Much has been written about the lack of robust response from African heads of state both in the SADC region and elsewhere on the continent on the subject of Mugabe and the politcal and economic meltdown over which he is presiding. There have been some exceptions to the collective reticence of African Presidents. Some point to the failed efforts of Thabo Mbeki and Nigerian President Obasanjo in 2003 to mediate an end to the Zimbabwe crisis as an example. The South African President has preferred pursuing a route of "quiet diplomacy" rather than confrontation with the person still viewed with reverence in some quarters as one of the doyens of Southern African liberation struggle movements.
During his recent trip to the United States, Botswana President, Festus Mogai was asked what his country was doing about the crisis in Zimbabwe and he responded that if the USA "can do nothing about tiny, naughty North Korea, what do you expect Botswana, with a population of 1.7 million to do against Zimbabwe (population 14 million)." Never mind that, following the exodus of between 3 and 4 million ZImbabweans that there are probably not 10 million souls remaining in the country, the answer to the Botswanan President was eloquently supplied in an op-ed piece in a Namibian online journal. The answer is that African leaders should use their moral authority to go beyond the proven failure of "quiet diplomacy." (Read his whole piece.)
Perhaps it takes being an "ex-President" for African leaders to summon the courage to criticize the GOZ. This week, Botswana's former President, Ketumile Masire, leveled a "tacit but sharp criticism" against Mugabe for his "destruction" of Zimbabwe.
Being an ex-President is apparently not a sufficient condition to assure that African leaders are able to speak truth to power, however. Former Malian President and present Chairman of the African Union (AU), Alpha Oumar Konare was in Harare last week and refused to meet with members of Zimbabwe civil society. Konare, an active member of Malian's civil society and pro-democracy movement himself, when he was a journalist in opposition to the Moussa Traore dictatorship (which he succeeded in office following a year's transition under present Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure) is the kind of African leader with the moral authority (Toure is another) to confront the Zimbabwean President. It is a shame that he has chosen not to do so.