PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week took the opportunity presented to him at the United Nations General Assembly to rail at the West for what he termed its hypocrisy and unilateralism.Independent Comment
Mugabe is apparently now stuck in a time warp where he has remained inconsolable after seeing the demise of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Osama bin Laden. He has not forgiven the West, especially the United States for its role in the death of particularly Gaddafi, his former ally, with whom he has not shied from being identified.
In New York Mugabe –– albeit with a dint of sarcasm –– condemned the killing of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, saying it was a “tragic death and we condemn it” but he quickly turned on the US whom he accused of the “barbaric and brutal death” of Gaddafi.
“As we join the United States in condemning that death, shall the United States also join us in condemning the barbaric death of Gaddafi? It was a loss, great loss to Africa.”
He added: “The death of Gaddafi must be seen in the same tragic manner as the death of Chris Stevens.”
Mugabe loves to use the UN platform to rant at the West. We recall his 2009 speech at the General Assembly when he attacked US President George W Bush saying; “His hands drip with innocent blood of many nationalities…He kills in Iraq. He kills in Afghanistan. And this is supposed to be our master on human rights?”
Mugabe on many forums, including at the UN this week, has purported to speak on behalf of the African continent. He still believes that he is perched at the apex of international diplomacy as a champion for the cause of Third World countries in their quest for emancipation from the West. But those days are long gone. Mugabe is a forlorn caricature of his great past when auditoriums rang in adulation during his addresses. Age and longevity in office do not entitle him to retain that father figure status on the continent. He forfeited that right to strut his stuff on the grand stage after spectacular failures at home.
He can accuse the West of hypocrisy, murder and human rights abuses but that coming from a political gladiator like him –– far from being a saint –– is mere deceptive rhetoric that has only helped to expose his own duplicity.
Mugabe has joined the refrain on the continent to call for the reform of the United Nations and the need for the democratisation of the international body. We have not heard calls couched in equal zest from him for reform back home.
In fact, Mugabe’s leadership has been one dominated by political anachronism and resistance to reform and change despite clear leadership and policy failures. Mugabe’s use of security laws to crash political opponents, frustrate freedom of association, assembly and expression as well as other political and civil liberties is well documented.
This is a leader who is in charge of a country where security arms of the state still use torture to force confessions and to punish political opponents. The torture of a defenceless woman like Jestina Mukoko by intelligence officers, which was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court recently, is emblematic.
Mugabe’s government has not ratified international instruments banning the use of torture. What is his commitment to human rights? Zimbabwe’s government has also gained notoriety for its disregard of international charters. Civic groups in the country have taken the government to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to ensure the regime abides by the dictates of international instruments.
That is not all. There is a long list of reforms, agreed under the Global Political Agreement, which have remained outstanding largely because Mugabe’s Zanu PF does not want them. These include proposed changes to media laws, electoral laws and security laws.
Mugabe has presided over a government that has meted out violence on its people through internal para-military operations to fight, kill and maim unarmed civilians, destroy and expropriate property, and to torture.
No amount of political rhetoric and posturing on the international arena can launder Mugabe’s image at home as long as he does not show commitment to domestic reform and change.
His to-do list is long and this does not reflect well on a leader who never misses an opportunity to flaunt his credentials as a liberator. We can no longer trust him with our country and well-being any longer given all his failures and atrocities. His increasingly stale rhetoric is not fooling anyone any more.