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Mugabe’s Exit: What Impacts on Africa?

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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The forced resignation from the high office of the President of Zimbabwe of the 93-year old Mr. Robert Mugabe on November 21st 2017, perhaps made the global headline as the most significant political event out of Africa this year.

Although the story was nearly overshadowed by the gruesome picture of 26 Nigerian migrants that died in the Mediterranean Occean off the coast of Italy and buried in Italy, the exit of Mugabe from his long reign as maximum ruler of Zimbabwe still managed to dominate the headlines.

Much of the Western Media ranging from major international networks in the United States of America, United Kingdom and France amongst many others celebrated this event as if to say it was the hottest news of the day Worldwide.

The news of the exit of Mugabe reverberated even as far as the end of the Earth in New Zealand, Australia and in China where the plot to unseat him was hatched, the media also celebrated it. Locally, Zimbabweans were over excited and were seen dancing openly in the streets of Harare and all across the nation.

Several events led up to the eventual forced expulsion of this aged politician from the political party he nurtured into national acclaim known as Zanu-pf.

The most critical trigger that spearheaded the fall from the pinnacle of political power after nearly four decades as autocratic ruler of the heavily impoverished Zimbabwe, was the over ambition of his second wife Mrs. Grace to enthrone a political dynasty by plotting to succeed her old and not so healthy 93-year old husband whom she reportedly snatched from his original wife whilst she (Grace) worked amongst the secretarial pool inside the presidency in Harare Zimbabwe in 1996.

The fall of Mr. Mugabe who spearheaded the pro-independence war against the whites minority rule in the late 1970’s, can be summed up in diverse but related scenarios.

A lot of intrigues and political dramas characterized his exit. There were sizzling media frenzy that also characterised the entire episodes.

First, the 93-year-old Mugabe was put under house arrest during a military takeover last week’s Wednesday, after a power struggle over who would succeed him.

The military then said on Friday last weekend that it was "engaging" with Mr. Mugabe. His extremely flamboyant and ostentatious second wife Grace was also rumoured to have fled to Mozambique but it was later gathered that she couldn't leave as soldiers closed in on her husband and kept them under close guard for days.

The military which staged the coup said it had been arresting "criminals" around the president but gave no names. Mugabe's ally and Finance minister was picked up and huge cash in foreign denominations wete reportedly found with some newspapers quoting that as much as $10 million USD were found stashed in his bedroom.

The Army also officially and publicly said it would advise the nation on the outcome of talks with Mr. Mugabe "as soon as possible" just as Mugabe was made to address a graduation ceremony of the nation's foremost University in Harare to present the picture of a Country that was actually running as it should without any outward signs of the military operations that were taking place.

As captured by the BBC reporter in Harare the army moved in after Mr. Mugabe last week sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, signaling that he favoured his wife Grace Mugabe to take over his Zanu-PF party and the presidency. The dismissed VP used to be a very reliable political and defence ally of Mugabe and is rumoured to have amassed monumental financial assets whilst serving in different capacities under Mugabe's watch. Mugabe is said to be worth nearly £2 billion of assets in Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and South Africa just as the wife is said to own lots of housing assets in Hong Kong.

What actually made the negotiations to ladt long was because of the realisation that if President Mugabe can be persuaded to step down officially it could help legitimize the military's dramatic intervention, the BBC's Andrew Harding reports from Zimbabwe.

On the streets, it is hard to find anyone who wants Mr. Mugabe to stay on, our correspondent adds, but negotiating the manner of his departure and some sort of transitional agreement to follow took some time.

Father Fidelis Mukonori, a Roman Catholic priest known to Mr. Mugabe for years, was brought in to mediate.

The clergy spent quality time in the fortified private palatial mansions of the Mugabe’s trying to persuade him to step down.

The BBC reported that sources close to the talks say Mr. Mugabe - who has been in control of Zimbabwe since it threw off white minority rule in 1980 - is refusing to stand down voluntarily before next year's planned elections.

Some observers even suggested that Mr. Mugabe tried to seek guarantees of safety for himself and his family before stepping aside.

Before he finally resigned, it was gathered that he was granted immunity. Jacob Zuma of South Africa is said to be on his way to Harare even as the deposed Vice President who would now be sworn in as interim President Mr Emerson Mnangwagwa is said to have arrived on today.

Zanu-PF officials had earlier suggested Mr. Mugabe could remain nominally in power until the party congress in December, when Mr. Mnangagwa would be formally installed as party and national leader, so says news reports but the decision of the majority of the hierarchy to edge him out through removal as party leader made it easier and inevitable that the die was cast.

Secondly, South Africa which is hosting millions of Zimbabweans who fled after the country's economy crashed in 2008 said it has a special interest in seeing stability restored.

South Africa's defence minister and security minister met Mr. Mugabe on behalf of Southern African Development Commission (SADC) which South Africa currently leads.

They urged Zimbabwe to "settle the political challenges through peaceful means," the AFP news agency reported. President Muhammadu Buhari and the African Union also spoke out in favour of constitutional resolution of the impasse just before Mugabe capitulated to the superior political firepower.

The African Union said it would not accept a military seizure of power and demanded a return to constitutional order.

Significantly too, Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said it was "in the interests of the people" that Mr. Mugabe "resigns... immediately" as part of a negotiated "all-inclusive transitional mechanism". TSvangiral had earlier returned from a medical trip in South Africa.

Another opposition leader, Tendai Biti, called for elections to be held.

It is no longer news that the Zimbabwe's military took over the headquarters of national broadcaster ZBC and issued a statement saying they were targeting "criminals" around President Mugabe.

Troops and armoured vehicles encircled parliament and other key buildings throughout the day but not a single person was injured.

Prior to the operation, Gen Chiwenga had on Monday warned the army would intervene to end what he called the "purging" of Zanu-PF members "with a liberation background", referring to the country's struggle for independence.

Mr. Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war which led to independence. He is closely in touch with top Generals.

By virtue of his close affinity with the military, it was speculated that he instigated the military operations soon after Mugabe's ambitious second wife instigated his disgraceful removal as Vice president.

Just before Mugabe threw in the towel, he had stuck by his gun that he was not going to resign even when he gave a widely anticipated live broadcast that most people believed to be his resignation address.

He sat alongside the military Generals who had subjected him to a week-long house arrest and who were said to have written the scripts he read and were seen apparently choreographing and directing him on how to read the hurriedly written speech.

Following his refusal to tender his resignation, the political party gave their parliamentarians the mandate to begin the impeachment of Mugabe.

He (Mugabe) however quickly secured an agreement with the military generals for a blanket immunity from prosecution. He then sent in his letter of resignation to the parliament.

The Honourable Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament read out the notice of resignation as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe as follows amidst rapturous acclaim.

Mugabe's resignation letter goes thus: “In terms of the provisions of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe, amendment number 20, 2013.

"Following my verbal communication with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda at 13:53hours, 21st November, 2017 intimating my intention to resign as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect."

“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability”.

“Kindly give public notice of my resignation as soon as possible as required by section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe”.

Theresa May of Britain, Emmanuel Macron of France, Mrs Angela Merkel of Germany welcomed the resignation of Mugabe.

Even as the Western world celebrates the disgraceful exit of Mugabe considered as public enemy number one of Britain, there are many lessons that can be learnt positively so as to properly anchor democratic practices on the African continent battered by Mass poverty, civil wars and political instability.

This is because of the obvious fact that although Mugabe is gone but tgere are other Mugabes all across Africa including Equatorial Guinea; Rwanda; Uganda; Ethiopia; Sudan; Nigeria and Gabon.

The first of the many positive lessons to be drawn from the circumstances that made loyalists of then strongman of Zimbabwe to turn around and reject him and compel him to quit office, is that dictators and their evil regimes will always have to end tragically.

Importantly, another key lesson is that no matter how long the political dictators like the type we now have in Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon continues to self-perpetuate themselves in office, all that it will take to upturn their perpetual stay in office is for the people’s power to be brought to bear.

All over the world, humanity are becoming increasingly open and disposed to accepting the enforcement of fundamental human rights which basically makes it imperative that the will of the greatest majority of the people must take prime position at all times.

Manfred Nowak had argued that: “Human rights are the most fundamental rights of human beings. They define relationships between individuals and power structures, especially the State".

"Human rights delimit State power and, at the same time, require States to take positive measures ensuring an environment that enables all people to enjoy their human rights".

Nowak noted that history, in the last 250 years has been shaped by the struggle to create such an environment starting with the French and American revolutions in the late eighteenth century, the idea of human rights has driven many a revolutionary movement for empowerment and for control over the wielders of power, Governments in particular.

“Governments and other duty bearers are under an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights, which form the basis for legal entitlements and remedies in case of non-fulfillment", he submitted.

" In fact, the possibility to press claims and demand redress differentiates human rights from the precepts of ethical or religious value systems."

Arguing from a legal standpoint, human rights he said can be defined as the sum of individual and collective rights recognized by sovereign States and enshrined in their constitutions and in international law.

According to him, since the Second World War, the United Nations has played a leading role in defining and advancing human rights, which until then had developed mainly within the nation State.

As a result, human rights have been codified in various international and regional treaties and instruments that have been ratified by most countries, and represent today the only universally recognized value system.

Nowak, believes that Human rights cover all aspects of life.

Their exercise enables women and men to shape and determine their own lives in liberty, equality and respect for human dignity, he said.

Human rights comprise civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights and the collective rights of peoples to self-determination, equality, development, peace and a clean environment.

"Although it has been – and sometimes still is – argued that civil and political rights, also known as “first generation rights”, are based on the concept of non-interference of the State in private affairs, whereas social, economic and cultural – or “second generation” – rights require the State to take positive action, it is today widely acknowledged that, for human rights to become a reality, states and the international community must take steps to create the conditions and legal frameworks necessary for the exercise of human rights as a whole".

This perhaps explain the global dimension of the interest shown to the political transition that took place in Zimbabwe on November 21st 2017.

Africans should therefore exercise their inherent capacity to demand that only the choice of the majority of the people determined through a democratic process must be allowed to preside over the governance of their nations.

The fall of Mugabe should also remind us of the imperative of building strong democratic institutions and not propping up strong individuals.

For us in Nigeria, we must also show our determination to compel the political leaders to abide by the precepts and rules enshrined in the law books and the constitution.

Such key institutions like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Nigeria police and the armed forces must not be structured and controlled by forces or elements who are put in place to defend particular religions or ethnic affiliations. The Nigerian military must therefore defend all Nigerians from forces bent on destroying some communities such as the armed fulani terrorists and must not wait for Buhari to direct them on how to defend the human right to life of farmers.

Therefore, appointments into strategic national offices must be in compliance with the federal character principles and based on competences and not the lopsided nature and shape it has taken under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.

For instance, this people -led revolution that saw the exit of Mugabe was unanimously undertaken by all ethnic groups of Zimbabwe.

The ethnicities are: Shona people; White people in Zimbabwe; Lemba people; Tokaleya; Goffal; Vadoma; Ndau people; Kunda people; Zulu people; Indians in Zimbabwe; Tonga people; Nambya people; Gokomere; Manyika tribe; San people; Venda people; Kalanga people; and Sena people.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @ ; [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."