AU and Commonwealth principles not compatible


IN Zimbabwe, Africa Unity Square, the place so-named to commemorate African Unity, is a bigger commentary on Africa Day as a celebration of African unity than at first is apparent. The original name was Cecil Square, and it is the place where British pioneer settlers raised the British Union Jack to claim Zimbabwe for the British Empire on September 13 1890. It was named after ‘Robert Cecil,’ son of the Second Marquis of Salisbury, who was titled Lord Cranborne before becoming the Third Marquis of Salisbury and British Prime Minister at the time of the occupation of Zimbabwe. In time, the ‘proudly British’ Rhodesians designed Cecil Square in the form of a Union Jack; a British flag etched into the land of Zimbabwe to mark the new extent of the British Empire. And then, on December 3 1931, a statute of the British parliament re-invented the British Empire intxo the ‘British Commonwealth of Nations’ united by a common allegiance to the British Crown. President Mugabe’s generation should remember 1931 as the year in which the newly granted ‘Responsible Government’ of the British Colony of Southern Rhodesia ‘irresponsibly’ legislated apartheid into land ownership in Rhodesia through the Land Apportionment Act of 1930. Many years later, the British Crown had allowed racist Ian Smith to highjack the process of democracy in an act of Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on November 11 1965. Harold Wilson, the British premier of that time explained the inaction by arguing that the British public would not have allowed the army to fight their Rhodesia kith and kin. It did not matter that Smith’s rebellion meant genocide for black people.  That is how black Zimbabweans found themselves getting help from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and facing genocide at the hands of British citizens even though the Commonwealth headed by British Queen Elizabeth had listed the promotion of peace, democracy, liberty, equality and an end to racism and poverty as an operational ethic. That is how British Rhodesian foot soldiers like David Coltart, Iain Kay and Roy Bennett filled up Chibondo with bodies of murdered black people. Curiously though, independent Zimbabwe got admitted into the British Commonwealth as a former British colony. And it also automatically became a member of the OAU. It was an awkward arrangement, but, a forgivable one when one considers that it was a time of euphoria premised on Comrade Mugabe’s magnanimous policy of reconciliation. Who would have known that the racists would take the victim’s forgiveness with spite? But an even more awkward arrangement was the name change of ‘Cecil Square’ to ‘Africa Unity Square’ to commemorate African unity without first digging up the Union Jack. There is a stark absence of historical affinity between the new name and concrete Union Jack referent! An honest reading of the African experience over the past 500 years makes the British Commonwealth and the African Union (AU) mutually exclusive concepts. The British Commonwealth does not support African unity. Rather, it sustains the 1884 colonial partition of Africa at the Berlin Conference.   A club of former British colonies at the beck and call of the slave master/colonial master cannot certainly be an expression of the sovereignty of the ‘liberated slave’ or the once colonised! The Harare Declaration of 1991 refined the British Commonwealth operational code to include the promotion of good governance, human rights and the rule of law, gender equality and sustainable economic and social development. The Lancaster House Constitution, which had premised land acquisition to alleviate the poverty of black people on the willing-buyer willing-seller principle had expired in 1990. And, it had been long overdue because the land acquisition principle had proved unsustainable as the way forward for African economic and social development.   And it is the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991 that eventually exposed the British Commonwealth for what it was: Racist! The only human rights the British Commonwealth was prepared to recognise were the ‘human rights’ of white farmers. And these were actually ‘rights of conquest’ that had been converted to human rights to save white settler investments that had been founded on innocent African blood. The only rule of law the British Commonwealth was prepared to recognise was rule of law that protected white racists and not the amendments compulsory acquisition of stolen land to empower the victims of British colonialism. The result was an impasse which resulted in the British Crown unilaterally imposing on Zimbabwe economic sanctions not sanctioned by the democratic processes of the United Nations.   And, on March 19 2002, the British Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe for taking land from thieving white settlers to resettle their landless victims. The move was, of course, not surprising. Queen Elizabeth was both the head of the British government and the British Commonwealth.  Zimbabwe’s response to suspension was equally not surprising. On December 8 2003, she quit the racist body and has since proven that liberated Africans do not need the guidance of their erstwhile oppressors.   And, the Tsvangirai-led British-sponsored MDC is part of this proof. The puppet party was launched on September 11 1999 with the real power in the hands of Rhodesians Eddie Cross as policy chief, ex-Selous Scout, David Coltart as legal adviser and ex-Selous Scout Roy Bennet as treasurer. In the longer historical context in which British settlers arrived on September 12 and then launched Rhodesia on September 13 1890, the choice of the MDC launch date appears surreptitious and not an innocent selection. The plan was obviously to re-launch Rhodesia. And, this supposition is not as outlandish as it might seem, especially if one then considers that the so-called ‘final push’ to dislodge Cde Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF from power was also planned to be launched from the very same square where the Union Jack had been raised to launch Rhodesia in 1890. In conclusion, what cannot be over-emphasised is that the African constituency of the Commonwealth is in essence a retrogression of the very founding principle of the OAU which is now the AU. The semantic discrepancy is as curious as it is disturbing and it is one that the AU must confront as a matter of urgency.   The AU member states must in all sincerity, question whether it is sustainable for African states to have one foot in the British Commonwealth and another foot in the AU? The two concepts are mutually exclusive. One seeks to unite Africa, while the other seeks to partition Africa to sustain British imperialism. Is it really possible to spread African unity over a British Union Jack and expect it not to be undermined?


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