President Robert Mugabe’s paranoia is the stuff of legend. Driven by perpetual fear and anger, he mistrusts and loathes in equal measure.
Zimbabwe Independent Comment
We all agree that Mugabe’s threat to withdraw Zimbabwe and Africa from the United Nations — purportedly informed by the Ezulwini Consensus — is neither policy nor doctrine. Then what on earth is it? Political grandstanding?
Isolationism is a non-starter. China tried it in the 1950s under Mao Zedong. The threadbare stance led to a cul-de-sac. By 1970, China had paid a hefty price for such unmitigated folly. Forced by harsh reality to embrace radical economic reforms, the Asian giant is today one of the most capitalistic nations in the world — despite communist pretensions.
Owing to the government’s catastrophic economic mismanagement and corruption, Zimbabwe has been pulverised by what Chatham House calls a “triple whammy” of stagnation, low productivity and deflation. And while Mugabe is grandstanding at the airport, the UN is providing emergency food aid to more than three million poverty-stricken Zimbabweans. Mugabe is living proof of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s dictum: “The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” To understand Mugabe’s brand of politics, we need to grasp the childhood that made him: the early years defined by a lonely, bitter and angry existence; an absentee father who deserted the family; and a troubled psyche that never lets go of grudges. In terms of international law, it is clear why the UN Charter makes no provision for the withdrawal of membership.
You don’t need the towering intellect of Albert Einstein or the brilliant mischief of Ken Yamamoto to understand this straightforward issue. Had a withdrawal clause been included, some rogue nations would have seen this as a weapon with which to blackmail, extort, arm-twist and threaten other members.
It’s unheard of, under customary international law or the Vienna Convention, for a member of the UN to unilaterally withdraw from the community of nations. Perhaps Mugabe, who studied law while serving in a Rhodesian prison, is about to re-invent international law.
In 1965, Indonesia’s then President Sukarno threw a tantrum and announced that his country had “walked out of the United Nations” — in opposition to the decision to give Malaysia a seat on the Security Council. At that time, Indonesia was locked in an undeclared war with Malaysia. Sukarno made the blunder of also pulling Indonesia out of UN specialised agencies, namely the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation — agencies which set aside US$50 million in aid for his country. His exact words were: “Go to hell with your aid!”
Eighteen months later, Sukarno had been toppled by Suharto who promptly brought the country back into the UN fold.
On August 21 this year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threw a tantrum, saying he was pulling his country out of the UN. Threatening to withdraw the Philippines from the world body, Duterte launched a profanity-laced tirade against the organisation for criticising his bloody war on drugs.
But Duterte, just like Mugabe, cannot do without the UN.