AFP: Obama’s UN Ambassador Pick Says Administration Will Confront Mugabe

by matttbastard

Let’s hope Susan Rice is being forthright here:

At her Senate confirmation hearing, Rice pledged to confront the regime of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, urging China, Russia and southern African countries to join the Obama administration in isolating the veteran strongman.

“Their interests no longer, frankly, coincide” with Mugabe’s regime, the former diplomat told the Senate foreign relations committee, after its chairman John Kerry said she was an “outstanding choice” for the UN job.

Arguing it was “in our shared interest to support a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe to a democratic government,” Rice said China and Russia should support UN efforts to isolate a regime “that is clearly not long for this world.”

“I hope very much that under president-elect Obama’s leadership, we will work with southern Africa and bring their private condemnation in to the public sphere… so that the people of Zimabwe’s suffering can finally end,” she said.

Related: Chris Beyrer and Frank Donaghue: ZANU-PF government systematically denying citizens access to basic health and human services, says Mugabe regime “has destroyed the health-care system, as it has devastated virtually every other sector of public life, with its ruinous mix of corruption, mismanagement, violence and human rights violations.”

More from Frederick Clarkson of Religion Dispatches:

Dr. Chris Beyrer, Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at Johns Hopkins University told Religion Dispatches that the scale of human suffering and death may be worse than Pol Pot’s Cambodia in the 1970s, and that regional and international inaction is analogous to the international community’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. He estimates that about half of the population of Zimbabwe is either dead or has fled to neighboring countries. “I have been at this for a long time,” he said, his world-weary voice seeking to convey the urgency of the accelerating Zimbabwean disaster. “I’ve never seen so total a collapse of a health system.”

Read the Physicians for Human Rights report Health in Ruins: A Man-Made Disaster in Zimbabwe. Also, follow Joe Trippi and ZimbabweFast on Twitter, and join Bishop Desmond Tutu in a once-a-week solidarity fast for Zimbabwe:

The 78-year-old Anglican archbishop said he had been fasting once a week in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans facing food shortages and a cholera outbreak.

“If we would have more people saying ‘I will fast’ maybe one day a week, just to identify myself with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe,” the radio station quoted him as saying.

Must-read op-ed from Bob Herbert: “If you want to see hell on earth, go to Zimbabwe”.  Make sure to also check out this  Save the Children fact sheet on the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.

ElsewhereThe Times (SA): “Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko is being held in solitary confinement in Harare’s Chikurubi maximum security prison.” The Times also reports that Ms. Mukoko is currently detained “in a section reserved for hardcore criminals” and, according to a warder, despite the existence of a women’s section “has been placed in the tougher section that normally houses men.”  Earlier: CNN: “Zimbabwe’s main opposition party has asked organizations such as the United Nations to help find 11 supporters who were allegedly abducted by government agents, a party spokesman said.”

Background: Mahmood Mamdani: Lessons of Zimbabwe; Mary Ndlovu: Zimbabwe on the edge of the precipice.

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Well, It’s About Damn Time

by matttbastard

Nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid, BBC News reports that the US has finally decided to lift the now-antiquaited terrorist designation from ANC leaders–including global statesman Nelson Mandela:

A bill has been introduced in the US Congress to remove from databases any reference to South Africa’s governing party and its leaders as terrorists.

The African National Congress (ANC) was designated as a terrorist organisation by South Africa’s old apartheid regime.

At present a waiver is needed for any ANC leaders to enter the country.

“It is frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterparts – the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader, Nelson Mandela,” [Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice told lawmakers in Washington.

Last week, Howard Berman, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who introduced the bill said it was “shameful” that the United States still treated the ANC this way.

“Amazingly, Nelson Mandela still needs to get a special waiver to enter the United States based on his courageous leadership of the ANC. What an indignity. This legislation will wipe it away,” he said.

Flashback: Joe Conason on the “Conservative whitewash” of the GOP’s record on apartheid-era South Africa:

If the ANC indulged in actions that might be considered “terrorist,” it is at least as true that the entire apparatus of apartheid relied upon terrorism against millions of men, women and children. The Sharpsville massacre and literally hundreds of other atrocities committed against South African blacks and their neighbors in other states deserve no other description. That kind of state terrorism didn’t much trouble the Reaganite ideologues such as Cheney.

Contrary to his sentimentalized recollection of that period, some people were indeed in favor of keeping Mandela behind bars and keeping South African blacks in bondage. The roster of infamy begins with Ronald Reagan, who upon becoming president in 1981 immediately reversed the Carter administration’s policy of pressuring the Afrikaner minority toward democracy and human rights. In an early interview with CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, Reagan called South Africa a “friendly nation” whose reliable anticommunism and wealth of strategic minerals justified stronger ties between Washington and Pretoria.

Overtly and covertly, the Reagan administration moved to strengthen the apartheid regime. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, fought every attempt to impose sanctions. The late William Casey, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, intensified cooperation with the South African Bureau of State Security and military intelligence agencies. He went so far as to secretly visit Pretoria to confer with the racist murderers who ran those agencies.

Meanwhile, of course, the Republican leadership in Congress, including Cheney, also opposed every effort to impose economic sanctions. He voted against sanctions in various forms at least 10 times between 1983 and 1988. There is no evidence that Cheney ever spoke up for freedom and human rights in South Africa — although in that respect he was merely a typical Republican politician of his time.

For Cheney, anticommunism excused a multitude of sins, including his own. Whenever they protected Pretoria from democratic change, conservatives like him would invoke Soviet backing for the ANC and the presence of communists in the ANC leadership. Yet it has long been obvious that the Republican tilt in favor of white supremacy was influenced as much by unsavory stateside domestic politics as by geopolitical concerns.

That sad fact was discovered by Henry Kissinger as early as 1976, when he delivered a stirring speech in Zambia calling for racial justice on the African continent as “an imperative of our own moral heritage.” It was an unusually decent initiative on the part of the old reprobate, who could with some understatement be described as no friend of human rights.

Kissinger was immediately denounced by House Republican leader Robert Michel, later Cheney’s mentor, because of his speech’s “devastating effect” on Ford’s reelection campaign in Southern primaries. According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Kissinger, Michel demanded that Ford “muzzle” his secretary of state. Apparently the “Southern strategy” adopted by the party of Lincoln meant appeasing racism, both at home and abroad.

Well, at least US policy on state terrorism has been consistent, to say nothing of the GOP’s resistance to apologizing for past mistakes. Berman and Rice can try to retroactively ”wipe away” 20+ years of “embarrassing” official US policy towards the apartheid regime, but this is ultimately a hollow gesture, too little and (far) too late. As Conason aptly noted back in 2000, “[t]here can be no reconciliation in the absence of truth.”

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Quote of the Day: The Vortexes of Rancor

by matttbastard

A racial divide, once lived, dwells in the deepest parts of the psyche. This is what was captured by Barack Obama’s pitch-perfect speech on race. Slavery was indeed America’s “original sin.” Of course, “the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow” lives on in forms of African-American humiliation and anger that smolder in ways incommunicable to whites.

[…]

It takes bravery, and perhaps an unusual black-white vantage point, to navigate these places where hurt is profound, incomprehension the rule, just as it takes courage to say, as Obama did, that black “anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.”

Progress, since the Civil Rights Movement, or since apartheid, has assuaged the wounds of race but not closed them. To carry my part of shame is also to carry a clue to the vortexes of rancor for which Obama has uncovered words.

I understand the rage of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, however abhorrent its expression at times. I admire Obama for saying: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.”

Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush’s menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America’s hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?

Yes. It. Can.

Roger Cohen, Beyond America’s Original Sin

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SMV: World AIDS Day Edition

by matttbastard

Everywoman reports from South Africa on how women (especially those living in poverty) are “particularly vulnurable” to HIV/AIDS, largely due to a lack of agency and the prevelence of rape.

Related:

Carmen D. and ThinkProgress have more on the burgeoning HIV/AIDS crisis in DC; via TP, GlobalHealthFacts provides a map of people living with HIV or AIDS around the globe.

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(click to visit World AIDS Campaign site)

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