Mugabe & Zenawi: Western Media And the ‘Politics of Genocide’ – By Stephen Gowans, The Herald (Harare)

August 15th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

WHEN African scholar Mahmoud Mandani looks at the slaughter and displacement of civilians in Darfur he notices something odd. (more…)

WHEN African scholar Mahmoud Mandani looks at the slaughter and displacement of civilians in Darfur he notices something odd.

The mass death of civilians in Darfur has been called genocide, but slaughters of civilians of similar magnitude in Iraq and on a larger scale in Congo have not. According to the World Food Programme, about 200 000 civilians have died in Darfur, 80 percent from starvation and disease, and 20 percent from violence. Close to 700 000 have been displaced.

This, the U.S. government, calls genocide. But 600 000 Iraqis have died since 2003 as a result of violence related to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and 3,7 million have either fled to neighbouring countries or are internally displaced.

“I read about all sorts of violence against civilians,” says Mamdani, “and there are two places that I read about – one is Iraq, and one is Darfur … And I’m struck by the fact that the largest political movement against mass violence on U.S. campuses is on Darfur and not on Iraq.”

If Darfur is modest in comparison to Iraq, both are pip-squeaks compared to Congo. There, some four million civilians have been slaughtered over several years, largely as a result of intervention by U.S. proxies, Uganda and Rwanda. In Somalia, 460 000 civilians have been displaced by fighting sparked by a U.S.-backed and assisted invasion by Ethiopia.

That invasion was aimed at ousting the popularly-backed Islamic Courts Union, which had brought a measure of stability to Somalia.

“In the six months the Islamic courts (governed Somalia), less than 20 people lost their lives through violence. Now, that many die in 10 minutes,” observes Hussein Adow, a Mogadishu businessman.

Why is there a Save Darfur Campaign, but no Save Congo Campaign and no Save Somalia Campaign? Mamdani says that people in the West don’t react to the mass slaughter of civilians but to the labels their governments and media attach to them.

“Genocide is being instrumentalised by … the United States,” he explains. “It is being instrumentalised in a way that mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends or its proxies are not being named as genocide.”

Mandani calls this “the politics of naming”.

The politics of naming isn’t limited to the question of which slaughters are named genocide and which aren’t. It applies too to the question of which regimes are called dictatorial, repressive and brutal (and so must be changed), and which are not (and so should be left in peace.)

Take the case of Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Tons of printer’s ink have been consumed by Western newspapers denouncing Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe. According to the Western narrative, he is as a dictator who steals elections, represses the opposition and cracks heads to stay in power.

But Mugabe’s Government, in view of concerted efforts from outside and within to overthrow it, is remarkably restrained.

Archbishop Pius Ncube, one of the Government’s most vociferous critics, recently called on Zimbabwe’s former colonial master, Britain, to remove Mugabe through military means.

“We should do it ourselves,” he added, “but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.”

(Imagine Noam Chomsky calling for a coalition of Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea to invade the US to force Washington to end its occupation of Iraq. “I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing,” he might say, “but the people are not ready.” How long would it be before Chomsky was hustled off to jail?)

Ncube isn’t the first Government opponent to threaten a campaign of violence to oust Mugabe. And yet Ncube and others remain at liberty to call for sanctions, outside military intervention and insurrection to depose the government.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, is a cipher. It receives little coverage from the Western media, and even less attention from people who routinely denounce the Sudanese and Zimbabwean governments from the left. That’s odd, for the Ethiopian government has all the flaws the Zimbabwean Government is said to have that arouse so much moral indignation. Ethiopia “jails it citizens without reason or trial, tortures many of them, and habitually violates its own laws.

“The government was . . . severely criticised for a 2005 crackdown in which tens of thousands of opposition members were jailed and nearly 200 people killed after elections in which the opposition made major gains.

“Ethiopian officials . . . have expelled many foreign journalists and representatives of human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.” Disputed elections, crackdowns on the opposition, expulsion of journalists: this resembles the charge sheet against Mugabe.

So why isn’t Zenawi as thoroughly excoriated as Mugabe is? A July 9 Reuters’ report says, “Ethiopian prosecutors demanded the death penalty for 38 opposition officials convicted of trying to overthrow the government, treason and inciting violence.

The officials were convicted last month of charges relating to violent protests over disputed elections in 2005 that the opposition says were rigged.

“Nearly 200 people were killed in clashes between protestors and security forces over the vote. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said he regretted the post-poll violence, but blamed it on opportunistic rioters and an opposition conspiracy to topple him by force.”

I read the Reuters’ article to a friend, but replaced Ethiopia with Zimbabwe and Zenawi with Mugabe. There seemed nothing out of the ordinary to her. And indeed, it’s likely that most people in the West would not have detected the deception. It meshes with the Western narrative on Zimbabwe.

If you’ve been reading Western Press accounts, you would expect Mugabe to round up the opposition (whose leaders have long threatened the violent overthrow of the Government), charge them with treason, and seek their execution.

But he hasn’t.

Had he, a storm of indignation would have swept the Western world. Yet Zenawi does the same, and no politician works himself up into high moral dudgeon, no calls are made for sanctions or Western military intervention, and no emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is convoked.

Just a solitary Reuters’ dispatch.


The answer is that Ethiopia is fully within Washington’s orbit, acting as a reliable proxy enforcing US geopolitical interests in the resource-rich Horn of Africa.

Zimbabwe, by contrast, pursues the opposite tact, implementing policies that seek to free itself from Western domination and to frustrate US imperial designs on the continent.

Zimbabwe indigenises its agriculture and economy; Ethiopia intervenes militarily in Somalia at the behest of Washington, to restore a US-puppet government.

Weeks before Ethiopia invaded Somalia, U.S. General John P. Abizaid flew to Addis Ababa to arrange for Zenawi to unleash the U.S.-trained Ethiopian military on Somalia. Washington even went so far as to shelter Ethiopia, whose military relies on equipment made in North Korea, from penalty for violating UN-sanctions against North Korean arms sales.

Ethiopia needed to import replacement parts from North Korea if the invasion was to go ahead without a hitch. Washington, which championed the sanctions, said “go ahead”.

Numberless people are being manipulated by Western governments and media, their outrage harnessed to achieve geopolitical goals that have nothing whatever to do with human rights and democracy, and everything to do with the question of who gets to control the oil spigot, mining concessions and vast tracts of fertile land.

Mamdani calls those caught up in the Save Darfur Campaign innocents. The same could be said of those caught up in the dump Mugabe campaign. –

Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist based in Ottawa.

  1. Dila
    | #1

    Esayas afewrkii is ofcourse like Gandi !!!
    good luck abo gida .

  2. Ethiopian
    | #2

    Hi! Tigist,

    You are right, meles is evil and all!!, but my biggest worry is, is our country going to be safe for the coming millenium?,…. Do you think our CUD will take meles’s place peacefully, with no war?, what i mean is there are diffrent factors now, from those who actually believes that they are not ethiopians but wants part of ethiopia, and uses english language as their, own, which is refering to OLF, and off course, the ARBEGNOCH GENEBAR, AND THE OGADEN LIBERATION. all have got ruthless armies like woyane, but not CUD. So how is this going to work?. Happy the fact that meles will go, but then will peace be there, or is it going to be another RWANDA?,

    God Bless Ethiopia and the World

  3. Merto
    | #3

    This is a mafia group (TPLF) the west (anti Africa) planted in Ethiopia. West assisted them from Sudan and after many years they still are doing it. Mugabe is working for his people. meles is working against the people. This is the reason why west is pro meles and against Mugabe. If you are against Africa (Black) you are their hero and they will give you what you want. This is their dirty philosophy. They don’t want to see Africa to become the place of peace and development.

    But their long time past crime against Africa (the Africans) is slowly but surly getting over. The reason to slavery, colonialism, cold war or other conflicts was/is Economy. They succeed it for 500 years at the expense of AFRICA. Right now this evil behaviour is getting to dead end. AFRICA IS WELCOMING with open arm and mind china, India, Japan, Russia and others for mutual benefit. The sun is rising from the east all over Africa while it is getting down and darkness is overshadowing over the west. Creating civil war or appointing puppet regimes to stop development in Africa is over despite they are doing still as the last attempt. Their partial treatment towards meles who is against the nation and Mugabe who is trying to correct the mistake made by colonizers in order to give better life to the people is their way how to deal with Africa (to stop development and good life there).

    Africa must learn from the past relationship with west and need to have a mutual benefit relationship with china, India, Russia, Japan and other nations. This is the only way Africa has to do. The brutal and one-sided master and slave relationship with west need to finish today. Individuals like meles is their agent to destroy Africa while like Mugabes are the Africans agent. That is way they hate him while embracing meles who is against his own for their sake.

  4. Ethiopian
    | #4

    This is for: Merto

    Man! so according to you, CHINA RUSSIA AND INDIA, IS african frinends?, so where was and is the AID coming from?, you know for sure not from those countries. And the other thing is i don’t know where you are based but, if, i know for sure you ain’t in Russia either. China is there for their economical benefit, and i’m sure you have seen what, Russia did, during The DERG regime. The russians didn’t even care when they exchange, the food money for weapon. As soon as the money runs out, they were the first ones to RUN. Africa haven’t got to learn from the relatinonship with the west, or east. What Africa will need to learn is to love itself. And hope that a president like yourself will never come to power, which is going to take us back only few million years, and start another problem. Forget the West, can you clearly understand what the basic issues are in our country?. CUD sounds good, but i don’t know them, and if history repeats itself, and if this people are worse than the present government, GOD help us.

  5. zalalm
  6. zalalm
    | #6

    this good palce to go if you will go to ethiopia 2000
    god job

  7. Merto
    | #7

    Ethiopian boy:

    Why is Aid there the first place in Africa where natural resources are abandoned and natural circumstances to work and live are suitable comparing to any part of the world? The reason to this goes back from slavery and colonialism. Why AID is not eliminated despite we are hearing about it for generations? You are stupid even to know the answer about.

    Why we have to be given aid while we Ethiopians and the whole Africa have lots of resources started from 365 days a year sunshine. We don’t need to use heating in winter or to stop working because of Snow and cold weather as the west are facing. we don’t need additional costs to fight the nature. It is shame and unacceptable when we get assistance at that matter from anyone while our Africa could be more than enough for every Africans.

    Witnessing our leaders begging from west for basic assistances while the centre to existence (the sun) is on our side, is a very hurting phenomenon. They even feel proud when they get Aid or loan from others rather than be ashamed of it and work to be enough for ourselves.
    They are planning to clean beggars from our cities for begging their own people. Yet, instutionally the so called govt is begging strangers(the west) and when they get it they are happy about. Why don’t they stop begging in a organised way others in the name of the people to take it for their personal benefit before blaming individual beggars in our cities and towns?

    What we are doing is that those who can kill and destroy our Africa gets power with west assistance, and the competent and educated have to flee to the west to lose their knowledge and to be treated as worthless there. Shame on you, me and all Africans when immigrating to west which is by nature cold and ice from the naturally blessed Africa where the sun is always there and the weather is suitable to work and live.

    The west likes to keep Africa under AID microscope in order they always be welcomed there for their advantage. It is a master and slave relationship. If the slave is free, the master will not be master any more. You don’t get it. But they get it well that china, India, Russia and other emerging nations going to be their big and unavoidable obstacles against their one sided interest in Africa. Believe me, the war between them on one side and china, India, Russia and others on the other is already has begun in a cold war style that would reach one of the hot wars the world ever witnessed.
    The reason is pure economic reason. Cheap raw materials, cheap labour and damping market to their products going to be the reason for the coming conflict. No other than Africa will be targeted as we Africans are behaving like animals after we have been treated by slave masters and colonizers for many years as cheap mass products rather than human beings.
    Remember, Slaves were treated as objects and they became the first mass product the world traded internationally. Coffee, cotton and sugar were the next mass products created by slave for free.
    The point i’m trying to make is that Africa and Africans are paid sacrifices to the development of to days world. In order to continue this way, they need to keep us weak and poor and give aid the same way the slaves were getting to feed in order to keep them alive the same way as pigs and less than dogs. slave was a speaking object teh same as some toys today. people are so bad they can do so many horiable things against others when they get them weak and poor.

  8. Tilahun
    | #8

    Solution for TPLF/EPRDF bandies

    HR2003= Triple hydrogen bomb to blast Tyranny, Corruption And Incompetence all at once.I can understand why you (TPLF/EPRDF bandies) are scared but can’t help you boom boom boom !!! is my move. Ethiopia shall see your hideous ways buried forever.

  9. Ethiopian
    | #9


    what are you saying? are you saying that, it’s better not to get help at the most desperate times?. Aid is there because there are ignorant people like you who wants to run before even walking. Whay are you saying west that west this, you don’t even like one of your own, and you expect west or any other nation to care?, you must be kidding me. First of all, get this so much -ve out of you and stop talking about past mistakes, that’s not the way forward, thick head. But obviously, this one ain’t getting in either. you want poverty to go from Ethio, then maybe, peace is the first step. Talking about natural resources, where the heck do you live by the way?. who buy’s the products cheap from our farmers?, yea! our own brothers like Merto , buy’s it and con’s the poor farmers. So start accusing one of our own and eliminate those, rodents first and go to the reciving end. Lets Clean our house first. Talking about Slavery, you probably have read a book or two, and you think you know it all?!!, lil man, get a life or get a pet but you for sure need to buy a one way ticket from the kooko land to the real world. Look everywhere in Africa, who is the killer? who?. White rebels? NO! no!no!, your own brothers, all of them Merto’s with AK47′s provided by your idea of so called friends, with the food money.

    And what called WAR are talk’n about?, Russia, can not support their own soldires, so US government is paying their salaries, do you know that?, china is dead without US the west their biggest consumers, about 85-90% their depends on them. And India, …do i need to say more. If the West really, takes all their production job and take back their their call center’s back, that’s it for india. As it is they are struggling so, belive me they will take side with the west. Merto, please come back to this planet,…you are funny …good comedy work though.

  10. Merto
    | #10

    Ethiopian boy,

    First I will like to wash your backward and dirty head about Russia. You are at least 12-15 years behind in Russia during the yelsin era who is dead. I give you one fresh example about Russia. In 2006, Russia has got more than 250 billion US surpluses than the budget they had been planed to use it. Almost all Europe and other nations worldwide are dependent on Russian raw materials started from gas, oil and the likes. Yet, you stupid telling us that US is financing Russia. China has more than 1.1 trillion dollar surplus in circulation worldwide. One out of three IT specials worldwide is an Indian origin. India has more than 300 million middle class citizens. More than 500 million Indians are well educated. China, India and Russia have more than 1/3 of world population. Why don’t you learn, you bastard.

    We were talking about Aid that makes you happy being recipients. But you are talking blah blah about our farmers. What do you know about our farmers? Do you know how our farmers are working, producing, consuming, living and associating? I don’t thick so. You could be one of those lazy and stupid growing in impoverished towns and cities while knows nothing about our farming communities yet talking about because of they have heard or read about farming. Do you know what kind of landscape, soil, and seeds and in which week/; month/season and the likes have to match to produce agricultural products? There are thousands of questions I can ask you about. But judging you from your previous writing, you are stupid and you know nothing about.

    The weakness we have and your way of life (AID) is there because of our whole farming sector is working very badly. Lack of efficiency, poor production of quantity and quality, bad distribution (marketing) and unwise consumptions are among the many weakness our farming sector is suffering from.
    I have to stop here. Because you are too confused and you think you know something but you know nothing about anything. If you have some quality, steak to one point. That was about AID the Africans are getting from west is benefiting or hurting the Africans. Most Bridges, roads, power plants, factories and other development activities in Africa are built either by China, Japan, India, Russia or other nations not by west.

    Again, when I say about china, India, Russia and other nations I’m not saying only about today, I’m saying about tomorrow and after that. The trend we see from these and other emerging nations is unstoppable. Civilization/development dies at one place because somewhere another civilization/development get roots. What we see today about the future is this phenomenon because of these emerging nations.

    Don’t be happy when you get biscuits, expired /dangerous medicines, second had cloths or any other worthless items in the form of AID. Ask them to give you AID to use it for long-term development activities that you will be enough for yourself in the long run.

  11. Ethiopian
    | #11


    Look at lil man, why are you mad?

    Indian people educated, russian resources are so big that the whole Europe depends on it. so why are russinas flooding to other countries o work illegally, if they are so rich?, have ever seen an american working illegaly in any other country, i mean if the person has got your kind of menatlity, then yes! because he will be tooooo way dame to undersatnd the diffrence between figures and reality,…Is bill gate an indian man?. However good they are in education, that don’t mean nothing, unless they start inventing!!. Oh! sorry , and the you wouldn’t understand this!. What would happen if the aid stops and you been ask to get on cahnge africa? where would you start?.

    And about all the bridges and whatever…Chinese built those things for free haven’t they?, and the russians too,…..i only know Indian teachers, never heard of that. But again from your kooko land, you might be able to see quite few demo’s about virtual life, so maybe. I can’t comment on that, i’ve never been to your planet, sorry!. Everthing that comes out, is coming you ass not your head. You are woyane , and you are defn, and for sure going. Sorry man you are the weakest link,

    And yea! About AID, if you say these countries have got this much, how come they do’t things for free. Russia this russia that, they can’t even pay their soldires salary, properly, and you’re talking about shit. According to you they should have been the capital of the world at some point in the past! but never. I mean in the real world, maybe in kooko, they were or are. Forget the fact that, they will help willingly without getting paid for it. But how long do you think you can stand on Moscow street, before someone gets to you and punch the light out off your kooko head just for being diffrent, even if you are a woyane they still will you know. So becareful out there! he! he! he!. For this people we are not human beings as yet. But how are the russinas in kooko, are thy cool? tell them HI!.

    hey Kooko!, my last point why are we arguing about Russia **** and **** who cares. Why don’t you give me a civil answer to how we are going learn to love each other?, that’s where it starts, how are we going to start to think as one nation?, how are we going to start to learn to help each other? how are going to start to kick grid out of the whole continen.

    I just said you are a woyane to wind you up! but you are cool though, i like your argument points, but you are so socialist.

    See the way i see it, if totally pull off the plug on AID, the poor will suffer, it has to be done slowly. And fighting the west will never be a good thing, agagin the people will suffer. You have seen what happens to those countries who has tried it? after years and years of fighting, they will give in. So let’s not take that road. But good luck. Are you going to ethio for the AMETBEALE?

    why are you calling me a boy? anyway?

    it can be said she is ETHIOPIAN you know, not only he is…….

    May peace be with you my brother.



    | #12


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