Idle thoughts on Robert Mugabe and his African freedom fighter credentials. So much has been said and will be said about comrade Robert Mugabe, an admirable statesman and one of the last living effigies of the African struggle for self determination who sacrificed so much of his adult life to rid his people of the bondage of arrogant domination from the west.
We admire Mugabe despite his gross human rights violations such as the Ndebele massacre and subjecting his country men to bloodshed every election time, partly because he was the bully who told the west to mind their business. We admire leaders who can look the west in the eye and call a spade one.
I have a contrary view though. The African leader that I admire is not the one who goes to the UN and yells at Donald Trump or signs an anti gay law to prove a point to Hillary Clinton. That’s empty rhetoric.
The true African freedom fighters of the 21st century are leaders who will take their countries to the promised land of economic emancipation for you cannot talk about Freedom from western neo colonial domination when you go with begging bowls each time African Union wants to deploy troops to hunt terrorists in Somalia or bring Kony to order in Central African Republic.
How do we talk about a free africa when as in the case of Uganda, the American is injecting more money to the Health sector (of course it’s business for them)?. How do we debate African freedom when our infrastructural development wave is fanned and funded by the same people we want to liberate ourselves from? China could soon become the new neo colonial master on this point.
When our economic reform discussions are shaped by IMF/WB that are inherently structured to serve western interests, where’s the freedom?
Prof Dani Nabudere and others in the 1970s “University of Dar-es- salaam” debates pondered on these issues and reflected on the question of African determination in the place of global financial capital. In fact the argument then that’s valid to date was that as long as Africa doesn’t find its footing in the global finance capital eco system, even the ruling class as we know it, will remain in western capitals and our rulers here only implementers of their programs.
It’s important to ask why the west doesn’t go yelling to Russia, India, China or economically strong Arab countries about how to observe human rights and govern themselves.
In Teso If you come off as condescending a man will ask you, “do I eat from your home/do you Feed me?” It’s not surprising that even when we try to legislate here our legislative framework whether on terrorism or even moral issues like homosexuality is sieved by the muzungu as we saw when Uganda passed the anti homosexuality bill. That was a perfect example to ask the question, are we in position to determine our destiny? We were reminded we aren’t when aid was frozen and there was paralysis in the health sector until Justice Kavuma (God bless that man) did the magic. Even the bishops kept quiet as IRCU was heavily funded by the west. And yet Russia has more draconian laws on the same issues.
Therefore, when appraising African “revolutionaries” like Mugabe, Museveni, Gaddafi, my humble view is that the parameters should lean more towards their contribution to economic emancipation of their countries (I don’t mean grabbing land from white farmers and giving it to your tribe mates and regime loyalists who later run the same down) than how many times they stood up against the west using verbal artillery. The true African freedom fighters of our generation are those who economically empower their countries to walk with heads up in this capitalism age. If you attack the west with one lip and use the other lip to go with a begging bowl, I am not sure you have done enough to liberate Africa from neo colonial chains. Work on the economics then preach African freedom. And the beauty about it is that with robust and globally competitive economies the people of these countries will emerge into an African middle class (less influenced by the west and having to assess progress based on western ideals and utopian standards).
With robust economies emerge civically conscious populations capable of safe guarding African freedom (whichever way one looks at it). But if you have a population that depends on the muzungu for ARVs, scholastic materials, jobs ( Ngo sector is the second biggest employer after government) how far will you take the African freedom gospel?
Ladies and gentlemen let’s assess our leaders based on how much they have contributed to uplifting their economies for freedom in this capitalism age thrives best on the bedrock of economic liberation including in our private lives. If Mugabe’s African Freedom fighter (that’s after independence) credentials are based on how many times he told off Blair and Bush Then that’s a Cold War era standard. In this era you have to attain economic liberation first then talk freedom from neo colonial hegemony.
President Museveni told a South African Tv recently in an interview that if anything gives him sleepless nights it’s the sad reality that an entire bloc of over 53 nations has not built enough military capacity to defend the African people in case of an existential threat. He says he doesn’t see a Russia, India or China in Africa. Some scoffed at him but I think he raised an important point which if extrapolated begs the question, “what’s Africa’s bargaining power? What’s our place in the world order? We don’t even have a seat at the UN Security Council, again partly because our economic standing as a whole is yet to secure us a seat at the “table of men”.
Until Africa’s economic position is bolstered the international system will remain biased against us, our human rights record will be assessed by ICC, Human Rights Watch, our economic road map will be a blue print of IMF/ World Bank wish lists and we shall probably not be doing business with China per se but remain a playground of their own economic agenda and hence be beholden to them, our laws will remain a mirror of the western standards.
Our destiny, as the Nabuderes postulated in the 1970s will be determined by others. So who are the true POST “Independence” freedom fighters? Is it those who simply insult the west or they who practically contribute to our economic emancipation? Thank you!
Ivan Okuda is a post graduate student at the Law Development Centre and journalist with Daily Monitor.