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The end of an era-Robert Mugabe

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Members of the presidential guard transfer the coffin bearing the remains of late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to a hearse upon arrival by helicopter at his Kutama village residence, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 2019. The remains of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe were taken to his village for a wake on September 16, a family member said, as his final burial is prepared in about a month. Mugabe died a week ago aged 95 in Singapore, nearly two years after he was ousted in a 2017 coup that ended nearly four decades of increasingly autocratic rule. After a state funeral on September 14 in the capital Harare attended by African leaders, his body went to his rural village of Kutama, 90 kilometres (55 miles) to the west, to allow villagers to pay tribute and bid farewell. PHOTO: Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

The news of the sudden demise of the foremost nationalist and doyen of liberation struggles in Southern Africa, former President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was received by the global community with great shock and utter grief.

The international media was awash with the sad development as both the print and electronic media carried the rather unfortunate incident in their daily news casts. Former President Mugabe who later became the maximum ruler of Zimbabwe after her independence in 1980 recently died in a Singaporean hospital after a protracted illness at the age of 95 years.

It will be recalled however, that Mugabe was ousted from power in 2017 in what could be described as “a Palace Coup” by the military wing of the ruling powerful ZANU-PF which had dominated the politics of Zimbabwe since her independence in 1980.

The international media had described Mugabe as the strongman of Zimbabbwe, foremost nationalist, a hero, and uncompromising freedom fighter who confronted the white minority settler regime of Ian Smith in what was then known as Rhodesia.

Late Comrade President Mugabe was indeed a controversial figure as initially he was the toast of the Western powers soon after Zimbabwe’s independence apparently due his pro-western policies. However, the honey moon with the Western powers suddenly became sour and terribly strained when Mugabe began to adopt stringent and anti-white policies in favour of his black majority Zimbabwens, an action considered inimical to the interest of the white minority settlers who were in total control of the nation’s economy at independence.

Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless and revolutionary icon who confronted the racist white minority settlers despite their military might in the then white dominated Rhodesia. The erstwhile British Colonial Powers was then ruling what used to be known as the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland under Sir Roy Wellinsky as the Prime Minister. The Federation was made up of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (now Malawi).

During the fierce and relentless struggles for liberation and freedom then sweeping across the continent of Africa between early 50s and 60s, the British was forced to grant independence first to Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda as the first President, then quickly followed by Malawi, formerly Nyasaland under the leadership of Hastings Kamuzu Banda as her first President.

Regrettably, in the case of Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe, the British in her characteristic dubious diplomacy of divide and rule tactics refused to grant independence to the genuine black majority but rather surreptitiously encouraged the white minority settlers to continue to dominate and subjugate the black population purely for her selfish economic interest as Rhodesia was then the economic powerhouse of Southern Africa during the dark era. The nationalists and freedom fighters led by the indefatigable Joshua Nkomo, together with Bishop Abel Muzarewa, Rev. Ndabaningi Set hole and Robert Mugabe among other nationalist fighters immediately declared total war against the white minority settler regime led by the arch racist and oppressor, Ian Smith who had boasted that black majority rule in what was then known as Rhodesia could only happen after one thousand years and certainly not in his life time.

As the liberation war was then raging in its intensity, some of the moderate nationalist leaders notably Joshua Nkomo and Bishop Abel Muzarewa were later lured and compromised to join the white minority government, an action considered by Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF as an unpardonable betrayal and complete sell out, prompting Mugabe and his associates to launch a guerrilla warfare against the racist regime.

In 1965, the erstwhile leader of the white racist regime, Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence for Rhodesia otherwise known as (UDI). The then British government responded swiftly against the illegal declaration of independence (UDI) by dispatching a naval warship ”NS Tiger” to Rhodesia ostensibly to quell the insurrection. Paradoxically, the warship was conveying the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson who on arrival in Rhodesia merely invited the rebel leader Ian Smith for talks aboard the warship.

It was indeed a great irony, illogical, and hypocritical of the British government to have treated the glaring case of rebellion and high treason against Ian Smith with such levity without adequate sanctions but rather the rebel leader Ian Smith was accorded rare diplomatic niceties and respect by the erstwhile British colonial powers simply because he was a white and obviously one of their own. That was the height of British perfidy and double standard reminiscent of her inglorious colonial era in Africa. It must be noted however, that Ian Smith had rebelled against Her Majesty’s government at the time he unilaterally and illegally declared Rhodesia independent from Britain as the colonial powers.

To be continued tomorrow
Akabogu, a public affairs commentator and analyst, wrote from Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.


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