Monday 23 June 2008

Mugabe Loses His People (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe represents the other side of apartheid – the forced segregation of races in a country where a single ethnic group dominates the rest. His macho actions against the few remaining European-origin citizens living in Zimbabwe may be psychologically satisfying to those who share his viewpoint. But the fact remains that Zimbabwean whites have been as marginalized and dispossessed as blacks were in South Africa till Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990.

Mugabe's theatrics against the whites carry little resonance among the populace – they have realized that reverse apartheid has made their economic situation worse, not better. While most of the blame for this rests on the commissar-style administration of the octogenarian head of state, it has also been fuelled by the comprehensive economic boycott of Zimbabwe by countries with European-origin majorities.

Having voluntarily handed over power to the majority black population in 1980, Zimbabwe's whites had sufficient moral justification to expect an honorable accommodation with the rest of the population. Instead, they were soon rendered politically irrelevant, and their properties sequestered by armed thugs loyal to the new master of the country.

It is fortunate for South Africa that despite the example set by Mugabe, whites in that country went ahead with democratization a decade later, with somewhat better consequences for themselves than in Zimbabwe.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Will SOFA make Iraq another Gaza? (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat

Manipal, India — Although the prime minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki has survived physically and politically in his job, he looks unlikely to withstand the blow being administered to his administration by U.S. president George Bush. Once the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) gets signed between the governments in Baghdad and Washington, not only al-Maliki but also other moderate politicians in Iraq could soon become history.

From then onwards, public opinion in Iraq will almost certainly turn in favor of those Shia and Sunni politicians opposed to the pact, creating more followers of Moctada al-Sadr and the former Baathists. Although as yet unity between these foes seems unlikely, the incomprehension of the ground situation in Iraq by Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney may ensure an alliance, albeit tactical and temporary between the Sadirists and the Saddamites.

Just as the effort by the U.S. and the United Kingdom to ensure continued control of Iraq's oil assets will not survive an actual assertion of sovereignty in that country by a homegrown government, nor will the agreement now being foisted on al-Maliki.

Should SOFA be signed in its current form, within months the insurgency will test new levels even while the democratic political space gets evacuated by moderates, in view of public anger at the concessions they would have made to the occupying army.