Desmond Tutu and John Semtamu: A Disaster for Africa

Published on 30th June 2008

Arch.Desmond Tutu

First, he attacked Mr. Jacob Zuma, then President Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela and now is calling for the armed invasion of Zimbabwe to remove President Robert Mugabe.  What else will the former Archbishops of Johannesburg call for? The reinstatement of the Apartheid system?

In the BBC's Panorama Programme No More Mandelas shown on 11th February this year, the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the programme maker, Mr. Fergal Keane "I do not want our country to be ruled by someone (Mr. Zuma)  we would be ashamed of" referring to Mr. Zuma’s acquittal on charges of raping an HIV-positive woman.

Today, in his interview with the BBC's Sunday programme, Mr. Tutu attacked President Mbeki for not imposing a complete blockade of Zimbabwe to bring Robert Mugabe to his knees.  He also said that former President Mandela was wrong not to explicitly condemn Mugabe.  In the same programme, he also called on the "international" community to seriously consider removing Mr. Mugabe through an armed invasion.  He was supported by the Ugandan-born Archbishop of Dr John Sentamu

As expected, Mr. Tutu’s call for the invasion of Zimbabwe prompted the British Minister for Africa Lord Malloch-Brown to comment that it is best if these call are made by leading African vices, lest it is claimed that it is the former colonial masters who are planning to invade Africa!

Mr. Tutu either suffers from selective memory, or through old age his memory has become very short, which signal the on set of Alzheimer’s disease

Just six months ago in Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki who had lost the elections, changed the presidential poll figures, leading to the worst violence since the Mao Mao rebellion in the 1950s. 1500 men, women and children were slaughtered and over 600,000 were displaced!  Mr. Kibaki who won just 46 seats in parliament is today the executive president while his rival, Mr. Raila Odinga who won over 100 seats is a mere prime minister!

In April 2007, the outgoing Nigerian president Olesegun Obasango said the elections would be a mater of life and death, and rigged it in favour of his chosen successor Mr. Umaru Yar'Adua.  Former Vice-President and leading opposition Atiku Abubakar has disappeared into oblivion.

In October 2006, in Democratic Republic of Congo, the result of presidential election re-run was finally decided in bloody gun battles between the forces controlled by President Joseph Kabila and those of his rival professor Jean Pier Bemba.

In November 2005, three months before the elections in Uganda, president Museveni arrested his most formidable opponent Dr Kizza Besigye and charged him with rape, terrorism and treason.  Dr Besigye was nominated as a presidential candidate while in prison.  Three years on, Dr Besigye is still on trial for treason, punishable by death.

And during the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia, government forces shot and killed 140 opposition politicians and their supporters, and later locked up scores of journalists, students and at least 100 members of Parliament who had refused to take up their seats in protests against the rigged elections.

All these recent crises are forgotten for now, at least by the broadsheet press.  But the countries mentioned are sitting on timed bombs waiting to go off at their next parliamentary and presidential elections which will inevitably result in bloodshed far worse than what is happening in Zimbabwe today.

Rather than responding after every politically motivated crisis in Africa with condemnation, the UK needs to develop a long term strategy of putting Africa on the road to real democracy, lasting peace and sustainable development.

The first step is to recognise that liberal democracy which we are enjoying the UK today did not happen over-night, but it took centauries during which King Charles was beheaded and a series of laws including the 1832 and 1868 where introduced. Therefore, it is totally unrealistic to expect Africa, which is only 50 years and Zimbabwe which is just 28 years old to practice perfect western liberal democracy.

Secondly, it should be recognised that democracy cannot take root or flourish anywhere without effective democratic institutions. For that reason, the UK should put less emphasis on exporting western liberal democracy and focus on helping African countries to develop independent judiciaries, state security forces and civil services, and most of all, an electoral commission.

The call by Archbishop Tutu and John Sentamu for the invasion of Zimbabwe is totally ill-informed and unfortunate.  If the invasion of African countries that rig elections was to be taken to its logical conclusion, we would soon see not only the re-occupation of the entire continent of Africa but also the return of the Apartheid.  And Jacob Zuma would not take over as State President even after is resounding victory as ANC president at the party national conference at Kolokwane last December.

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