Andrew Meldrum in Pretoria and Agencies in Harare
Saturday April 22, 2006
Zimbabwe's dispossessed white farmers have been invited to lease farms back
from the government, a tacit admission of the failure of Robert Mugabe's
The Commercial Farmer's Union (CFU) said the government had called for
applications to run farms under a new policy of granting 99-year leases.
Farmers have sent in more than 200 applications.
If the applications are granted, it would be a reversal of Mr Mugabe's vows
not to return land to white farmers. Didymus Mutasa, the security minister,
who also holds the land reform portfolio, said this week that the country's
land belonged to black people and "there is definitely no going back on our
policy on land".
Since 2000 the Mugabe government has taken over more than 4,000 white-owned
commercial farms in often violent seizures. Some of the land was
redistributed to poor black supporters of the government, but many farms
went to cabinet ministers, army officers, judges and others with ties to the
ruling Zanu-PF party.
Few of the new farmers have produced good harvests, because of shortages of
seeds and fertiliser and lack of expertise. Mr Mugabe admitted last year
that only 40% of the seized land was under cultivation. As a result,
Zimbabwe has suffered widespread food shortages and has been dependent upon
international food aid for four consecutive years. The economy has
contracted by 40% and inflation has soared to 913%
Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
April 21, 2006
Posted to the web April 21, 2006
As Mugabe smiles at the congratulatory letter (Mmegi April 20), written to
him by my president on the eve of Zimbabwe's independence day,he should bear
in mind that I do not form part of the people of the republic of Botswana
that the president purports to send the congratulations on their behalf.
The word congratulate simply applies when one expresses good wishes to
(someone) at their good fortune or success. As Zimbanwe's neighbours, I do
not think we really need Blair and Bush to tell us how Mugabe and his regime
have turned Zimbabwe into a living hell. There is absolutely nothing
suggestive of success in Zimbabwe. I would be the first to admit though,
that Mugabe has succeeded in a lot of things.
A lot of things that might be good to him but very bad for his countrymen
and indeed us,the neighbours. Truly speaking,anyone who does not live in
denial knows all the ordeal and anguish that reign supreme in Zimbabwe
thanks to the thankless Mugabe who inspite of knowing very well how the
whites helped in making Zimbabwe a beautiful country that it is today, still
managed to gather enough courage to kick them out of his country. Mugabe is
very eloquent in English and I want to believe he is very educated and well
travelled. This should have helped him accept the fact that no African state
can survive without any assistance from America and Europe.
My advice to Mugabe is, whether you hate them or not,you can never beat
those guys and you know very well what you should do if you cannot beat
them.swallow your pride and join them. We'll laughs at you for a while but
that would be a long term benefit to your countrymen. My president says he
congratulates you on the achievements that your country has made over the
years. As you smile at that statement, I wish to let you know that the only
visible achievement we can see is the influx of your countrymen who
illegally come here in droves because of the unbearable situation in their
native country.I do not even wish to congratulate the Zimbabweans because to
some extent, they are having a taste of their own medicine.
I do not understand why they keep on voting Mugabe into power if at all they
want us to believe he is making life difficult for them. My president should
have used this opportunity to give some advice to Zimbabwe. I know it is a
difficult thing to do especially to someone like Mugabe who gets nausea from
any form of advice but at times truth needs to be told. As Zimbabwe
celebrates,it needs to be told that no man is an island, especially to the
Zimbabwe needs assistance,it needs it now, not after Mugabe's demise.
Afterall, he has gone on record stating that he is fit as three fiddles.
This means he still has a long way to go and I do not think Zimbabwe's
situation needs that long to be rectified.
April 22, 2006
By ANDnetwork .com
THE Anti-Corruption Commission has launched an investigation into the
operations of Harare City Council with the commissioners having descended on
Town House over the past three days.
Yesterday, the deputy chairman of the commission, Mr Johannes Tomana,
and another commissioner, Ms Alice Nkomo, were captured inside Town House by
our photographer. Although Mr Tomana and Ms Nkomo declined to comment on
their visit to Town House, The Herald understands that senior city officials
were assisting the commission with investigations. It is understood that
recent Press reports about alleged corruption, mismanagement and flouting of
laid-down procedures at council could have prompted the probe. City
officials confirmed the presence of the Anti-Corruption Commission officials
at Town House but declined to comment further. When contacted on Thursday,
chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission Mr Eric Harid, however, refused
to confirm whether a probe had been conducted or was underway. "Once I have
got something on the matter I will get back to you," said Mr Harid. The
Minister of State Enterprises, Anti-Monopolies and Anti-Corruption, Cde Paul
Mangwana, also refused to comment, saying doing so would jeopardise the
investigations. "I cannot confirm or comment at the moment. I would
prejudice the commission's work," he said. The Anti-Corruption Commission,
council officials said, did not want publicity over the matter in order not
to forewarn those under investigation. The Harare Commission led by Ms
Sekesayi Makwavarara has of late featured prominently in the news over cases
of alleged corruption, mismanagement and failure to adhere to laid-down
procedures. Recently the commission courted the ire of residents and
ratepayers - who are grappling with high charges against the backdrop of
poor service delivery - over its bid to purchase curtains and furniture for
the mayoral mansion at a staggering cost of $35 billion. The same commission
endorsed the sale of a $20 billion house in Highlands to its chairperson Ms
Makwavarara for $780 million, and the installation of a dual satellite
decoder for $103 million at the mayoral mansion without going to tender. Ms
Makwavarara has also been asked by council to explain how she spent $175
million on groceries at council's expense and her alleged abuse of council
vehicles, fuel and labour. Council has also been accused of buying a
cellphone for a senior official - who has been on suspension for three
years - without the commission's authorisation. Council has since revised
downwards the amount for curtains and furniture and referred back to the
finance committee the issue of the Highlands house for reconsideration.
April 22, 2006
By Andnetwork .com
WITCHCRAFT practices will, with effect from July this year, be legally
recognised in Zimbabwe following the amendment of some sections of the
Witchcraft Suppression Act.
Until the amendment, it was a criminal offence to brand anyone a witch
or wizard or to accuse someone of meddling in the supernatural, even where
there was tangible evidence.
In an interview yesterday, the Minister of Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, confirmed the amendment of
Part VI of Chapter V of the Witchcraft Suppression Act, which will be
implemented in the courts of law with effect from July 1, 2006.
"Yes, the Witchcraft Suppression Act was amended and is now at the
criminal courts. "Judicial officers are currently being trained so that they
can easily implement it. "The President, Cde Robert Mugabe has assented to
the amendments and criminals will be charged for breaching certain sections
of the Act as from July this year," he said.
Part VI of chapter V of the Witchcraft Suppression Act now reads:
"Whoever accuses a person of witchcraft means to indicate that the person
(is possessed by a spirit or) used non-natural means (witch-finding) to
cause death, injury, disease or inability in any person. This also means
that destruction or loss of or damage to property of any description was
"Any person who engages in any practice knowing that it is commonly
associated with witchcraft, shall be guilty of engaging in a practice
commonly associated with witchcraft if having the intention to cause harm to
"Such practice inspires in the person against whom it was directed, a
real fear or belief that harm will occur to that person or any member of his
or her family, and be liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or
imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both,'' reads the
emended part VI of Chapter V.
It further reads that "Spoken words shall not in themselves constitute
a practice commonly associated with witchcraft for the purpose of this
section, unless accompanied by or used in connection with other conduct
commonly associated with witchcraft."
The amendment also makes it a criminal offence for anyone to knowingly
assist a person in meddling with witchcraft.
"For the avoidance of doubt it is declared that any person who assists
another person to commit the crime of engaging in a practice commonly
associated with witchcraft, by giving advice or providing any substance or
article to enable that person to commit the crime, shall be liable to be
charged as an accomplice to the crime.
"A court shall not take judicial notice of any practice that is said
to be commonly associated with witchcraft, but any person who, in the
opinion of the court, is suitably qualified to do so on account of his/her
knowledge, shall be competent to give expert evidence as to whether the
practice that forms the subject of a charge under this section is a practice
that is commonly associated with witchcraft, whether generally or in the
particular area where the practice is alleged to have taken place,'' reads
part of the Act.
The amendment also criminalises the hiring of witch hunters and those
convicted will be fined or jailed for periods of between one and five years.
"Any person who groundlessly or by the purported use of non-natural means
accuses another person of witchcraft shall be guilty of indicating a witch
or wizard and liable.
"It shall not be a defence to a contravention of a subsection
involving the purported use of any non-natural means for the person charged
to prove that the person he/ she accused actually engaged in any practice
commonly associated with witchcraft, but the court may suggest such
circumstance as mitigatory when assessing the sentence to be imposed."
The amendment disqualifies as defence to murder, assault or any other
crime that an accused was influenced by a genuine belief that the victim was
a witch or wizard and a court would only use it as mitigation.
April 22 2006 at 04:18PM
Zimbabwe on Friday rejected as false World Health Organisation (WHO)
figures showing that life expectancy in the southern African country had
plummeted to 34 years, the lowest in the world.
"It's not true of course," Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told
"WHO admitted there was an anomaly and they are looking at it," he
The WHO country representative could not be reached for comment.
WHO said in its 2006 report released in Geneva earlier this month that
women in Zimbabwe and in nearby Swaziland were the only ones in the world
who were not expected to live into their forties.
Deputy Health Minister Edwin Muguti said while life expectancy was
shorter in Zimbabwe, the WHO report was inaccurate.
"The report is sensational. It creates the impression that the are no
women living beyond 34 which is not true.
"There is an issue of HIV and Aids which is worrisome but the
situation is not as grim as the report says."
The advocacy group Community Working Group on Health also said that
while Zimbabweans were not enjoying as long a life as in the past,
essentially because of HIV and Aids, it disagreed with the WHO findings.
"Yes, life expectancy has dropped but not to the extent shown in the
report," said Itayi Rusike, spokesman for the group.
"If you visit the cemeteries and read the tombstones, yes you will
find there are more people dying young these days but the situation is not
as bad as it is reflected in the report.
"The report is scary. It induces a sense of insecurity especially
among those growing up."
Male life expectancy at birth in Zimbabwe remained at 37 years,
unchanged since 2004, according to the WHO report.
Zimbabwe is one of the country's hardest hit by the Aids pandemic with
at least 3 000 people dying weekly from HIV and Aids-related illness and the
pandemic accounting for more than 70 percent of hospital bed occupancy.
Between 1,1 and 1,3 million children have lost one or both parents to
Aids in a child population of 5,8 million, according to the social welfare
ministry, which gives Zimbabwe one of the world's highest proportions of
orphaned children. - Sapa-AFP
By Violet Gonda
22 April 2006
At least 11 000 people converged at the Chisamba Grounds for an
opposition rally in Manicaland despite heavy police and army intimidation.
The MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai will be finalising its post congress
rallies in Mutare this Saturday, before winding up their weekend rallies the
following day at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare.
Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC provincial spokesman for Manicaland said,
"The mood was jovial showing people are ready for change but the rally was
characterised by a lot of intimidation and arrests of supporters who were
preparing for the rally." 15 MDC ward co-ordinators were arrested Friday and
they are still in police custody.
He said armed police and members of the army had also banned the
opposition party from using its public address system or to play the eight
track album called "Tsunami" saying it was illegal under the Public Order
and Security Act (POSA). The album is highly critical of Robert Mugabe.
But Muchauraya said the harassment would not deter the opposition
party from going ahead with its plans. "The time is ripe for mass action and
people are ready for change."
A statement by Nelson Chamisa, the part's Secretary for Information
and Publicity, said; " The President's message will centre on how as a
nation we will proceed in liquidating dictatorship and tyranny. The MDC will
also articulate the roadmap to a new Zimbabwe."
MDC sources said after this weekend the party will then embark on an
intensive nationwide campaign to mobilise the people for mass confrontation.
The Tsvangirai led opposition party has been holding provincial rallies in
the last few weeks to re-endorse resolutions made at its national congress
last month. The source said after this weekend, "the leadership will be
divided and deployed to lead from their provinces and start working on the
democratic resistance strategies from ward to district levels."
Zimbabwe is experiencing a serious economic and humanitarian crisis
with record inflation nearing 1000%. The MDC is under pressure to do
something about it. The recent defections from the Mutambara faction has
given the Tsvangirai side a major boost and it is understood that the nature
of the democratic resistance will be announced soon after this last process.
Observers believe the time is now right for mass action and that
popular sentiment has reached a critical point because of the economic
crisis. The opposition party said; "Euphoria is high as Zimbabweans continue
to give notice to the regime to brace for a long winter of people power and
resistance against tyranny."
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe
The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2006-Apr-22
THE MDC pro-senate camp led by Arthur Mutambara is facing more defections
after some senators reportedly approached the national chairperson of the
Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction, Isaac Matongo, seeking to rejoin the group.
Sources close to events in both MDC factions told The Daily Mirror yesterday
that the senators met Matongo and pleaded to rejoin the Tsvangirai camp.
"They (senators) are on the brink of joining the bandwagon of officials from
the pro-senate camp who have crossed the floor and the majority of them have
since communicated with Matongo," said one of the sources.
The source said the Tsvangirai camp was likely to put conditions before
accepting their comeback.
"Tsvangirai is likely to order them to first renounce theirs positions as
senators since his faction did not partake in the senatorial polls arguing
it was a Zanu PF project," added the source. The sources would not reveal
the names of the senators that approached Matongo. Yesterday, Matongo
confirmed some senators had approached him with the intention of joining the
"There is only one MDC and people are now realising the truth as the
majority of them had defected to that camp out of ignorance. I can confirm
that some senators from Bulawayo have approached me with the intention of
rejoining the party.
"I am not at liberty though to name them. There is only one MDC and we are
not stopping anyone who wishes to rejoin the party from doing so," Matongo
The opposition party's national chairman also confirmed having put
conditions before re-admitting the senators. He said: "As the MDC we did not
contest the senate elections, we do not have senators and they must first
renounce their senatorial posts. They promised to come back to me after
doing so." Matongo boasted those who had joined the Mutambara faction were
free "to come back home."
"We welcome them; some of them were veteran politicians who were cheated
into joining that camp (Mutambara faction) during campaigns for the
senatorial polls," Matongo claimed.
He said even the former pro-senate faction national chairman, Gift
Chimanikire, was free to rejoin the opposition party if he wished.
Chimanikire resigned from the Mutambara camp this week and has since said he
was non-aligned at the moment. Pro-senate former spokesperson and now
elections director, Paul Themba Nyathi, yesterday reiterated the statement
by Mutambara this week that disgruntled members of his camp were free to
"The president released a statement on April 14 this year indicating that
those who want to leave the party should do so. Nothing has changed. Even if
the senators want to go let them do so, they are free to go," said Nyathi.
He claimed it would be demeaning on the part of the senators to rejoin the
"They will lose their principles. They will demean themselves if they rejoin
Tsvangirai who rejected them in the first place. Anyway, I have no interest
in the subject, why don't you talk to the senators themselves," Nyathi said.
Contacted for comment yesterday senators for Makokoba, Pumula-Luveve and
Lobengula-Magwegwe-Sibangilizwe Msipa, Fanuel Bayayi and Thabiso Ndlovu
respectively, refused to comment about the matter.
Senators for Mpopoma -Pelandaba Greenfielded Nyoni and Bita Ndlovu of
Nkulumane were not reachable for comment. The pro-senate camp has been hit
by a spate of defections of late with some of the faction's top officials
such as Chimanikire, Kwekwe legislator Blessing Chebundo and Binga lawmaker
Joel Gabuza deserting this month. This forced the Mutambara-led faction to
restructure at a national executive meeting held in Harare on Thursday.
Jobert Mujome was appointed acting national chairman, Nyathi director of
elections while Gabriel Chaibva assumed the post of secretary for
information and publicity.
The MDC split into two camps last October over participation in the November
26 Senate polls won by the ruling Zanu PF.
By Douglas Farah
Sunday, April 23, 2006; Page B01
In sub-Saharan Africa, rapacious despots with bloody hands traditionally die
in office or retire to luxurious exile. They do not usually find themselves
in handcuffs heading to trial for crimes against humanity, as former
Liberian president Charles Taylor did when he was captured at the
Nigerian-Cameroon border last month.
As heartening as Taylor's arrest is -- he is charged with fomenting wars
marked by using drugged children as foot soldiers and cannon fodder, the
hacking off of limbs and the systematic use of rape -- it also points to the
numerous tragedies of governance that still plague the continent today.
Taylor may be gone, but there are many more Charles Taylors.
Indeed, his trial was resisted by many African leaders precisely because so
much of the continent is still ruled by megalomaniacal "Big Men," who should
be held accountable for the systematic destruction of their own countries.
Some of the worst include Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, who
has pillaged his country since 1979; Omar Bongo, who has ruled Gabon since
Lyndon Johnson was president; Robert Mugabe's kleptocracy in Zimbabwe; and
the teetering dictatorship of Idriss Deby in Chad.
But when the Bush administration speaks of spreading democracy around the
world, these petty and cruel tyrants, who make Saddam Hussein seem tolerant,
are not condemned. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just days ago called
Obiang a "good friend" while being photographed beaming at his side during
his visit to her office. This is the same Obiang whose regime her own
department routinely denounces for its macabre brutality.
There are historic reasons that this tragic style of leadership has
prospered. Among them are the legacy of colonialism and the Cold War
perceived imperative of supporting anyone who was the enemy of your enemy.
In sub-Saharan Africa, these dictators were U.S. allies against Soviet- and
Libyan-backed regimes. But independence for most of the nations came more
than 50 years ago. The Cold War is long over. The regimes survive today
because of their ruthlessness, international indifference, their control of
vital resources or a combination of these factors.
Taylor's arrest to stand trial before a U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra
Leone shows that a small amount of international attention and sustained
pressure can help end this traditional impunity. But it is only a first step
in bringing accountability to those who have brought misery to millions.
One of the richest and most repressive of this group is Obiang, since 1979
the ruler of the only Spanish-speaking nation in Africa. In 2004 Riggs Bank
admitted criminal liability for illegally taking Obiang's illegal proceeds.
In the late 1990s, according to a 2004 report by the Senate's subcommittee
on investigations, Obiang and his cronies had at least $700 million in
Riggs, making Equatorial Guinea the bank's single largest depositor. At the
same time, his country's inhabitants were wallowing near the bottom of
almost every global index of health, literacy and life expectancy.
Obiang seized power by murdering his predecessor and uncle, Francisco Macias
Nguema. Obiang was Macias's chief of police and ran the notorious Black
Beach prison, where Macias reportedly showed up to execute prisoners by
smashing their heads with concrete poles. Now Obiang runs a police state of
his own, surrounded by Moroccan bodyguards because he doesn't trust anyone,
even his own family.
He survives in part because his tiny country pumps 350,000 barrels of oil a
day and has reserves of 1.2 billion barrels, along with 1.3 trillion cubic
feet of natural gas. As a result, oil companies and governments are willing
to support a regime that has long since silenced the press, driven almost a
third of its population of 540,000 into exile and crushed any hint of
In recent months Obiang has been making overtures, through the offer of oil
deals, to the leader of one of Africa's most astonishing stories of
failure--Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In recent years Mugabe, who took office
in 1980 as a national hero, has gradually strangled his nation's political
life and economy. He now controls the closest thing the region has to the
Disneyland for terrorists and transnational criminal groups that Taylor
created in Liberia.
Under Mugabe's despotic rule, Zimbabwe, long a net exporter of food with a
vital economy and functional health and educational facilities, teeters on
the edge of starvation. The nation has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection
rates in the world.
In the meantime, Mugabe and his inner circle have stashed millions of
dollars outside the country, much of it acquired by renting the nation's
armed forces to fight in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Omar Bongo, another Obiang neighbor and friend, has ruled Gabon with an iron
hand since 1967, when LBJ was trying to decide how to get out of Vietnam. He
has made his son the minister of defense to ensure loyalty in the armed
forces and brooks no dissent. Concerned about his international image, he
was in contact with now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in the summer of
2003. Abramoff asked for $9 million to help Bongo cozy up to the Bush
administration, according to documents later released by Congress. It is not
clear if the deal was consummated, but on May 26, 2004, Bongo met with
A little farther north is Taylor's longtime partner in fanning the wars of
West Africa, Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaore. Compaore and Taylor helped lead
a 1987 coup that toppled Compaore's erstwhile best friend, Thomas Sankara,
who was murdered. When Taylor launched his revolution in Liberia, Compaore
loaned him troops and materiel. Throughout the West African wars, according
to U.N. reports and human rights investigations, Compaore provided Taylor's
troops and the Revolutionary United Front with training, end-user
certificates to facilitate the purchase of hundreds of weapons and
ammunition, banking facilities and sanctuary. In return he received diamonds
and the promise that there would be no trouble for him.
In The Post's Outlook Section
a.. African Pillagers
b.. You know these BAD GUYS. But there is a whole other world of
tyrants, dictators and despots.
c.. Burma's Dear Leader
d.. JURISPRUDENCE: At Duke, Just Pick Your Facts
e.. Scotty, the Joke Was on You
More From Outlook
Rove's New Mission: Survival
» Dionne | Karl Rove's power has not been diminished. His role has
changed to fit the president's needs.
a.. Ignatius: Fix the Intelligence Mess
b.. Krauthammer: Dangerous Whispers
c.. Editorial: Planning for Flu
OPINIONS SECTION: Toles, Editorials
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To the east is Idriss Deby, who has ruled Chad since 1990. When oil was
discovered, Deby agreed to a series of stringent conditions on how the new
wealth would be spent on health and education in exchange for the World Bank
financing needed to build a pipeline from his landlocked nation to the Gulf
of Guinea. His first purchase with the oil money was weapons worth $4.5
million for his security apparatus.
Deby took power by overthrowing another notorious dictator, Hissene Habre,
who left behind mass graves that rival those of Iraq and Bosnia and systems
of torture, including grotesque mutilations of living prisoners, that stand
out even among his peers. Habre, who received hundreds of millions of
dollars in U.S. military aid during his eight-year rule, sits in luxurious
exile in Senegal, under the protection of other Big Men who have refused to
exert any pressure to have him tried for his crimes.
Taylor fell where the others have not because he picked a fight with the
international community. And still it took years to bring him to justice, as
he benefited from the indifference of world leaders obsessed with other
As long ago as 2000, Taylor gained notoriety outside West Africa by helping
to orchestrate the abduction of some 500 U.N. peacekeepers in neighboring
Sierra Leone. He also developed ties to al-Qaeda through the sale of
diamonds. Publicity about his atrocities, and terrorist ties, forced the
United States, Britain and others to isolate him.
Ultimately, it was the relentless work of the U.N.-backed Special Court for
Sierra Leone, which on March 3, 2003, indicted Taylor on 17 counts of crimes
against humanity, that made him an international pariah. The court's efforts
received little attention from the White House. Eventually, however, Rep. Ed
Royce (R-Calif.) led a bipartisan congressional coalition that threatenedto
cut off aid to those nations that did not cooperate with extraditing Taylor
to stand trial. A dedicated band of officials in different branches of
government was able to make it the policy of the Bush White House to support
Taylor's standing trial. They were aided by a wide range of humanitarian
organizations that lobbied tirelessly for Taylor's trial.
Because the other dictators have seldom picked open fights with the
international community or allowed themselves to be caught helping
terrorists, there is no comparable effort to bring them to justice. News
organizations have slashed their coverage of Africa -- both The Washington
Post and the New York Times, for example, have closed their West Africa
bureaus -- meaning that the stories of these leaders are seldom in the
Despite the suffering they inflict and the threat to progress they
represent, these despots are widely viewed as presenting no strategic threat
outside of Africa. The Bush administration's embrace of a moral imperative
to bring democracy to the world does not include them.
Taylor's case shows that the conventional assumptions about what constitutes
a real threat to the United States are wrong. His harboring of al-Qaeda and
Hezbollah terrorists and his hand in pushing the entire region to the brink
of chaos, fueling numerous humanitarian interventions, show how dangerous
this type of leader is. The question is whether the world cares enough to
help end the misery.
Douglas Farah is a former West Africa bureau chief for The Washington Post
and author of "Blood From Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror"
By Gary J. Bass
Sunday, April 23, 2006; Page B05
In years past, the Chinese government's poor human rights record was only a
problem for you if you happened to be Chinese. But as China's power and
influence in Asia grow, its hostility toward human rights is becoming a
problem for non-Chinese, too. Propelled mostly by economic opportunism,
China is fast becoming the friend of last resort for some of the world's
most isolated dictators and bad guys -- in Asia and beyond.
The examples are mounting. On May 13, 2005, thousands of Uzbeks rallied in
the city of Andijan, including some armed people who had led a jailbreak as
well as unarmed people protesting the repressive government of President
Islam Karimov. In response, Karimov's security forces fired indiscriminately
into the crowds, in what Human Rights Watch has called a massacre of
hundreds of people. But China seemed untroubled. "We consistently staunchly
support the Uzbekistan government's striking at the three forces, which are
terrorism, splittism and extremism," declared the Chinese foreign ministry.
On May 25, Chinese President Hu Jintao welcomed Karimov on a state visit to
Beijing, complete with a 21-gun salute. While in China, Karimov inked a $600
million deal for a joint Chinese-Uzbek venture to develop Uzbekistan's oil
fields. Then, in July, China joined Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in requesting a timetable for U.S. military
withdrawal from Central Asia. After America criticized the bloodshed and the
United Nations airlifted to safety Uzbek refugees from the Andijan
crackdown, Karimov kicked American troops out of the strategic
In Sudan, the government continues to sponsor the slaughter and
dispossession of tribes in the western region of Darfur. But Sudan's oil
supplies are irresistible to China, the world's fastest-growing oil
consumer. The China National Petroleum Co. is a big investor in Sudan's oil
fields and owns most of an oil field in southern Darfur. CNPC and the
Sinopec Corp., another Chinese state-owned firm, helped build a newly opened
pipeline from the south -- where much of Sudan's oil is located -- to Port
Sudan. China also is a major arms supplier to Sudan and has used its U.N.
Security Council clout to protect Sudan from global pressure and weaken
threats of oil sanctions.
As Robert Mugabe continues to strangle Zimbabwe, he relies on China to break
his international isolation, in what he calls his "Look East" policy. Last
July, Mugabe arrived in Beijing for six days of cozy talks, including a
meeting with Hu, who referred to him as "an old friend." At the same time,
the United Nations was blasting Mugabe for a campaign of demolishing the
homes of the urban poor, leaving some 700,000 people homeless -- payback for
urban support of Mugabe's opponents in elections in March 2005.
In July, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) pushed Burma's
isolated ruling junta into giving up its turn at chairing the organization
in the coming year -- a slap from the usually meek and inclusive body. But
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing cushioned the blow by pulling out of
the ASEAN summit in Laos and flying to Burma to meet with the military
rulers of what he called "a friendly country." In February, Gen. Soe Win,
the Burmese prime minister, met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the Great
Hall of the People in Beijing. According to China's official Xinhua news
service, Soe Win hailed China's "resolute support and selfless assistance."
After meetings with Hu and Li, Soe Win later claimed that China -- the
junta's most loyal ally -- would block attempts to put Burma on the U.N.
Security Council's agenda.
Much of the Chinese government's support for bad guys is driven by its need
for energy. (This condition is hardly unique to China -- look at the U.S.
relationship with the Saudi monarchy.) Its search for oil is more about the
domestic needs of its red-hot economy than about international primacy. In
addition to Sudan and Uzbekistan, China is hunting for energy resources in
other pariah countries such as Iran, Angola and Cuba. Hugo Chavez, the
leftist president of oil-rich Venezuela, has also reached out to China.
Without mentioning oil, I once asked an influential retired Chinese general
about China's relationships with so many dictatorships. He replied that
China picked its allies not by likes or dislikes but by practical necessity,
and that China was a developing country seeking energy independence.
But oil is not the only factor. Chinese leaders worry about U.S. hegemony,
particularly when it's coupled with rhetoric about human rights and
democratization. As a matter of principle, the Chinese government is deeply
skeptical of military interventions to protect human rights-- doubly so
since NATO bombed China's embassy in Belgrade in May 1999.
When a U.N. summit in September approved the ideal of an international
"responsibility to protect" civilians when their own governments do not, Li,
the Chinese foreign minister, warned that the U.N. Security Council had to
approve such steps. "We are against any willful intervention on the ground
of rash conclusion that a nation is unable or unwilling to protect its own
citizens," Li said. In his recent Beijing meeting with Soe Win, the Chinese
premier Wen gingerly suggested that China would welcome more "domestic
reconciliation" in Burma, but, according to Xinhua, he "stressed that
Myanmar's internal affairs should be resolved through consultation by the
government and people of Myanmar on their own."
Joshua Cooper Ramo, a former Time journalist who teaches at Tsinghua
University in Beijing, has suggested that China is offering the world an
alternative to the "Washington consensus" model of development. The Beijing
Consensus, he writes, includes technological innovation, economic
development based on equality and sustainability, and, most important for
the bad guys, national sovereignty -- championing non-interference and
opposing foreign meddling. In September 1999, then-Chinese Foreign Minister
Tang Jiaxuan called NATO's airstrikes to protect the Kosovars an "ominous
precedent" and warned of "the rampage of hegemonism." Tang added: "When the
sovereignty of a country is put in jeopardy, its human rights can hardly be
Of course, an emerging China is hardly a new Soviet Union. China wants to
participate in the world order, not overturn it. It does not encourage
democracy but is not out to destroy it, either. China participates in many
international institutions, even sending judges to the U.N. war crimes
tribunal in The Hague. Many Chinese officials fear their recent choice of
friends is short-sighted: This rogues' gallery of unstable allies hardly
matches China's own image of itself as a confident rising great power.
In a speech in September that received lots of attention in Beijing, U.S.
Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick encouraged China to become a
"responsible stakeholder" in the international system, gaining respect and
stature as well as raw power. Backing pariah regimes hardly qualifies -- not
least because Zoellick has been the point man on U.S. efforts to help
Darfur. He noted that during his morning jogs in Khartoum, he saw Chinese
doing tai chi, and said: "China should take more than oil from Sudan -- it
should take some responsibility for resolving Sudan's human crisis."
In the longer run, the strategy of cozying up to dictators at the expense of
their peoples is self-defeating. America has learned this lesson the hard
way in such places as Pakistan and Egypt, where the price of friendship with
the regime has been a deep and popular anti-Americanism.
Convenient as the bad guys may seem right now, China would be wise to avoid
the same mistake.
Gary J. Bass, an associate professor at the Woodrow Wilson School at
Princeton University, is writing a book on humanitarian intervention.