By Hama Tuma


As the Bob Dylan song put it the times they are “ achanging”. But, try to tell that to the tyrant and dictators of the world and to the Western powers who are bonded to their hypocrisy, double standards and greed. 

We can once again blame Africa for the ongoing “return of the dictators” malady. Worse than Ebola and other viruses we are supposed to have given to the West (I still wonder why we did not give them the sleeping sickness).  The notable dictator to get back to power after being ousted was Uganda’s Milton Obote. He ended up by killing more than the blood thirsty Idi Amin. And then came Benin’s “call me Socialist” Kerekou. Weeping Kaunda and bloody Mengistu are still “awaiting”, thanks to the spirit of our ancestors as the late Chadian dictator Tombolbaye would have said. The Haitians have again proved that they are Africans to their core with their voodoo and penchant for disasters, tyrants and suffering. There is no other way of explaining why they allowed the return (with a hero’s welcome at that) of the bloody tyrant Baby Doc Duvalier and the priest dictator Aristide. Why do Haitians need these pests if not to put them on trial? Why were not these fellows arrested at the airport? Tyrants are obdurate and most of the time delusional. They imagine they are loved and missed by the very people they had tormented and killed. They think even the dead exhibit the Stockholm syndrome. How can anyone love his/her killer or tormentor? 

If tyrants stage a comeback (at least to return the country from exile) they are also showing a stubborn penchant for staying in power even when the majority of the population tells them to go away. Mubarak tried to linger on and his system is more or less still in place. Saleh of Yemen is finished but refusing to grasp his irrelevance and still posturing as a unifier and a bulwark against the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Assad in Syria is trying to weather the storm. Gelleh of Djibouti has arrested and tortured opposition leaders and sought help from fellow dictator Meles in Ethiopia who is himself apprehensive of a mass uprising. Kaddafi is fighting on and forced to confront a destructive array of western powers whose alleged concern for Libyan civilian lives (in Benghazi) has not hampered them from bombarding Tripoli with the savagery we had witnessed some years ago in the former Yugoslavia. The same hype is activated, the media manipulates public opinion and Kaddafi, very much like Milosevic and Sadam, is an unsavory fellow for whom few have any serious sympathy and thus a proper scarecrow. 

And through it all we observe the ugly head of Western hypocrisy and double standards that had for long been a scourge on democracy at world wide level. Hilary Clinton criticized the UAE for sending soldiers into Bahrain along with the Saudis but lamented against it for not joining the so called coalition against Khadafy. One wonders why the West, especially America, goes through this ridiculous charade of a coalition (even Ethiopia was part of the coalition against Iraq!) when the whole world knows the main protagonists are America and its western allies. America refused to label the Saudi intervention into Bahrain as an invasion without explaining how many foreign soldiers have to cross a border with tanks and armored cars for the action to be called an invasion. Are the Saudi soldiers in Bahrain just visiting? It was interesting to hear Obama pronounce Libyan towns (Ajawiya etc..)  properly but his expressed concern for the safety of Libyans in these places sounded hollow. There is no doubt that the Libyan upsurge which started (and not by coincidence) in oil rich and often separatist Cyrenaica has been aided and abetted by foreign elements and then taken over by those who had for long sought the ouster of Khadafy to lay their hands on its oil riches. The captured Dutch mercenaries, the infiltrated American and British intelligence agents and special force elements prove the assertion. 

Sarkozy “the Libyan” also appears as ridiculous as the Westerners’ concern for the lives of Libyan civilians. The strutting of France as a big power, the delusion of grandeur (often exercised on small countries like Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti and Mali) would have been amusing if it had not been destructive. Sarkozy, whose harsh and brutal action against Romas (Gypsies) is fresh in pour minds, is suffering from a low popularity rate in his own country, surpassed at the polls even by the right wing leader of the National Front. Moreover, he had to endure blunders in Tunisia where his foreign minister offered security help to dictator Ben Ali and so his sudden  posturing as the guardian of Libyans has little to do with concern and everything to do with cheap politics and an eye for the oil that France had not been getting unlike Italy for example. Franco Libyan relations, meaning ties with Khadafy were strong and financially beneficial to France and the Western powers. Blair and Condoleezza Rice trekked to Tripoli as did Berlusconi who publicly kissed the hands of the Libyan dictator and praised him for being a bulwark against African immigration. Britain forgot shot to death police woman Yvonne Fletcher and Lockerbie and acquiesced to his whims and dealt with Khadafy as a clean and deserving partner. In other words, Khadafy was kosher, an ally, halal so to speak. And so when the recent events arose, the Western media had to do the “bedeviling” work fast and wide. Feudal despot King Idris’ flag was resurrected as poorly armed but heroic rebels appeared on our TV screens, and all of a sudden Khadafy “the butcher” revealed. Sadam Hussein had gone through the same road. The Western controlled mass media shamed itself once again. 

Why did not the West intervene in Bahrain? In Yemen? Let us take it further: what has the West done to stop the bloodshed in eastern Congo, a tragedy that has killed close to 6 million Congolese and is caused by the West’s own greed for Congo’s mineral wealth? Obama said it is US policy that Khadafy needs to go. Good—but what about pro American tyrants like Kabila Jr, Meles, Nguema, the despots in the Middle East? In 2005, Meles Zenawi stole an election and murdered more than 275 people in Addis Abeba alone (snipers on rooftops as in Sana’a) but he still enjoys massive US, British and EU financial and military help. There is much hue and cry as concerns Darfur and not a peep on the carnage in the Congo. France did fine business with the dour and bloody generals in Burma and still is the life support for many African dictators. Any claim by Britain, in the past or now, to be concerned about the welfare of other peoples is not funny but still laughable. Hence, if Putin calls the campaign against Libya something like the Crusades he does have a point. It alls smacks of an ill concealed colonialist arrogance and violence. Base and crude economic interest is at the bottom of it. Oil. The times they are achanging for sure and sometimes, alas, the more they change the more they stay the same. Mubarak and Ben Ali were allies of Washington but the popular revolt got rid of them much to the chagrin of America. Khadafy and Saleh will go as it is the will of the people but the war of the West against Libya has nothing to do with democracy or defending civilians. The AU has proved once again its relevance by failing to come to the rescue of its “king of all African Tribes” and the Arab League’s call for the bombardment of Libya has not, alas, surprised anyone.  

It is evidend that  pro American dictators in Africa and the Middle East will also face popular uprising and if Bahrain is an indicator we can safely declare that the West will try to salvage them until it becomes impossible to do so and it is forced to sing another tune. Changing times but same despots, same double standards, same hypocrites.  

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