Commentary Magazine


Victory for a Dictator

What is the point of putting sanctions on a dictator if you refuse to enforce them? This was the question that the world community faced in its dealings with Saddam Hussein, who, over a twelve-year period, violated sixteen Chapter VII Security Council resolutions with impunity. The question has come up again in the person of Robert Mugabe. In 2002, the European Union placed a travel ban on the Zimbabwean dictator and his top associates, which it has repeatedly allowed them to break. This December, a European Union-African Union summit is planned for Lisbon, Portugal, and at the insistence of African governments, the Portuguese will be inviting Mugabe. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has issued an ultimatum that he would not attend the conference were Mugabe seated across the table. Now, the Guardian reports:

“It’s the working assumption that Mugabe will be coming if invited by the Portuguese as expected,” said a European Commission official familiar with the preparations for the first Europe-Africa summit in seven years.

It appears that Brown will not be in attendance, then, and that the European and African Unions have chosen a dictator over a democrat.

This is not good news for Zimbabwe’s democrats, either, who have been working tirelessly, under very difficult conditions, to discredit Mugabe internationally. One would not imagine this to be a difficult task, considering the fact that the man is responsible for the deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of innocent civilians and is slowly starving his own people to death. The EU invitation will send a message to other African leaders: not only are their governments able to hold European diplomacy hostage, but the Europeans respect Mugabe. According to the Guardian, “EU diplomats hope that Mugabe will come under ‘peer pressure’ from fellow African leaders.” As long as the international community acts like a high school guidance counselor when dealing with African politics, it should expect little to get done.

On the bright side, now that Mugabe is set to come to Europe, perhaps the European Union is deftly executing the plan I proposed earlier this week. One can hope.

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