Robert Mugabe is dead; many Africans heap praise. A particularly striking tribute is this one by former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings: Mugabe “lived for the dignity of your fellow Black. Your African pride, and dignity and audacity were unassailable.” Is this a blunder or a tragic delusion? Sane people are confounded.
There is a certain peculiar flavor to many African-state narratives – our stories tend to have no African villains. The “fellow Black” despot, plunderer, slaver, is posthumously guiltless; he is transformed into a legend for posterity. In our sanitized version of history, the ancestors are all great men – the knave who sold his own brothers for trinkets; the thief whose nation’s wealth is in his family’s coffers; the “liberator” turned brutal oppressor. All of them are eulogized as heroes. Whatever the vice, the gods and the foreigner must be to blame.
Where is the justice when our Hitlers live impenitent, rich and free, and then die stately? For future generations, what are the lessons from a history so grossly distorted?
The proverbs tell us that “as a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly”. The delusion must end here. Our path to progress begins with truth. Let us concede that no calamity ever befell our continent without a brother accomplice. We must stop praising “emancipators” who become tyrants, they are impostors. Perfidy is pervasive in our lands because it goes unpunished; let us at least not aggravate injury by misnaming it virtue.
We should not cheapen African pride. Let history accurately reflect that Robert Mugabe was no African hero; he could have been, he was absolutely not. His report-card shows the ruin he made of one of the continent’s most promising economies; his bank accounts show the leech he was on his fellow countrymen; he dashed his people’s hopes. Oppression was the prevailing theme of his life; his is a legacy of infamy. Africa does not welcome an encore.