Monday, November 26, 2007

Puzzling At The Very Least

The Commonwealth nations have met, they have discussed and apportioned blame and given censure - applied themselves to solving some of the world's impending problems. They seek to find common purpose, agreeable solutions, and collectively chiding those among them who have yet to live up to the common standard of democratic enlightenment. Many of whom never have, and possibly never will. But as a working group, they are amiable toward one another and eager to retain their amicability.

Except when some of their members exhibit behaviours and mannerisms of government totally inimical to the people whom they govern and by extension, bringing a collective blush to their partners in enlightened governance. At which time, the offending state is punished by naming and shaming and ultimately a temporary heave out of the Commonwealth. When the offending entity has seen the light and instituted changes that more adequately reflect the expectations of the collective body, it is then invited back into the fold, suspension over.

All is forgiven. One great big happy family of nations most of whom share a heritage of one-time hegemony, as part of the British Empire during its empire-building search of world domination, looting the national treasures and natural resources of the countries it conquered in its quest. Eventually and slowly venturing into the modern era, Great Britain gave up its control of its former colonies and permitted them independence. Some prospered on their own, many more did not and remain mewling orphans.

All, however, choose to remain within the Commonwealth of Nations as former colonies of England, whose power and control over them was absolute. And from which experience most of those subservient nations took away much that was good about their former colonizer; a knowledge of a judicial system, a governing system, a value system that would stand them in good stead for their futures and of which inheritance they remained proud.

Robert Mugabe chose to thumb his nose at the Commonwealth and to remove himself willingly from the collective, knowing full well his country would not be permitted re-entry under his megalomaniac, destructively ruinous rule. Zimbabwe is beyond the pale. Now too is Pakistan, another Commonwealth country from away back when it was yet part of India. Just as committed to that heritage and distressed no end to be suspended. What's a leader to do when his mission has been sullied by villainous detractors and deadly jihadists?

On the other hand, there is always the example of other outstanding members of the Commonwealth nations. Take for example, the host country of this conference, Uganda. Pakistan was suspended for violation of its democratic principles and for installing a state of emergency and persecuting General Pervez Musharraf's political opponents. Whereas Uganda - the host of the palatial extravaganza, whose population suffers the degradation of want through subsistence existence - is humoured and effusively praised for the fine arrangements it made for the conference.

Uganda's sad human rights record, and the displacement of over a million people held in squalid internal refugee camps as a result of a 21-year war, might be said to place it in the very same league as Zimbabwe. That a situation exists of the enslavement of many of its people, including tens of thousands of child soldiers, might lead an onlooker to conclude that Pakistan should receive an apology and an invitation to re-enter the fold, with Uganda taking its place as the truly-deserving nation requiring suspension.

Perhaps it is seen as poor manners to criticize one's host, although he is known to have rigged elections, intimidated his courts and taken it upon himself to amend the country's Constitution to enable him to carry on as president for life, with no inconvenient term limits. Before the summit convened, Human Rights Watch was openly and highly critical of Uganda for violating democratic freedoms.

Post summit, some of the country's bravely outspoken critics of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, spoke with raging disparagement of his priorities in hosting a conference costing the nation millions of dollars while Ugandans are desperate for food to sustain themselves and their children.

So who are the hypocrites here, and for heaven's sake, why?

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