Tichaona Zindoga Senior Political Writer
When US President Barack Obama delivered his maiden speech on Africa in Ghana in 2009, he made reference to some African leaders being caught on the wrong side of history. The right side, he implied, was the side of the US. The US has democracy and preaches democracy — only it does so selectively, purporting to champion democracy while at the same time supping with undemocratic and sometimes tyrannical regimes as has been the case with Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
One could also add apartheid Israel, too.
Such is the hypocrisy of the US.
Not surprisingly when he made the remarks, Obama’s cheerleaders were quick to point fingers at countries like Zimbabwe, portending their troubles for the sin of being caught on the wrong side of history.
A lot of things have happened since Obama visited Ghana. In fact, he followed the inaugural visit with a tour last year that took him to Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. Politically, the Arab Spring swept North Africa, in the process toppling the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, which the US pampered with support and military aid. When the riots and civilian uprisings took place, the US and its Western cohorts quickly changed sides and pretended that they had been on the side of the people.
The US hijacked the peoples’ project and it was not uncommon to now hear Obama referring to Tahrir Square and the people as if Ben Ali or Hosni Mubarak were never US clients, or puppets.
Egypt presents an interesting scenario.
Like all the countries in the region that have never known peace since the Arab Spring, including Libya where the West hounded and murdered Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Egypt has been under siege from the military which has remained in control to date. The Muslim Brotherhood and its leader Mohammed Morsi, who emerged winners in what promised to be a democratic post-Arab Spring dispensation, were toppled and now are being hunted down and arrested. There are bogus mass trials that are taking place where hundreds of people are sent to the gallows. In all this, the US has not given as much as a whimper.
It is complicit in the clearly and presently undemocratic situation that is obtaining in Egypt. It is known of course that the US has strategic interests to consider — just as in the current Cold War-reminiscent issues in Ukraine and the open sore that is Gaza.
Talking about being caught on the right side of history! The forthcoming US-Africa summit to be held between August 5 and 6, 2014 presents yet another opportunity to interrogate Obama’s imagery of history.
The US cherry-picked African countries to attend the summit, which is within its right. Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Sudan, among a couple other countries, have not been invited. There will be 47 countries on the table with Obama, that is, including the International Criminal Court-wanted Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.
The US says it has not invited Zimbabwe because it maintains sanctions against President Mugabe and key officials “over suppression of democracy and what Washington sees as politically motivated violence”, as one US Africa diplomat explains in a release ahead of the meeting.
It is instructive to critically examine this claim. Does Zimbabwe abuse human rights? Does it suppress democracy?
Do people butcher each other as they have done in Kenya and lately Nigeria?
The answer to the above questions is, “No!” Zimbabwe held elections on July 31 last year, which were deemed by all the observer missions as peaceful, credible and reflective of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was here in 2012 and gave the country a clean bill of health.
The media in the country is varied and robust. Almost all basic tenets of democracy are at play in Zimbabwe.
If it is to be conceded that the same were absent in 2001, who but someone caught on the wrong side of history cannot appreciate the change? Or is it deliberate?
Yet there are more things to have happened between 2009 and now.
Zimbabwe is the incoming chair of both Sadc and the African Union being the deputy of the same as of now. This is a significant development. Caught in its clumsy history of pettiness, the US decides to ostracise Zimbabwe, which will preside over continental affairs for a good year to come.
How constructive does the US want to be with Africa?
Quo vadis Barack Hussein Obama?