Ghanaian president visits Namibia, South Africa; noticeably skips Zimbabwe

Aug 30, 2011

President Atta Mills recently traveled all the way to southern Africa from Ghana, West Africa but he skipped making a stopover in Zimbabwe. Any way you slice it, that is a big diplomatic snub of the Mugabe government.

Mills made an official visit to South Africa, with a side trip to neighboring Namibia. There was a time when the government of president Robert Mugabe and the country of Zimbabwe were so well regarded that Harare would have been a must stop for the president of a friendly country like Ghana.

Then there is the issue of Mugabe's special link with Ghana. He taught there for several years before he became a politician, and his late first wife was a Ghanaian. Ghanian founding president Kwame Nkrumah inspired people like Mugabe to spearhead the struggle for independence in their own countries.

Mugabe in his old age has in some ways become more ideologically radical in a way Mills probably cannot relate to. Mugabe's bitter war of words with the western world wins him many African admirers, but Mills is an uncontroversial president who has good relations with the West and does not rock the boat. The two men probably have little in common. It is not hard to imagine Mills being uncomfortable being seen in the company of Mugabe.

However, even taking all these things into consideration, it is a reflection of the vastly reduced stature of Mugabe the person and Zimbabwe the country that the president of Ghana would visit Namibia and South Africa without even the briefest of stopovers in Harare.

Nkrumah is now widely, fondly considered a pan-Africanist visionary. But at the end of his rein there were many Ghanaians who were disaffected with his political and economic performance, as is the case with many Zimbabweans towards Mugabe.

It is worth noting that in both Namibia and South Africa, these are countries on their second and third post-majority rule presidents, while Zimbabwe is still ruled by its tenacious founding president. Yet both countries are 'younger' in terms of post-majority rule existence than Zimbabwe. Ghana too has politically matured enough to take presidential term limits and the coming and going of leaders as a routine thing. In these simple but important regards Mugabe and Zimbabwe look like relics from another political age compared to these three countries.

It is quite possible that in hindsight many of the Zimbabweans (and others) who look at Mugabe with disdain today will look back at his record differently with hindsight after he is long gone. That would be particularly so if his various controversial 'economic empowerment ' measures begin to reap the kind of benefits that few African countries have been able to achieve for their citizens, even those considered investor-friendly like Ghana.

But for now and the foreseeable future, the once much sought-after, much respected Mugabe looks pitifully isolated, even from his African counterparts.


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