The shame of Africa and Asean
It is sad that the outcome of the African leaders’ summit reflected anything but condemnation and shame on Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
Some African countries are ready to defend Mugabe, who rigged and stole the country’s general election held last week. It is amazing how some African leaders have the face to back a leader who suppresses his people and intimidates the opposition with violence, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. Last month, former South African president Nelson Mandela criticised Mugabe for his tragic failure of leadership. His comment should have paved the way for other leaders to take up similar positions. Unfortunately, not many African leaders can claim similar status to Mandela. Many are dictators who do not respect human rights and democratic values. Worse, they do not want to be labelled as allies of the West against Mugabe, who was also considered an African hero when he fought for independence of the former Rhodesia.
Since 2000 the African Union has done good work in peace-keeping and peace-building. AU troops have been dispatched to troubled countries throughout Africa with assistance from Western countries. Now the West is up in arms about African leaders who have failed to condemn Mugabe. France and the UK have issued strong words on Mugabe. France said the Mugabe government is illegitimate and British PM Gordon Brown urged AU members to reject the result. The UN Security Council is contemplating a resolution which would call for sanctions against the Mugabe regime. There are reports that Mugabe might consider a power-sharing government with opposition leader Morgan Tswangirai, who holed up in the Dutch Embassy in Harare after he withdrew from the election.
The AU leaders remind us of Asean leaders, who protect their pariah member, Burma. Since its admission in 1997, Burma has caused embarrassment and humiliation for the grouping, but Asean leaders always stand up for Gen Than Shwe’s junta. They prefer to suffer at the behest of their unruly member than take a moral stand on the international stage. It is the same AU rationale that Asean leaders continue to use to shore up support for Burma.