Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and the "Politics
by Stephen Gowans
Global Research, July 9, 2007
When Africa scholar Mahmoud Mandani looks
at the slaughter and displacement of civilians in Darfur he notices
something odd. The mass death of civilians in Darfur has been
called a genocide, but slaughters of civilians of similar magnitude
in Iraq and on a larger scale in Congo have not.
According to the World Food Program, about
200,000 civilians have died in Darfur, 80 percent from starvation
and disease, and 20 percent from violence. Close to 700,000 have
been displaced(1). This, the US government, calls a genocide.
But 600,000 Iraqis have died since 2003
as a result of violence related to the Anglo-American invasion
of Iraq (2) and 3.7 million have either fled to neighboring countries
or are internally displaced (3).
"I read about all sorts of violence
against civilians," says Mamdani, "and there are two
places that I read about - one is Iraq, and one is Darfur And
I'm struck by the fact that the largest political movement against
mass violence on US campuses is on Darfur and not on Iraq."
If Darfur is modest in comparison to Iraq,
both are pipsqueeks compared to Congo. There, some four million
civilians have been slaughtered over several years, largely as
a result of intervention by US proxies, Uganda and Rwanda.
In Somalia, 460,000 civilians have been
displaced by fighting sparked by a US-backed and assisted invasion
by Ethiopia (5). That invasion was aimed at ousting the popularly-backed
Islamic Courts Union, which had brought a measure of stability
to Somalia. "In the six months the Islamic courts (governed
Somalia), less than 20 people lost their lives through violence.
Now, that many die in 10 minutes," observes Hussein Adow,
a Mogadishu businessman (6).
Why is there is a Save Darfur Campaign,
but no Save Congo Campaign and no Save Somalia Campaign?
Mamdani says that people in the West don't
react to the mass slaughter of civilians but to the labels their
governments and media attach to them.
"Genocide is being instrumentalized
by the United States," he explains. "It is being instrumentalized
in a way that mass slaughters which implicate its adversaries
are being named as genocide and those which implicate its friends
or its proxies are not being named as genocide."
Mandani calls this "the politics
The politics of naming isn't limited to
the question of which slaughters are named genocide and which
aren't. It applies too to the question of which regimes are called
dictatorial, repressive and brutal (and so must be changed), and
which are not (and so should be left in peace.)
Take the case of Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.
Tons of printer's ink have been consumed by Western newspapers
denouncing Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe. According to the
Western narrative, he is as a dictator who steals elections, represses
the opposition and cracks heads to stay in power.
But Mugabe's government, in view of concerted
efforts from outside and within to overthrow it, is remarkably
restrained. Archbishop Pious Ncube, one of the government's most
vociferous critics, recently called on Zimbabwe's former colonial
master, Britain, to remove Mugabe through military means. "We
should do it ourselves," he added, "but there's too
much fear. I'm ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the
people are not ready." (7) (Imagine Noam Chomsky calling
for a coalition of Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran and north Korea
to invade the US to force Washington to end its occupation of
Iraq. "I'm ready to lead the people, guns blazing,"
he might say, "but the people are not ready." How long
would it be before Chomsky was hustled off to jail?)
Ncube isn't the first government opponent
to threaten a campaign of violence to oust Mugabe. And yet Ncube
and others remain at liberty to call for sanctions, outside military
intervention and insurrection to depose the government.
Ethiopia, on the other hand, is a cipher.
It receives little coverage from the Western media, and even less
attention from people who routinely denounce the Sudanese and
Zimbabwean governments from the left.
That's odd, for the Ethiopian government
has all the flaws the Zimbabwean government is said to have that
arouse so much moral indignation.
Ethiopia "jails it citizens without
reason or trial, tortures many of them, and habitually violates
its own laws.
"The government was severely criticized
for a 2005 crackdown in which tens of thousands of opposition
members were jailed and nearly 200 people killed after elections
in which the opposition made major gains.
"Ethiopian officials have expelled
many foreign journalists and representatives of human rights groups
such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch." (9)
Disputed elections, crackdowns on the
opposition, expulsion of journalists: this resembles the charge
sheet against Mugabe. So why isn't Melawi as thoroughly excoriated
as Mugabe is?
A July 9th Reuters' report says, "Ethiopian
prosecutors demanded the death penalty for 38 opposition officials
convicted of trying to overthrow the government, treason and inciting
"The officials were convicted last
month of charges relating to violent protests over disputed elections
in 2005 that the opposition says were rigged.
"Nearly 200 people were killed in
clashes between protestors and security forces over the vote.
"Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said
he regretted the post-poll violence, but blamed it on opportunistic
rioters and an opposition conspiracy to topple him by force."
I read the Reuters' article to a friend,
but replaced Ethiopia with Zimbabwe and Zenawi with Mugabe. There
seemed nothing out of the ordinary to her. And indeed, it's likely
that most people in the West would not have detected the deception.
It meshes with the Western narrative on Zimbabwe. If you've been
reading Western press accounts, you would expect Mugabe to round
up the opposition (whose leaders have long threatened the violent
overthrow of the government), charge them with treason, and seek
their execution. But hehasn't.
Had he, a storm of indignation would have
swept the Western world. Yet Zenawi does the same, and no politician
works himself up into high moral dudgeon, no calls are made for
sanctions or Western military intervention, and no emergency meeting
of the UN Security Council is convoked. Just solitary Reuters'
The answer is that Ethiopia is fully within
Washington's orbit, acting as a reliable proxy enforcing US geopolitical
interests in the resource-rich Horn of Africa. Zimbabwe, by contrast,
pursues the opposite tact, implementing policies that seek to
free itself from Western domination and to frustrate US imperial
designs on the continent.
Zimbabwe indigenizes its agriculture and
economy; Ethiopia intervenes militarily in Somalia at the behest
of Washington, to restore a US-puppet government.
Weeks before Ethiopia invaded Somalia,
US General John P. Abizaid flew to Addis Ababa to arrange for
Zenawi to unleash the US-trained Ethiopian military on Somalia.
Washington even went so far as to shelter Ethiopia, whose military
relies on equipment made in north Korea, from penalty for violating
UN-sanctions against north Korean arms sales. Ethiopia needed
to import replacement parts from north Korea if the invasion was
to go ahead without a hitch. Washington, which championed the
sanctions, said "go ahead." (9)
Numberless people are being manipulated
by Western governments and media, their outrage harnessed to achieve
geopolitical goals that have nothing whatever to do with human
rights and democracy, and everything to do with the question of
who gets to control the oil spigot, mining concessions and vast
tracts of fertile land.
Mamdani calls those caught up in the Save
Darfur Campaign innocents. The same could be said of those caught
up in the dump Mugabe campaign.
Notes__1. UN High Commissioner for Refugees'
estimate, cited in The Guardian, June 20, 2007._2. Johns Hopkins
study, published online by The Lancet, cited in The Guardian October
12, 2006. _3. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, cited in Workers
World, February 15, 2007. _4. Interview with Mahmoud Mandani,
Democracy Now! June 4, 2007. _5. According to the UN High Commission
for Refugees (Guardian, June 20, 2007). _6. Quoted in the The
London Times, cited in Party for Socialism and Liberation, July
3, 2007. _7. The Sunday Times, July 1, 2007. _8. The Globe and
Mail, May 29, 2007. _9. The New York Times, April 8, 2007.
Stephen Gowans is a frequent contributor
to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Stephen Gowans