Thursday, June 28, 2007

How will Brown handle relations with Zimbabwe

When Nicholas Sarkozy won the French elections in May, Africans held their breath. This was the man who, barely a year before, had called immigrants from the western and northern parts of the continent, “rabble” needing “a power hose” to cleanse them off the streets of Paris and other French cities.

But to his credit, Sarkozy took advantage of his inaugural speech as new French president, to invite African leaders to talk about “this common problem” of immigration. You could hear the collective sound of air being let out of millions of African lungs at that very moment.

If any of us from English-speaking Africa, particularly the southern tip, might have felt removed from that situation, we now have our own to ponder.

Gordon Brown has just taken over from Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. Blair and his policies were rather harsh on Africa, so it is safe to say not many on the continent will miss him.

But we have his closest ally now to content with. He has not said much yet, particularly on the burning issue of Zimbabwe, which has always been the centre-piece of Britain’s relations with Africa.

Is he going to engage Mugabe or not? Is he going to offer some carrots to Mugabe to play ball and relieve the people of Zimbabwe from their suffering that has lasted exactly the same period that Blair was in office? If he offers carrots, is he going to bring sticks with the carrots?

Being a Blair protégé himself, will he pile up only sticks like his predecessor or will he be his own man when it comes to Zimbabwean issues?

The way Brown is going to handle the Zimbabwe issue will dictate the way Africans in general and southern Africans in particular will regard him – an ally or an enemy.

The way he handles the Zimbabwe issue could easily define Brown’s legacy in the same way it tainted Blair’s, but lest we say too much, suffice to say we humbly await The Honorable Prime Minister to speak on the issue.

Lets hear your views!!


Saturday, June 09, 2007


When Charles Taylor's trial was moved from Sierra Leone to The Hague, the United Nations and its western backers argued he would not receive a fair trial in Sierra Leone and that he risked being killed by his victims.

Well, he was taken to The Hague where he lives in a cell whose comfort millions of his victims would never dream of. The much anticipated beginning of his trial came on Monday and what did the former Liberian strongman do? He boycotted it.

Oh, he had a reason alright.

"I am driven to conclude that I will not receive a fair trial at this time and I must decline to attend hearings," said Taylor in a letter read out by his defence lawyer Karim Khan. "I cannot take part in this charade that does injustice to the people of Liberia and the people of Sierra Leone."

This coming from a guy who is answering to 11 counts of murder, kidnapping, torture and all sorts of other human rights abuses to thousands of Sierra Leoneans and Liberians. Now he wants justice for his victims?

Taylor's letter went on: "I have only one counsel to appear on my behalf against nine on the prosecution team. This is neither fair nor just."

I wonder whether he knew the terms "fair" and "just" when he was a warlord terrorizing most of West Africa in the 1990s. Looting Sierra Leone's diamonds and using them to fund rebels who raped, maimed and killed.

Familiar story
But Khan was not finished. He went on to tell Judge Julia Sebutinde he had been fired by Taylor who said he would represent himself.

If you are wondering where you heard this before, it happened in the same court, a few years ago when another dictator, Serbian Slobodan Milosevic, was on trial at The Hague.

Milosevic turned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) into a four-year circus that only ended with his death early last year. No doubt Charles Taylor was watching Milosevic's antics like all of us. The difference is that we were agonizing at how a justice process was being subverted at will by the former dictator while Taylor was probably taking down notes. If he were a student, he would be on course to an "A" grade.

If the United Nations and its western backers are serious about deterring would be despots and war criminals from emulating the likes of Milosevic and Taylor, they should close the ICJ immediately. It is a toothless body that gobbles millions of taxpayers' money without producing anything.

People like Charles Taylor do not deserve the kid-glove treatment they are accorded at The Hague.

These are men who played by the sword and in my best view they should die by the sword.
Charles Taylor ordered or did nothing to stop his predecessor, Samuel Doe from being kicked and stoned until he died on the streets of Monrovia. He ordered the raping, maiming and killing of thousands of his own people. He simply has no heart and you do not handle men like him so softly.

I must state clearly that I do not condone street justice. However, I think if Taylor had been tried in Sierra Leone, he would have respected the trial process better.

The way he is treating the ICJ and the way the court is letting him do that, gives a green light to those still persecuting innocent people to carry on knowing that when they are done butchering people, they will retire to The Hague to die in comfort.



Controversy might as well be Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's middle name. It dogs her at every turn.

The latest instalment is that Winnie, who was divorced by South Africa's former president, Nelson Mandela in 1996, was denied a visa to enter Canada late on Monday.

She was scheduled to headline a fundraising gala concert last night as part of the ongoing Luminato arts festival in Toronto. Devastated organizers of the $200-a-plate dinner concert dubbed "A Night in Soweto" said Winnie was to be accompanied by her daughter, Zindzi.

"We are devastated and she is very sad. She was all packed and dressed, ready to leave for the airport when she was informed she could not enter Canada," said Carole Adriaans, events director for arts organization, MusicaNoir, the group that invited Winnie.

Adriaans and other officials at Luminato and MusicaNoir said yesterday they did not know why Winnie was barred from coming to Canada.

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada said yesterday: "She did not satisfy admissibility rules."

Well, I am not about to confuse readers by claiming ignorance or by using politically correct language to state the obvious. Quite simply, Winnie is a convicted criminal.

Canada does not admit criminals. That is the law and Winnie is subject to the law.

Under the criminal inadmissibility clause of Canada's Immigration Act, convicted foreigners may only be allowed into this country if:
* They meet the legal requirement to be deemed rehabilitated;
* They apply and are approved for rehabilitation
* They obtain a temporary resident permit
* They obtain a foreign pardon recognized in Canada.

Many South Africans and other people in the world, including myself, have nothing but admiration for Winnie's struggles under apartheid, but in the process of her fight for democracy she committed what was later to be known as her "reckless behaviour."

In the late 1990s, Winnie was charged with 18 crimes including murder, kidnapping, and torture. The most famous victim of Winnie's so-called "reckless behaviour" was 14-year-old Stompie Seipei, who was killed by one of Winnie's associates in the infamous Mandela Football Club, which was largely regarded as her own hit squad.

In 1997, Winnie was sentenced to six years in jail, but she appealed and the sentence was reduced to a fine.

If her actions in the 1980s could be excused as consequences of persecution by apartheid officials, her conviction in 2003 for fraud can hardly qualify her as a political or racial victim.

Further, Winnie has a tendency to utter political statements that tend to embarrass those around her and not many governments, not least of all the Canadian government, would want to be responsible for whatever she was going to say here.

In fact, a part of The Passion of Winnie, a film-opera to honour her struggle, which she was due to commission on Friday, seems to glorify "necklacing," a practice popularized by her supporters who killed her enemies by placing burning tires around their necks.

Winnie's supporters have argued she was allowed to fly into New York two weeks ago to receive an award for her work with AIDS and the Save Africa Concerts Foundation affiliated with the United Nations, so Canada should welcome her.

The fact is the UN operates like a sovereign government and its visitors are confined to its compound in New York, they are not allowed anywhere else in the United States as long as the U.S. government has barred them, as is the case with Winnie.

So, Canada does not have to admit her just because the UN did.

The law is the law.