January 14, 2002
war drums are starting to beat
may seem strange to take a break from the war in the Middle East,
but there is another fight squaring up this time in Africa. In
a fight is developing, and it is one that doesn't concern us.
A BIG WAY
gone "bonkers in a big way" according
to Bishop Tutu, the anti-apartheid veteran. It is hard to argue
with this verdict, Mugabe really does seem to have lost
the plot. The opposition
that they would overthrow Mugabe in the forthcoming election,
and now Mugabe seems to agree.
He has refused
access to foreign election monitors, tried to close down the
independent press and
according to the (London) Sunday Telegraph an admittedly
unreliable source on foreign news has recruited 100,000
thugs to stop
free voting. It's not pleasant.
THE ARMY SPEAKS
has said that it will not back anyone who has not "fought in
the liberation struggle", code for anyone not called Mugabe. This
may be out of residual loyalty to a comrade in arms, perhaps purely
obeying orders from their ultimate boss, but most likely out of
a genuine desire to keep their lucrative diamond contracts in
the Congo. The lower ranks are
not nearly as keen on a bush war they barely remember or diamond
deals that they never benefit from. Moreover, South Africa is not happy either. It
is therefor unlikely that the military really could keep out a democratically
elected government; however, the threat has been made and that is
of the fond ideas of the west is that the opposition will usher
in an era of democracy. This is of course highly unlikely. The recent
elections in neighbouring Zambia stand testament to this. Here
elections were won
by the government amid accusations
of ballot rigging, and a previous president had been detained
without trial. The governing party? The Movement for Multi-Party
Democracy, which shares more similarities with Zimbabwe's Movement
for Democratic Change than near-identical names. They are both pro-western, friendly
investors and have a big input from Trade Unions. Replacing
Mugabe will not in itself make Zimbabwe democratic.
OF THEIR MINDS
Britain, the right has also gone bonkers in a big way. Simon Heffer,
Enoch Powell's biographer, wrote
yesterday "Mugabe invites comparison with Hitler". To anyone
but a holocaust denier this is patent nonsense. Mugabe has not invaded
any of his neighbours and has not tried to exterminate a race of
people. He is a ruthless
and corrupt politician, no more and no less. The interventionist
right has its own reasons for calling for tough
measures on Mugabe. To many of the die-hard tradition on
the right, Zimbabwe is the business of Britain; it was in the Empire.
Is it, however, in Britain's interests to run its foreign policy
on the basis that its flag flew over it thirty-seven years ago?
It is about time that the right started thinking in terms of national
interest rather than national glory.
role of the European Union is crucial here. It is the European Union
that has been pushing for its monitors to oversee the elections,
and it has been the EU that has threatened sanctions. It is also
the EU that has been holding sinister sounding "talks"
with Zimbabwe. Eighteen months ago Britain prepared an invasion
force under EU command to go into Zimbabwe. Connected?
NOT OUR CONCERN
fact is that Zimbabwe is irrelevant to our national interests. Mugabe
believe that we are at war with him, but that is no reason to
be at war. There are a large number of British
passport holders in Zimbabwe, but the country has been out of
control for thirty-five years. If we have an influx of resourceful
immigrants who will integrate in a generation, is that anything
to worry about? The fate of Congo diamonds or Rhodesian tobacco
is not going to affect us (although some British
agree), nor is the fate of a landlocked country in a continent
of no concern to us. If South
Africa goes in, as the American ex-Africa
Crocker suggests, so much the
better, but unlike Britain South Africa has real strategic
interests in the country. This needs to be resisted. Africa
not want us to stay, and it should deal with its own mess.