Gordon Brown’s announcement that he won’t attend a summit in Lisbon if Robert Mugabe does smacks of colonialism and again raises questions of his difference to his predecessor. Other African leaders have said they won’t attend if Mugabe doesn’t.
The Independent (22.9.2007) reports responses from Africa which make the Brown posturing appear childish and immature.
“Zimbabwe’s UN ambassador, Boniface Chidyausiku, said Mr Brown had ‘no right to dictate’ who should be at the summit.’
He told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that Mr Mugabe ‘has a sovereign right’ to attend the summit. He said: ‘He is part of Africa. Gordon Brown has no right to dictate who should come to Lisbon.’
He added: ‘The quarrel is between Britain and Zimbabwe. The United Kingdom Government [is] trying to put this quarrel into a multilateral forum.
Really the meeting between Europe and Africa should go ahead. There are bigger issues to discuss than the differences between the UK and Zimbabwe.’
The Prime Minister also faced strong criticism from The Tanzanian president of the Pan-African Parliament, Gertrude Mongella, who accused him of trying to ‘manipulate’ Africa and insisted that ‘arm twisting’ by rich nations would not solve the problems of the crisis-hit state.
Dr Mongella said: ‘We do know there are some problems, but if somebody wants to arm-twist Zimbabwe, that’s not the best way to solve the problems. I think this is again another way of manipulating Africa. Zimbabwe is a nation which got independence.
I think in the developed world there are so many countries doing things which not all of us subscribe to: we have seen the Iraq war – not everyone accepts what is being done in Iraq.’
Dr Mongella added: ‘So if we want to talk about the people of Zimbabwe, we should not punish them by the actions of their leaders. I think if we want to move in the right direction, with the African way of doing things, you discuss things under a tree till you agree. So if somebody does not come under a tree to discuss, that is not the African way of doing things.’
Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa warned that he would stay away from the summit if Mr Mugabe is barred. He said: “I will not go to Portugal if Mugabe is not allowed.” Source Independent 22.9.2007.
Received wisdom is that Europe is the developed world while Africa is newly emerging without a past, according to Brown’s good friend Nicolas Sarkozy. From the evidence here its is the African leaders who show maturity and wisdom (evident at a time Europe was in the “dark ages”) poiting out that there is rather more to discuss than Zimbabwe. No one pretends that Zimbabwe isn’t problematic but the point is made that avoiding the conference isn’t the way to deal with it. Not only does it punish all Zimbabweans suffering under Mugabe’s paternalism (itself reminiscent of colonial days) but is means that issues affecting other states won’t move forward either. Given that Gordon Brown put a lot of effort into the importance of supporting African states his most recent actions now he is leader seems all the more regrettable.
Follow up. Brown’s attempts to exclude Mugabe look like failing. The EU are more realistic in expecting peer group pressure from African leaders to be more effective..