The Zimbabwe Conundrum (The Last Part)
By George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
One poignant lesson that can be drawn from Africa’s disastrous postcolonial record is the fact that sycophancy and collaboration seldom pay. The sycophants often delude themselves into thinking that, should their country blow, they will always be able escape to enjoy their booty outside heir country.
But angry Africans have vowed to punish the traitors, sycophants, leeches and intellectual collaborators. I want to make perfectly clear that I do not condone some of the extreme measures taken by some Africans. I am only reporting them.
During the 11 May 1995 “Kume Preko” demonstrations in Ghana, the tires of some deputy ministers were deflated. “Escape now,” the angry mob seemed to be saying. Kabena Kofi of Tema warned: “I would like to remind Messrs E.T. Mensah, Prof Awoonor, Obed Asamoah, Harry Sawyerr and others, that if the unexpected happens as a result of their sycophancy, they and their families would be the first to bear the anger of Ghanaians” (Free Press, 10-16 April 1996, 2). In Nigeria, Zaire, and several African countries, the houses and cars of intellectual collaborators were burned down.
In Liberia, the following people, who served under General Samuel Doe of Liberia, met rather untimely deaths: Senate President Tambakai Jangaba; Justice Minister Jenkins Scott, Information Minister J. Emmanuel Bowier, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Elbert Dunn, Finance Minister Emmanuel Shaw, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Kekura Kpoto.
In Senegal, after President Diouf’s ruling Socialist Party “won” a huge majority in parliamentary elections in February 1993, violence broke out amid charges of vote rigging and Babacar Seye, the vice-president of Senegal’s Constitutional Council, was killed. African News Weekly (4 June 1993) reported that: “Seye was found dead in his car, apparently the victim of an ambush . . . investigators said.
According to the independent, Sud Quotidien a group calling itself the “People’s Army” claimed responsibility for Seye’s murder, the first political assassination in Senegal’s history . . . This is a warning for the other judges in the Constitutional Council, so they really respect the people’s will, it quoted the anonymous caller as saying.” (13). Seye’s killer was never found.
In Sierra Leone, a judge condemned 16 civilians, including five journalists, to death by hanging for collaborating with Sierra Leone’s ousted military regime of Capt. Paul Koroma. “Justice Edmond Cowan allowed the defendants 21 days to appeal the sentences, which he handed down after attorneys for the condemned made last-ditch appeals for leniency” (The Washington Times, 26 August 1998, A13).
Nigerian writer, Adebayo Willams, warned: “Depending on how General Abacha leaves, all those who contributed to the economic and political adversity of the country in the past 20 years must be ready to face some retribution as a way of laying a firm foundation for the future. In the case of those who looted the treasury all efforts must be made to trace and repatriate the ill‑gotten wealth” (Tell, 1 June 1998, 33).
In fact, the Secretary for Commerce in the defunct Interim National Government, Mrs. Bola Kuforiji‑Olubi, was forced to apologize to student activists who kept vigil at the Ikeja home of Chief M.K.O. Abiola when he died on July 7, 1998. “She was accosted by the angry students to explain her role in the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan. Sensing trouble, she responded by apologizing to all Nigerian students but her apologies were largely unheeded” (The Vanguard, 16 July 1998, 5).
Elsewhere in Africa, civic groups and the private press are playing a key role in bringing these scoundrels to book. In August 1994 The Campaign for Democracy, an alliance of 52 human rights and political groups, urged the European Union to repatriate the men who annulled Nigeria’s 1993 president election. Former military president Ibrahim Babangida and his deputy Augustus Aikhomu were both believed to be in Europe.
“The popular opinion in Nigeria is that these elements must be tried for the untold hardship inflicted on the nation,” the group said in a letter to the European Union. “We therefore, with a high sense of responsibility, request their expulsion from Europe where they are currently domiciled” (African News Weekly, 26 August 1994, 29).
“Over 80 percent of Rwanda’s 700 judges and magistrates, many of them guilty themselves of the genocide, died or fled in the 1994 fighting” (The Economist, 23 March 1996, 37). Colonel Theoneste Bagosora of Habyarimana’s presidential guard, Marc Rugenera, former minister of finance, and many others fled into exile.
The information minister, Eliezer Niyitegeka, who incited Hutus to kill Tutsis, fled to a refugee camp in Goma, Zaire. But according to The Washington Post (19 February 1995), “Eliezer said in an interview in Zaire that he was so depressed that he was asking France for political asylum” (A46). Now he was depressed? At another squalid camp in Bukavu, Zaire, the former president, prime minister and cabinet ministers were holed up. Some settled in Cameroon which refused political asylum to several Rwandan Hutu officials accused of having played a significant role in the genocide there in 1994.
One of them was Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of the state information office and a founder of Radio Mille Collines, the Kigali radio station whose inflammatory broadcasts egged on Hutu soldiers and ethnic militia to kill Tutsis.
On April 1, 1996, Cameroon went further, rounding up eleven of the masterminds of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and throwing them into jail. And on June 11, 1998, Mathieu N’Garoupatse, a former Rwandan justice minister suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide in his country, was arrested and repatriated to Rwanda (The Washington Times, 11 June 1998, A17).
Caeser Zvayi was one of President Robert mugabe’s henchmen. He was the editor of the government propaganda mouthpiece, The Herald. When Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed, he fled to Botswana and took up a teaching position at Lim Kok Wing University in Gaborone. He was teaching, among other the courses, Writing for Print and News Writing and Reporting 1 in the university’s Faculty of Communications and Media.
Zvayi, in the past, openly called for the alienation of the opposition and celebrated the violent crackdown on the opposition in Zimbabwe. He is well known for bastardizing the MDC acronym to mean Movement for the Destruction of our Country, sometimes with the ascetic ‘movement’ for ‘morons’. He became the first journalist to be added to the European Union travel restrictions on Zimbabwe. Pro-democracy activists tracked him down and blew his cover to students:
‘If he supports Mugabe he must go back, he can be easily replaced by another lecturer from Zimbabwe with morals. How can anyone support Mugabe when people are suffering? After all, why is he in Botswana if he thinks Mugabe is doing the right thing?” said Kagiso Seloma, an 18-year old student at the university.
Seloma’s sentiments were echoed by Gaborone resident Mary Kokorwe who said “Zimbabweans should stage a demonstration at the university. He should be arrested for promoting hate and Zimbabweans should demonstrate at the university campus, because that should send a message to those who are violating other people’s rights in Zimbabwe right now that they will not get away with it” (Zimbabwe Metro, July 28, 2008).,
In August 2008, Botswana booted Caeser Zvayi out of the country.
Outside Africa, Africans in the diaspora have also vowed to work tirelessly to bring the collaborators to justice and block the granting of political asylum to these “useless idiots.” After the Momoh regime was overthrown by Captain Strasser, the vice president, Dr. Abudulai Conteh, fled to Britain. Did he really escape?
According to West Africa (31 August – 6 September 1992): “Dr. Abudulai Conteh has been deported from Britain, following a failed attempt by his lawyers to convince the UK authorities that Conteh was a genuine refugee. The British High Court Judge, Mr. Simon Brown, agreed with the Home Office that Conteh should bear some responsibility for the corruption of the Momoh government which played a major role in bankrupting Sierra Leone. He was deported back to his country” (1496).
U.S. courts now allow foreign victims of atrocities to sue the perpetrators. Ethiopian exiles in the United States have been taking Mengistu’s henchmen who fled to the United States to court to claim damages. On Jan 5, 2005, a major success was achieved when Federal agents arrested Kelbessa Negewo, an Ethiopian national on charges of committing numerous acts of murder and torture in his native country — the first arrest by U.S. authorities of a suspected human rights violator under the recently passed intelligence reform act.
“Today’s arrest marks a new chapter in ICE’s long-standing efforts to arrest, prosecute and remove human rights violators from the United States,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who heads ICE. “With the expanded authorities under the Intelligence Reform Act, ICE has a powerful new tool to deny these egregious criminals a safe haven in this country” (The Washington Times, Jan 5, 2005; p.A5).
In New York, Bawol Cabiri, a former Ghanaian diplomat, sued Baffour Assasie-Gyimah. As African Observer (25 April-8 May 1996) wrote: “In a stunning decision, a U.S. judge has ruled that President Rawlings should surrender one of his henchmen to face trial in New York for atrocities he committed against humanity.
U.S. Judge Allen G. Schwartz ruled April 18, 1996 that there is overwhelming evidence that Baffour Assasie-Gyimah, who is described in court papers as Deputy Chief of National Security, has committed outrageous human rights abuses and therefore should be brought to the U.S. immediately and tried under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Claim Act. (3)
Then there was Elsaphane Ntakirutimana, a Rwandan Hutu priest, who in April 1994 fled to take refuge in Mugonero Hospital and then participated in a daylong attack on 16 April, in which hundreds of men, women, and children were killed. After Rwanda blew up, he fled to the United States. But Rwandese exiles in the United States were waiting for him. They fingered him to the FBI and on 27 September 1996, he was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border which he was trying to cross.
The days of Africa’s intellectual prostitutes are numbered. Those highly educated Zimbabweans, who delude themselves into thinking that they can partake in the plunder of the economy and the repression of the people and then escape to enjoy the loot stashed abroad, should know that judgment day will come. Atonement now is far better than flight or escape.
It should be clear from these series that we have problems with all the stakeholders or major players on the political scene: ZANU-PF, the MDC, the intellectual class and civil society groups. To be sure, ZANU-PF is a monster but railing against the atrocities of the regime alone won’t bring change or save Zimbabwe.
The choices facing each of the stakeholders were also spelt out:
- For ZANU-PF, the hard line position is untenable and literally constitutes political suicide. The hard line stance destroyed Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Sudan. The more conciliatory approach saved Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Mali, Malawi, South Africa and other African Countries.
- For the MDC, the government of national unity (GNU) is a fatally flawed concept. It has never worked in any African country. It failed in Angola, Liberia, Ivory Coast and it is floundering in Sudan and Kenya. The MDC has no effective power in the current arrangement. SADC, which brokered the GNU deal, has been a bitter disappointment. The MDC should pull out of the GNU, resolve the split within its own ranks, broaden the participation in the negotiation process to include other civil society groups to craft a “Zimbabwean solution” to Zim’s political crisis. The reliance on externally brokered solution is disingenuous, to say the least.
- For the intellectual class, there is something called “intellectual accountability” and judgment day will surely come. “Educated” Zimbabweans need not be taught such simple concepts as “rule of law,” ‘human rights violations,” “democracy” and “free and fair elections” the hard way.
Finally, when change comes to Zimbabwe, it should be remembered that the “development process” is akin to embarking on a journey in a vehicle to go from Point A (a state of under-development) to Point B (a developed). Every society that seeks to move from point A to point B on the development stage needs not just a good driver but also a working state or vehicle.
Regardless of horsepower, shape, or color, a vehicle is an amalgamation of systems: ignition system, fuel system, electrical system, cooling system, transmission system, suspension system, brake system, as well as other systems.
Each system is designed for a specific purpose and must be in good working condition for the vehicle to operate efficiently. When a system breaks down, it must be repaired promptly. Parts designed for one system cannot be used to repair another. Oil, a lubricant, cannot be used as a coolant in the radiator.
Periodic maintenance and repair are imperative for optimal operating efficiency of each system. In other words, you can’t neglect to put oil in the engine of a car and when the engine seizes up, claim that the vehicle colonialists bequeathed you was defective. Unfortunately, the word “maintenance” does not even exist in the official lexicon of African governments, who drive new systems into the ground and then abandon them.
Institutions are to a state or society what systems are to a vehicle. A society has such institutions and systems as the military, the police and law enforcement, the political system, the economic system, the educational system, the judiciary system, the banking system, the civil service, and the media. Each institution has a specific function to play and should not be cross-matched with different functions.
For example, the role of the military is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and protect its citizens, while that of the judiciary is to enforce the rule of law and assure justice. Soldiers cannot be placed in civil judicial or political roles, because they are not trained for such roles. These institutions can also provide institutional checks against each other; for example, the police against the judiciary and verse versa.
However, in Zimbabwe as in the other African countries, the institutions of the state have been perverted to dispense patronage. The civil service is packed with party hacks, cronies, and tribesmen. Eventually, it becomes bloated, inefficient, and riddled with corruption. The educational system produces functionally illiterate elites, who sing fawning praises to the “Big Man”.
The judiciary system fails to uphold the rule of law because the judges themselves are crooks and the police highway bandits. The banking system is subject to manipulation by the ruling elite to siphon billions of dollars into overseas accounts. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, headed by Gideon Gono, has destroyed the currency.
The media in Zimbabwe was taken over soon after independence by the state and gagged or used as a propaganda mouthpiece for the ruling vagabonds. The remaining private newspapers were cowed into silence with criminal libel suits, assassinations, and onerous registration requirements. But the most discredited and perverted institution in Zimbabwe has been the military-cum-security forces, lacking even an elementary understanding of their basic function in society.
Instead of protecting the people, security forces train their guns on them. As infrastructure crumbled in the post colonial period, the ruling elites sought medical attention abroad, sent their children to schools overseas and shopped in foreign capitals. And the people? They were left to eat grass or starve.
The ZANU-PF development mobile is KAPUT. It is going nowhere except backwards. That vehicle needs to be repaired. If a vehicle has no bakes, it will land in a ditch, no matter how good the driver is. This is important because, in recent years in many African countries, the opposition leaders elites have fiercely jostled to replace the aging despot in power while intellectuals argued ferociously who should be the next head of state: From which region, religion or ethnicity?
Nobody paid attention to the condition of the state mobile. Witness Somalia: The country has been reduced to an ash-heap of rubble. Yet, “educated” barbarians pummel each other to determine who should be the next head of state. Thus, in many countries, we simply changed the driver without fixing the vehicle. Guess what happened. Back into the ditch. This describes what happened recently in Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and several other African countries.
As Africans are wont of saying: “We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing.”
The author, a native of Ghana, is a Distinguished Economist at American University and President of the Free Africa Foundation. He is the author of Africa Unchained (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2005) and Indigenous African Institutions (Transnational Publishers, 2006).