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Politics of regime change dicey

18 Jun 2011 at 21:18hrs | Views
In the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western governments were desperate for a winning strategy that would entrench their influence and safeguard their interests in Africa under the guise of promoting liberal democracy and free-market capitalism.

The Westerners had to think fast. Socialism and communism were firmly rooted, having struck a chord with countless liberation movements on the continent.

Former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba, who died on Friday night (may his soul rest in peace), gave Western governments immense hope when he rode on the politics of "regime change" and, in 1991, dislodged the great Kenneth Kaunda who had been in power for 27 years.

When the Chiluba experiment succeeded, Western governments were emboldened. This was their Eureka moment! They had finally stumbled upon a formula which, in their imagination, would enable them to cleverly remove Africa's liberation movements from power. Socialism and communism had to be stopped and the best way of doing so was to topple the liberation movements and replace them with a new breed of "democratic" governments willing to submit to Western demands.

Chiluba's rise to power changed African politics in ways that had never been seen before. Previously, Western governments would simply sponsor rebel movements in Africa and assign them to dislodge governments that had liberation credentials. This approach had serious limitations. A new strategy had to be found.

Political analysts say Chiluba's Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) ' just like the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe 'was formed with no defining philosophy or over-riding objective. The

MMD was formed for one purpose: to topple Kaunda. Similarly, the MDC's rallying cry in 1999 was unmistakable: our aim is to topple President Robert Mugabe. It was more of a protest movement than an political platform that proffered alternative solutions to the masses.

Many Zambians got disillusioned with Chiluba when he began persecuting Kaunda. His decision to harass Zambia's founding father was ill-advised, malicious and even suicidal in political terms. Chiluba even enacted a law to debar second-generation Zambians from running for president. This was meant to block Kaunda 'whose parents were reportedly Malawian ' from running in the 1996 elections. The whole of

Africa strongly opposed the persecution of Kaunda, forcing Chiluba to relent. You have to understand that Kaunda is no small-time politician. Yes, he is the founder of the Zambian nation, but he is more than that ' he is an international statesman, an African liberator.

Although Chiluba abandoned the idea, alarm bells were sent ringing. This seems to be a peculiarly African problem: self-proclaimed democrats with Western connections are often overzealous in their sinister determination to humiliate our liberation heroes. Such politicians are spectacularly narrow-minded. They do not realise that the same Westerners who encourage them to humiliate Africa's founding fathers are utterly fierce in their own defence of the men and women who founded the states of Europe and North America. Why the hypocrisy?

During the campaigns ahead of Zambia's first multi-party elections, Chiluba and his MMD made all sorts of promises to the electorate. The protest wave would sweep him to victory and condemn Kaunda's United National Independence Party (Unip) to an embarrassing defeat. But once the euphoria died down, Zambians began asking a lot of questions: How come poverty is worsening? Why is corruption increasing?

Where does the government get the power to sell state-owned mines and parastatals for a song? Why is Chiluba seeking to amend the constitution and grab a third term? So many questions.

Lest we be misunderstood, the idea here is not to paint Chiluba as a dishonest politician. We mourn with the people of Zambia on the passing on of their second republican president. The idea is to show that the aimless politics of "regime change" can be dangerous to any nation. Regime change for regime change's sake is a slippery slope and "democracy" is not always what it seems.

On a personal level, Chiluba was to later discover that the same Western "friends" who had previously propped him up had now turned against him. It will be remembered that although the Zambian courts acquitted Chiluba of corruption, the London courts actually found him guilty of stealing US$46 million. The moral of the story: Westerners will use you and, once you help them achieve their objective, they will not hesitate to dump you in a cruel manner. But Chiluba's rise to office in 1991 also offers several useful lessons to the rest of Africa. Kaunda's Unip, in power since 1964, had failed to transform itself and craft policies that would find resonance with the average Zambian.

As a result, although Unip was still widely revered by citizens as the party of liberation, the populace was now craving any new political message that promised to end the economic malaise that characterised life under Unip rule. The economy was in a shambles, copper prices were sluggish, hunger and poverty were stalking the land, unemployment was high and inflation had reached ridiculous levels. Under those circumstances in 1991, with Unip failing to communicate a message of hope to the ordinary people, even a donkey would have trounced a Unip candidate in those general elections.

It must be said, though, that Unip's defeat was a rude awakening to all the liberation governments in Africa. Nothing could be taken for granted anymore. The ground was shifting.

Twenty years later, is there evidence that the liberation movements have done their homework? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense that all of them are now aware of the dangers of a new brand of Western-sponsored politics. No in the sense that the liberation movements have not done much to share notes and formulate practical strategies to thwart Western machinations.

In fact, if the liberation movements continue on the current path, their very existence is at stake. It would have been unthinkable 30 years ago, for instance, that you could have some African governments voting at the United Nations for the bombardment of a fellow African country. Western powers are bombing Libya back to the Stone Age. Such acts of aggression by the West are not surprising. What should shock us is that three nations ' Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa ' actually supported UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which the West says provides the legal basis for the ongoing military aggression against a sovereign country. Talk of African solidarity!

Regime change is real. Today it is Libya, tomorrow it may be South Africa. Liberation movements must share notes and devise strategies.

Source - Sunday Mail
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