Happy Africa Day holiday but what’s to celebrate?
Africa Day is celebrated on May 25 every year to mark the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.
From the outset it was hardly African because the lighter skinned Arab world north of the Sub-Sahara nations considered themselves scarcely African. And it was never really united either.
The same applies to its successor, the African Union (AU). Both bodies were meant to fight colonialism, bind countries together in free-trade partnerships, mediate in a plethora of wars and disputes and protect the continent’s environment and natural resources. Success was achieved in very few of these goals. The lure of money, corruption and the decimation of unique African wildlife by poaching syndicates – using impoverished local peasants to do the dirty work – went on unchecked.
In 1998 Zimbabwe sent 6,000 troops to prop up Laurent Kabila’s tottering regime in the wholly misnamed Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC.) The military campaign against Congolese rebels was an unmitigated disaster. Our casualties were heavy but the true facts have never been revealed. Many of our fallen were abandoned in the Congolese wilderness and families at home were left to grieve alone for loved ones who never returned. Our army HQ’s only official explanation was that there had been many desertions from the hardships of combat in the DRC. But Zimbabwe’s military and political leadership did get nice stakes in Congo’s important mining sector.
Andrew Saxon, my pen-name, put this Public Eye column in Horizon magazine in Harare in 1998.
Oh dear! Where is all this leading to? Who is running the country? Who is going to stop the tailspin we’re in?
I, for one, couldn’t believe my ears the other day when Mr Mugabe said Zimbabwe is going to start “socio-economic” reconstruction in Kabila’s Congo. The people there need to be fed, clothed and receive education, medical care and social services, he solomnly declared.
At that very moment, the length and breadth of Harare was in upheaval as protests against fuel price increases took hold.
Acrid smoke from burning vehicles rose into the skies behind makeshift barricades of rocks, oil drums and garbage.
President Kabila, who claimed to have trained in revolutionary warfare with Che Guevara as a young man, sped through Harare in a heavily guarded motorcade to meet his new protector Mugabe and discuss, as he put it, “not only war issues but how to ameliorate the standards of living of my people.”
How insensitive can politicians get? Or is it that they have just lost their marbles altogether?
A few months ago, down in Quito, Ecuador, President Abdala Bucaram was impeached and removed from power because of his “mental incapacity” to rule.
Bucaram, nicknamed “El Loco,” or the crazy one in Spanish, played in a pop band and spent too much time singing in karioki bars when he should have been running the country.
That seems a fairly harmless failure.
He didn’t dispatch 6,000 troops to a faraway French-speaking land and promise humanitarian aid to its population when his own people were rioting because they could no longer afford food for their families, fuel or bus fares to work – if they had jobs when unemployment was soaring out of control – while high level looting continued apace.
In one case a Mercedes stolen in Harare was moving at speed through the dense Congolese jungles. It had an electronic tracking device in it and was ‘found’ on a military freight plane borrowed from the Russians to taking weapons and munitions to Kinshasa.
Kabila was assassinated by his own bodyguards at his presidential Palais de Marbre in 2001. His son Joseph took over power and held on to it for the next 18 years. Though Mugabe is dead, nothing much has changed for the better in Zimbabwe.
Perhaps it is to be celebrated today that the DRC, the former Zaire, has settled down with its fifth president since independence from Belgium in 1960, Felix Tshisekedi.
Poverty and ruination persist alongside a massive imbalance in wealth left by Mobutu Sese Seko but reports so far are good. Mobutu had more stolen money in foreign banks than the country’s entire national debt accumulated during his pro-Western tyrannical 32 year reign.
The great tragedy is that it didn’t have to be that way, but the talented (with a few notable exceptions) were shoved aside or overrun by the venal and greedy.