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!!