Friday, July 25, 2008

Britain, Mugabe, Zimbabwe, Africa

IT is never too late to establish this moral position, even after 500 long years ... If indeed Brown's intention on his Zimbabwe "confrontation" is to embark on a British policy of amends in Africa, the following steps would be profoundly rewarding:

Britain has to expand its branding of the Mugabe regime "illegitimate" to encompass the two other rigged elections that occurred in Africa since April 2007 - namely, Nigeria and Kenya. Brown will soon be hosting Umaru Yar'Adua, a key participant and chief beneficiary of the April 2007 rigged election in Nigeria, in a London summit. Should Brown be hosting Yar'Adua while ostracising Mugabe? If so, Brown must clarify his position to an understandably highly sceptical world.

Britain would need to stop its present "convenient" reading of African recent history on the question of election rigging. Britain inaugurated election rigging in Africa during the closing days of its formal occupation of the continent. This was its policy of perpetuating its control of politics and economics in Africa even after "withdrawal". James Robertson, the British occupation governor, rigged the 1959 pre-"restoration" of independence legislative and executive polls in Nigeria to ensure that power went to pro-British clients in the north region who strenuously opposed the liberation of the country led by Igbo people. There has been no free or fair election in Nigeria since then. Three years earlier, Robertson, then occupation governor in the Sudan, had rigged the poll there in favour of the Arab minority population who are still entrenched in power till this day.

Britain was central, along with the Nigerian state, in planning and executing the Igbo genocide of 1966-1970. A total of 3.1 million Igbo, a quarter of the nation's population then, were murdered. It was the foundational genocide of (European) post-conquest Africa. It was Britain's "punishment" of the Igbo for daring to lead the struggle for the freeing of Nigeria that began in the 1940s. Twice, during that struggle, the British occupation had casually watched two organised pogroms against the Igbo in north Nigeria (1945, 1953), which were dress rehearsals for the subsequent genocide. As I argue in my Biafra Revisited, Britain must apologise to the Igbo for its involvement in this crime against humanity. It should pay reparations to the survivors and lastly, but surely not the least, support current efforts to bring individuals and institutions in Nigeria, Britain and elsewhere involved in this genocide to justice. A number of prominent Nigerians involved in the genocide are still alive and must be indicted unfailingly in international criminal courts: Danjuma, Gowon, Buhari, Babangida, Haruna, Are, Enaharo, Aminu, King, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Akinrinade, Adekunle, Ayida, Ali ...

A fortnight ago, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, a permanent secretary of the regime in Abuja, made an astonishing declaration to a meeting of the country's Senate Committee on Transport. Baba-Ahmed said that the strategic Onitsha-Asaba Bridge, linking east and west Igboland would "collapse" soon. He added, quite lackadaisically, and that there wasn't anything his regime could do about this unfolding grave emergency. Millions of Igbo and others use this bridge annually. Successive Nigerian regimes have always regarded Britain as their "most reliable" foreign ally.

It is therefore incumbent on the British to advise their Nigerian friends at Abuja, the occupying power in Igboland since 1970, of their international responsibilities on this bridge. The current "leadership" in Abuja and the previous one should have no doubts whatsoever that they will individually and collectively be held responsible in the international criminal courts for any consequences brought about by the collapse of the Onitsha-Asaba Bridge on Igbo life, Igbo property, Igbo income, Igbo opportunities, environmental degradation, etc., etc.

Britain is the premier arms exporter to Africa. This is what keeps Africa's genocide state, the bane of African social existence, very much alive. In turn, this state organises mass slaughters of peoples and nations, asphyxiates opportunities for its citizens, fuels the rigging of elections. Britain can singularly begin to change this dreadful dynamic by imposing a comprehensive arms embargo on all countries throughout Africa. Brown is not required to go to parliament to seek approval for this historic move. The measure can be taken in the next Thursday, weekly cabinet meeting.