Jewish World Review August 4, 2005/ 28 Tammuz,
The shame of the African Union
They are among the more than 700,000 victims of Robert Mugabe's
"Operation Restore Order" that as the July 24 International
Herald Tribune reports has bulldozed "shacks, workshops and
market stalls across Zimbabwe's urban center." (Many of the
now-homeless adults in such neighborhoods voted against Mugabe in
the last government-rigged election.)
Miloon Kothari, special rapporteur on adequate housing at the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights, told the June 11 New York Times that
suicides are rising as the desperate displaced people "just have
nowhere to go."
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.
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
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 described in the June 11 issue of
The Economist, after the government obliterated their neighborhood:
"A barefoot widow and her two children stand in the ruins of their
shack, their meager belongings gathered under plastic sheets ...
they now sleep in the open with nothing to protect them from
Harare's bitter cold. With tears in her eyes and a broken voice, she
shows a lease and receipts for rents she has paid. "I have nowhere
to go," she laments." (Mugabe says the demolitions have ended, but
the government has said that before. In any case, he is again
responsible for ruthless crimes against his own people.)
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.
Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme of Cameroon, a consultant on international
law, wrote in the July 15 New York Times: "What is at issue is an
Africa where dictators kill, steal and usurp power yet are
treated like heroes at meetings of the African Union."
What will debt relief for ((some of)) these rulers do for the widow
and her two children in Harare who have no place to go? Their
condition cannot be reported in Zimbabwe's two largest, independent
and best-selling newspapers the Daily News and the Sunday Daily
News. Now silent, their licenses to publish remain denied by Robert
Once again, the African Union like the United Nations has been
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