By Gershom Ndhlovu
Darfur is clearly the modern day shame of Africa which the continent’s leaders are eerily silent about. It is like incest in the family which members don’t want to talk about.
It is only people like American film director Steven Spielberg, Nobel Peace prize winners and a few others without any diplomatic muscle who are talking about it and are leading a campaign to urge countries to boycott the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics to force China to stop supporting the Sudanese government from which it buys oil and it sells arms to.
Spielberg has probably forgone a fortune he was to make as advisor on the opening ceremony of the Beijing games by pulling out.
Music producer Quincy Jones, hired to pen the Olympics theme tune has also signalled that he would pull out of the project.
What is the connection, one may ask. Indeed, the Chinese arms sold to the Sudanese government find their way to the government-supported Janjaweed Militia which has been committing acts of ethnic, if not racial, cleansing in Darfur, killing non-Arab, non-Muslim and mainly Christian black Sudanese Africans.
Rape is a common feature employed by the Janjaweed who say they are “planting tomato” when they force themselves on helpless and weak black women. The “tomato” is obviously the mixed race children who are or will be born after the rape acts.
Africa, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Limpopo River, stood up against the then racist South Africa because of the obviously white apartheid leaders when they segregated against, maimed and killed black Africans.
Today, the same Africa is quiet because “our Arab brothers” with whom “we” have shared the table for a long time can’t really be wrong. China which is increasingly the continent’s important trading partner can’t go wrong too by selling weapons to Sudan just like it does to other African countries.
None of our leaders have the courage to ruffle the feathers of both Sudan for fear of going against diplomatic etiquette of not interfering in internal matters of another country, and China from which they are earning precious foreign exchange which enables them to live in luxury while the rest of the people still wallow in poverty.
Members of the British Olympics team noticed something fishy in their agreements to perform in Beijing with a clause that they should not use the platform to express political opinions. They rejected the agreements and demanded fresh ones because they realised that by being muzzled, they would unwittingly be aiding the Sudanese government in wiping out the black people of Darfur.
For African leaders it is business as usual in spite of the fact that China does not respect human rights in its own backyard, nor does it where its entrepreneurs operate. A grim example is the Zambian case where the Chinese exploit Zambian workers, and even kill some by ignoring fundamental health and safety rules as was the case in Chambishi a few years ago.
It is not too late for African countries to use the threat of boycotting this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing by flexing their collective muscle against China if that country is to do the right thing in Sudan in general and Darfur in particular.
It is nonsensical for China which trades with other African countries and has with them military assistance programmes which are in turn sending peace-keepers to Darfur. It is like China fighting with itself, that is, the Janjaweed armed with Chinese arms and peace-keepers also armed with Chinese arms.
Have African countries wondered why China has blocked attempts by the United Nations to impose sanctions on Sudan by using its power of veto? Sadly, even American president George Walker Bush thinks that the games are just a sporting even which should go ahead.
The question then is what hope, Darfur? The UK Sun’s Whitehall Editor thinks, and rightly so, that it is hard to keep politics out of sport when a blockbuster event is staged by a dictatorship such as China.
China should really not have an easy ride when it has such excess baggage. It should realise what heavy burden it carries as a growing force on the international economic scene. In fact, China is now considered as the Third Force after USA and the European Union, a position that demands that it acts responsibly in international matters such as Darfur.
Not that I care where a American presidents such as George Bush go to in Africa, but it appears as if Zambia does not register on their itinerary. Bush will have been to Africa twice over at the end of his latest tour.
Bill Clinton did visit Africa and even toured the Chobe National Park which practically borders Zambia on the Botswana side.
Zambia is one of the most politically stable countries in Africa and furiously pursues neo-liberal economic policies which should really make it a darling of the US. But, nay, American presidents avoid the country like a bug.
There is obviously something wrong that the Americans have seen in Zambia that makes their presidents avoid visiting it. It is not really necessary that a Bush or a Clinton or, indeed, an Obama if elected, should visit Zambia but such a gesture would not only boost the country’s economy in the short-term by various layers of the entourage shelling out the green buck on the country’s amenities such as hotels, it would also bring about long-term investment from businessmen who would look at the country with fresh spectacles.
One thing for sure is that westerners know very little about Africa in general and Zambia in particular such that when a Zambian official manages an audience with international businessman Sir Richard Branson, they are just scratching the surface.
There are a whole lot of entrepreneurs who would not take up to six months to decide whether to do business with Zambia or not. They would do it in less time than it would take Branson to make a decision.
There is no way of pretending that the visiting of American presidents of Africa has no effect on Zambia by their avoiding it. Any economist will attest to the missed business opportunities. Zambia needs to clean up its act, whatever it is, to attract an American president visiting Africa.