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Africa: Why did the dictator fail to act? Robert Mugabe ignored the alarm bells from the Zimbabwean military and the Zimbabwean people. November 18, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Uncategorized.
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A military intervention this week signaled the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule of Zimbabwe. Geoffrey York reports from the streets of Harare on why it happened and whether the change will usher in a new era of hope

Nov. 17: In his first public appearance after being placed in military custody, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare. While still nominally Zimbabwe’s leader, Mr. Mugabe has seen a swift fall from grace this week after 37 years in power.

Nov. 17: In his first public appearance after being placed in military custody, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare.

BEN CURTIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS


In the end, it was the human weaknesses that proved the undoing of the world’s oldest dictator. Arrogance, pride, stubbornness and obsessive family loyalty – a mundane collection of ordinary frailties, but they were enough to bring down a ruler who had dominated Zimbabwe for 37 years.

The signs of a looming military coup must have been obvious to Robert Mugabe. His top generals were against his plan to give a senior government post to his unpopular wife, Grace. The once-petty feud between her and the commanders was growing increasingly bitter, and she was insulting and mocking the military men and their political allies.

Mr. Mugabe controlled a vast security apparatus, including a secret police agency that would have certainly told him of the warning signs from the army.

 Yet he didn’t even need an intelligence report. By early this week, the likelihood of a military intervention was a secret to nobody. Senior military officers called a press conference, issued a public threat to the Mugabe regime, and announced that they might need to step in. The ruling party responded with nothing more than a haughty verbal reprimand.

Two days later, the army commanders launched their takeover. But even when the armoured vehicles were rolling into Harare, the President did nothing.

Why did the dictator fail to act? At the age of 93, while his health was declining and he needed help to walk to a podium, he was still alert and lucid. But he ignored the alarm bells from the Zimbabwean military and the Zimbabwean people. He was convinced of his popularity, believing in the results of rigged elections, without realizing that his authority was hollow and crumbling.

Zimbabweans who have watched him for decades have little doubt that it was Mr. Mugabe’s own imperious egotism that led to his downfall. He saw the danger signs, yet his supreme confidence led him to assume that he could swat away the threats with yet another sacking or another arrest.

“Big people tend to over-reach, and he over-reached himself,” says Earnest Mudzengi, a political analyst in Harare.

“His system had collapsed around him. Surely he should have known. It’s a sad end for him. He led a guerrilla warfare in the 1970s, the people looked up to him – and now they’re chasing him away.”

Tendai Biti, a former finance minister who worked with Mr. Mugabe in government from 2009 to 2013, says the autocrat was destroyed by his own pride. “Hubristic arrogance,” he told The Globe and Mail. “He was in power so long. He became so comfortable, complacent and over-confident. He’s stubborn, and he forgot the nature of the state around him. This is a military state, a state of securocrats. He forgot that he was just a representative of a securocratic state, and it will always dump you if you don’t serve it. So they fired him.”


Related:-

The New York Times: ‘Mugabe Must Go’: Thousands in Zimbabwe Rally Against Leader

Protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Saturday demanding that President Robert Mugabe step down after a military intervention. CreditJekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans gathered in the capital on Saturday, hooting, whistling and hugging soldiers as they called for President Robert Mugabe to give up power, days after a military takeover placed him under house arrest.

In scenes perhaps unthinkable only months ago, people marched side by side with members of the military — who rode armed tanks — and the protesters hailed the Army as setting them free from Mr. Mugabe’s 37-year autocratic rule.

“Mugabe must go, and his goons must leave. We have been victimized by Mugabe for too long,” said Nigel Mukwena, a 24-year-old student of political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

Others took selfies of the military at the rally, which converged on Zimbabwe Grounds, known as the site of addresses by Mr. Mugabe and other icons of the nation’s liberation. The scenes, and the celebratory air, were a seminal shift for the country’s 93-year-old leader — Africa’s oldest.

Brezhnev Malaba, assistant editor of The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, tweeted in the early hours of the march: “There are decades in which nothing happens; and then, suddenly, there are days in which whole decades happen. Zimbabwe is at that moment. Astonishing scenes here in Harare.”

For some Africans, Mr. Mugabe remains a nationalist hero, a symbol of the struggle to throw off the legacy colonial rule. But he was also reviled as a dictator known to resort to violence to retain power and to run a once-robust economy into the ground.

The military placed Mr. Mugabe under house arrest on Wednesday, effectively ending his long rule, but it allowed him to appear in public on Friday for a university graduation ceremony. The military sought to cast the action as an attempt to rid the president of the “criminals” in his government who have inflicted economic damage on the country.

Photo

Some people took selfies with members of the military on Saturday. Military leaders have insisted that their takeover was not a coup, but Mr. Mugabe was placed under house arrest.CreditJekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, has not been seen in public since Wednesday. Her recent aspirations to succeed her husband — and her and their sons’ lavish lifestyles — appear to have been a trigger for his downfall.

On Friday evening, a majority of the leaders of Mr. Mugabe’s governing ZANU-PF party, which he had controlled with an iron grip since independence in 1980, recommended his expulsion, according to ZBC, the state broadcaster.

“Many of us had watched with pain as the party and government were being reduced to the personal property of a few infiltrators with traitorous histories and questionable commitment to the people of Zimbabwe,” the party leaders said in a resolution. “Clearly, the country was going down the wrong path.”

Saturday morning, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans — some chanting, “Enough is enough!” and carrying signs emblazoned with “Mugabe must go” — marched alongside soldiers mounted on tank with machine guns.

“Soldiers are being feted as heroes on the streets of Harare,” Mr. Malaba, the editor, said on Twitter. “Euphoric scenes. People are standing next to army tanks and taking selfies. I’ve seen chaps excitedly polishing soldiers’ boots in a gesture of gratitude. This is unprecedented. Historic!”

But a nephew of Mr. Mugabe’s, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters on Saturday that the president and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” and had no intention of stepping down in order to legitimize the military coup. Speaking from South Africa, Mr. Zhuwao was quoted as saying that Mr. Mugabe had hardly slept since the military seized power, but that his health was otherwise “good.”

For many Zimbabweans, the atmosphere was electric and filled with hope. Marchers swarmed to the grounds, and drivers honked their horns. At one point, military aircraft streaked above the crowds.

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Veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for Mr. Mugabe to be removed from office after 37 years. CreditJekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Benita Mudondo, 57, came to the rally from the Nyanga District, more than 180 miles to the east near the border with Mozambique. “Surely Zimbabwe, our country, is back — the one country we fought for,” she said. “We had given up, but had become worried about the future of our children and grandchildren.”

Her husband, Ernst Mudondo, 67, a war veteran, said, “Our joy only starts today, and we are so happy.”

Their daughter, Michelle Mudondo, 17, said: “We are here as youth to claim back our country, our pride. We want to see our country on a path back to recovery; I look forward to a stable government with a stable economy without shortages of cash.”

For many of Zimbabwe’s university graduates, Mr. Mugabe is the only leader they have ever known, and the march was a platform to express optimism as they looked forward to life without him in power.

“I am here because I want a job, and Mugabe couldn’t deliver,” said Simbarashe Sakuona, 23, who said he had a degree in marketing from Midlands State University. “We were witnessing a bedroom coup as Grace now called the shots. Grace can’t be a leader.”

The prospect that the end of Mr. Mugabe’s era could unleash a crisis on the African continent spurred the South African president, Jacob Zuma, to send diplomats to try to defuse the situation in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Zuma said on Saturday that his country was committed to supporting “the people of Zimbabwe,” according to Reuters. He added that he was cautiously optimistic that the situation could be resolved amicably.

Now, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, the vice president of Zimbabwe until he was fired recently, is in line to become the country’s new leader. Observers say he shares some of Mr. Mugabe’s traits: He is power-hungry, corrupt and a master of repression. His nickname: the “crocodile.”


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Stat News: How a blunder over Robert Mugabe has cost the WHO goodwill it needs October 25, 2017

Posted by OromianEconomist in Human Rights, Uncategorized, WHO.
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3 comments

The global health community is struggling to make sense of a blunder that has shaken confidence in the new director-general of the World Health Organization and given rise to concerns — both outside and within the WHO — about the impact the episode will have on the credibility of the agency he leads.

Mere days after hitting the 100-day mark of his first term in the office, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appointed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to a ceremonial position of honor, naming the longtime authoritarian as a WHO goodwill ambassador for noncommunicable diseases.

Four days later, under intense international pressure, Tedros — who goes by his first name — withdrew the appointment.

“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns, and heard the different issues that they have raised,” he said in a statement issued Sunday.

There were sighs of relief and calls from some global health heavyweights to rally round a new leader who had the courage to publicly acknowledge a major mistake, and to swiftly correct it.

We have to allow leaders to admit mistakes listen reflect & when needed change decision.Brave leadership something we can all learn from.

But within the broad community of people who work with and for the WHO, the stunning incident has created a sense of deep unease about why Tedros made the sure-to-be-challenged appointment in the first place and how a man who had been Ethiopia’s foreign minister — his country’s top diplomat — for four years did not anticipate the firestorm the Mugabe appointment would ignite.

The episode has raised questions about the new director-general’s judgment and what damage this lapse could inflict on the WHO, which faces major challenges during his tenure. Criticism of the appointment came from a multitude of sources, including many of the countries that provide much of the WHO’s funding.

“I think some of the arguments for his candidacy were that he’d been both a health minister and a foreign minister, and merging the technical and diplomatic aspects should have been his strength,” noted Jimmy Kolker, a retired U.S. diplomat who served as assistant secretary for global affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration.

“I think he fell down on both sides … and certainly he underestimated the political or diplomatic liability this would be for WHO.”

Tedros has not publicly explained why he thought the 93-year-old Mugabe — a leader who has clung to power for decades by suppressing political opposition and trampling human rights in his country — was the right person to task with promoting the fight against cancer and heart disease to other African nations.

Even if you put aside Mugabe’s political track record — and no critic of the appointment would willingly do so — he was an unusual choice as a champion in the fight against chronic diseases. Zimbabwe is Africa’s largest tobacco producer and exporter. And under Mugabe, its health system has been beggared; the president himself leaves the country when he needs care.

Tedros had initially agreed to speak with STAT about the issue, but declined on Sunday, saying he felt his statement was enough and he was busy with other issues. A spokesperson for his office reaffirmed Monday that he would not give interviews about the matter.

In the absence of insights into his thinking, observers are drawing conclusions. They don’t find them reassuring, even as they support the WHO and want the agency to become stronger under Tedros.

Some have questioned whether the move was an attempt by Tedros to reward those who supported him in the race for director-general. Though balloting during the May election was secret and there’s no way to be certain who voted for whom, the 55-member African Union had unanimously endorsed his candidacy.

The road to that endorsement was paved by a vote by the union’s executive council in January 2016, which came just as Mugabe ended a year’s term as the African Union’s chair. Mugabe chaired the meeting.

Tedros himself credited “the unity of Africa” for his victory in a speech to the WHO regional committee for Africa in Zimbabwe in late August — an event Mugabe attended. In the address Tedros heaped praise on Mugabe, noting his “strong commitment to health.”

David Fidler, professor of international health law at Indiana University, said there’s currently no evidence the ambassadorship was payback for the African Union’s endorsement. “But the appointment of Mugabe was so bizarre that this explanation has to remain on the table until DG Tedros and WHO explain … why and how the appointment was made,” he told STAT on Sunday in an email.

Kolker said there has been a tradition at the WHO of directors-general rewarding countries that supported their candidacies. (Tedros is the first WHO leader to be elected by all member states; previously the director-general was selected by the WHO’s executive board.)

Still, the international community had been looking to Tedros to change the way the WHO operates and to restore the agency’s credibility, damaged in recent years by a perceived over-response to the mild 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, a tragically slow response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as well as reports of questionable travel expenditures. Restoring the WHO’s credibility is key, observers say, to getting countries to increase the agency’s funding, which has not kept pace with inflation for at least the last decade.

“It’s disappointing, the misstep of falling into an old pattern of making this about political support and that kind of sort of payback for political support, to me is a worrying sign,” said Kolker, who went on to stress, though, that he and many others want Tedros to succeed as director-general.

“I don’t want to make it too much just about him but it does seem as though the mandate that he has to make WHO a different and better kind of organization will be hurt by this. Because it was a misstep and it misjudged, I think, what the rest of the world was looking to him to do.”

It is also being seen as a serious miscalculation by dismayed WHO staff, many of whom first learned about the appointment through news coverage.

Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, is among those who have publicly applauded Tedros for reversing the Mugabe appointment. But he worried the “terrible decision” will feed into a cynical narrative — that the WHO doesn’t really care about human rights or global health.

The agency has gone through a bruising time, and it seemed like the election of the new director-general was an opportunity to hit the reset button, Jha suggested. Tedros, who handily beat five competitors for the job, seemed to get off to a solid start, recently appointing a strong and diverse senior management team.

“He was building a lot of goodwill and I think there was a sense that maybe this was a turning of the chapter at WHO,” said Jha, who added the appointment of Mugabe had let the air out of the balloon.

So what happens now? The cautious optimism that was the prevailing mood among WHO supporters has been replaced with anxious concern. And how much pause will this miscalculation give member countries, the folks who write the checks? “I honestly don’t know,” said Kolker.

There will be a price, Fidler predicted. “After this debacle, the leadership of DG Tedros will be under intense scrutiny, meaning he has wasted goodwill and political capital in making such a terrible decision and then admitting it was a terrible decision.”

“This intense scrutiny, and the impact of it on his director-generalship, might alter the agenda DG Tedros intended to pursue in order to placate the many government and non-governmental critics of his Mugabe decision,” he said.

Meanwhile some critics have signaled the issue hasn’t yet been put to rest.

The U.N. watchdog organization U.N. Watch called for a full and independent inquiry into the episode, demanding to know “what deals were made?”

Though he didn’t call for a formal inquiry, Fidler said it will be important to explore what the event says about Tedros’s leadership style, to find out how the decision was made, and what steps were taken to help the agency respond to “the utterly foreseeable outcry about this decision.”


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#NoTedrosforWHO

https://twitter.com/NatnaelMekonne7/status/857033667230740480

QZ: BIRDS OF A FEATHER? It’s not so surprising WHO’s new director tried to make Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador

Video (Oromian Economist file)