The African Union’s New Political Platform: Whatever Pisses Off Whitey

Ah, the African Union has “many more serious problems to consider than Zimbabwe”.

Plus South Africa’s government finds it irritating that they’re expected to say something about Zimbabwe. Bheki Khumalo says that South Africa will do things that are “correct and right”, not things that the G8 wants South Africa to do.

This is the same AU that claims it’s time for African solutions to African problems. The same South African government that wants to bring about an African “renaissance”.

If the AU or Mbeki’s government were serious about any of that, they’d know that doing what’s “correct and right” is something you do regardless of who is urging you to do it. But “correct and right” for the AU or the ANC largely consists of mock performances of sovereignty. Ergo, whatever the West wants, the AU will not do, just to show that they’re nobody’s servants. Of course they are utterly pliant when it comes to cash flowing under the table, but when it comes to human rights issues, hey, it’s time to put their collective feet down. If whitey wants justice in Zimbabwe, it must be more important to show whitey who’s boss by backing whatever Mugabe’s up to now.

It’s bitterly funny for me to recall the earnest fervor that those of us in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s directed at ideas like “constructive engagement”, at least when I hear South African spokesmen unironically calling for the same today. “Sssshh,” they keep saying, “let us deal with Mugabe quietly. It doesn’t do any good to condemn him in public!” I’m recalling the ANC representative who came to dinner with the trustees at my undergraduate university and screamed at them that one could never tolerate evil for one second, never stand quiet in the face of injustice. I wonder where he is now. Probably riding the gravy train, if he maneuvered fast enough.

If the AU leadership acted or even just spoke more forcefully, they wouldn’t be sitting around feeling irritated about Condoleezza Rice’s scoldings. Instead they’re driven by a politics of negation: they’re for whatever it is the West is against, and vice-versa. That’s the opposite of sovereignty: it’s servitude in another guise.

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2 Responses to The African Union’s New Political Platform: Whatever Pisses Off Whitey

  1. scoopstories says:

    You win the award, Tim, for the most eye-catching blog headline of the day. I always come to your blog thinking I have nothing intelligent to add and I saw “African Union” and thought, oh, god, I know nothing on this topic – then as I clicked the back key and saw the “whitey” part, did a double take and came on back.

    I’m guessing you don’t mind miss visiting Africa for your studies?

  2. Bradley Reuhs says:

    I’m curious (and I know so little about this): Is this attitude basically home grown, a heartfelt response to the colonial past, or is it heavily influenced by the Western political view of an unfair North-South divide? (In other words, is it a reflection of Western guilt?) Also, are there any political forces, African or otherwise, that might effect a change for the better? Or for the worse? As an undergrad, I had a bunch of friends who were grad students (environ bio) from West Africa (Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia) and we would talk, and argue, and drink beer, late into the night; my feeling at the time was that they were generally optimistic about the future of Africa. Would their counterparts today be as hopeful?

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