By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor in Abuja, Nigeria.
Abuja Nigeria -- Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has threatened to pull out of the Commonwealth making irrelevant an expected decision by a CHOGM’s group of 6 to continue Zimbabwe”s suspension from the Commonwealth.
Mugabe’s threat exposes the Commonwealth’s impotency in it not being able to decisively deal with member nations that abandon human rights and democratic ideals. It is a hallmark of Commonwealth conservatism that crisis be resolved by way of consensus and to shy from creating compelling precedence to expel the rogue state forthwith.
Interestingly, Mugabe’s threat to withdraw from the Commonwealth further exposes its weakness as heads of governments were shown to drift without direction or decision.
And in Zimbabwe Mugabe milks it for all he is worth. He did not specify when his threatened withdrawal would take place but said that the Commonwealth had been hijacked by racists interfering in Zimbabwe's internal affairs. And Queen Elizabeth, is here for the first time since the 1950s when she became Queen. She’s staying at the Presidential mansion, albeit in a room recently painted and fuming. She toured a film-set supposedly to meet ‘real Nigerians’. Unfortunately for the Monarch, the people were actors in a play directed to deceive. The Queen leaves for home tomorrow.
But the real Nigeria is there for all who choose to see it. One only needs not to turn away. But then, it is not pleasant, it challenges the senses. The divisions in the Commonwealth here are laid bare.
Ironically, only 100 metres from the Abuja Hilton hotel, a scene of Commonwealth contrasts exists.
To the right, behind gates guarded by scores of machine-gun touting soldiers, are symbols of sheer greed and social dis-conscience. Fountains of wealth flow within the grandeur. Leaders of the Commonwealth’s nations bask in VIP glory, while to the left, down the road, almost within spitting distance, a gathering of Nigeria’s poor huddle around an open fire, their ceiling; a highway structure supporting the roar of importance, the belching stench of a richly tuned motorcade carrying the privileged to another cocktail retreat.
Deep inside narrow alleys of one of Abuja’s largest markets sits a group of men. They operate a wristwatch repair service. One looks up “welcome to Nigeria” he says. To his left a sticker of Osama bin Laden decorates his toolbox. One needs a hero in such a place.
Nigeria is rich in oil. BP and Shell have returned little to Nigeria by way of development or sustainability. That is clear by the degree of poverty and the fact that only weeks ago 20 Nigerians were shot while protesting against fuel prices. The irony and hypocrisy surrounds all in this continent of hope without means, resource without equality or equity.
And yet the talkfest continues.
The Zimbabwe suspension issue has divided nations attending this year’s Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja, Nigeria. Western nations have forthrightly pursued consensus to continue Zimbabwe’s suspension of the Commonwealth. A growing faction of African nations interprets the west’s public condemnation of Robert Mugabe as ‘bullying’ and seeks to have Zimbabwe’s suspension lifted.
A group of six nations has been charged with resolving the standoff. It is made up of leaders from Australia and Canada, who oppose readmission; from Zimbabwe's neighbours Mozambique and South Africa, who are in favour readmission; and two neutral nations from India and Jamaica.
The split at CHOGM stole from Commonwealth secretary general Don McKinnon a unanimous re-election. Indeed McKinnon’s re-election faced a late challenge by Sri Lanka’s former foreign minister, Lakshma Kadirgamar.
He was re-elected 40-11.
Today here at CHOGM, Don McKinnon said: “I’ve faced many elections in my time, and I’ve lost a couple and won most of the rest. So I wasn’t worried about it. I was surprised because after canvassing all leaders six months ago on the basis of ‘well what do you think’, I was certainly encouraged to offer myself for re-election. So I felt a little bit of surprise by what came from Sri Lanka. But no, I am not worried about it.”
What has this to do
with a former empire containing the most painful extremes?