zimbabwe renaissance societyWe live in a strange world. The recent developments in Ivory Coast and Libya illuminate how misguided we, the general public, are by the pronouncements of the liberal media- the mouthpiece of global powers. If anything, we were made to believe that military interventions in Libya and Ivory Coast were necessary to protect the wishes of the masses in the respective countries and ultimately, to save lives. However, after doing a little research, this writer wonders, firstly; if the NATO powers and France in particular are genuinely interested in the well-being of Ivorian and Libyan citizens, and secondly; if peace will ever return to Libya and Ivory Coast.

It should be mentioned that Laurent Ggagbo is fortunate to have made it out of his bunker alive, and that in fact, he should have ceded power months ago-the moment the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced that it didn’t recognise him as president. However it is interesting to note that Frederic Daguillon, the spokesperson for the French forces in Abidjan announced that “there wasn’t one single French soldier at the residence of Laurent Ggagbo.” Yet, media reports mention that an aid to Ouattara said “Ggagbo had been handed over by the French to the legitimate government.”

John Hari, writing for The Independent says NATO is acting like the military wing of Amnesty International when they say that their intervention in Libya is in order to protect civilians. He writes: “Yet, since 2004 the US- with European support – has been sending unmanned robot-planes into Pakistan to illegally bomb its territory.” He goes on to say that “the US’s own former senior military advisors admit that even when the intel [intelligence] is accurate, for every one jihadi they kill, as many as fifty innocent people die.” He also writes that the war in Congo is the deadliest since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe, and that in the Congo conflict, he saw armies of drugged and mutilated children and women who had been gang-raped and shot in the vagina. Apparently, he says, more than 5 million people have been killed so far – and even though the west knows about these atrocities, there has been no NATO intervention there to date.

David Cameron did recently state that just because one cannot intervene everywhere, it doesn’t mean one should not intervene somewhere. This point is noted. However, this writer is trying to demonstrate that military intervention is always injurious, and that it should only be considered as an option after diplomacy has completely failed. As it stands the African Union (AU) is still flip-flopping in Libya, trying to convince the conflicting sides to agree to a cease-fire. Well, this should have happened before the NATO guns got involved, and president Zuma and his brilliant foreign policy advisors should have stressed diplomacy before voting in favour of a no fly zone. Regrettably, the voices of AU persuasion are currently being muffled by thundering NATO bombs and concomitantly western powers debate on whether or not to arm the rebels – a contentious issue it seems, as Belgium expresses opposition and Germany insists there should be “no military solution.”

It has also been reported that in Ivory Coast, ethnic and political cleavages are as deep as ever, with pro-Ggagbo youth militias arming themselves with Kalashnikov rifles. Furthermore, French forces are patrolling Abidjan, much to the ire Ivorian citizens. A report by Daniel Howden recently read, “On a Charles de Gaulle bridge, a young man in a filthy vest was pushing a cart loaded with firewood. When he saw the French convoy with its helmeted machine gunners coming the other way, he gave them an angry thumbs down. Not far away was a roadblock manned by men without uniforms who were waving guns and threatening people. Abidjan faces a long road to recovery.”  Elsewhere, Reuters reports; “But while Ouattara will assume the presidency he has claimed for the past four months after the disputed election, he will have to confront long-standing ethnic divisions, years of economic stagnation and a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

So what’s the relevance of all this? It’s simple: Zimbabweans should not emulate the so-called ‘popular revolutions’ of the Maghreb. The situation in Ivory Coast demonstrates the long-term consequences of war, while the situation in Libya demonstrates that leaders will not always heed the demands of so-called protesters. The United Nations has reported that some three million Libyans are currently in need of humanitarian aid. The question then arises: why should Zimbabwe follow such a trajectory? As it stands, Zimbabwe is improving, albeit very slightly and slowly.

In light of this, my hat’s off to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who urged his MDC-T party supporters “to live peacefully with their political rivals in Zanu (PF).” He was speaking at the burial of the first MDC-T mayor Engineer Alois Vhuramayi Chaimiti at the Masvingo Cathedral on Sunday the 10th of April 2011. Certainly, any statesman who promotes peace is worthy of honour. When one looks at Ivory Coast and Libya today – mere shadows of what they were six months ago, one can appreciate the value of quiet diplomacy.

Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General Of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.


What happens in Libya stays in Libya.

Recently in South Africa, Julius Malema- the leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), and Bantu Hlolomisa- the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and various other political commentators have come out publicly criticizing the South African government led by president Jacob Zuma for voting in favour of the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution 1973 which allowed for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. Voting in favour of UN resolution 1973 is equal to supporting the invasion of a sovereign African state, they say.

On the other hand, some political commentators are criticizing the United States of America and western powers generally, suggesting that the powerful nations of this world represented in NATO only take action against oppression when they are directly able to benefit, and this is why, it is alleged, they only involve themselves militarily in oil rich regions and not in countries like Muammar, North Korea and Zimbabwe for example.

It seems that prior to the enforcement of the no fly zone over Libya, Colonel Gaddaffi’s forces were indiscriminately bombing rebel targets. Yet, as we all know, the Libyan insurgents are hardly organised, let alone recognizable, and therefore Gaddafi’s ‘rebel targets’ almost certainly included civilians and we cannot be sure how many civilians died as a result of Gaddafi’s air-strikes.

Ironically, the NATO air strikes aimed at Gaddafi’s forces and bases are also allegedly killing civilians. And at this point, the air-strikes haven’t really benefited the rebels, who are still under heavy fire from Gaddafi’s forces. As a result president Obama and his pentagon advisors are allegedly mulling over equipping and training the rebel forces. Does Julius Malema therefore have a point when he says that the South African government’s support of UN resolution 1973 is tantamount to supporting regime change and invasion?

The events in Libya have a greater significance closer to home. At the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika summit in Livingstone Zambia on the 31st of March 2011, the Zambian president – Rupiah Banda emphatically stated that the events in Libya and other parts of the Maghreb demonstrated what could happen if leaders continue on their own courses without considering their people. This writer agrees with president Banda, and having deduced that it is impossible to anticipate how any given country will vote at the UN Security Council, it is especially important that the Zimbabwean leaders across the political divide, and their  regional counterparts ensure that what is happening in Libya does not happen in Zimbabwe.

While we don’t know the definite numbers, we can imagine that thousands of Libyans have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in that conflict. One can imagine that in Libya, homes have been destroyed, livelihoods have been wrecked, wives have been widowed and children have been orphaned- we don’t need more of this in Zimbabwe. At the troika summit President Jacob Zuma suggested that SADC pressures all parties in Zimbabwe to fulfil all their Global Political Agreement (GPA) commitments before elections should occur. If that’s what it takes to avoid bloodshed, then it seems wise for all parties in Zimbabwe to heed to this call.

Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.