Africans Should Hang Their Heads in Shame

So says Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He is talking about Mugabe - Robert Mugabe, the man who turned one of Africa’s most prosperous, food-exporting countries into a starving basket case. Mugabe also does the usual evil dictator things like beating and killing opponents. Tutu is upset because too few others are.

The Economist features a backgrounder on the man behind the fist. I suggest you read that for additional information. Africans have tolerated big men like Mugabe too long. When non-Africans criticize them, they play on fifty year old colonial guilt and imply that it is somehow okay if local thugs oppress local people. Those beaten, raped or murdered by the local boys (trained with the help of the North Koreans) may be less enthusiastic about the distinction, but it is an effective tactic. Only Africans can push Mugabe - or maybe the grim reaper. Mugabe is 83 in a country where the average man lives to be only 37. Maybe he and Castro can meet the devil on the same day and end an era on both continents.

The next decade may well be Africa's time. The world is paying more attention to the continent than any time since the 1960s and Africa's raw materials are beginning to command higher prices. Africa deserves to be taken seriously. African leaders should take themselves seriously too and recognize the evil in their midst. Mugabe is a man of the past. That is where a man like him belongs. Dictators of Mugabe's ilk should have no place in the future.

Posted by Jack at April 3, 2007 10:06 PM
Comment #214923

Good post, Jack, thanks.

Posted by: gergle at April 3, 2007 11:00 PM
Comment #214927

I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m sure that Mugabe and his behavior is somehow the fault of George W. Bush. I’d be extremely surprised if our left-wing friends don’t appear very shortly to explain it to us.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at April 3, 2007 11:15 PM
Comment #214932

Hey, there’s a great idea! Who want to turn Jack’s post about Mugabe about how the left hates Bush?

I guess LO must miss sparing with the Bush bashers since he had to bring it up so quickly.

Posted by: chris2x at April 3, 2007 11:29 PM
Comment #214936

I wish I knew more about Africa but I don’t. Unfortunately, the little I’ve heard about it often jars with my sensibilities. Wars enslaving and mutilating children, tribalism and nightmarish clan warfare creating a narrow and violent view towards fellow countrymen, sexual attitudes and ignorance creating orphans and terrible suffering due to AIDS, Nigerian hustlers and con men, government rife with violence and corruption…

I saw very interesting presentation by a coworker on her trip to Ghana with native musicians. The people in the villages of this part of Ghana were extremely warm and hospitable. The young people had beautiful smiles maintained by twigs they would gnaw on. The Ghana musicians had just come from the U.S. on a successful world music tour to their own village to bring food, medicine, and ironically, toothbrushes.

When they crossed the border into Nigeria to play a concert they were literally held up a 100 ft from the border guards (who had demanded bribes themselves) by people demanding money or they would destroy the buses tires. She watched them beat a woman who would not pay, just feet from the border guards.

They were scheduled to play at the successor nightclub, “The Shrine”, where Fela Kuti’s son was hold up, knowing he would be a target by the government at his own, rather large family compound. Unfortunately, my coworker’s friends did not get to play on stage due to unfortunate events that night.

If Mugabe and the men like him continue to dominate thru violence and force, I fear Africa will continue to suffer and does not have much of a future. I know my country’s government is not nearly perfect, but I am grateful every day for government based on reason and progress.

Posted by: chris2x at April 4, 2007 12:02 AM
Comment #214942


You are right on target with this post, as is Desmond Tutu in his recent wake-up call. I’ve been mulling a post on this very topic over the past week. Mugabe hides behind his “I stamped out white minority rule” cover and dares his timid neighbors to point out his own tyranny to which the tyranny of the past pales in comparison. His putative “leftist” ideology is just another bit of window dressing in an absurd attempt to put a populist spin on a brutal and incompetent record which isn’t fooling Zimbabweans anymore.

In his early days, his own Shona people profited at the expense of the Ndebele (see the awful record of the Gukurahundi genocide), and unfortunately too many were willing to look the other way or worse participate. Since those days, Mugabe has managed to run his country totally into the ground with insane inflation and has only been able to maintain his own emperial lifestyle by brutally oppressing all but the sycophants he needs to maintain power.

Desmond Tutu again has demonstrated his courage in calling out brutality wherever it occurs, and rightly calls on Zimbabwe’s heretofore timid neighbors to do the same. Brutality knows no ideology.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at April 4, 2007 1:24 AM
Comment #214949

So Jack, are you saying we should send troops to Zimbabwe before or after we send them to Sudan?

Posted by: American Pundit at April 4, 2007 2:58 AM
Comment #214957


In both cases, the world must rely on such organizations as the UN and the OAU. Those who dislike American power may consider what things look like w/o it.


I think we agree about this problem. I wrote this because not everybody knows about it. In fact, I think very few really do. You seem more familiar with the details than I am and thanks for adding some.


Thanks for the personal story. Africa has a long way to go. It is the only large area in the world that is poorer now than it was a generation ago. But it has begun to make progress. Read my earlier note about Mali, for example.

Posted by: Jack at April 4, 2007 7:57 AM
Comment #214977

Mugabe is just another in a long line of thugs - from men like Hitler, Stalin and Saddam. Mugabe has learned well from history. He saw his chance to take absolute power, line his pockets and reign terror over innocent, powerless and helpless people, and he took it. I do not think this is anything more than another example of how power and money corrupt almost anyone. I do not think that Africans are any more to blame, or any more exempt, from this type of behavior. This is more a symptom of basic human greed. If Africans should hang their heads in shame, then so should most every other country on earth at one time or another. Virtually every country on earth has at one time exhibited tremendous cruelty to other human beings. Even the USA is not exempt from this behavior - witness our slave trade and slave culture of the past. Fortunately we got past the basic inhumanity of the slave trade, but even today we are still paying the price for that terrible era in our history. The bottom line is that most anyone is capable of exhibiting this kind of behavior, and take advantage of other human beings for their own greed and immoral purposes.

Posted by: Steve K at April 4, 2007 10:07 AM
Comment #214984

Steve K,

Of course you are correct about Mugabe and the temptation of power and corruption everywhere. The shame to which Jack refers, and the main point being made recently by Desmond Tutu, is the complacency of Zimbabwe’s neighbors in remaining silent. It is shameful that brutality is overlooked simply because its source is internal and wears the phony garb of liberation. You can be assured that their would be outrage aplenty if Ian Smith’s white minority government were still in power and were only 1/10 (as if such things can be quantified) as oppressive as Mugabe’s regime.

That said, I’ve noticed Jack poke fun at the “liberal” notion that “we” ought to apologize for the behavior of our forebears or others, which we aren’t personally responsible for. Acknowledging a problem is often a first step in attacking it. Martin Luther King famously wrote from the Birmingham jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

You are correct that there are hopeful signs in other parts of the continent, especially in the west. In addition to Mali, recent moves toward more democracy and freedom have occurred in Liberia, and Mauritania recently held its first truly democratic elections when its most recent military coup’s leader actually kept his promise and relinquished power within two years of wresting it from the thug who used to rule there.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at April 4, 2007 11:37 AM
Comment #214995
In both cases, the world must rely on such organizations as the UN

Led by..? We both know that the UN is strongest when America leads. You’re arguing that America should take a stronger position on humanitarian issues throughout the world.

That’s a very liberal point of view, and not one that most Americans share.

Look at the posts so far. No one is shouting, We must stop this! No, typically — and I’m not saying wrongly — Americans are asking why “someone” isn’t doing something about it. And thanks for perpetuating that, Jack.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 4, 2007 12:31 PM
Comment #214998


I’m with you, I agree that we should be stopping this and have posted such in the past.

But the problem is, how do we do this without committing the ‘international crime’ that you suggest the Iraq invasion was? Mugabe is no threat to the US, the UN is not allowing for action to take place, etc… So, what do you propose we do about it?

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 4, 2007 12:41 PM
Comment #215013
I’m with you, I agree that we should be stopping this

Whoa there, Rhinhold. I am completely opposed to using US forces where US interests are not at stake.

I’m with Jack and everybody else asking, Why isn’t “someone” doing something about this. It’s the hypocritical, but sensible thing to do — until somebody discovers oil in Zimbabwe.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 4, 2007 1:31 PM
Comment #215034

Then what? Should we all just wring our hands and bemoan the genocide going on and do nothing?

Clinton knew that this was wrong and took action, why is that a problem now?

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 4, 2007 3:25 PM
Comment #215051
Clinton knew that this was wrong and took action

Really? I’m assuming you mean Rwanda. What action did Clinton take? He certainly didn’t send US troops.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 4, 2007 5:10 PM
Comment #215065

What’s a little carpet-bombing between friends, eh?

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 4, 2007 6:49 PM
Comment #215071

Right. If a bunch of oil was there we would be there. Trouble is that if M. decided to give great deals to US oil firms we would be backing him and probably calling his opponents communist or terrorist or whatever.

Posted by: BillS at April 4, 2007 7:45 PM
Comment #215099

BTW, AP, if you didn’t get my reference, I was referring to Kosovo…

Posted by: Rhinehold at April 4, 2007 10:35 PM
Comment #215117

Walker, the truth is that it is rare for good people to stand up to evil. And complacency and “looking the other way” is far larger than just Mugabe’s neighbors. The plight of Africa is rarely addressed by anyone in the USA - liberal or Democrat. Certainly not at the national level. Both parties are far too interested in their own pockets than in who is killing folks in Africa.

As to apologizing for the sins of the past - I agree for the most part. I was not advocating any apology for slavery. Rather I was just pointing out that what Mugabe is doing is really nothing new, it’s been going on for years, under many names and in all countries. I do believe however, that a government apologizing for its actions of the past is right and just. It’s simply an acknowledgment that it made mistakes and wants to do its best to correct them. Perhaps “apology” is not the best word, but the idea is valid.

Posted by: Steve K at April 5, 2007 2:18 AM
Comment #215119
I was referring to Kosovo…

Kosovo is in Europe, Rhinehold. The EU is one of our major trading partners and an integral part of the global economy. The Balkan conflict threatened to spread throughout the region and draw in Russia as well. Ending the conflict there was in our national security and economic interest — unlike Darfur, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by: American Pundit at April 5, 2007 2:31 AM
Comment #215419

Africa is the shame of European colonialists. Having pillaged and raped the continent, they left without an infrastructure that could provide a civilised future. No educated people who could have been trained to mound a civil service of integrity, no leaders fashioned in the tradition of public service, only puppets who could be relied upon to serve the interests of the now departed imperialists. And then used by the USSR and the West as a proxy to confront each other.

It’s certainly good to see people responding to the criticisms of Archbishop Tutu. I wonder, could this be the same Desmond Tutu who described the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories as similar to, but worse than apartheid? Hardly, nobody could believe such an anti semite.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at April 7, 2007 8:28 AM
Comment #215484


In 1900 the list of “colonized” countries includes yours, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, most of Africa (except Ethiopia) India and many more. Lots of these places were also involved in the proxy war of the USSR. My country was a colony until 1776. Most parts of the world were once controlled by some foreign power. The fact that they have experienced such as variety of fates indicates that colonialism is not a sufficient explanation to the current troubles.

The colonial explanation is dangerous because it allows for low expectations. When something is not your fault, you cannot be expected to help yourself. That is the way always to be a victim.

In the case of Zimbabwe, when colonization ended the country was significantly more prosperous and had a much better infrastructure than it does today.

Re Tutu - a person can be right about some things and wrong about others. I believe he is sincere in his beliefs. That does not mean he is always right. In the case of Zimbabwe, he is.

Posted by: Jack at April 7, 2007 6:39 PM
Comment #216346

Can any of us imagine what Democrats would be saying if Bush actually tried to remove Mugabe or any other African tyrant?
“There goes the racist Republican trying to get rid of the guy that overthrew white supremacy in Africa”.
Jack, nothing …, certainly nothing militarily, will ever happen in Africa initiated by a Republican President, because it will be vehemently used against him by the Congressional Black Caucus and Democrats here in the U.S. regardless of how desperately it may be needed. Again the race card has played another deadly hand to the poor Africans in that it has hindered the U.S. from doing anything to help except for, of course, humanitarian aid.

Posted by: JD at April 13, 2007 12:28 AM
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