|Will Pillay step up to the plate|
|Friday, 25 May 2012 00:00|
Prof Jonathan Moyo, MP
Conference today to announce the “findings” of her widely and closely watched high profile visit to purportedly “assess the human rights situation”.
The import of these two questions out of many others that are beginning in the air might sound unkind or cynical but the questions speak to a plot that is now too familiar to Zimbabweans who have seen it all before. A major reason why there are more questions than answers in the human rights discourse is that the scholarship and policymaking around human rights is heavily contested.
There are no gospel truths about human rights besides the generally shared view that human rights are about those innate things that human beings are born with and which they must enjoy by definition. Some countries especially in the crumbling capitalist world emphasise civil and political rights to benefit individual interests of the privileged classes with property rights taking centre stage while many more countries — especially in developing countries — value more social and economic rights to prioritise community advancement.
This difference in the definition and meaning of human rights raises more questions than answers particularly in a country like Zimbabwe which has been under the brutality of evil sanctions from the US, UK and EU that dominate and even enjoy veto powers in undemocratic bodies like the UN which Pillay works for. A senior and otherwise respected person like Pillay working for an undeniably undemocratic world body such as the UN today — whose institutional name and authority — have been abused, for example, to destroy an African country like Libya under the false cover of human rights needs to be extremely careful regarding what she says about a country like Zimbabwe which has since 2001 been subjected to illegal and evil economic sanctions imposed by Western countries that dominate the UN through agencies like the UN high commission for human rights.
The view of human rights from the West is not the same as that of the Rest of the world. There’s clearly a very serious and important conflict between the West and the Rest of the world on questions of fundamental human rights such that it would be ill-advised and even disastrous for Pillay if she uses her Press Conference today to justify the regime change agenda of the US, UK and EU that have caused untold human rights problems in the country through their evil sanctions.
Pillay would be well advised to remember that because human rights are about God given rights innate to all human beings means that there’s no single country in the world which has a perfect human rights dispensation. The only place with a perfect human rights environment is heaven but we all know that as the cliché goes while everybody wants to go to heaven nobody wants to die which means that we must make do with our imperfect world.
Even so and without exaggeration Pillay does not need to visit Zimbabwe to know that our country has a far better human rights practice than say the US, UK and EU. By definition war mongering countries such as those in Nato engaged in endless catastrophic wars around the world cannot have better human rights records. The human rights disaster in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire rests with the US, UK and France in particular which also have serious internal problems of institutionalised violence and racism particularly against African immigrants.
The US makes a lot of noise about human rights but to this day it condones waterboarding which is widely acknowledged as torture. Also the US has not ratified the Rome Statues that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) on grounds that the US does not want a situation where its citizens would be subjected to the ICC “on political grounds” and yet the US has been at the forefront of using the same ICC against African leaders on political grounds under the cover of UN agencies such as the UN high commission for human rights.
Indeed, Nato countries have bastardised human rights by embedding self-serving claims thereto onto their regime change agenda in the same way that they shamelessly embedded Christianity and human civilisation onto their colonisation of the world in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the past Africans were oppressed by the West under the bible with claims that they were pagans or were bad Christians while today they are oppressed under spurious human rights claims based on definitions and approaches that seek regime change through international bodies controlled by Western countries such as the UN and the ICC which has been thoroughly discredited for its unashamed targeting of Africans.
It would be wrong and most unfortunate for Pillay to judge Zimbabwe’s human record status or the country’s electoral future on the basis of the 2008 contested allegations of political violence ahead of the presidential runoff election because those allegations and their consequences have been openly and fully addressed since then by the GPA and its various processes including the inclusive Government. In any event those allegations were an aberration and today Zimbabwe is one of the most peaceful countries in the world as publicly acknowledged by US Ambassador Charles Ray in Victoria Falls last weekend on the eve of Pillay’s familiarisation visit.
Against this background, Pillay’s Press Conference today is certain to degenerate into a farce if she makes the predictable mistake of using it to pontificate as she has tended to do by proffering answers with no questions after spending only 96 hours in the country. In such a situation the best thing to do is to stay away from giving false answers by not only to asking questions but asking the right questions. In logic they say the right question is half the answer.
Therefore Pillay’s challenge today is straightforward: will she do the predictable and abuse her position and visit to proffer false answers that we have all heard before from the usual suspects based on false dossiers and conclusions that cannot be credibly made in 96 hours or will she rise to the occasion warranted by her first visit to the country raising the right questions whose answers require right thinking in a
On her arrival on Sunday Pillay described the purpose of her visit in a manner that was not helpful not least because it was self-contradictory. She told the media that “it is very, very important that the Government (of Zimbabwe) has invited the UN commissioner for human rights. I am here to assess the human rights situation and to see how the United Nations can help to advance human protection here”.
While Pillay was correct that she was invited by the Government of Zimbabwe she was not correct to say she came “to assess the human rights situation and to see how the United Nations can help to advance human protection here”. Pillay’s creative explanation for her visit is needlessly disingenuous, understandably self-serving, practically unreasonable and thus incorrect perhaps because it was intended to give advance justification of what she is going to say at her Press Conference today arguably because the main points of her statement were prepared well before her arrival in the country and she intends to use her 96 hour visit to
creatively validate conclusions she reached before her visit.
Everything else considered, it is unreasonable to expect or believe that the Government of Zimbabwe would invite the UN human rights chief to come and assess the human rights situation in the country in 96 hours and to determine how the UN can “help advance human protection” in the country within that time. Anyone who believes that will believe anything.
Pillay should have been honest enough before her Press Conference today to appreciate that she was invited by the Government of Zimbabwe not “to assess the human rights situation in the country” as she has claimed but “to familiarise herself with the human rights situation in the country and to establish direct contact with various critical actors in the sector with a view to opening lines and channels of communication with them on human rights issues in the country”. This is important to understand because there’s a difference of day and night between a “familiarisation visit” which can be done in 96 hours and an “assessment visit” which cannot be done in 96 hours.
As Pillay addresses her Press Conference today she should know that Zimbabweans are fully and totally aware that even with the best of intentions, it is not possible for her or anyone else besides God to assess the human rights situation in the country in 96 hours all of which she has essentially spent in Harare notwithstanding her visit to a nearby farm in Mashonaland central. While she might not know it, Zimbabweans know that Zimbabwe is not Harare and Harare is not Zimbabwe.
But a familiarisation and contact-making visit to open channels of communication to exchange human rights ideas and to test contested issues is indeed possible within 96 hours. There will be significant progress if Pillay’s Press Conference today confirms this and the opposite will happen if she pretends against all evidence and common sense to have conducted a whistle-stop 96-hour assessment that is practically impossible to achieve about something as important and as sensitive as the state of human rights in the country.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans would like to bid farewell to Pillay with an open invitation to comeback in the same friendly way they welcomed her when she arrived on Sunday but that of course will depend on what she tells them today at her Press Conference. Will she leave us with phoney answers or will she leave us with the right questions? Only her keenly awaited Press Conference today will tell.