Ninety year old Robert Mugabe promises to be a voice of Adrica on the world scene for the next two years, if he lives hat long and if someone can keep him awake long enough when a speech is needed. He will be head of the Sadc (Southern African Development Community) organ on security and defence and vice-chairman of the African Union.
We all know what to expect of him. He will say all the things that the other African leaders would like to remind Europe and America about, but they are too polite or too careful.
After all, Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sealed his own fate when, on the Congo's independence day, he gave a speech, in the presence of the king of Belgium, which amounted to: “We're glad you are going, but don't expect us to be grateful. Now we are going to control our own resources.”
Lumumba was reminding his guests of a history of looting and brutality possibly unequalled in Africa. Josef Conrad described it in his novel “The heart of darkness”. If you think that is exaggerated, you should read the report on the “Congo Free State” under the direct rule of Belgian King Leopold, written by the British diplomat Roger Casement.
Lumumba, in his few months of rule before he was murdered, gave some signs that he had plans on what to do to rectify the damage done by colonial rule and other foreign intervention, mostly the slave trade, in the centuries before that. Mugabe merely recalls old grievances, though in 34 years of rule he has done little to correct the evils of colonial
rule. But they are still real grievances.
Most of the leaders of Africa know that he is plundering and torturing his own country the way King Leopold did in the Congo, but they are still glad that the old grievances are not forgotten. They are also glad they don't have to remind the world themselves, because that is still dangerous.
Most of them have more ideas about positive action to move their countries out of the mess colonial rule left them in than does the aged Mugabe with his vaunted five degrees in law and one in economics. The world needs to listen to both their plans and their memories, as memories shared are more easily healed.