How African rulers open the door to foreign interference

May 31, 2011

He may have little interest in the details of managing his country's economy for success, but Zimbabwe's ruler is in his element when pontificating about broad ideological issues of the African reality. This is why he is widely panned as a practical manager at home, but often widely celebrated as a fearless advocate for Africa abroad.

But strong-arm rulers like him often unwittingly drive their legitimate opposition movements into the arms of foreign 'regime change' agents.

Excerpts from an interview he granted a regional newspaper:  

President Mugabe also expressed grave concern over the rebellions in North Africa.

"They are not pure protests. They are not as pure as they would want us to think. If they are true protests, how then do they involve Europe? How does Europe get into protests that are in Africa?" President Mugabe said.

Speaking at a different occasion on the same subject, incoming AU chairman president Teodore Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, another of Africa's long-ruling dictators:

He said Africa must be allowed to manage its affairs.

"Africa does not need any external influence. Africa must manage its own affairs," he was quoted as saying. "I believe that the problems in Libya should be resolved in an internal fashion and not through an intervention that could appear to resemble a humanitarian intervention.

"We have already seen this in Iraq," he was quoted as saying.

Speaking elsewhere at the same time, US president Barack Obama and UK prime minister had a very different stance on Libya.  

Obama: "..given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks...Gaddafi and his regime need to understand that there will not be a let-up in the pressure that we are applying," he said.

Cameron added that there was no future for the country - which has seen two months of intense fighting between pro and anti-government forces - with Col Gaddafi in power, and he should step down.

Not surprisingly, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim reacted angrily to Mr Obama's comments, saying that "Gaddafi's destiny, Gaddafi's future, is for the Libyan nation to decide", according to AP news agency. "It would be a much more productive statement to say that the Libyan people need to engage in an inclusive peaceful democratic transparent political process in which they can chose the shape of their political system and the leaders of their system," he said.

Britain, France and the US have displayed an amazing new appetite for intervention in Ivory Coast and Libya. There were genuine issues of humanitarian concern at the hands of unresponsive rulers in both countries, but there are also troubling issues of violated sovereignty and legitimate fears of neo-colonialism in both. 

It is not at all surprising that Mugabe and Nguesso are alarmed at western intervention in the two countries. Both of them hold onto power under dubious mandates, and have been able to effectively wave the flag of 'sovereignty' when under foreign criticism for their despotism.

What the two fail to comprehend is that they by closing off expressions of free will in their countries, they have forced an uncomfortable choice on their opponents: to continue to agree to be oppressed with no outlet for protest, or to join forces with foreign powers with their own agendas for wanting 'regime change.'

Ironically, that which Gaddafi, Mugabe, Nguesso and many other despots most fear is precisely what they bring about by being so ruthless. By so tightly constraining the democratic space, Africa's self-proclaimed champions of sovereignty often push their opponents into nefarious alliances with foreign forces.  


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