Zimbabwe President mugabe Aspiring to be president of the whole of Africa
Opinion by Pauline Henson
While Zimbabweans in the UK diaspora were shivering in the snow, their families and friends at home were being pelted with non-stop rain.
Robert Mugabe and the late Libyan president Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
At Vice-President John Nkomo’s funeral at Heroes Acre in Harare, a huge thunder storm caused a power outage which apparently blacked out Robert Mugabe’s speech and caused the crowds to disperse hurriedly for shelter.
In a pointed reminder of his own rural roots, Mugabe remarked that if the crowd had ever been herd boys they wouldn’t be afraid of getting wet. The current heavy rains have resulted in rather more than just getting wet; at least 80 people have died in the floods and Beitbridge border post has been closed with villagers in the area being rescued by helicopter.
The whole Southern Africa region is experiencing widespread flooding and, as always, villagers are the chief victims as they attempt to cross swollen rivers and are swept away in the floods.
Robert Mugabe, however, has other things on his mind than the floods at home. He has his eyes on a much bigger prize than just ruling one country. Mugabe aspires to be president of the whole of Africa.
Hence, his advocacy of a United States of Africa, once the dream of his old friend Muammar Gaddafi; a United States of Africa involves a continent without borders, with a single currency and above all a single government.
That is the proposition Mugabe will put to the AU Summit in Ethiopia this week and he will speak in the colonial language as will the other African leaders. Most African countries, and there are 54 of them, have adopted the former colonial language as their official language but UNESCO estimates there are over one thousand separate indigenous languages spoken on the continent.
Behind Mugabe’s argument in favour of a United States of Africa is his desire to rid the continent of western ‘interference’ as he calls it. Since that ‘interference’ consists mostly of aid, either financial or material, from the former colonial masters it is difficult to see how the argument will go down with the AU.
Many of those African countries are so desperately poor that they could not survive without western aid. The hostage crisis in Mali illustrates the point. It was Mali itself who called in France, the former colonial power, to assist in the fight against Al Qaeda and the sight of foreign troops fighting on African soil has no doubt enraged Pan-Africanists, such as Robert Mugabe claims to be.
Interestingly, the call on the AU to provide troops to put down the Al Qaeda insurgency met with a very limited response. The fact is that in spite of the rhetoric coming from Mugabe for a United States of Africa, the continent appears to have neither the ability nor the resources to combat the Islamist threat.
The combination of religion and tribalism has a powerful appeal for vulnerable people who see little chance of improving their lives under often corrupt and inefficient governments. The Al Qaeda threat is very real, it is estimated that they have bases in more than 40 countries world-wide.
Al Qaeda was behind several deadly attacks including the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993 and the East Africa bombing in 2000. Would a United States of Africa give African people any more protection or make any of these attacks less likely in view of the fact that Al Qaeda chooses remote areas away from prying eyes to train its forces?
Mugabe’s call for a United Africa without borders would make it impossible to curtail the activities of terrorist groups. Has Mugabe given serious consideration to any of these issues or is he just concerned with his own legacy and going down in history as the President of the United States of Africa?
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.