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Editor’s Memo

Poor Africa!

WEDNESDAY is Africa Day. For some it is just a midweek holiday to sun themselves, do a bit of gardening and laundry or perhaps search for petrol.

Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>To many it is just another day. The country has never staged a state-funded function to commemorate the day. In the 1980s there was a knock-out soccer competition dubbed Africa Day Cup which gave the day a form of identity.

Today it does not have any significance other than its association with freedom from imperialism and decolonisation.

These issues were the fuel for Africa’s quest to liberate itself from colonisers. The common aspiration towards freedom, which drove the formation of the Organisation of African Union, is still as valid as it was 42 years ago when black leaders met in Addis Ababa to form the continental body. That want of freedom is still as important for Africans today as it was when they fought white minority rule. But today the fight is not against the white oppressor.

The fight is now by majority Africans against oppressive former liberation war heroes. It is still a fight for equality, justice, progress, equal opportunities, food, resources or the right to be heard.

The fight for these tenets of social justice has been turned on its head by the black apparatchiks who have started to talk of African rights in dangerously relative terms as if they were different from universal human rights. They believe those fighting for rights on the continent are funded by colonisers who want to regain a foothold on the continent.

Universal human rights today have their roots in the rights the black man fought for from the time of slavery through to colonialism. These are the same rights that African leaders pledged to adhere to when the African Charter was signed. This is the reason why African leaders agreed to form the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights to police those liberties.

But continental strongmen, including our own here, believe that they hold the keys to the dispensary of rights. They are the infallible oracles that should not be challenged. They are always right because they liberated the continent. But they are wrong because they have become agents of retrogression in their respective countries. I am inspired by the words of United Nation secretary-general Kofi Annan at the opening of the 54th session of the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva seven years ago.

He said this about Africa and human rights: “Some Africans still view the concern for human rights as a rich man’s luxury for which Africa is not yet ready, or even as a conspiracy imposed by the industrialised West. I find these thoughts demeaning — demeaning of the yearning for human dignity that resides in every African heart.

“Do not mothers weep when their sons and daughters are killed or tortured by agents of oppressive rule? Do not African fathers suffer when their children are unjustly sent to jail? Is not Africa as a whole the poorer when just one of its voices is silenced?

“Human rights … are African rights. They are Asian rights; they are European rights; they are American rights. They belong to no government; they are limited to no continent; for they are fundamental to humankind itself.”

Instead, Africa’s ruling elite are still trapped in the liberation war time-warp, which has blinded them on the need to liberate their countries from disease, poverty and depravation. They should on Africa Day look back on achievements made by other leaders on the continent with regard to the founding of the African Union (AU), in establishing Nepad and other developments and ensure that the 21st Century truly becomes an African century.

Africa today should be revisiting the principles of the Charter of the OAU, which is committed to peaceful settlement of disputes, economic and social development, respect for human rights, the protection of all Africans and to fight all oppression.

But far from it, disputes still wreak havoc on the continent. The genocide in Darfur, Sudan should never have happened if the continent adhered to its principles. A continent which eschews all forms of oppression should condemn dictators who steal elections, those who arm child soldiers and those who condone genital mutilation and those who steal morsels of food from children.

Zimbabweans today know very little about their rights as guaranteed in the constitution and in the African Charter. There has not been a deliberate attempt by government to impart these principles to the povo. Should we not be demanding the right to know?

Africa Day should be a day for soul-searching by every self-respecting African leader to count their contributions to the continent’s progress and where we are going. Are Africans better now than they were during colonial rule? Why is there so much deprivation, so much poverty, brain-drain and so many wars and man-made catastrophes on the continent so many years after independence from colonial rule?

l I have received complaints to the effect that local and international visitiors to our website (www.theindependent.co.zw) have been experiencing access problems. This has been due to our ISP Cyberplex Africa in conjunction with E-comm as they launch the digital version of the newspaper. Please bear with us as the exercise is coming to an end. Any inconvenience caused is sincerely regretted.

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