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Mugabe’s Exit: What impacts on Africa?

By News Express on 09/12/2017

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The forced resignation from the high office of the President of Zimbabwe: 93-year-old Mr Robert Mugabe, on November 21, 2017 perhaps, made global headlines as the most significant political event out of Africa this year. 

Although the story was nearly overshadowed by the gruesome picture of 26 Nigerian migrants that died in the Mediterranean Ocean, off the coast of Italy and buried in Italy. Notwithstanding, the exit of Mugabe from his long reign as maximum ruler of Zimbabwe still dominated the headlines.

Much of the Western media, ranging from major international networks in the United States of America, United Kingdom and France, among others, celebrated this event as if to say it was the hottest news of the day worldwide. 

The news of the exit of Mugabe reverberated even as far as New Zealand, Australia, and China where the plot to unseat him was hatched: the media also celebrated it. Locally, Zimbabweans were over-excited. Some were seen dancing openly in the streets of Harare, and major towns across the nation. Several events led up to the eventual expulsion of this aged politician from the political party he helped nurture into national acclaim, known as Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) 

The most critical trigger that spearheaded the fall from the pinnacle of political power - after 37 years as autocratic ruler of the heavily impoverished Zimbabwe - was the inordinate ambition of his second wife, Mrs Grace Mugabe, to enthrone a political dynasty; by plotting to succeed her old-and-not-so healthy 93-year-old husband, whom she reportedly snatched from his original wife, while she (Grace) worked in the secretarial pool inside the Presidency, in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1996.

The fall of Mr Mugabe, who spearheaded the pro-independence war against the White minority rule in the late 1970’s, can be summed up in diverse but related scenarios. A lot of intrigues and political dramas characterised his exit. There was sizzling media frenzy that also characterised the entire episodes.

First, the 93-year-old Mugabe was put under house arrest during a military take-over last Wednesday, after a power struggle over who would succeed him.

The military then said on Friday that it was “engaging” with Mr Mugabe. His extremely flamboyant and ostentatious second wife, Grace, was also rumoured to have fled to Mozambique. But it was later gathered that she couldn't leave, as soldiers closed in on her husband and kept them under close guard for days. 

The military which staged the coup said it had been arresting “criminals” around the president, but gave no names. Mugabe's ally and finance minister was picked up and huge cash in foreign denominations were reportedly found, with some newspapers quoting that as much as US$10 million were found stashed in his bedroom. 

The army also officially and publicly said it would advise the nation on the outcome of talks with  Mugabe, “as soon as possible”, just as Mugabe was made to address a graduation ceremony of the nation's foremost university in Harare, to present the picture of a country that was actually running as it should without any outward signs of the military operations that were taking place. 

As captured by the BBC reporter in Harare, the army moved in after Mugabe, last week, sacked vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace Mugabe, to take over his ZANU-PF party and the presidency. The dismissed VP used to be a very reliable political and defence ally of Mugabe, and is rumoured to have amassed monumental financial assets while serving in different capacities under Mugabe's watch. Mugabe is said to be worth nearly £2 billion of assets in Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and South Africa, just as the wife is said to own lots of housing assets in Hong Kong. 

What actually made the negotiations to last long was because of the realisation that if Mugabe could be persuaded to step down officially, it would help legitimise the military's dramatic intervention, BBC's Andrew Harding reported from Zimbabwe.

On the streets, it is hard to find anyone who wants Mugabe to stay on, our correspondent adds, but negotiating the manner of his departure and some sort of transitional agreement to follow took some time.

Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Roman Catholic priest, known to Mugabe for years, was brought in to mediate. The clergy spent quality time in the fortified private palatial mansions of the Mugabes, trying to persuade him to step down.

The BBC reported that sources close to the talks said Mr Mugabe - who has been in control of Zimbabwe since it took over from (Ian Smith’s) White minority rule in 1980 - is refusing to stand down voluntarily, before next year's planned elections.

Some observers even suggested that Mugabe tried to seek guarantees of safety for himself and his family before stepping aside. But before he finally resigned, it was gathered that he was granted immunity. Jacob Zuma of South Africa was said to be on his way to Harare, even as the deposed vice-president, who would now be sworn in as interim president, Mr Emerson Mnangagwa is said to have arrived.

ZANU-PF officials had earlier suggested that Mugabe could remain nominally in power until the party congress in December, when Mr Mnangagwa would be formally installed as party and national leader, so says news reports. But the decision of the majority of the hierarchy to edge him out through removal as party leader made it easier and inevitable, that the die was cast.

South Africa, which is hosting millions of Zimbabweans who fled after the country's economy crashed in 2008, said it has a special interest in seeing stability restored.

South Africa's defence minister and security minister met Mugabe on behalf of Southern African Development Commission (SADC), which South Africa currently leads. They urged Zimbabwe to “settle the political challenges through peaceful means,” according to the AFP. President Muhammadu Buhari and the African Union also spoke out in favour of constitutional resolution of the impasse, just before Mugabe capitulated to the superior political firepower.

The African Union said it would not accept a military seizure of power and demanded a return to constitutional order.

Significantly too, opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said it was “in the interests of the people” that Mugabe “resigns... immediately”, as part of a negotiated “all-inclusive transitional mechanism.” Tsvangirai had earlier returned from a medical trip in South Africa.

Another opposition leader, Tendai Biti, called for elections to be held.

It is no longer news that the Zimbabwe's military took over the headquarters of national broadcaster, ZBC, and issued a statement saying they were targeting “criminals” around President Mugabe.

Troops and armoured vehicles encircled parliament and other key buildings throughout the day, but not a single person was injured.

Prior to the operation, Gen Chiwenga had on Monday warned that the Army would intervene to end what he called the “purging” of ZANU-PF members “with a liberation background,” referring to the country's struggle for independence.

Mr Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war, which led to independence. He is closely in touch with top Generals. By virtue of his close affinity with the military, it was speculated that he instigated the military operations soon after Mugabe’s ambitious second wife instigated his disgraceful removal as vice-president.

Just before Mugabe threw in the towel, he had stuck by his gun that he was not going to resign, even when he gave a widely anticipated live broadcast that most people believed to be his resignation address. He sat alongside the military Generals who had subjected him to a week-long house arrest and who were said to have written the scripts he read, and were seen apparently choreographing and directing him on how to read the hurriedly written speech.

Following his refusal to resign, the political party gave their parliamentarians the mandate to begin the impeachment of Mugabe. He, however, quickly secured an agreement with the military Generals for blanket immunity from prosecution. He then sent in his letter of resignation to the parliament.

Hon Jacob Mudenda, Speaker of Parliament, read out Mugabe’s notice of resignation as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, amid rapturous acclaim. 

The resignation: “In terms of the provisions of section 96 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, amendment number 20, 2013;

“Following my verbal communication with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, at 13:53 hours, 21st November, 2017 intimating my intention to resign as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe: I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in terms of section 96 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.

“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe, and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability.

“Kindly give public notice of my resignation as soon as possible, as required by section 96 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

Theresa May of Britain, Emmanuel Macron of France, Mrs Angela Merkel of Germany welcomed the resignation of Mugabe.

Even as the Western world celebrates the disgraceful exit of Mugabe, considered as public enemy number one of Britain, there are many lessons that can be learned positively, so as to properly anchor democratic practices on the African continent; battered by mass poverty, civil wars and political instability. 

This is because of the obvious fact that although Mugabe is gone, but there are other Mugabes all across Africa, especially in Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria and Gabon. 

The first of the many positive lessons to be drawn from the circumstances that made loyalists of then strongman of Zimbabwe to turn around and reject him and compel him to quit office, is that dictators and their evil regimes will always have to end tragically. Importantly, another key lesson is that no matter how long the political dictators - like the type we now have in Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon - continues to self-perpetuate themselves in office, all that it will take to upturn their perpetual stay in office is for the people’s power to be brought to bear.

All over the world, humanity are becoming increasingly open and disposed to accepting the enforcement of fundamental human rights, which basically makes it imperative that the will of the greatest majority of the people must take prime position at all times.

Manfred Nowak had argued that: “Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings. They define relationships between individuals and power structures, especially the state. Human rights delimit state power and, at the same time, require states to take positive measures ensuring an environment that enables all people to enjoy their human rights.” 

Nowak noted that history, in the last 250 years has been shaped by the struggle to create such an environment, starting with the French and American revolutions in the late eighteenth century, the idea of human rights has driven many a revolutionary movement for empowerment and for control over the wielders of power, governments in particular.

“Governments and other duty bearers are under an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, which form the basis for legal entitlements and remedies in case of non-fulfillment,” he submitted, adding:

“In fact, the possibility to press claims and demand redress differentiates human rights from the precepts of ethical or religious value systems.”

Arguing from a legal standpoint, human rights, he said, can be defined as the sum of individual and collective rights recognised by sovereign states and enshrined in their constitutions, and in international law. 

According to him, since the Second World War, the United Nations has played a leading role in defining and advancing human rights, which until then had developed mainly within the nation state.  As a result, human rights have been codified in various international and regional treaties and instruments that have been ratified by most countries, and represent today the only universally recognised value system.

Nowak believes that human rights cover all aspects of life. 

Their exercise enables women and men to shape and determine their own lives in liberty, equality and respect for human dignity, he said. 

Human rights comprise civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights; and the collective rights of peoples to self-determination, equality, development, peace and a clean environment. 

“Although it has been - and sometimes still is - argued that civil and political rights, also known as ‘first generation rights’, are based on the concept of non-interference of the state in private affairs, whereas social, economic and cultural - or ‘second generation’ - rights require the state to take positive action, it is today widely acknowledged that, for human rights to become a reality, states and the international community must take steps to create the conditions and legal frameworks necessary for the exercise of human rights as a whole.”

This, perhaps, explains the global dimension of interest shown in the political transition that took place in Zimbabwe on November 21, 2017. Africans should, therefore, exercise their inherent capacity to demand that only the choice of the majority of the people - determined through a democratic process - must be allowed to preside over the governance of their nations. 

The fall of Mugabe should also remind us of the imperative of building strong democratic institutions, rather than propping up strong individuals. For us in Nigeria, we must also show our determination to compel the political leaders to abide by the precepts and rules enshrined in the law books and the constitution.

Such key institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria Police and the armed forces must not be structured and controlled by groups or elements who are put in place to defend particular religious or ethnic affiliations. The Nigerian military must, therefore, defend all Nigerians from forces bent on destroying some communities, such as the armed Fulani terrorists (parading as herdsmen) and must not wait for President Buhari to direct them on how to defend the right to the life of farmers. Therefore, appointments into strategic national offices must be in compliance with the Federal Character principle and based on competences, and not the lopsided nature and shape it has taken under the watch of the incumbent President.

 For instance, the people-led revolution that saw the exit of Mugabe was unanimously undertaken by all ethnic groups of Zimbabwe.

The ethnicities are: The Shona; Whites, Lemba, Tokaleya, Goffal, Vadoma, Ndau, Kunda, Zulu,  Indians, Tonga, Nambya, Gokomere, Manyika, San,Venda, Kalanga, and Sena. 

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). He can be reached via 08033327672 (sms only) or via 

Source News Express

Posted 09/12/2017 8:24:34 PM


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