Dr. Scot Taylor, Political Scientist, Georgetown, responds to No.391

One can agree with nearly all of what Dr Oculi has offered, and there is much to applaud in what he has written. Unfortunately, his comments are also so one-sided that they are ultimately unhelpful.  Suggesting that observers are either with Ian Smith, or the British, Edward Clay, et al, on one side, or with Mugabe and Kibaki on the other is little different than the simplistic "you're either with us or against us" logic of the Bush Administration.  Would that reality were so zero sum ("Black and White?") but I fear that it leads to a gross oversimplification - indeed, trivialization - of the problems that Africa, and its African American supporters (of whom I am one) face.

Kibaki's logic in regard to privatization, externally imposed conditionalities, Kenya's economic nationalism, etc., may be morally unassailable, and the British and other Western interests may be thinly veiled. I suspect they probably are; or at least a hidden agenda plays some role.  Similarly, Mugabe's seizure of white farmers and abrogation of the so-called "property rights" regime may well be, on its surface, the righting of an historical injustice.  Indeed, the support that Mugabe enjoys among the populace in African countries (other than Zimbabwe) and the influence wields within SADC, and even the grudging admiration he receives from many who are otherwise intensely critical of his government, for example, are clear evidence that he has struck an important chord.  But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that many (and some would say, most) of Zimbabwe's current problems are in fact *politically*-induced: the result of mismanagement, a wish to consolidate power often brutally, misrule and, yes, corruption.  Many of the same points, not least corruption, are also true in Kenya's case.  To insist that allegations of corruption (etcetera) are merely part of an elaborate western-devised plot is not only reductionist, it's simply wrong on the facts.

It's not necessary to absolve the West, Western institutions and, indeed, Whites, in order to suggest that Africans, and African Americans, share some culpability.  Time and space don't permit a full analysis here, and in any event, Professor Falola's dialogues have already spoken to this issue far more eloquently than I can.  I will simply note that Kenyans *themselves* have led the calls for anti-corruption in their country and have been among the most vocal critics of both the Moi and Kibaki governments.  To suggest that they are mere stooges of a Western (dare I say, imperial?) agenda is to discredit their integrity and do them a grave injustice.  Likewise, as has been pointed out elsewhere, criticism of President Mugabe and his government is hardly tantamount to praise of Ian Smith.   To do so demeans the many hundreds of Black Zimbabweans who have lost their freedom, their homes, their jobs and even their lives in their efforts to realize a different - and yes, more equitable - Zimbabwe.  (And this is intended as a strictly non-partisan observation, quite independent of the ZANU-MDC political struggle.)

Lastly, to turn to African Americans and the important role they - We - can play in all this.  We have an obligation to speak truth to power in any context.  The wrongs being done to Black people by certain governments in Africa, and to Blacks in the Diaspora by non-black governments, need to be highlighted and denounced, not hidden under the banner of some pan-racial solidarity (I would be less averse to "airing our dirty laundry in public" if we at least did it behind the scenes, but in fact, this seldom occurs.)  We can - and should - highlight the many hypocrisies in Western discourse about Africa, but unless we are willing to offer criticism of leaders and governments where it is due, we are no less guilty of hypocrisy ourselves.