human rights activists- for merely calling for democratic reforms. During elections, Mubarak sends his secret police, Mugabe-style, to selected polling stations to literally prevent opposition supporters from voting. He’s said to be secretly propping up his son, Gamal Mubarak, to succeed him. Surely, this is not the man expected to condemn Mugabe’s elections malfeasances! Electoral rigging is his favorite dish.

Listen to another A.U.-Mugabe sidekick, Gabon’s strongman, Omar Bongo, who also has been in power for more than 41 years, defends Mugabe. Responding to calls to censure Mugabe, Bongo, a well-known tinpot despot said, "[Mugabe] was elected, he took an oath, and he is here with us, so he is President and we cannot ask him more."
See the logic of these two leaders? They’re the ones – along with the likes of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Sudan’s Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, Swaziland’s King Mswati III – the international community is asking to rescue the fast sinking Mugabe ship. They will never fault Mugabe because they thrive on the very tactics he and his henchmen have been using to cling to power.

Among these leaders, some want to shamelessly look nice. Angola’s dos Santos has not held an election since 1992. King Mswati III crushes any political dissent with such brutality that makes Mugabe looks like a saint. But did you notice these two attempt to condemn Mugabe’s actions knowing very well their cupboards are full of skeletons? No wonder, Mugabe was too eager to go to Sharm el-Sheikh to confront those African leaders who were pretending to be more Catholic than the Pope.

With members like these, the A.U. is unlikely to do anything tangible to punish Mugabe. Nothing demonstrates this better that the statement it released at the end of the summit that merely called for a government of national unity in Zimbabwe. Underlying this communiqué is the phrase “business as usual” because they didn’t spell out tangible steps to be taken to ensure this happens.

Now that the A.U. has proved impotent in dealing with Zimbabwe, it’s time to look elsewhere both within and outside Africa. The world should not entertain this nonsense that the West wants to re-colonize Zimbabwe. This is the kind of propaganda African dictators resort to every time they’re challenged to behave. When Kenya was struggling for the introduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s, its then President, Daniel Moi, just like Mugabe would yell “the British want to colonize us again.” Kenyans and the international community didn’t buy his story. Zimbabweans and the international community must not buy Mugabe’s anti-Western rhetoric. It’s for his own self-preservation. The U.S., the Europeans and allies in Africa must courageously move to punish Mugabe for subverting democracy in his country.

It’s encouraging that in the A.U., there are member states that have come to recognize that the status quo in Zimbabwe is unacceptable. That the era of dictatorship in Africa is long gone. And that time has come for Africa to ally itself with mature democracies. These countries are fast appreciating that the conduct of politics in Africa must change for the better. Gone are the days when dictators resorted to the barrel of the gun to cling to power without the international community raising eyebrows.

It’s exciting to hear Botswana, one of Zimbabwe’s neighbors, demanding that Mugabe be barred from future A.U. and other regional bodies meetings. Sierra Leone’s President, Ernest Koroma, whose country is recovering from decades of civil war has impressively told Mugabe off. Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga wants peacekeepers be sent to Zimbabwe. Zambia’s Levy Mwanawasa, until he suffered a sudden stroke, had been forthright in condemning Mugabe. Ghanaian President John Kuffuor hasn’t been ambiguous in his condemnation of Mugabe. He has asked Mugabe to stop terrorizing his critics.

These are voices of reason and civility. Perhaps they should start working to take over the A.U. They should snatch it from those who have little regard for democracy and respect for human rights. The bad guys such as Mugabe and others like him should be exorcised from this body. This is the only way the rest of the world will view the A.U. as a respectable organization capable of solving Africa’s governance problems.

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