On Mugabe and Brown.

In an extraordinary display of effrontery, the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has declared he will not attend a summit of European and African leaders if Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is there.  Announcing his decision in the Independent newspaper, Brown writes –

The facts are stark: four million people [in Zimbabwe] have fled the country; 80% of the population are unemployed; four million will be on food aid by the end of the year; and average life expectancy has fallen to just 37.”

But the fact of the matter is that Gordon Brown is in no position to lecture anyone about “appalling and tragic situations“.  He lost the right to take the moral high ground with the likes of Mugabe with his complicity over the mess in Iraq.  To quote bomber Brown, the ‘facts are stark’ –

“According to U.N. statistics, about 1.5 million Iraqi refugees are in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 150,000 in Egypt, 50,000 in Iran and 20,000 in Turkey.”

“Nearly 5.6 million Iraqis are living below the poverty line…  At least 40 percent of this number is living in absolute and desperate deteriorated conditions,” said Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the strategy department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, adding that this level of poverty is a 35 percent increase over the level before 2003.”

“…  5 million Iraqis depend on the monthly food ration programme but only 60 percent of this number is able to avail of it, leaving two million people in dire poverty.”

“Due to the years of war and violence in Iraq, it is one of the few non-African countries to have a drop in life expectancy. Iraqi life expectancy in 1990 for males and females from birth was 66.5, now the Population Reference Bureau reports that life expectancy for both sexes in Iraq has dropped to a mere 59 and for males alone the life expectancy from birth is 57.”

Personally, I cannot decide which is worse.  The man who abuses his own children, or the man who abuses anothers children.   Gordon Brown would do well to get to know Robert Mugabe, they have much in common.  They have both committed terrible crimes, and have so far got away with it. 

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~ by blacksheepdiarist on September 20, 2007.

9 Responses to “On Mugabe and Brown.”

  1. I think your comparison between the ‘crimes’ of Mugabe and those of Brown – his support for the Iraq War – are a bit exaggerated. Mugabe is directly responsible for everything that’s happened in Zimbabwe; Brown is not responsible for all the terrible suffering in Iraq in quite the same way. Come on, it was Blair who drove the UK government’s decision to go into Iraq. Brown went along with it, sure, and to that extent, he shares the responsibility. But not everything that has gone terribly wrong in Iraq is DIRECTLY the consequence of the US / UK invasion (indirectly, yes); much of it is caused by Iraqi violence against Iraqis. And the signs are that Brown wants to disengage from Iraq.

    How could Brown sit in the same meeting room as Mugabe? It would hand him a huge propaganda victory, and he’d use it to say to the Zimbabwean people, ‘look, not even the British government cares about you, because they’re willing to do business with me’. It’s the right decision for the people it’s intended to bring succour to: the Zimbabweans. It’s a shame that, through the Iraq War, Britain has lost so much of its moral credibility – that I’ll grant you.

  2. Hi David, thanks for stopping by.

    I do not agree that Mugabe is solely responsible for the mess in Zimbabwe. The EU and US have in place putative sanctions which have an profound effect on Zimbabwe, for example the freezing of assets held by European and US banks. This means even if Mugabe wanted to feed his people and repair the economy, he cannot afford to. And because of this he retains support among his people and other African nations by claiming colonial interference. Like was the case with Saddam, the sanctions have the perverse effect of strengthening his control.

    You ask how Brown could sit down with Mugabe, but the reverse is also true – a principled politician could quite easily refuse to share a room with Brown thanks to Iraq. Mugabe has a way to go before he has a share of 1.2 million deaths in a foreign country!

    The thing that bugs me most is the hypocrisy. If Brown is so principled, why roll out the red carpet for the Saudi oligarchs, or the Chinese regime? There are far worse regimes in Africa than Mugabe. I think western multinational interests in Zimbabwe are why our government and media are making such a big thing about this, and not the mess in the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone etc etc etc.

  3. I think you’re a bit naive about Mugabe: he’s a despot responsible for violence and murder against his own people and opposition politicians. In this respect, indeed, he is like Saddam. Mugabe’s claims that the EU and US are acting like colonial overlords is mainly just posturing to try and bolster support from fellow black African leaders, many of whom are equally as corrupt. And I hardly think that Mugabe could be called a ‘principled politician’, as you imply he is.

    Instead of sanctions, what would you have wanted to be done to put pressure on him to carry out genuine democratic elections? Or do you think he commands the support of his people? It sounds to me as though you don’t really think the suffering of the Zimbabwean people is that significant.

    How can you compare one nation’s torments to another’s, whether Iraq or the other African nations you mention? One country isn’t intrinsically any more important than another. You can’t proceed on all fronts in everything you do; just because you’re making a positive step towards Zimbabwe, this doesn’t mean you’re indifferent towards suffering elsewhere. I agree that more could be done to raise awareness about and try to affect change in many other countries. But slow progress is better than none. Brown appears to want to move things along in Darfur, for instance, whereas Blair was all rhetoric in relation to that conflict. And in the real world, you have to have dealings with countries that ideally you might eschew, such as China. If Britain or the US kicked up a diplomatic row with China, for instance, this would hardly serve the stability of the world’s economy or strategic relations; and I’m sure there’d be others who’d be prepared to step into the vacuum (e.g. Russia).

  4. David, I think you misunderstand me. I am in no way, shape or form saying Mugabe is a principled politician. I fully agree he is a tinpot despot.

    What I am trying to say is that Zimbabwe’s problems are not solely the responsibility of Mugabe, I think that is a terrifically simplistic claim to make. The problems in Zimbabwe are multi-layered, with Mugabe’s rule being but one of those layers.

    The sanctions in place against Zimbabwe allow Mugabe to “posture” about ‘colonial overlords’ and, crucially, be believed by many of his people and his fellow African leaders. (how else does he win elections, get cheering crowds when he speaks, or secure support from other African Nations?)
    The corruption you allege against African leaders is also endemic in western governments.

    Thanks to the sanctions etc the people are increasingly dependent on the Zimbabwean government for survival. In my opinion a people are unlikely to overthrow a despot who controls their rations. Sanctions harm people more than regimes. This is why I believe the sanctions against Mugabe, as with Saddam before him, are counter-productive.

    As for “genuine democratic elections”, I am too bust trying to get such a thing for THIS country, let alone anywhere else! Care to state where such a thing has occurred lately?

    I think the sufferring af ALL people is significant, but I think it has to be recognised that there are countries in the world suffering greater than Zimbabwe, for example Darfur, Burma, Chechnya, Palestine, and Iraq. Maybe you will disagree with this, but my priority is the murdering despots in my own country, that my own taxes pay for. Mugabe is a second division tyrant.

  5. Fair enough – it is exaggerated to say all of Zimbabwe’s problems are down to Mugabe. However, sanctions are widely attributed as having engineered the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa. What would you do in relation to Zimbabwe, or don’t you know, your priorities being, as you say (and understandably), elsewhere. I don’t in fact agree that you can easily make judgements about mass suffering in one country being greater than in others. It’s a case of trying to do something about it when you can; and personal engagement, as you can’t be an activist about everything.

    All the best, David.

  6. You might find this of interest David,

    “In an analysis of the effect of sanctions on South Africa by the FW de Klerk Foundation, it was argued that they were not a leading contributor to the political reforms leading to the end of Apartheid. The analysis concluded that in many instances sanctions undermined effective reform forces, such as the changing economic and social order within South Africa.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid#International_relations

    As for what to do about Zimbabwe, I’ll do what I can, which is campaign for fairer trade policies to Africa, for a more just and decent foreign policy, for regime change at home, and end to neo-liberal structural adjustment programmes of the IMF.
    Frankly, the best I can do for Zimbabwe is lead by example, and overthrow my government! Give them the power of example, call it the domino effect…

    Peace, John

  7. Mugabe wins elections by indimidation, and by the fact that a high proportion of the people who would vote for the opposition are in exile. It’s estimated that there are 2-4 million Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa alone, and the number that have been granted political asylum is minuscule.

    I’m prepared to give Brown a little benefit of the doubt, since it was the belligerent Mr Blair who drove Britain into the war (does he have a record for British prime ministers getting into wars of aggresssion — Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq — any more?) It will be interesting to see how Brown behaves in the next few months

    But if he won’t sit down with Mugabe, he should be equally reluctant to sit down with Mr Bush.

  8. Thanks for the comment Steve. I agree with your concluding comment, if Brown is not prepared to sit down with Mugabe, he should be even more reluctant to sit down with Bush, Putin, the Saudi Monarchs, or the leaders of China, to name but a few.

    I am afraid I am not willing to extend Mr Brown any more benefit of the doubt. As the one who held the purse-strings during Blair;s reign, he had ample opportunity to divorce himself from Blair’s war-mongering. That he did not, and actively assisted Blair, puts a massive black mark in his ledger.

  9. I agree with freeluncher 100%. The world is somehow obsessed with Zimbabwe whereas I have seen worse situations around the world. I wonder what it is they know about my country which we all dont. Maybe we have oil deposits which we are not aware of. All I ask from the likes of Bush and Brown is to leave us alone so that we can try to sort out our problems. Believe me, this tyrant we are dealing with does not take too kindly to being cornered.

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