Saturday, December 08, 2007

EU and Mugabe (2)

I didn't post on this subject last night, as threatened, because I was getting pissed and experience has shown that I am really hopeless at putting anything cogent together when pissed, which is really embarrassing the next morning. (Some would argue I'm just as bad when sober).

I spent 6 months in Zimbabwe, arriving 3 days after independence - Mugabe's election. I was part of a British Army Training Team working to integrate the 3 sets of armed forces. My role was to teach electronics to a mixed class of apprentice communications technicians at the School of Signals in Bulawayo. The reason we were needed was the that Army was still predominantly white at senior levels and it was felt that "neutral" forces would help team building.

In my class I had a mix of whites who had fought, whites who hadn't, blacks who had fought for the whites, blacks who hadn't fought for any side and of course blacks who had been guerrilla/freedom fighters/terrorists, and even a white South African girl who had come north because she wanted to get away from racist regimes.

The general mood was one of reconciliation and there was a general desire to put the past behind and work for a new beginning. One friendship that formed sums up this mood. One of my academically weaker students had been in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, a feared special forces unit and one of my brightest was a black who had been trained in Russia and had a degree in maths and electronics (he was better qualified then me). It transpired that these 2 had been in a fierce firefight against each other in one of the regional battles but despite this they formed a strong friendship with the black helping the white.

This was also the general mood in the civilian population. Despite what happened blacks and whites mixed well and generally wanted to make a go of things. Yes, there were problems with some of the older whites and some younger hot heads, but by and large they kept themselves to themselves. Having said that I was involved in a scary incident when a white guy who had latched on to us one weekend suddenly pulled a gun out in a hotel bar and started threatening the blacks, but he was the exception.

It didn't take long for Mugabe to destroy this mood and drive a wedge between blacks and whites, forcing out a lot of the whites. Why did this matter? Most of the experience in governing and maintaining the country rested with the whites. They were not only the farmers but the engineers, doctors and administrators. Those that I met wanted to stay and help with the transition but eventually, fearing for their lives, they left before anyone could be trained to take their place. This, and the kleptocracy that evolved, is why the economy is such a basket case and Mugabe cannot be forgiven.

This is why I get so wound up when I see the EU giving Mugabe and his regime legitimacy by meeting them on the international stage. He should be ostracised and if his fellow African leaders don't like it, tough. We don't have to give them aid and if they are so stupid they want to cut off their faces that's their problem.

But what about the poor, we have to help them don't we? Yes, and the best we can do is to shorten the life of Mugabe's evil regime and implement democracy, then we can really help through a Marshall plan.

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