Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Mugabe’

Mugabe Must Be Ousted and Put on Trial

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th December, 2008

robert-mugabe  The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is right to call on the international community to force out Robert Mugabe, the butcher of Zimbabwe, and being of African origin himself, Archbishop Sentamu cannot be accused by Harare’s propagandists of being part of a British neo-colonial conspiracy. Some other notable African churchmen have added their voices of condemnation — not least former Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa — marching into moral areas where most politicians fear to tread. Just how many people need to die of cholera, on top of the hundreds of thousands of dispossessed and hungry, before the international community will take effective action on Zimbabwe?

Gordon Brown said somewhat limply over the weekend that ‘the world must tell Robert Mugabe that enough is enough’. A good sentiment, certainly, but does 10 Downing Street really think that Mugabe will listen? Of course not. He has run rings around foreign politicians, including the so-called regional mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, as well as the legitimate Zimbabwean opposition. And each day that pases witnesses more deaths and more refugees.

As Nick Clegg rightly told the Daily Mail yesterday, ‘the world has sat idly by whilst Robert Mugabe has brutalised his own people for too long. Economic recession in the West has led the world to avert its gaze from the suffering in Zimbabwe.’ Moreover, Nick said that it is vital that Mugabe should be indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, and that the United Nations should now declare that the use of military force by the international community would be justified in order to protect the Zimbabwean people. New Labour long ago gave up on the late Robin Cook’s concept of an ‘ethical foreign policy’, but the LibDems should shout this line on Zimbabwe from the rooftops, winning respect not only in the UK and the wider world, but especially amongst the suffering masses of Zimbabwe as well.

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Holding Burma to Account

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 10th July, 2008

Burma has an unfortunate tendency to disappear quickly from the headlines in the Western press. In Britain, it is seen as a less ‘sexy’ subject than Zimbabwe, though in many ways the situation in Burma is as bad, if not worse. The military junta is a kleptocracy that enslaves its people and seems devoid of any feeling when thousands of Burmese citizens die. Moreover, whereas there is a growing feeling internationally that the Zimbabwean regime is on its last legs (Robert Mugabe’s personal longevity perhaps only explicable by the hypothesis that the Devil can’t quite face welcoming him into Hell), the Burmese junta seemingly could go on and on, fed by its country’s natural resources and bolstered by the compliance of some of its neighbours.

China’s failure to use its clout to hold Burma to account is well known. But as Malcolm Bruce, MP (Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on International Development) said at a Liberal Democrat pasta and politics in Hackney tonight, India — the self-proclaimed world’s largest democracy — hasn’t exactly been turning the screws, as it could. I argued in the discussion following Malcolm’s presentation that the best hope for change may come through regional pressure, from within ASEAN (one recalls that Vietnam intervened to get rid of the genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia), though don’t hold your breath. ASEAN’s southern African counterpart, SADCC, hasn’t emerged with many brownie points re Zimbabwe, despite the efforts of some members such as Botswana and Tanzania.

Liberal International will be holding its next Executive in Bangkok, in December, and Burma will be right at the top of the agenda. Thailand has had to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing fighting, persecution and starvation in Burma, and has been the conduit for much recent aid. The West cannot bring the military thugs to account on its own — and would probably be unwise to try. But if ASEAN took a lead, it could be a very different matter.

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The World Food Summit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd June, 2008

The presence of the Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe at the World Food Summit in Rome (which opened today) should not distract people’s attention from the importance and urgency of the issues being discussed. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is hosting the conference, has warned industrialised countries that unless they increase yields, eliminate trade barriers and transfer food to where it is needed most, a global catastrophe could occur. Soaring food prices have pushed an estimated 100 million more people into hunger. However, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, urged governments to turn the criis into an opportunity. ‘While we must respond immediately to high food prices, it is important that our longer term focus is on improving world food security,’ he said.

President Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva of Brazil denounced what he called the intolerable protectionism which ‘stunts and disrupts’ farming in developing countries. Poorer nations are faced with food import bills 40 per cent higher this year. Though summits in themselves cannot resolve the crisis, this meeting is an important step in the right direction and will need to be followed up by all concerned, not least the European Union. Liberal International British Group (LIBG) presented a resolution on this subject to last month’s Congress of the Liberal International in Belfast and will be encouraging the British Liberal Democrats to campaign hard on related matters.


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Can Africa Solve Its Ills?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 31st May, 2008

Last night I took part in a live discussion on Voice of Africa Radio (VOAR) on solving the crisis in African development. Fifty years after Ghana led to way to independence, most of Africa remains firmly stuck developmentally, compared with a growing number of Asian and Latin American countries that are enjoying varying degrees of economic lift-off. Apparently last week the station hosted a programme outlining the problems affecting the continent, so this week, my two fellow panelists and I were meant to come up with solutions. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim that we did, but at least we highlighted possible ways forward.

I stressed the need to think positive: to spend less time blaming the colonial powers for the past (even if much of the blame is justified) and to focus on building the future. I was pleased to see that on Africa Day (25 May), the Chairman of the African Union, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, took a similarly forward-looking stance in his message to Africans and Friends of Africa. Africa is a rich continent, not a poor one, with an abundance of minerals and land and other resources, including a youthful population (in spite of the ravages of AIDS). The potential is huge if African states work together, tackle coruption in those countries where it is still a big problem, and reverse the outflow of capital.

As President Kikwete said, Africa is being particularly hard-hit by the rise in food and fuel prices (the latter despite the fact that there are a growing number of oil producers along the west coast). More needs to be done to boost Africa’s food production, which was badly hit by being undercut by subsidised foreign food imports. The European Union has an important role to play in opening up its markets more to African produce. But there wll only be significant amounts of inward investment when countries show that they are well-governed. One of my fellow panelists, from West Africa himself, argued that presidential terms should be limited to two. Looking at the example of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe — who seemed to be such a good thing when I was in Harare in 1980, but is now a callous monster — I could only concur!


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