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10.12.2003 Feature Article

Why the C'wealth is a Waste of Everybody's Time

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So Robert Mugabe has decided to take Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth. And that decision supposedly represents the biggest crisis faced by the organisation since it was formed. And that has got certain leaders of the club in a panic, foaming at the mouth and desperately looking around for a solution by playing the blame game.

In my very kind and mild mode, I can only respond by quoting someone, whose name unfortunately eludes me but whose selfish, crass and despotic views rather cannily mirrors Robert Mugabe's. His response to the Commonwealth's decision to suspend his country from the club for serious human rights violations was "Commonwealth, who cares!" I'm sure our Nigerian brothers will know whom I'm referring to. Sentiments aside, wasn't Mr Diabolical Foreign Minister right then - and now?

The whole point of the Commonwealth, so far as I'm concerned, is one huge shell of absolute nothingness. Besides offering Britain the chance to hanker back to its imperialist past, it affords a chance for these leaders to talk big on issues of global importance, but conveniently does nothing to achieve end of summit communiqués.

In spite of efforts to prevent Mugabe/Zimbabwe (one can't tell, which comes first these days, the man has the entire country in his pocket) over-shadowing proceedings, they failed miserably, in the end, cobbling together a statement that left all sides unhappy. The "keep Mugabe out" brigade winning a preservation of the status quo but aware of the intense pressure to relax it earlier than they would like, and the "bring Mugabe back" brigade, disappointed at their failure to win the day but hopeful of reversing the situation much earlier.

Important topics like combating global terrorism, dismantling of unfair trade terms between the North and the South, promotion of trade amongst member states underscored by the failure of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Cancun recently etc were all relegated to the background, barely getting a mention.

However, one wonders whether any decisions reached on these issues would have made substantial difference. After all, year on year, when these summits have been held, little to nothing has come out of them. One concession that at least, to the ordinary person in Lagos, Kumasi or Harare meant something, i.e. travelling to London without a visa has steadily been withdrawn. Apart from historical ties, leading to commonality of national language, one has to wonder what else unites these many countries.

I dare say, only to the extent that many of the countries are poor and very few perhaps countable on the fingers of one hand, are rich. Thus, the gulf between them is so wide; an entire ocean will sink in without trace. Thus, needs and wants amongst these countries are too far and varying to allow for any serious common front beyond offering a talking shop for inauthentic stuffs like democracy, rule of law etc.

In summits gone by, lofty communiqués have been passed extolling the virtues of promoting trade and economic ties, yet either nothing is practically done or certain things have been done to achieve practically the opposite. Trade figures from the World Bank and IMF over the years, (refer to www.wb.com) amply demonstrates the futility of investing much hope in communiqués issued at the end of such high-octane talking shop.

After all, in which camp did Britain, the undeclared leader of the pack, whose imperialist strides across the globe spawned this organisation belong to during the WTO talks? They belonged where they've always been, among friends the wealthy, i.e. the EU, G7+1, the OECD, the European Council. Not the club where beloved Ghana and many of the other members of the Commonwealth belong, i.e. the 3rd World, the Under-developed World, the Developing Countries (how long do we need to make the transition, anyway?) Could the needs and pursuits of these polarised nations be ever reconciled? Whatever individual nation's stages of under-development and contribution to that state of affairs, isn't it a fact that the generality of poverty across these countries has a direct co-relation to the wealth of Britain and her rich colleagues. I concede this assertion may sound a bit simplistic, considering how well some of our own leaders have pulverised us with diabolical policies. The fact still remains that it is in the interest of Britain and the other Western developed countries not to have 3rd World countries growing economically, because their advantages in being able to subsidise their own industries and have ready market for them will be under-mined.

The above assertion however doesn't absolve us (our leaders) from attempting to do the minimum. And that is why it is so disappointing that leaders in Southern Africa are effectively condoning the arbitrary destruction of the Zimbabwean nation by Robert Mugabe. To President Thabo Mbeki and others, Mr Mugabe is a hero who deserves more than a pat on the back. His liberation struggle credentials apparently entitles him to adopt and unleash a policy that is absolutely dire in its effects on the people of Zimbabwe, and I'll draw no distinction between whites and blacks of Zimbabwe for the simple reason that a third or fourth generation white in Zimbabwe should have the same rights and privileges as his black colleague. If a Black British were to be subjected to blatant racial discrimination in such overt manner, I think all decent people will be entitled to be outraged. Black on White should be no more or less acceptable than White on Black, when the currency is racial discrimination.

If I recall correctly, there was an accord reached by member states called the Harare Declaration, which enjoined members to promote democratic governance in their countries, or they risk being suspended from the body. With all that have ensued in Mugabe's Zimbabwe since that accord, I guess democracy means something else to Mugabe's apologists. His response to the accord has been effectively to stick the middle finger to it and say: (up your bum, commonwealth)

The apologists, desperate to have the suspension lifted have advanced some very pathetic reasons, chief among them being the sanction hasn't worked and re-admitting him will encourage a change in behaviour. As if the guy gives monkeys about the rights of others. As if the guy is some toddler able to be bought off with a packet of crisps to stop the tantrums.

And here I salute President Kufuor for his principled stance in refusing to see this blatant anti-democratic policies of Mugabe through the prism of black/white politics. President Kufuor recognises the importance of opposition contribution in the building of a country, and more importantly recognises that labelling them as agents of some kind of external dark forces only makes one look silly. If Mr Mugabe spoke for the people of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle, why can't Morgan Tsvangirai be speaking for the present generation of Zimbabweans suffering under Mr Mugabe's thumb? The hypocrisy amongst these Southern African leaders is breath taking, to say the least. As an accomplished liberation struggle fighter, Mr Mugabe, ipso facto has all the wisdom to determine what is good for the millions of citizens, whose rights and dignity are being stripped away ruthlessly. That seems to be the logic of Mbeki and his cohorts.

As for Mr Mugabe, one can draw consolation from the fact that he's not exactly a 55year old man bursting with energy and conceivably, going to be around for another decade or so. He's considerably older and hopefully, with a bit of luck to complement the gallantry, stoicism and admirable courage of Mr Tsvangirai, the MDC and the other opposition figures in Zimbabwe, nature may well intervene to halt the rot and a fresh beginning to re-build this once prosperous and shining example on a continent with no shortage of self-appointed tin-pot and no-hopers, ably competent in nation-wrecking duties.

When the tide has turned, hopefully sooner rather than later, you bet the Mbekis, the Mwanasas, and the Nujomas etc will be singing a different tune. And why not, the name of the game is "politricks". And the Commonwealth is one mighty talking shop that just wastes everybody's time.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Nana Osei Akoto Sarfo
Nana Osei Akoto Sarfo, © 2003

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NanaOseiAkotoSarfo

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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