|When big guns are brought out|
|Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:00|
Darlington Mahuku and Bowden Mbanje
Our historical experiences as Zimbabweans and as a country must be the marrow of Zimbabwe’s future. Mamdani noted that without the experience of sickness, there can be no idea of health. And without the fact of oppression, there can be no practice of resistance and no notion of rights. This explains why Issa G Shivji contends that human rights talk should be historically situated and socially specific.
The argument that we are putting across is that the human rights talk is the chosen battlefield of Western Europe and America in their effort to fulfil their own interests. One very interesting observation made by Shivji is that “the human rights talk is a major element in the ideological armoury of imperialism and neo-imperialism.”
Neo-liberals purport to absolutise the issue of human rights as the most important and integral question. They are also of the view that the human rights struggle is the bedrock of all democratic struggles. Notably, Henry Kissinger submitted that, presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter employed the human rights-talk to enhance their own political standing and language, but Ronald Reagan went a step further and used human rights as a weapon to destroy communism and denied the
Soviet Union citizens of their social and economic rights.
The argument given for intervention by intervening states are moral considerations in which they have the duty of safeguarding and respecting the sanctity of human life in accordance to international law.
Consequently it was after the end of the Cold War that the democracy and human rights discourse and the issue of the rule of law have become the pillars that have to be respected by the international community. so that governments become accountable for their actions.
Human rights have become a very persuasive tool in the hands of neo-imperialists to achieve big power political objectives than had been envisioned in the past. Innocent citizens in the countries targeted are subjected to intense suffering as human rights are wantonly violated in the name of the right to protect.
Uwe-Jens Heuer and Gregor Schirmer observed that these countries that purport to be championing and defending human rights like the United States, Britain, France and Germany inter-alia, are only interested in politico-civil rights and are not interested in socio-economic rights of people whose rights they say they want to protect.
Serious unemployment, hunger and disease that are a product of economic sanctions are not bracketed human rights crimes. This supports the Hobbesian argument that human nature is anarchic and explains why some scholars have maintained that human rights ideology is an ideology of domination and part of the imperialist and “neo-imperialist” world outlook.
This is why Shivji noted that “the colonial native who had earlier been saved from anthropology and inserted in history was now to be tutored in democracy and human rights.” Mamdani posits that in the international system, human rights are an ideological and political initiative with a strong American aura.
What then is the position of Africa as regards the politics of human rights? As a point of departure it must be noted that human rights were a result of anti-colonial struggles by the masses mobilised by a few intelligentsia like George Nyandoro, Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Hebert Chitepo and President Mugabe, who organised national movements for independence.
In Southern Africa human rights were part and parcel of a political objective that was meant to reorganise changes from above, led by popular revolutionary movements that would in the end lead to popular political and economic sovereignty. This was meant to come up with “human rights that are organic to African realities,” the reason why Zimbabwe is against the neo-colonial extra-exploitation of the ordinary people in society.
Zimbabwe has refused the IMF and World Bank policies that enhance the exploitation of the Zimbabwean peasants by the operation of the market, explaining why it embarked on the land redistribution exercise and now the indigenisation and black empowerment exercise.
Neo-imperialists have arguably strategically associated themselves with some social forces and groups in Africa, “the enemies within” so that they can continue strengthening their neo-imperialist base. What these Western sponsored opposition movements are only interested in is political office and not human rights that are organic to Africa.
It must be clearly understood that they are turning a blind eye to the right of the African as a person to be empowered and be a beneficiary to his God given resources to the right of encouraging same “sex marriages”, that are appalling. To us as Africans this must be condemned unapologetically.
and their requirements used unreservedly as the basis of human rights ideologies in Africa.
This calls for a human rights vocabulary renaissance culminating in a situation where “one joins the oppressed, exploited, dominated or ruled against the oppressors, exploiters, dominant and ruling to expose and resist such exploitation or dominance.”
They must give themselves the leeway to democratically determine their own socio-political and economic systems of governance that is not alien to Africa.
Uwe-Jens Heur contends that “with no anchor in international law, human rights end up in the juridically dubious sphere of natural law.” In the above context the human rights-talk ends up being tools of neoliberal propagandists. The most powerful states become themselves the world guards.
They have the veto power and choose when and not when to intervene and arguably they are the worst human rights violators. This is why President Mugabe is on record that the United States, Britain and their allies must not be arbiters of human rights because “their hands are dripping with the blood of innocent civilians.”
Political interventionism has therefore been reduced to mere political expedience and opportunism, it is not a case of human rights violations per se that determine how and when the big powers have to pull their guns and move in, but self-interests and yet soft power can be employed as a corrective measure to ensure that the people’s rights are respected.
Human rights talk in Africa must fall in the hands of the ordinary citizens in Africa so that it will be geared to serving their interests that is equality of all people. Their interests must be enshrined in their own country constitutions. African countries must therefore come up with constitutions that have the will of the people. It must not be a case of duplicating other countries’ constitutions.
A borrowed suit can never be one’s own hence what the African people want in their respective countries is the foundation of legitimate political authority. A constitution must therefore be legitimised and endorsed by the people and not be simply a reflection of the aspirations of the wishes of ruling elite.