Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Zimbabwe update - the China connection - and other thoughts

Things have gone downhill in Zimbabwe since I wrote about Mugabe. The situation has been made infinitely more dangerous by a Chinese ship An Yue Zhang, which is carrying arms (“77 tonnes of small arms, including more than 3m rounds of ammunition, AK47 assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades”) to be delivered to Mugabe. No prizes for guessing what they are for: Mugabe has most likely lost the recent election, but refuses to step down; he needs weapons to repress any opposition. The arms deal is a serious development; if the weapons reach Mugabe, Zimbabwe could face crippling violence. Thankfully, An Yue Zhang wasn't allowed to unload in Durban as it was initially supposed to, and now it is floating on the seas, unsure of its course, and possibly headed for Luanda, Angola.

Let's hope the ship is sent back.

Here’s a good piece at The Acorn, which provides some perspective and updates. Ethan Zuckerman is following the situation closely too. And here’s the Zimbabwean blog, Sokanwele - which incidentally means 'enough is enough'.

Update: The ship has been called back.

An earlier post on what I think is a key and still unfolding issue: China in Africa.

The Chinese government has come under intense scrutiny this year. Tibet, Sudan, and now Zimbabwe.

Rochester, Minnesota, where I live, is generally an apolitical place, but last week the Dalai Lama's presence changed that (incidentally, the Pope was in the United States too, and so was Archbishop Desmond Tutu). The Dalai Lama was in Rochester probably for treatment at the Mayo Clinic , but he also gave a talk. Many Chinese had turned out with placards to protest, and present their side of the story – of how the media distorts what is going on in Tibet, how the Dalai Lama is behind the violence in Tibet and so on. Tibetan protestors were there too – shouting “Shame, Shame, China Shame!” and “China lie, people die!” – and conversations got quite animated as they waited for the Dalai Lama to leave the Marriott hotel.

Both groups stood across each other on the pavement. The Tibetans relentlessly shouted their slogans - they were clearly the more vocal of the two groups. The Chinese retorted now and then. A young Chinese young girl, not more than twenty years old, began talking back, but shortly she was so overwhelmed by her emotions that she began crying quietly. It was a sobering sight.


Anonymous said...

Counterview from anti-imperliast literature

Hari said...


That’s certainly an interesting view, and I think more of such views are needed. The world is such a complex place – nothing can be stated with any confidence. Mugabe is no saint, but what about the opposition leader, Tsvangirai? What has he done to prove himself, and what’s the guarantee he won’t go the Mugabe way, or even worse?

If you look at my previous post on Mugabe, you’ll see I quoted one of his early speeches. There is such a lyrical quality to that speech! It was clearly the speech of a man who meant well and was sincere – good words don’t come easily unless there’s feeling behind them. But look at where things stand now for Zimbabwe. How things change!