Mugabe is gone. That is settled. He came in 1980. In 1983 he organized the massacre of 20,000 Ndebeles, in Matebeleland. Matebeleland was a stronghold of the Joshua Nkomo led opposition ZAPU party. He said the Ndebeles needed some re-education. The death cries of the Ndebeles were ignored by the West. So in 1994, the Queen recognized Mugabe for his outstanding work for humanity, and knighted him. He was their boy. Their righteousness covers the iniquities of their wards.
He should have left decades ago. He should have left after he listened to the hinterland and took back the lands. The lands that white imperialists had stolen. He should have left before the vengeful tendencies of imperialists took hold of them. He should have left before they remembered him he was a dictator and named him a demon. He should have left before they came after him with sanctions. And brought Zimbabwe to utter ruins. Mugabe should have left decades ago.
Alternatively, he could have remained. But he should have remained docile and quiet. And remained obedient and in their good books. He could have ignored the cries of the poor rural blacks. And a grateful West would have definitely continued to ignore his transgressions against democracy and freedom. Mugabe could have played the game . And advised the indignant rural folks and their children to remain casual workers on white farms. He would need not to spell it out.
He wouldn’t have to tell them there was no dignity in clinging to genial servitude and forgoing their rights to lands stolen from their fathers. He could have simply explained the beauty of inclusiveness to the dispossessed black folks. He could have told them it was better to remain poor casual laborers for rich white farmers than incur the unforgiving wrath of the West. But he chose the precarious path. He chose to challenge white supremacy.
He could have easily remained the darling of the big white farmers. All he had to do was throw the land redistribution agreements reached at Independence into a trash can. Britain would have nodded in satisfaction. He could have said it was in the best economic interests of the country. After all the blacks were poor, and couldn’t farm the lands. The cousins and children of Cecil Rhodes would have told their cousins in England about his uncommon intellect. He would have remained Sir Robert Mugabe, foremost African statesman, on the BBC.
He would have remained an exemplary democrat. It wouldn’t have mattered that he had scant regards for the rule of law. Because an exemplary democrat doesn’t need to abstain from intimidation of political opponents. He only had to be in the good books of the West. He would mouth democratic principles. He could mouth gender equality. Then he would waffles on gay rights. He would have remained president. They would have given him the guns, bullets and tear gas canisters needed to keep his people quiet.
He wouldn’t have become the demon that he became. Because African dictators become demons only when they anger the West. They become pariahs when they ruffle the interests of the West. If Mugabe had remained in bed with white Zimbabweans, the opposition in Zimbabwe would have been regarded as vindictive trouble makers by the West. It would have fallen on the opposition to champion land reforms. They would not have received the help and support they got in the name of democracy from the West.
Some say his wife was his problem. But it wasn’t his wife that made his fate different from Museveni’s in the last 15 years. Museveni has been president of Uganda for 32 years. He is 83. He was a guerilla, like Mugabe. He has also dismantled term limits. He is effectively a life president too. The West, however, holds him in very high regards.
It’s not baffling. He is a trusted ally. He is not referred to as a dictator by the CNN. He is not banned from visiting the Queen. There is no scrupulous searchlight turned on his family, their birthdays and their expenditures. His obituary has not been written in advance. Museveni is not Mugabe because he has been careful not to hurt important Western feelings and interests. He didn’t seize white stolen properties.
He didn’t have to. So no one remembers just how long he has stayed on the throne. In I997 Magdalene Albright called Museveni a beacon of hope . He had been on the throne for 11 years then. He was running a one-party democracy. He has since decimated Acholi land in the guise of fighting the LRA insurgency. But no one has pointedly asked him to leave office.
If a coup happened in Uganda today, the west would be quick to label it a coup. They won’t waffle. They won’t call it a transition. Museveni is not a demon.
Biya has been president of Cameroun since Ahmadu Ahidjo handed over power to him. He has been on the saddle for 35 years. He has survived many coups and many sham elections. He has left Cameroun rural, desolate. But no one cites him as an example of a political tragedy. Mugabe is the African tragedy. Biya spends months on end holidaying in Switzerland. But the western press leaves him in his peace. No one is intent on bringing him down in the name of democracy. Biya has repressed political opponents. Biya has supervised genocidal incursions into the English speaking parts of Southern Cameroon. But nobody thinks of Biya and remembers the ICC.
France is the nanny of Cameroun. But that apostle of freedom and rule of law would not open her mouth and tell President Biya to step down. The French president is the defacto commander-in-chief of the Cameroonian Armed Forces. But he won’t nudge the army to do a Zimbabwe in Cameroon. Western news media celebrated crowds on the streets screaming obscenities at a Mugabe held down by the army. But western media won’t call on France to tell the Camerounian army to hold down Biya so the party in Harare can move to Yaounde.
Biya can remain on the throne. France is happy with him. He can junket around the European Union. He can loot the Camerounian treasury and stash it in France and Switzerland. If he challenges French authority then his sins will come to the fore and he would become a demon.
We are happy Mugabe has gone. But the West must let go of its stinking hypocrisy. It is more abhorrent, more tyrannical, than Mugabe’s despotism.