Saturday, January 31, 2004

Mugabe's Pathetic Self-Defense

Mugabe's regime resorts to the tried-and-trusted "we aren't the worst offenders" argument to defend itself against EU criticism:

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday said the European Union should not target his government, arguing that his embattled country was more democratic than the majority of African nations, state media said.

"We are a more democratic country than most African countries and there is really no case the European Union should hold against us," the government Ziana news agency quoted Mugabe as saying.

Mugabe was speaking when he met outgoing French ambassador to Harare, Didier Ferrand, just weeks ahead of the proposed renewal of sanctions by the European Union.

The EU in 2002 imposed travel restrictions on 72 of Zimbabwe's top government and ruling party officials, including Mugabe, accusing them of human rights abuses and electoral fraud after controversial elections that year which saw Mugabe return to power.

The truly sad thing about Mugabe's statement is that it actually is true: Zimbabwe is by no means the worst offender on the continent when it comes to respect for democracy, particularly when the countries of the Maghreb are taken into consideration. One legitimate criticism of the Western focus on Zimbabwe is that there isn't a comparable interest in the wrongdoings occurring in any of the other nations on the continent where there are no white settlers to catch the media's eye. If Zimbabwe is to be criticised for violating human rights, then surely nations like Algeria, Egypt and Sudan ought to meet with even more vehement condemnation, which they never do. Human rights violations in Africa only seem to matter in the Western press when the victims are both white and christian.