- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

I’ll tell you what is disgusting and disgraceful: The fact that all those African leaders, especially Nelson Mandela, who are so busy moralizing about America’s faults and Europe’s faults and yet cannot find a moment in which to repudiate the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe over the starving, dying people of Zimbabwe.

And I’ll tell you what else is disgusting and disgraceful. Why isn’t the so-called Court of Criminal Justice or some busybody prosecutor in Spain or somewhere indicting Mr. Mugabe for his crimes? And where is the U.N. Human Rights Commission, always so preoccupied with human rights in the Gaza?

The most shameful behavior is that of Nelson Mandela and his successor, South Africa President Thabo Mbeki who, ignoring Mr. Mugabe’s atrocities, has appealed to the West to drop its sanctions against the Mugabe regime. And most recently, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) gave Mr. Mugabe — would you believe? — a standing ovation.

Of all people, they and especially Mr. Mandela himself, who once aroused the world’s conscience about the infamy of apartheid, sit by and legitimize the rule of one of the worst dictators since Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler.

Exaggerated? Here is the detailed indictment by a Canadian member of Parliament, Dr. Keith Martin, the conservative Alliance Party expert on Africa:

c In two years, between 1983 and 1985, Mr. Mugabe ordered the killing of more than 15,000 people of the Matabele tribe. Africa, let alone the international community, ignored this savagery

c The people of Zimbabwe, except for the thugs who bodyguard Mr. Mugabe, are starving.

c He ignores the AIDS pandemic that afflicts a quarter of the country’s 12 million people.

c He has created the “Green Bombers,” a youth militia who hound and murder his opponents.

c Children as young as 11 are forced to join his militia.

• Mr. Mugabe has destroyed an independent judiciary and his cronies are now judges.

c He rigged the last presidential election by using state-sponsored violence and intimidation.

c He has used his thugs to beat up journalists and his police and military to shut down newspapers and thus has destroyed freedom of speech.

• He has destroyed Zimbabwe’s agriculture that once employed three-quarters of its labor force and supplied almost 40 percent of its exports.

Mr. Mugabe has taken a once relatively prosperous country, where most people had jobs, ate three meals a day, enjoyed some amenities — where there were decent relations between farmers, many of them white, and their employees — and turned this potentially rich country into a wasteland. And Nelson Mandela and President Mbeki, who benefited mightily from arousing white guilt in the West, today protect a man whose actions are as bad if not worse because this is the 21st century, as anything that happened in the days of apartheid.

Zimbabwe is just another episode in the sad and tragic story of postcolonial Africa. Think of what has happened in Burundi, in Liberia, in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, in the Congo Republic, in Nigeria and the war in Biafra, in Ghana, site of the first African dictatorship under Kwame Nkrumah; the second African dictatorship under Sekou Toure in Guinea; of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in Uganda; the murderous Dergue in Ethiopia; the 30-year civil war in Sudan; the cannibal Emperor Bokassa of the once Central African Republic. How reminiscent of the poem of William Blake:

The hand of Vengeance sought the bed

To which the purple tyrant fled;

The iron hand crush’d the tyrant’s head,

And became a tyrant in his stead.

And now we have the tyranny of Robert Mugabe and there is a great silence among Africa’s conscience idols such as Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. They and their cohorts who fought so hard for so long for freedom for the people of South Africa, who endured such trials and tribulations for decades and who finally achieved victory — how can they lead Africa in a guilty stillness?

Nelson Mandela, President Mbeki, have you no shame?

Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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