It hit me like a brick when, just two days ago, the United States signed two bills that grabbed my attention.
The U.S. Congress passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, which seeks to protect human rights in Hong Kong. The bills are a clear reaction in support of the demonstrators in Hong Kong who, for five months now, have been demanding democracy in Hong Kong, something that more than implies that China is oppressing the citizens of Hong Kong who were thrust into a quagmire when Britain’s ‘rental’ of the island city/nation expired.
I thought to myself that other people are lucky in that they get immediate attention when they are abused by their governments.
Hong Kong has literally been on fire for five months as its citizens demand concessions and resist China’s interference in the way they live. They are demanding a strict maintenance of democracy and are resisting China’s efforts to bring its political tradition into Hong Kong.
The two bills passed by the United States congress on Thursday allow the government to level sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese rulers who violate human rights. The bills also instruct the immediate cessation of selling to Hong Kong non-lethal items such as tear-gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.
The two bills are viewed as issues that could easily affect trade negotiations between the United States and China, but America went through with it because of their desire to see justice and democracy.
There has always been selective action towards human rights violations. The importance of a country to America has a lot to do with how America and the western world react towards such things as human rights violations.
America is particularly guilty of issuing statements rather than taking decisive action towards countries that violate human rights – if its reactions towards seasoned human rights violators such as Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and a host of African countries is anything to go by.
Some individuals from Zimbabwe’s ruling elite have been under “targeted sanctions” for a long time now yet human rights violations in the country are getting worse by the day.
Violent events have been reported in Zimbabwe for a long time now and one such episode, in which the army was the aggressor and which resulted in the deaths of several demonstrators, necessitated a meaningless “commission of enquiry” led by a colourless former president of South Africa.
On Zimbabwe, as usual, regional bodies, particularly the African Union (AU) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), remained silent before, during and after the atrocities committed by the Zimbabwean government.
The government of Zimbabwe remains unpunished over the fatal clash between the army and police on one hand, and the demonstrating civilians, on the other. Months later, it happened again and both impotent puppies, the AU and SADC, remained silent.
Human rights violations in Zimbabwe are on a steady increase as more and more people find it impossible to survive or take care of their families due to the government’s failure to revive an economy that has everything to do with its own corruption, the perpetration of which continues unabated.
The enforcement of draconian laws continues, and the army and police physically abuse the people at will, the latest of which occurring just 6 days ago when police violently attacked opposition supporters who were peacefully assembled to hear statements from their leader, Mr. Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa had earlier been denied permission to address his followers about the state of affairs in the nation.
The suppression of demonstrations is sure to spark further confrontations as the government has embarked on a behavior born out of the fear of gatherings.
This week’s photographs of elderly men with deep head injuries and blooded shirts, looking bewildered and disoriented, are a terrible indictment on Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
The sheer senselessness of heavily armed policemen, the supposed protectors of citizens, kicking women with their heavy boots makes any normal people cringe…except the morons at SADC and the AU.
It just makes me wonder what we, as Africans, need to do to show some semblance of civility. Why should America and European countries police and intervene when we are abusing or slaughtering each other? Why is it not our business to behave in humane ways? Why do organisations we form to assist us in our responsibilities always end up as concentrated weapons of convenience used against us?
And what is it about African leaders that stops them from caring or wincing when a citizen is abused or killed in their name?
Although America and its European allies react much slower to tragedies in “the third world” as opposed to “white” countries, it is not their responsibility to inject civilization into our midst. They are complicit, of course, but only because we allow them to behave this way.
The violence dished out to people peacefully gathered in Harare this week is so barbaric and senseless that it is making me wonder if we are people at all.
How many African countries emphatically condemned this? Is there any African country that proposed punitive action against the rulers in Zimbabwe?
The failure by Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa to reverse and stabilize the economy in the country is causing lots of concern among the people. There is a lot of increasing restlessness. His increasing brutality and human rights violations have alarmed the people who are now likening their situation to the pre-independence period when people had to pick up weapons to free themselves.
With all the increasing violence, human rights abuses and economic mayhem afflicting Zimbabwe, what in the world is the world waiting for?
And amidst all this, Mnangagwa’s priority is to have at least one street in every city and town in Zimbabwe named after him, a fantasy he brought to reality this week.
Thanks to Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe achieved a pinnacle of sorts a few days ago. It changed street names in most towns instead of repairing them. We now have streets named after dead communists. Leonid Brezhnev and Fidel Castro are alive and well in downtown Harare.
*Tanonoka Whande writes in his personal capacity.