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  • One cheer for Gordon Brown


    by Rumbold
    10th December, 2007 at 7:55 pm    

    Now that the dust has settled, and Gordon Brown’s boycott of the EU-Africa summit has finished, it is time to ask the question: did this gesture achieve anything?

    Ben Chu was certainly impressed:

    “Gordon Brown’s decision to boycott last weekend’s EU-Zimbabwe summit was dismissed in some corners as gesture politics. The fact that he is known to find European summits less than thrilling merely compounded the cynicism. But Brown’s no-show actually worked out rather well in marginalising the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

    Without a strong presence from the old colonial overlord, Mugabe had to fall back on lambasting Europe as a whole for being the source of Zimbabwe’s woes - a line that has far less traction at home and in wider Africa than Britain-baiting. He was also reduced to calling Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel a mouthpiece for Mr Brown - a line that even his most one-eyed supporters among other African leaders must have struggled to take seriously.”

    The Daily Referendum less so:

    “What I cannot understand is why Brown has stitched up Baroness Amos to take his place. If he’s too good to break bread with Mugabe, what makes him think it’s OK for the Baroness to do his dirty work? We used to have a saying in the Navy: Never volunteer for anything, I think Gordon Brown has a bit of sailor in him. That’s this summit and the EU Treaty signing that he’s missing, McCavity has not changed his spots.”

    I think that Brown deserves muted applause for his stance, mainly because we know that Tony Blair would have gone to the summit without a second’s thought if the EU demanded it. However, as Daily Referendum says, how principled a stance was it if someone from the Government was represented at the summit? Why send anyone at all if you object to the participants?

    It is inconceivable that Brown, or any other European leader, could sort out Mugabe (only Africa or China can). One thing he could do though is to make it easier for Zimbabwean asylum seekers in this country to claim asylum, and if he does not do this, then we will know that his summit gesture was nothing more than grubby grandstanding for the papers:

    ”THOUSANDS of failed Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in Britain face deportation after a British court last week ruled that not all of them were victims of political repression in Zimbabwe.

    The deportation move comes in the wake of last week’s ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in Britain that not every deported asylum-seeker would be at risk of harassment by security agents if returned to Zimbabwe. Justices Ockelton, Storey and Southern, said in their judgement: “We do not accept either that all those seen as having claimed asylum in the United Kingdom will be thought to be supporters of the MDC on that account alone,” reads 88-page judgement.

    “As noted earlier, the suggestion that the Zimbabwean authorities proceed on the basis that anyone with a connection with Britain must be considered a supporter of the MDC is impossible to reconcile with the significant effort put into obtaining intelligence concerning those in the United Kingdom who do support the opposition.”

    The affected Zimbabweans will be coming back to a country dogged by fuel shortages and power outages and a health system delivery that has almost collapsed. Most supermarket shelves are empty following a government blitz, which slashed prices by half in July. The country lost trillions of dollars as a result of the ill-fated price blitz.”

    How would you deal with Zimbabwe?


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    1. Morgoth — on 10th December, 2007 at 8:11 pm  

      It is inconceivable that Brown, or any other European leader, could sort out Mugabe

      Why not?

      Oh for a leader who doesn’t quail in his boots when some dictator in Africa plays the “race” card.

      How would you deal with Zimbabwe?

      By giving Mugabe and his cronies 48 hours to step down, else Zanu PF finds itself on the receiving end of high-ordnance explosives.

    2. Sid — on 11th December, 2007 at 8:34 am  

      How would you deal with Zimbabwe?

      By taking a consistent, hardline position with all forms of undemocratic dictatorships/autocracies/military governments all over the world. Otherwise, failure to “break bread” with Mugabe today but giving his blessings to quasi-democracies in military dictatorships in South Asia shows just how selectively manipulative gesture politcs is.

    3. Rumbold — on 11th December, 2007 at 10:09 am  

      Morgoth:

      The problem is that in order to get rid of Mugabe and his cronies we could have to invade Zimbabwe and imprison/kill most of the upper echelons of Zanu PF. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but we just do not have the resources. Who would do it from the big military nations? South Africa loves Mugabe, France, Germany and Russia are probably being bribed by it, China are the ones doing the bribing, and the Japanese run from their own shadow nowadays (they won’t even allow fuel tankers to help NATO in Afghanistan). The other Western European nations (apart from the Dutch) have long practised a ‘three monkeys’ policy (see, hear, and speak no evil). India does not seem to care about human rights abroad (witness their stance over Burma), Israel has its hands full, the Americans can not manage a country, and the only nation that could properly do it, us, is far too overstreched already.

      Sid:

      “By taking a consistent, hardline position with all forms of undemocratic dictatorships/autocracies/military governments all over the world.”

      I agree that we should not just accept a dictatorship simply because it is seen to be on our side (though obviosuly some dictatorships are worse than others). A good policy, but how would this help Zimbabwe?

    4. Sofia — on 11th December, 2007 at 10:34 am  

      so let’s boycott one dictator and give the saudis a state visit..

    5. Ravi Naik — on 11th December, 2007 at 11:31 am  

      Great point #4. The big picture of course is that Zimbabwe is a poor country, and thus we can pretend that we care about human rights issue. But of course, when dealing with China, Russia or Saudi Arabia, we change the tune.

      So I think Brown’s boytcott is shallow and meaningless.

    6. Sid — on 11th December, 2007 at 11:35 am  

      Sorry I expressed myself badly. Gesture politics would be perfectly valid if the response to all forms of human rights violations by any foreign state was consistent across the board.

    7. sonia — on 11th December, 2007 at 12:16 pm  

      the more relevant question is: if gordon is boycotting this summit, he ought to then boycott any talks with the US too, and where would that leave him? if we are going down the “gesture” route, then all of us would have to think very hard before we talked to anyone.

      good point sid.

      anyway i always think what is the boycott achieving? talking to people is more sensible.

    8. sonia — on 11th December, 2007 at 12:19 pm  

      or figuring out real ways of achieving change, of course most of politician’s “talks” are generally gesture-like anyway, so i can’t see big sparks flying because gordon didn’t go along to the summit. personally i think it would make more sense if you go up to someone, and say, well im here to meet with you, and i have to say i dont approve of what you’re doing. of course being the representative of a nation-state, saying that to a dictator, prob. doesn’t mean shit anyway.

      and what about mr. musharraf? everyone seems to have forgotten he was/and is a dictator too. And Bush as well, let’s not forget, he is hardly democratically elected.

    9. Morgoth — on 11th December, 2007 at 1:14 pm  

      The problem is that in order to get rid of Mugabe and his cronies we could have to invade Zimbabwe and imprison/kill most of the upper echelons of Zanu PF

      Hardly a big loss to humanity that.

      South Africa loves Mugabe, France, Germany and Russia are probably being bribed by it, China are the ones doing the bribing, The other Western European nations (apart from the Dutch) have long practised a ‘three monkeys’ policy, India does not seem to care about human rights abroad

      But *gasp*, apparently these are the moral guardians of the world that we must listen to, or so the stoppers tell us.

    10. Kismet Hardy — on 11th December, 2007 at 2:30 pm  

      Question. When Mugabe inevitably drops dead (I heard somewhere his brain’s been rotting since he caught syphillis - sue me), does he have a tyrannical dictator waiting in line or will there be an uprising before a tyrant gets the golden toilet seat?

    11. pounce — on 11th December, 2007 at 2:51 pm  

      Yes I do believe that Gordon Brown made a difference. But taking such a stance he has shown Africa that Britain will not stand for despotic dictators who use the race card in which to stay in power. Also lets take note of how Germanys Angela Merkel berated Mugabe the otherday to his face. Where the UK and Germany go the others soon follow.
      Mugabe was only in Lisbon because the rest of the African countries demanded he be there or they wouldn’t attend. Seeing how the EU clamped down on Uganda the other year for abusing its political mandate , I hopefully would like to see EU Aid used in which to isolate Mugabe and his supporters.(or rather the lack of it) Only until the Presidents for life in Africa can be made to see that in European eyes they are not divinely elected will they start to work towards a better future for their peoples. Unfortunately far too many people in Britain (Never mind Africa) believe that Mugabe is a victim (My sister who is married to somebody whose family where kicked out of Kenya is one) However I do believe that it was the right step.

    12. Leon — on 11th December, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

      Gordon Brown’s known for not liking European summits, Gordon Brown ‘boycotts’ European summit because of an African leader, Gordon Brown is hailed…sheesh how easy is it to fall for his spin?!

    13. swaraj — on 11th December, 2007 at 5:12 pm  

      Don’t forget that we did have a big arms contract with Zimbabwe - there’s your answer as why we haven’t got rid of him yet?

      There’s no oil in Zibabwe either!!

      We’re getting money from the govt. And BAE Systems needs to keep making its profits!!

    14. Rumbold — on 11th December, 2007 at 8:13 pm  

      Kismet:

      “Question. When Mugabe inevitably drops dead (I heard somewhere his brain’s been rotting since he caught syphillis - sue me), does he have a tyrannical dictator waiting in line or will there be an uprising before a tyrant gets the golden toilet seat?”

      Sadly, it looks like the former, as his likely successor helped him murder 20,000 people in the 1980s.

    15. douglas clark — on 11th December, 2007 at 8:30 pm  

      I love Morgoths’ solution # 1. It is soo simple. Drop bombs on folk. Always works, always will, eh, Morgoth?

      ‘Course maybe this time around your lot have some sort of strategy for winning the peace?

      Thought not.

    16. Morgoth — on 11th December, 2007 at 10:28 pm  

      Douglas, your way led to Cambodia, to Srebenica, to Rwanda, to genocide and mass killings EVERY TIME.

    17. douglas clark — on 11th December, 2007 at 10:58 pm  

      Morgoth,

      Cambodia, not guilty:

      A certain Nobel Peace Prize winner has more accountability, I’ll think you’ll find. See here for a reasoned explanation for what the hell went on there:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Kissinger#Vietnam_and_Cambodia

      Srebenicia, not proven. I am no expert on this but the International community did try, did it not? They had defensive forces in place, who would have been overwhelmed?

      Rwanda, not guilty. The genocide was done before anyone could have realistically stopped it.

      Your way has led to dead bodies, every time. And not in a nice way, either. Your outcomes frankly stink to high heaven. But, hey, dropping ordinance on folk is so cool. Makes good video.

      You have a brain, please try to use it. This is not Harry’s Place. Otherwise you will simply come over as a fascist who thinks military ordinance - that we do not have - will solve everything, which it will not.

      There are scenarios in which liberal interventions are worth attempting. You should make yourself aware of realistic ideas around that notion. Your favourite invasion - Iraq - has probably set that idea back further than you would wish. Still, you can always hope for a nuclear strike on Iran, that’d make you happy, wouldn’t it?

    18. soru — on 12th December, 2007 at 12:58 am  

      Incidentally:

      Zimbabwe life expectancy: female 34, male 37

      http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/41339.php

      Iraq life expectancy: female 70.65, male 68.04

      http://indexmundi.com/iraq/life_expectancy_at_birth.html

      25% of the population of Zim are refugees or exiles, compared to at most 10% that of Iraq.

      Unless those figures are vastly wrong, or in some way misleading, that would suggest that Zimbabwe under Mugabe (and AIDS) is actually _worse off_ than war-time Iraq.

      Doesn’t mean Bush couldn’t find a away to make it worse, though.

    19. pounce — on 12th December, 2007 at 3:19 am  

      Swaraj wrote;
      “Don’t forget that we did have a big arms contract with Zimbabwe - there’s your answer as why we haven’t got rid of him yet?”

      The largest arms deal that the UK did with Zimbabwe was the sale of 10 Hawk jets in the 80s. Since then we have sold them squat. (ok we sold them spare parts in the early 000 but since they went into the Congo nothing.)Which may explain why the hawks are grounded and have been replaced by the Chinese JL8
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JL-8
      Would I be correct in assuming you are referring to the sale of a military radar system? That went to Tanzania.
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1723728.stm

      The vast majority of Zimbabwe’s armed forces uses Russian or Chinese copies of Russian kit.

    20. douglas clark — on 12th December, 2007 at 3:40 am  

      pounce,

      Excellent stuff. Though you should be warned that getting between a polemic and the truth can be dangerous! I think the government is about due to issue a Health Warning about that.

    21. sonia — on 12th December, 2007 at 5:30 pm  

      douglas, no. 15. you said it all :-)

    22. The Dude — on 13th December, 2007 at 12:14 am  

      I have absolutely NO sympathy for the average Zimbabwian (whether black or white) who presently find themselves being kicked out of this country and returned to their own. That would go double for the those refugees presently residing in South Africa. I can’t talk about other countries neighbouring Zimbabwe but I can talk about it’s most powerful neighbour, South Africa. If ever there was a issue which divided the people from that of it’s government, it’s been that of Zimbabwe. Unlike some of the nobheads who currently occupy key positions of the ANC, the people (the black people) of South Africa almost to a man would like to kick out every single person of Zimbabwian birth OUT of their country and the reason for this is simple, his name was Ian Smith. I’ve heard this question posed many times during my numerous travel acros that part of mother Africa. If the good people could get rid of a monster like Ian Smith (the white dictator) then why oh why can’t they do the same with a black son of a bitch like Mugabe? Some of the reason why Mugabe is still alive and kicking (so to speak) is the support he currently enjoys with fellow african leaders. This manifested itself at the recent EU-Africa summit, when the EU’s bluff was called. Ian Smith was brought to his knees when finally his own kind (especially the Brits and the Yanks) turned their backs on him. The same thing must happen with Mugabe. He must be sent to Coventry but more than this must be made to submit to the people by the people. The people of Zimbabwe have no excuses. NONE!

    23. Rumbold — on 13th December, 2007 at 4:15 pm  

      The Dude:

      “I have absolutely NO sympathy for the average Zimbabwian (whether black or white) who presently find themselves being kicked out of this country and returned to their own … The same thing must happen with Mugabe. He must be sent to Coventry but more than this must be made to submit to the people by the people. The people of Zimbabwe have no excuses. NONE!”

      What a heartless thing to say. You talk as if getting rid of a dictator is as easy as making toast. How should a few disorganised people go about getting rid of a heavily armed tyrant? What if you have a family to look after? Are you really going to risk their deaths in the forlorn hope that you would be able to overthrow Mugabe? We all like to believe that, confronted with tyranny, we would become brave resistance fighters, but the reality is that, faced with such power, we would be more likely to concentrate on protecting those who matter to us (just look at much of Nazi-occupied Europe- they were not bad people for not joining the resistance- they were just people).

    24. The Dude — on 14th December, 2007 at 1:13 am  

      Rumbold

      Trust me, I hear what you’re saying but you’re DEAD wrong. There were many, many examples of people who did put their family and friends at risk in their effort of defeating and confronting evil. Mugabe is no more and no less than that, EVIL and on my book evil must be confronted and stopped whenever and whereever it is encountered. This is not a brave man speaking, this is just a fact of life bacause to do anything contrary to that is an invitation of eternal night and a world without light. The people of Zimbabwe now have a choice. Do nothing and tolerate evil or act and defeat it. Thier destiny is in their own hands because there are SOME things in life worth dying for and liberating oneself from a evil dictator such as Mad Man Mugabe must rank high on anyone’s list. Otherwise the good people of Zimbabwe deserve what they have already got. A people who would rather crawl on their bellies than stand (like worms) on proud their feet like men, ain’t IMHO deserving of much sympathy anyway.

    25. The Dude — on 14th December, 2007 at 1:16 am  

      Rumbold

      Trust me, I hear what you’re saying but you’re DEAD wrong. There were many, many examples of people who did put their family and friends at risk in their effort of defeating and confronting evil. Mugabe is no more and no less than that, EVIL and on my book evil must be confronted and stopped whenever and whereever it is encountered. This is not a brave man speaking, this is just a fact of life bacause to do anything contrary to that is an invitation of eternal night and a world without light. The people of Zimbabwe now have a choice. Do nothing and tolerate evil or act and defeat it. Thier destiny is in their own hands because there are SOME things in life worth dying for and liberating oneself from a evil dictator such as Mad Man Mugabe must rank high on anyone’s list. Otherwise the good people of Zimbabwe deserve what they have already got. A people who would rather crawl on their bellies like some mingy dog than stand on proud their feet like men, ain’t IMHO deserving of much sympathy anyway.

    26. Rumbold — on 14th December, 2007 at 2:21 pm  

      The Dude:

      “The people of Zimbabwe now have a choice. Do nothing and tolerate evil or act and defeat it.”

      You seem to be under the mistaken impression that the people of Zimbabwe are one homogenous mass who will all act at the same time. Imagine, you are a jobless man who has little contact with others. How do you stop Mugabe? You can try and attack him, but with what? I think you are mistaking TV for real life, as actually trying to co-ordinate such an uprising would be virtually impossible. As for dying to secure freedom, it sounds nice enough, until you realise that you had a family to protect, or that you had little chance of succedding, or that you and your family may well be killed and/or tortured for daring to resist.

    27. The Dude — on 15th December, 2007 at 1:07 am  

      Rumbold……If history teaches us anything, it’s that doing NOTHING is not a option.

      Oliver Cromwell sacrificed his own son so that democracy could finally flourish in England. That was four hundred years ago and yet some of US still haven’t learned that the maintenance of a liberal, secular and above all free democracy comes with a price. If you are NOT prepared to pay that price, then you really haven’t got a right to complain about the consequences of your inaction.

      My adoptive parents are South African. They saw good people die so that I could one day live in a free South Africa. And they would gladly lay down their own lives, along with the lives of their children if for one second they thought that the ANC were going to do a Mugabe. The same applies to nearly every law abiding, god fearing, freedom loving South African that I know, as it applies to me. Now you can make of this what you will but I’m telling you now, nobody but nobody is going to take my freedom away without a fight.

      Rumbold, you maintain that a man with nothing can’t resist. I say that you’re wrong. I maintain that a man with nothing to loose is the most dangerous man of all but there is more. A man need only say NO to begin the process of claiming back his birthright. When Rosa Parkes refused to give up her seat on a bus, all she said was “NO”! This didn’t happen in a movie but it DID happen. for real. Her singular act of resistance changed the life of a black man in America for the better.

      If you can’t see the value of what I’m talking about then I surely pity you and quite frankly I don’t think you’re deserving of my pity.

    28. Rumbold — on 16th December, 2007 at 12:56 pm  

      The Dude:

      “Oliver Cromwell sacrificed his own son so that democracy could finally flourish in England. That was four hundred years ago and yet some of US still haven’t learned that the maintenance of a liberal, secular and above all free democracy comes with a price. If you are NOT prepared to pay that price, then you really haven’t got a right to complain about the consequences of your inaction.”

      What are you on about? Which son did Cromwell sacrifice? Richard outlived him by many years, while Oliver died from fever. Cromwell had no desire for what we would consider democracy. His main goal was to secure religious liberty for dissenting Protestant groups.

      “Rumbold, you maintain that a man with nothing can’t resist. I say that you’re wrong. I maintain that a man with nothing to loose is the most dangerous man of all but there is more. A man need only say NO to begin the process of claiming back his birthright. When Rosa Parkes refused to give up her seat on a bus, all she said was “NO”! This didn’t happen in a movie but it DID happen. for real. Her singular act of resistance changed the life of a black man in America for the better.”

      Such people are incredibly admirable, but my question stands: how does one resist if one is on one’s own? How do you fight Mugabe and his army if you have no weapons? What about your family? Is it right to throw away their lives on something which is incredibly unlikely to succeed?

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