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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why They Continue to Fail

In a sign of phenomenal regional stupidity, the Southern African Development Community--SADC--is forming ranks around Robert Mugabe and threatening to kill off a summit with the EU scheduled to begin next week.

The SADC threat heightened the pre-summit row over Mr Mugabe’s attendance which has already meant Gordon Brown confirming his own boycott of the summit, a move followed by Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Prime Minister. Tomaz Salomão, executive secretary of the SADC, said that its 14 members including South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania as well as Zimbabwe, would pull out if Zimbabwe was on the agenda.

“SADC will not go to Lisbon to discuss Zimbabwe because the summit is not about Zimbabwe, but about relations between the EU and Africa,” he said.

But while neither Zimbabwe nor any other country is expected to be listed as a separate agenda item, “governance and human rights” is one of five areas for discussion at the two-day gathering. A discussion of human rights is also a precondition for lifting Mr Mugabe’s EU travel ban to allow him to go in the first place.

Sadly, I can’t say that this is unprecedented. The truth is that post-colonial African leaders have a long-standing habit of protecting their neighbors from legitimate criticism, preferring to ignore the corruption and misrule in the region partially, I’ve always believed, as a way of ensuring that they themselves never have to face that criticism. I don’t attack you, you don’t attack me.

Or perhaps it simply stems from some strange belief that they are fortifying southern Africa diplomatically against incursions from a hostile Western world. If that is the case, then it goes far in proving that billions of dollars in financial, food, and material aid don’t go far in buying good will; while the West may hold the markets and the purse strings, many African leaders (and their overdeveloped sense of entitlement) insist on setting an agenda that doesn’t include changes in how they govern and how their economies are structures.

If the EU isn’t even allowed to raise the issue of gross negligence in the governing of countries like Zimbabwe, then no honest dialogue about Southern Africa can possibly take place.

But, again, that’s hardly surprise.

My beliefs on aid--and the importance of those Southern African states to the national security interests of the US--don’t necessarily mesh with most of my conservative and libertarian friends, but I think we could agree on this: without continued and aggressive changes to the governance of those states, our aid money is being wasted. Why continue throwing money down a well when there’s somebody at the bottom digging the hole ever deeper? I applaud the European leaders who are boycotting the summit over the inclusion of Mugabe; I wonder what the remaining leaders will do when faced with this very obvious and very hostile maneuver from the SADC?

Regardless, with the SADC putting up this block to a meaningful summit, an accidental message is being sent to the United States, too. When devising future aid packages, we now know that, regardless of some of the more impressive political changes in countries like Mozambique and South Africa, the urge to provide cover for the most corrupt and self-destructive of their members is strong enough to threaten an important summit with the European Union.

And that is one of the biggest reasons that these countries have continued to fail.

Read the story.

Thanks to Robin Roberts for pointing me toward the story.

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