Ending Tyranny In Africa

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[Black Star News Editorial]

This is a golden chance for African countries to break free from the yoke of ruinous dictatorships so that the continent can for the first time benefit from its immense natural and mineral resources.

For decades, Western countries, particularly the United States and Britain, sustained despots in African countries with the only criteria being that they serve Western interests. This policy continues up to day; the test is, going forward, will the new U.S. Administration of Barack Obama continue the George W. Bush policy of "If you're not with us, you're our enemy; if you're with us, even if you have blood in your hands, you're our friend"?

The Bush policy permitted Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi to steal national elections, lock up opposition leaders, and massacre those who demonstrated in the streets. Yet, he shielded himself against the full force of sanctions for his human rights abuses by offering to do for George Bush in Somalia, what Bush had done in Iraq; Zenawi invaded and occupied Somalia, ostensibly to depose a radical Islamist regime. The intervention was attended with the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Somalis and who knows how many thousands killed.

Ultimately, Ethiopia was expelled from Somalia just like the U.S. had been ejected in 1993.

But who will pay the price of the occupation and destruction of Somalia? Will Ethiopia pay for it? Will the U.S., which sanctioned the invasion, pay? How will the cost be assessed? If no compensation is forthcoming, will we eventually see Somalis seeking vengeance against Ethiopia once they settle their own domestic affairs?

In the case of the Sudan, it is evident that Omar Hassan al-Bashir is now a castrated president and that his regime's days are numbered. An indicted president cannot remain in power for long. The sad thing is that some of the so-called rebel leaders who have also committed atrocities, including ordering the murders of African peace keepers, will elude justice because in the simplistice Western template there always has to be a "good guy" and a "bad guy."

In Eritrea, a closed society cannot survive in the era of the Internet and instant communication; the same is true for Gabon, with its life president Omar Bongo who has been in office for 42 years.

Rwanda had been given a free pass for years because no one in the international community wants to see the type of massacres that occurred in 1994. Dictator Paul Kagame, is believed with Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, to have played a role in the assassinations of presidents Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Sylvestre Ntayamire of Burundi when the former's plane was shot down, sparking the massacres of an estimated 800,000 to one million. Yet, for some years Rwanda had reestablished a level of normalcy relative to the 1994 tragedy and Kagame's excesses were tolerated. He may have overplayed his cards late last year when he financed, equipped, and even supplied with fighters the terrorist Laurent Nkunda, who committed genocide in eastern Congo.

Rwanda belatedly "arrested" Nkunda but can't dare turn him over to the authorities in Congo or to the International Criminal Court for fear that he would implicate Rwanda's top political and military leadership.

Uganda is presided over by perhaps the most corrupt and tyrannical ruler in Africa. For years he has managed to charm the West while practically wiping out a whole ethnic group, Acholis, with the full knowledge and backing of the United States and Britain; the regime is so corrupt that even millions of dollars sent to fight HIV/Aids was embezzled.

Yet, after Museveni agreed like Zenawi to send troops to Somalia, he was awarded with a White House audience by George Bush, even though he was already under investigation by the ICC for war crimes. In 2005, the International Court of Justice had found Uganda liable and assessed $10 billion in damages, for crimes against humanity and war crimes in addition to pillage, when its army occupied eastern Congo from 1997-2003.  Please see http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/116/10455.pdf

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006 that the ICC was investigating the same crimes, meaning Museveni, as with Bashir, could be indicted; yet, Bush, who also knows one or two things about war crimes, hosted Museveni at the White House in 2007.

Will the Obama Presidency make a radical break from the perverted U.S. policy of sustaining tyrants who hold back the economic progress of the African continent while presiding over the deaths of millions of Africans?

So far, President Obama has said many positive things. Even during the campaign, he publicly wondered why an "old man" wanted to cling on to power in Kenya; he was referring to Mwai Kibaki, who ultimately stole the election from Raila Odinga.

More recently, while in Strasbourg, France, after his trip to the G20 in London, President Obama condemned corruption in African countries and specifically named Kenya, although the criticism applies to several other countries.

President Obama rightly praised Botswana, which he said is a "well-managed" country; there are others such as Zambia, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, Senegal and South Africa, where democratic governance thrives; Sierra Leone and Liberia have also began to turn things around.

President Obama should also make it clear that the U.S. won't support personalized rule in African countries and offer full support for legitimate opposition so that more African countries can experience the kind of peaceful transition witnessed in Ghana after elections there.

Please post your comments online or submit them to milton@blackstarnews.com

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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