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Time to speak out for Zimbabwe

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Each year, the people of the Caribbean, those of African descent in particular, organize activities around the week leading up to May 25. That date holds especial focus for us, since it is commemorated as AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY (ALD). Though the size and spread of those activities have been reduced in recent years since the end of apartheid in South Africa, many Caribbean people still hold ALD dear to their hearts.{{more}} It is an occasion to recall the bitter and bloody struggle for Africa’s liberation from European colonialization; to celebrate the triumph of the African will for freedom; to pay tribute to those outstanding leaders of the liberation struggle; to emphasize the cultural, ancestral and anti-colonial links we have with that continent – the Motherland of the bulk of the Caribbean people of today.

Even as we prepare for the 35th year of such commemorative activities in SVG, we cannot but redefine what African liberation means in the context of the 21st century and redirect our focus. No longer is it enough to garb up in African robes, beat our drums, sing our songs and flaunt our African roots. We must be able to work out for ourselves than when we say African liberation in today’s world, what do we really mean? Is it but a meaningless slogan or must it touch on concrete reality?

Independence has come to the near-50 nations of Africa, who only half a century ago were mired in Europe and colonialism. Even those last bastions of colonial rule – Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau won their independence on the field of battle. White settler, and racist rule was ended in Zambabwe in 1980 and apartheid in South Africa was thrown out of the window one decade later. Today there are African Presidents and Prime Ministers in place all over the continent – from Egypt in the north to South Africa in the South, from Senegal in the West to Somalia in the East. “Black Man Rule” is in force in Africa, but what has it meant to the lives of the hundreds of millions of African people? How have their lives been enriched and enhanced and their societies transformed positively?

Contrary to what most western reports say, there have been many positive developments in African society, post-independence and some impressive achievements – in education, health and in improving the economy. But Africa is still plagued by widespread poverty, hunger and misery. Some of the blame for this lies in the stranglehold of imperialist control through multinational corporations of Africa’s vast natural resources and the influence on its development choices by western-led multilateral agencies.

Yet this must not blind us to the fact that African leadership is also partly to blame. No other continent continues to be torn apart by wars, led by its own people against their brothers and sisters, as greed and corruption take the place of the noble aims of freedom and democracy once proclaimed proudly. The tragedy of today’s Africa is also a product of African complicity in the rape and plunder by leaders of their own citizens and resources. This, for me, is the BIG SHAME of today’s Africa.

If, as we profess, we are indeed “proud of our ancestry” (to quote our own Becket, then we cannot ignore such human tragedy or absolve those traitors by laying all the blame at the feet of the white man. Of course he has responsibility from the original sin, but can “white man rule” explain the horror of Darfur, the genocide in Uganda and the Congo, the anarchy of Somalia?

In making such excuses, we fall into the trap of absolving those oppressors of our people like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Today, the hero of the African liberation struggle (though he was not the only prominent leader) has become the biggest obstacle to the progress of his people and the architect of his country’s own destruction. We all supported him in his post-independence thrust for economic empowerment of the African people, but this has proven to be a fig leaf under which his bloodthirsty dictatorship attempts to hide.

Mugabe had several achievements to his credit, including achieving one of the highest literacy rates in Africa – 90%. But side by side there is a life expectancy of a meager 37 years (34 for women), while Mugabe himself has reached octogenarian stage. Unemployment is 80%, malnutrition 45% of the population (figures from the World Health Organization). When Mugabe came to power the Zimbabwean dollar was worth more than the US dollar (US$1 = Z .80 in 1980). Today, a ridiculous inflation rate of 100,000 per cent means that one US dollar = 50 million Zimbabwean dollar.

It is against this backdrop that Zimbabweans voted for change nearly three weeks ago. In spite of terror tactics, Mugabe’s party lost the elections, but up until today the results for the Presidential poll have not been published. And African leaders are dithering and claiming that Zimbabwe is “Africa’s problem”. Well, we, too, in the Caribbean, are Africans. Just as Africa’s liberation from colonial rule was our problem, so today is Zimbabwe’s liberation. Our governments must speak out against this rape of democracy and destruction of the lives of millions. IT IS TIME FOR MUGABE TO GO!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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