East, West: Africa still a pawn?

THE final fate of Muammar Gadaffi raises personal memories for me.

In 1983, as editor of The Sunday News in Bulawayo, I was one of a group of journalists invited to Iraq by the government of Saddam Hussein to witness their alleged success in the war against Iran.

One memorable incident was the sight of teenagers in a prison outside Baghdad.

We were told they were Iranian soldiers captured during the war.

We were feted lavishly, accommodated in a posh hotel in the centre of the capital.

My memories are of a man who ruled with an iron fist.

There was no pretence: posters of the man were splashed all over the cities we visited.

It was three years after independence in Zimbabwe.

It would not be until 2000 before there were elections featuring an opposition party strong enough to challenge Zanu PF.

I never actually met Saddam Hussein.

Yet what I saw was the rule of one man – with no bother from pesky newspapers or politicians.

Then came the Gulf War in 1991.

It was followed by the 2003 invasion by the West, after reports Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. 

These were never found.

But he was executed on 30 December 2006 for killing 148 Shi’ites in 1982.

He had been captured by the Americans while hiding in a hole in the ground.

I had mixed feelings about his execution.

The weapons were never found.

But I accepted that he had killed so many Iraqis, he deserved the ultimate punishment. 

I suspect very strongly that the same fate will overtake Muammar Gadaffi.

It may not be done by the Western invaders, but it will happen.

His people will remember how he publicly announced he would kill them for opposing him.

They will not forgive him.

In 2007, I visited Libya and saw Gaddafi at close range.

He reminded me of Saddam Hussein.

In recent weeks, there have been two big world stories – the earthquake/tsunami in Japan and Libya.

Both stories have featured much bloodshed and have, inevitably, led many news bulletins, even on RT (Russia Today).

A recent bulletin, laced with comment, gave the impression that Russia seemed to be playing the “Cold War” game.

The West had engineered the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and Libya – RT almost stated this as a proven fact.

A few African countries took the same line: The Ugly American was at it again – fomenting crises to raise its political profile around the world.

Yet when little Swaziland, famous (or notorious), for its sexist “reed dance”, had a protest march led by the trade unionists against the government, many eyebrows were raised.       

There was no mistaking the “copycat” nature of the demonstration in Mbabane.

The sheer courage of the demonstrators was intriguing.

The monarch, the polygamist King Mswati, doesn’t normally tolerate such tomfoolery.

But these people got away with it.

In South Africa, students staged a march against the high fees at tertiary institutions.

They protested at the cabinet ministers’ and corporation chief executives’ obscene salaries while tertiary education was starved of government funds.

Many “neutrals” found it difficult to conceive of the US CIA’s hand in all these protests.

There is no denying the active participation of the West in trying to rein in Gadaffi’s excesses.

He declared he would kill his own people for opposing him.

What game the Russians are playing is a little difficult to fathom, at first glance.

Only a few countries in Africa now believe that the communist-style economic system, forged by both China and the former Soviet Union is a panacea for their fight against poverty.

There are countries now preferring empowerment of the indigenous people as a substitute. 

In some countries, this is such a naked political gimmick, critics have panned it.

One argument is this: while housing for the poor is still as wretched as it was under colonialism, while health services and education are still far from “universal”, what virtue is there in giving a few individuals the chance to amass wealth?

The majority has every right to go out onto the streets to protest – they don’t need the CIA to motivate them.

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