Sunday, November 16, 2008

And Zimbabwe Weighs In

Of all the articles at Watching America on our election, perhaps the one which touched me most came from Zimbabwe's Daily Mail. This south African nation has its own problems right now. Long time president Robert Mugabe is fighting to hold on to power in Zimbabwe, and to do so, he played fast and loose with the country's recent elections. His opposition continues to pressure Mr. Mugabe, insisting that power be shared or the country will fall into civil war.

Even in the midst of this turmoil, perhaps even because of it, the Daily Mail editorialist's analysis of the US election, along with the advice offered to President Elect Obama, moved me, and the indictment of the Bush administration reminded me that we weren't the only ones scarred by the last eight years.

Mr Bush had made America unpopular in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and in the Far East. He was not short of enemies in both North and South America. His doctrine of unilateralism and his self-righteous approach of labelling other countries the "axis of evil" to be bombed had given rise to anti-American sentiments everywhere. Thus the election of Mr Obama was a major public relations exercise for America.

Mr Obama seems eager to repair this image. In his acceptance speech, he said: "And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals — democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

We hope he will be true to this approach of not abusing America’s might of arms and wealth to force smaller nations to swallow its beliefs the George Bush way. We pray that he will respect the sovereignty of smaller nations.

Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular will need to position themselves to take advantage of the change in administration in the US. For Zimbabwe, the expected conclusion of the talks to form an inclusive government would offer such an opportunity.

President Bush's policy in Africa ultimately was a military one, Africom, in which all aspects of foreign contact fell under the Pentagon's aegis rather than that of the State Department. That a small nation like Zimbabwe would deplore such a move is not hard to understand. It smacks of the colonialism that wracked the continent the last two centuries.

And just to make sure the new US president is aware of the problem, the editorialist adds a not-so-subtle caveat:

Africa is the future. Emerging powers like China and India have seen that and are relating with Africa using a win-win approach as opposed to the neo-colonial approach of divide-and-rule. We hope Obama’s America will not be one that will be busy promoting conflicts on the continent while it loots its resources.

Hopefully someone on the Obama team is paying attention.

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