Why Cameron should meet #mugabe

via Why Cameron should meet Mugabe | World news | theguardian.com by Blessing-Miles Tendi 12 February 2014

‘Boycotting upcoming EU-Africa summit because of invitation to Zimbabwe leader would be both hypocritical and silly’

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe will participate in the European Union-Africa summit in Brussels at the beginning of April, as the EU’s travel ban does not prevent him for taking part in international gatherings.

This poses something of a problem for David Cameron, should he attend and potentially meet Mugabe, or should he boycott? The Foreign Office has released a statement saying that it disapproves of the EU invitation to Mugabe, adding that “it was agreed in return for the renewal of EU sanctions on him which are due to expire at the end of this month”.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown boycotted a similar EU-Africa meeting in Lisbon in 2007, because Mugabe was invited. Kate Hoey, the Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe has called on Cameron to emulate this example.

There is also likely to be pressure on Cameron from inside the Conservative government to boycott the summit. In 2007, current foreign secretary William Hague said that inviting Mugabe was “a shameful episode for Europe that President Mugabe is to be feted in Lisbon. Mugabe should not go home without being made to feel deeply uncomfortable and those who welcome him should not go home without feeling ashamed”.

But Cameron should resist pressure from in and outside government to stay away from the summit. It would be hypocritical to boycott because of Mugabe’s presence and yet say nothing about the participation of Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, who is accused by the International Criminal Court of orchestrating post election violence in 2007-8 in which more than 1,000 people were killed. Other likely attendees, such as Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos, Equatorial Guinea leader Teodoro Obiang, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh and Swaziland’s King Mwati III, to mention a few, are hardly paragons of human rights protection either. The more the UK unevenly interferes in the affairs of African states in the name of advancing human rights, the more it undermines the advance of the human rights doctrine in Africa.

Robert Mugabe and Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace during a state visit in 1994. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

It has been evident for some years now that part of the UK policy on Zimbabwe was based on the belief that Mugabe would lose in the 2013 elections. So engrained was this belief in the UK’s Harare mission that when Mugabe won, diplomats there were apparently thrown into a state of disarray. At the same time, the Zimbabwean opposition, which the UK favoured, is now demoralised, deeply divided over Morgan Tsvangirai’s suitability as leader and is financially bankrupt.

Another dimension to Britain’s stance towards on Zimbabwe has been the conviction that Mugabe will soon die, thereby resolving the diplomatic conflict. However, this belief and UK media speculation that the Zimbabwean president’s health is failing are misleading. I followed Mugabe closely throughout his 2013 presidential election campaign and found him to be healthier than is expected of a man who turns 90 years old this month. When Mugabe eventually leaves office, he will ensure that his successor is a politician from his Zanu-PF party, who will not reverse most of his policies. There will be more continuity than change, long after Mugabe has left power.

Moreover, Mugabe has not lost control of his party or the Zimbabwean military. He remains the ultimate authority, which has been evident during those occasions that I have observed him at close range or interviewed and interacted with the military generals that some UK commentators say now control Mugabe.

I have spent part of the past two years interviewing British politicians as part of my research, and despite public statements to the contrary, many in the UK government are tired of the conflict with Mugabe, which has undermined commercial, historical and cultural ties between Zimbabwe and the UK.

In 2012, New Labour’s former Africa minister, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, told me in an interview: “I always felt that if the Labour government ever got around to negotiating with Mugabe, it needed to get a Tory to do it. So when the Tories took office in 2010, I saw an opportunity for change in Britain’s relationship with Zimbabwe.” He said that Mugabe himself was also more open to negotiating with the Conservatives, and had told a colleague, privately, after Labour left the government, that “it looks like I can do business with Britain again”. Clearly, Mugabe is also fatigued by the conflict with Britain and seeks rapprochement.

Cameron must be pragmatic and attend the EU-Africa summit in April because it is an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate its commitment, as part of the EU, to genuine partnership and co-operation with Africa. Engaging Mugabe is also the only way the UK can have constructive influence in Zimbabwe and bring to an end a detrimental diplomatic conflict which many politicians on both sides no longer have the stomach for.

Blessing-Miles Tendi teaches African politics in the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development and is the author of Making History in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: Politics, Intellectuals and the Media

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27 comments on “Why Cameron should meet #mugabe
  1. Ruramai says:

    Mugabe no longer participates in any conference. He simply sleeps throughout the proceedings. It’s laughable that Cameron would consider missing it over someone who no longer adds value.

  2. One brave man makes a majority hopefully Cameron is such a brave man to stand up to Europe

  3. Chessplayer says:

    No need to delve on this issue…Mugabe is simply an irrelevant senile Dictator when it comes to these meetings. Cameroon has got his hands full with mother nature wrecking havoc at home.

  4. Johnson@yahoo.com says:

    Mr Blessing Tendi whatever name. I find it baffling to find a person of you purported intellect being involved in immanent reasonining. If teodoro Obiang Nguema, Dos Santos and Uhuru are gonna be involved in the forthcoming EU summit how can two wrongs make a right. That is what we call immanent justice. We need te rule of law in Zimbabwe. besides the obvious have handedness of the repressive state machinery and the hegemonic state apparatus we have a serious economic condrum where people beg while they are blasting money which is enough to run the economy of this nation and a half. Remember this is just the tip of a gargantuan iceberg. The ones exposed are just the small fish. That’s why the big fish are now fidgetting. You havent seen anything yet muzaya.

    • reason says:

      You failed to understand the writer’s argument, Mugabe is never wanted at the ICC, what the writer deliberately left is that, the British govt went wrong for demonizing a leader who was bravely correcting the colonial injustice, by embarking on a land reform. Uhuru is facing criminal charges in a court of law and Mugabe is not. The whole diplomatic gaffe between Europe and Zimbabwe speaks
      of large volumes about how the white man undermines an African. Mugabe has stood to those stupid and ill conceived ideas that Africans are inferior to their former slave Masters and of cause we have our own puppets who still lick the white bosom, but not the majority of Zimbabweans and their dear leader.

      • Tom says:

        Mugabe will fly in there with 100 yes men, all with 20k US Dollars to spend on duty free. He will stand up like a spoiled child and say, without a hint of irony, that the “west” are murdering and stealing from Zim every day. Everybody will ignore him as usual, someone will change his nappy, he will fall asleep, and then Africa and the EU will get down to business while Zimbabwe continues falling down the hole Mugabe has dug.

        When he returns to Zim, the Herald will “report” how the EU “quivered with fear” and how he received a “standing ovation” every time he pops his dentures out.

        Your description of him as the “dear leader” is just hilarious, it beautifully illustrates your mindset, and shows that your inferiority complex is the least of your problems.

  5. Charles Chamunorwa says:

    Mugabe’s presence to the EU/Africa summit will not add any value to anyone, let alone Zimbabwe besides Mugabe himself who will add another $500,000.00 to his bank account. The UK government is free to associate with any government in Africa whether Uhuru Kinyata’s or Ian Kama’s. We can not (whether we meet UK government officials in dark corners) influence UK goverment policy. The UK is a sovereignty and they chart their on foreign policy which is not based on whether somebody is going to die or not and furthermore one has to be a medical personnel to give an informed opinion about somebody’s health irrespective of where you meet that person be it in church, rally, Singapore etc

  6. nyakureva says:

    Cameron has nothing to worry about. Mugabe will be seeing Tony Blair during the whole summit! But hope that for the time he will be awake (Mugabe)he will be able to articulate the interest of the people of Zimbabwe and not abuse the west and america

  7. stobbs says:

    ,,,,,the situation in zimbabwe does not need intellects anymore its so bread and butter that the ordinary unschooled person can make an assessment of it in one sentence,,,,,these so called intellectuals want to try and make plain murder and theft sound sophiticated,,,,,,blessing you are educated yes,,,but you sound like an idiot in this article of yours in defence of something that is wrong,,i have no kind words for you,,,obviously you remain aloof of the real situation in zimbabwe,,,,,shame on you,,,you dunce

  8. machakachaka says:

    Hasn’t Cameron been always silly?

  9. munzwa says:

    Cameron should go, he has business to deal with the rest of the EU, He doesn’t have to give any recognition to Mugabe, just be honest and stand up for those long sort after British principles that the world saw during the world wars..tell Mugabe he is no longer relevant, has done his bit for history and now must get out of the way of progress…

  10. Nzou says:

    Mugabe craves for legitimacy and ZBC is already celebrting the invitation as endorsement. A boycott over his presence is activism at the highest level and it hurts him big time.

  11. LUCY says:

    Nhamo yeumwe hairambirwe sadza. Isu hatingarwire kuti ah! nekuti dzimwe mbavha dziri kuenda ku summit wani saka he -hee e yedu mbavha yarambidzirwei kuendawo… Idzo nyika dzine mbavha nemhondi dzadzo ngadzizvimiririre. Iyi harahwa yedu inongorotomoka mumisangano ichisiya kuaddresa the real problems kana yadzoka kumba yonyora tsamba kuvanhu vayakatuka nekurotomokera kuti hee hee-e veduwe ndipeiwo mari vanhu vangu vauende kuchikoro…better igare pamba isaende ikoko.

  12. One of David Cameron’s school mate’s said “I wouldn’t trust him with my son’s pocket money” so he might go.

  13. Khaya'bonina says:

    Mugabe had been on the faulty side for too long abusing the rights of Zimbabweans , nobody stood up and confronted him , he had been on top of the westerns telling them whatever he likes , the westerns never challeged him on his attack apart from maintaining the sanctions which have never worked , the bottom line is that the westerns are not united on the issue of Mugabe , how did they invite Mugabe simple because of the threats from African leaders to boycott the summit meeting .

    Does this animal called Cameroon have love for the Zimbabweans , does this animal called Cameroon knows that Mugabe is not Zimbabwe himself , does this Cameroon understands that these sanctions have never affected Mugabe but indirectly affected all the Zimbabweans . Ian Smith confronted Mugabe and agreed on a majority rule , Ian Smith died being a citzen of Zimbabwe because he had the courage to confront Mugabe for discussions , so whats wrong with Cameroon ???? He must go to hell , he is not britain himself , for him to avoid Mugabe doesn’t assist us , does it ???? We need the world more than they need us , our situation is so bad , people like Cameroon instead of assisting us they continue making us fools , he must stay at his country but if he is man enough he must go and face Mugabe thats it .

    • Nkiwane (M'kiwa) says:

      Valid point. The world does not care about Zimbabwe. Sad but true. We have no oil or other strategic resources that can’t be sourced in dozens of other countries.

      I’d say that if Robber Gay-briel Murderinggarbage goes, the whole EU should just cancel the conference. It’s a waste of time anyway. The presence of those other dictators proves that.

  14. Mthwakazi says:

    Shona ngukurahundi Mugabe stinks gukurahundism through and through. David Cameron should stay far from that two-legged dark as midnight skinned creature!!

  15. Khaya'bonina says:

    @Mthwakazi , then Cameroon is avoiding the problem , let him face Mugabe and resolve issues , Cameroon is a weak link and a coward .

    • shonie says:

      Mugabe is simply hated for Land Reform. Nothing else. don’t cheat us. Let the British stay in their cold land

    • Mthwakazi says:

      Khaya
      Resolve the problem, what problem? Cameron does not have a problem, its the gukurahundi who has a problem.

      The British economy is doing relatively well; British people are not starving; social services are functioning; those who want to get rich are getting richer; there are no Brish refugees in foreign lands, so what problem are you talking about.

      There is no British politician who is keen on visiting Zimbabwe; its is the gukurahundi who are dying to set foot on British soil – thats why they are crying everyday about gukurahundi sanctions.

      Cameron does not need that 90-year old useless Shona gukurahundi – they have managed without him for over a decade now!!

  16. Mena Bona says:

    An old saying goes something like this, ” the only requirement for tyrants to triumph is for good men to do nothing” Let Cameron drink tea with Mugabe because after all the Brits imposed this monster on Zimbabwe in the first place, then looked the other way while he slaughtered thousands a few years later. Or, just maybe, they will finally grow some balls but I am not holding my breath.

    • Nkiwane (M'kiwa) says:

      True, but they will continue doing nothing despite what we think. We want them to stand up to him but I don’t think they will.

      Lets vote who says they will cave in and go. I do!

  17. zombie says:

    Have you ever hear of the word genocide?
    Do you know what it means?

  18. cde mabhunu says:

    nhai basa ndingariwana kupi. Chero rese rese.

  19. Joe says:

    I do not expect anything from the British I am afraid nor any other leader. None have the testicular fortitude to stand up to rubbish like Mugabe. Maybe if Thatcher were alive and in power at the time he started misbehaving. Mugabe would have thought twice before destroying Zimbabwe. Remember the Falklands. We now have Mujuru in essence saying it’s ok to loot. Bloody unbelievable.

  20. farai says:

    The United Kingdom has never boycotted the United Nations Summit on account of the presence of Mugabe. What would a boycott achieve this time? There are 48 other countries that the UK can pursue for business opportunities. They don’t have to engage Zimbabwe if they genuinely feel repulsed by it’s presence. The UK is attending the summit to advance it’s economic interest not to promote the interest of those against the government of Zimbabwe. Team Britain will focus on grabbing mineral resource and commercial opportunities that have the potential to sustain it’s economy. Sanctions that were imposed on Zimbabwe have lost their relevance as a foreign policy tool to aid an incompetent opposition that has failed, despite being gifted a huge advantage, to effect regime change. The UK might elect to use a different strategy to achieve the same objective, one that does not involve sanctions. David Cameroon is likely to attend, that should not be celebrated as a change in policy but correctly viewed as a realigament of forces to intensify the fight. The British stiff upper lip is a perfection of their tenacious resolve to pursue their interests with a singular focus. They are most dangerous after a set-back. It would be a fatal mistake for Zimbabwe to assume the British will ever retreat. If they do it’s only to fight another day. Team Zimbabwe is best advised to be very wary, they are dealing with a ruthless and formidable adversary, one who will neither forget nor forgive the humiliation that the land reform visited on the former Great Britain.

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