By OBERT MADONDO
This is the Obama era. It is the era of dialogue and engagement. But are Europeans desperate to embrace Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe?
For the last seven years, the EU has led a concerted campaign to isolate and demonize the veteran Zimbabwean leader following a disputed presidential poll in 2002. The EU and the United States imposed sanctions on Mr. Mugabe and his inner circle.
Now a senior EU delegation is visiting the Southern African country this weekend to renew ties with Zimbabwe. It’s the first high-powered EU visit in seven years.
The visit is timely. Zimbabwe is in a humanitarian crisis induced by Mr. Mugabe’s despotic and corrupt rule, damaged international image and western sanctions. The country needs at least $8 billion to recover. It’s coalition government, formed six months ago by Mr. Mugabe and former political enemy and now Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, will not succeed with continued strained relations with the West.
Trouble is: Mr. Mugabe doesn’t seem to care whether or not the EU extends a gesture of reconciliation. Mere hours before the EU delegation arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday he launched into his trademark demonisation of the West. He branded Western nations “neocolonialists” and accused them of wanting to recolonize Zimbabwe. He vowed that the West can “never be our friends.”
If the EU is serious about helping Zimbabwe emerge from its current crisis and prepare for a peaceful post-Mugabe era, it should ignore Mugabe’s bitterness. He is too old to change. Besides, we are in an era of new international politics. There is no justification for negotiating with North Korea, Iran and the Taliban while continuing to isolate Zimbabwe because of Mr. Mugabe.