Should I stay or Should I Go ? (Mugabe in Lisbon)

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The Clash’s “If I go there will be trouble, If I stay it will be double….should I stay or should I go?”, is unlikely to be on the playlists of either Robert Mugabe or Gordon Brown. But it sums up the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon (8-9 December). Mugabe basks in the publicity alongside his fellow African leaders. British PM Gordon Brown has stayed away—rightly, in our humble opinion.

Zimbabwe is now mired in poverty, and a good deal of it can be laid at the president’s door (see our recent post). Its become so bad that even Ian Smith got half-decent obituaries last week (see the Economist for instance).

Today’s Guardian editorial argues that the British Prime Minister should have gone. The Guardian is wrong. Strong messages have to be delivered to Mugabe. Staying away sent the UK message. Angela Merkel went, but castigated Mugabe behind closed doors (see the Deutsche Welle and BBC reports here and here). Going or staying away is irrelevant: Europe’s leaders have to tell Robert Mugabe that what he is doing to Zimbabwe is wrong. Full stop. You can do that either with words (Merkel) or actions (Brown). Arguing that there are other African leaders (you know who you are) at the summit as bad as Mugabe is equally irrelevant. Arguing that Europe has a terrible history in Africa (we agree) is equally irrelevant. Mugabe has driven Zimbabwe into the ground: the land grab is not about Zimbabwe’s poor—its about elite greed. And Africa’s leaders have to step up and say this as well. Unlikely in South Africa’s case (ahead of the elections) but one can only hope.

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