The world must treat Mugabe and Zenawi on equal terms – By Abdulahi Ahmednasir

June 15th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Two countries in Africa are in the news for similar reasons but elicit different global reaction. Zimbabwe under Mr Robert Mugabe is rightly being condemned throughout the world for his rein of terror. The world, rightly so, is singing from the same hymnbook.

Ethiopia is also in the news for two reasons. For the umpteenth time, it is making rounds with its traditional begging bowl. (more…)

Two countries in Africa are in the news for similar reasons but elicit different global reaction. Zimbabwe under Mr Robert Mugabe is rightly being condemned throughout the world for his rein of terror. The world, rightly so, is singing from the same hymnbook.

Ethiopia is also in the news for two reasons. For the umpteenth time, it is making rounds with its traditional begging bowl. Despite the heart-wrenching images we see every time this bowl does the rounds, the world is so accustomed to this ritual, that one felt some intimacy with this bowl. There is such a familiarity with this bowl that it seems to have become a familiar item of the kitchenware.

The second reason Ethiopia is on the news is due to a damning report released by the respected Human Rights Watch accusing the Ethiopian government of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In the 130-page report, Human Rights Watch makes grave allegations on how Ethiopian troops kill, burn and rape thousands of innocent civilians in its Somali-inhabited region. Comparisons are made to the humanitarian crisis created by the regime of Mr Hassan El-Bashir in the Darfur Region of Sudan. But Unlike Darfur, not one word of condemnation has been uttered in Washington, Brussels or an African capital. As a matter of fact the State Department denied Ethiopia is guilty of the crimes alleged in the report.

Africa and the world see the unfolding events in Zimbabwe as a humanitarian disaster. Zimbabwe is being held hostage by an aging, delusional dictator hell-bent on committing unimaginable atrocities to stay in power. Like all suicidal blackmailers his terms for negotiating an end of his hostage-taking drama are unacceptable. His threat to destroy an entire country unless he is allowed to rule in perpetuity is unviable and unacceptable. With the runoff between Mugabe and Mr Morgan Tsvangirai two weeks away, Mugabe’s blackmail must be confronted by the world. The hostages he is holding must be freed unconditionally by ensuring that the runoff is free and fair. The emerging scenario of whether the military has grabbed power further complicates the grim reality facing Zimbabwe. It is no longer certain whether Mugabe exercises executive control over the country. An army junta seems to be in control with defacto power.

Sixty supporters of the opposition have been killed in the last two weeks alone and many have been tortured, beaten and unlawfully harassed and arrested. Opposition to the government is a criminal offence.

This week, Ethiopia launched an urgent appeal to international donors for more than US$300 million worth of emergency food aid. The problem of Ethiopia being unable to feed its citizens is not new. That is a historic cycle in which the world rushes to help a man-made tragedy every ten years or so. The world is accustomed to this sovereign deficit. What makes this aid appeal tragic is that Ethiopia, under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, has made tremendous economic progress since the early 1990s. The economy of the country in terms of agricultural growth, tourism, industrialisation and infrastructural development has been phenomenal.

So where did things go wrong?

Ethiopia and Zenawi lost the plot during the second term of America’s President Mr George Bush. Zenawi overenthusiastically subscribed to Bush’s war on terror, on the back of some financial promise and military aid. He takes great pride to being assigned the belittling title of America’s stooge in the Horn of Africa.

Four years ago Ethiopia, being one of the poorest countries in the world, spent a staggering US$2 billion on military hardware. The Bush administration had to make a special authorisation for Ethiopia to buy arms from North Korea, which was under American sanction due its nuclear programme. Immediately thereafter and on the instruction of Washington, Zenawi needlessly invaded Somalia. It is quite obvious that Somalia for the foreseeable future does not pose a military threat to Ethiopia no matter Zenawi’s rationalisation for the invasion. Despite America underwriting the cost of Somalia’s invasion and occupation, it is estimated that Ethiopia still spends about one to two million dollars a day in Somalia. That is a lot of money for a country that cannot feed its citizens. This reckless military expenditure and escapades, coupled with the human rights atrocities the regime is undertaking, makes Ethiopia a ripe candidate for an international audit.

Regimes like that Mugabe and Zenawi are vile in many aspects. Mugabe is rightly detested by the world. The atrocities he had committed have been condemned universally and are challenged daily. His suffocating grip over the country is loosening and his imminent demise proclaimed.

Africa must rise to the occasion and demand that Zimbabwe holds free and fair elections. Zenawi must also be treated like Mugabe, his temporal assignments for Washington notwithstanding.

If the rest of the world wants Africa to grow and progress in terms of human rights respect, democratisation and respect for the rule of law, the hypocrisy that is the defining feature of their policies towards Africa, must change. The idea of turning a blind eye whenever a poodle of the West wrecks havoc against his countrymen and the West literally running a mock when a vile figurehead like Mugabe does the same must end.

The games of the Cold War when politics gloated over the human rights and democratisation of African were the order of the day, should never be replayed in African. Human rights have universal appeal, and its breach anywhere must be condemned everywhere. The fragile institution of the state will be wrecked and human rights protection flouted if the West regards the breach of those rights acceptable in one country and unacceptable in another.

—The writer ( is a lawyer and former Law Society of Kenya chairman.

  1. Aha!
    | #1

    It realy does not matter how the western democracies treat these two leaders from the perspective of their own self interest. From my own perspective what matters is the splintered approach of the elites has dampened the silent revolution for freedom, economic security, food security, accountable government, and sovergneity for Ethiopia and Ethiopians, in the hearts and minds of the majority of Ethiopians from external and internal influences/forces. It has been dampened because the various faction are fighting for their own self interest rather, rather than the interest of the majority. Therfore, these opposition forces must come together, to advance the common objectives by setting asside their political difference, animosity to restore Ethiopia and Ethiopians to a free and domocratic nation, to serve as a beacon for Africa as it once was.

    From among the different faction one of them might win the election if their platform is broad enough and inclusive, rather ethnic or camoflaging the genuine Kinijit party as their own, like Ginbot 7, and UDJP.

  2. Aselefu
    | #2

    It is evident that the author of this article is either a non-ethiopian or one who has no clue as how Ethiopians behave.
    The Ethiopian army is one of the most disciplined army on earth. Rape, looting… not in the fabric of Ethiopians.
    Why is that all of a sudden Ogaden became an issue? Who is fabricating all these lies? Who benefits with a weak Ethiopia? Which country has most to gain with Ethiopia in flames? Which country anti ethiopian elements for decades? Who supported Eritrea’s madmen? Who supported the islamic court?
    Egypt has more to gain. A time will come when Ethiopia and Egypt will faceoff until then egyptians resort to their dirty proxy wars. They call themselves Muslims, ae they true believers? Doesnt their religion forbid waging war on ethiopia?
    The begging bowl of Cairo is bigger than all african countries collectively. How come All of a sudden the entire horn of africa is suffering from amnesia.
    Ethiopians must unite to rub off this egyptian menace. Eritrea and somalia are all victims of Egypt. They just dont know it just like abused children who will eventually grow up one day and realize what their Egyptian parentshave done to them by.

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