Regime change - is Zimbabwe next? Since when did Britain and America care for the human rights of Zimbabweans? When the land issue exploded in 2000? Or when Ian Smith ruled a semi-apartheid Rhodesia?

Author:Figueiredo, Antonio de
Position:Lest we Forget

As far as imperialism is concerned, England-cum Britain reminds me of the old men's saying: "Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it." I say this because, as a Portuguese, I am well aware that Portugal has been England's oldest ally since 1373, and even preceded it in imperialist expansion in Africa and Asia.

In Southern Africa, the Portuguese, by closing the port of Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) to the landlocked "Boer" Republics of the Transvaal and the Free State, even aided and abetted the British in the cruel Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), which, with the control of the gold and diamond industries, as well as over the copper-rich hinterland that was named Southern and Northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), made Southern Africa a preserve of the British imperial super-power.

Through the centuries, the Anglo-Portuguese alliance became increasingly unequal, with Portugal reduced to the status of minor partner, in a pattern which resembles that of Britain in its "special relationship" with the US. But while Portugal has radically withdrawn from colonialism after a joint Portuguese people/African struggle for democracy and independence in 1974-1975, it was somewhat surprising to see Tony Blair's Labour government in a "coalition" with the US using a "pre-emptive" war for regime change in Iraq that will ensure US monopoly of the oil-rich Middle East.

Given that this is another area which, after the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, old British imperialism tried to "reshape", leaving behind a divided Iraq and the greenlight for the creation of Israel in 1948, there were more old than new features in the "pre-emptive" war for regime change in Iraq. New were the false pretences of threats of weapons of mass destruction. Old, very old, was the aim of indirect rule through a pseudo-democracy. A new balance between threats of further pre-emptive interventions in Iran and Syria on the one hand, and the promises of a new deal or "Road Map" for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is likely to remain the focus of international attention for a long time yet.

However, even before the US-British "coalition" had broken from international law, and UN sanction for the war on Iraq, a British diplomatic and economic boycott, seconded by the US, was already being applied to Zimbabwe. Against the back-ground of what looked like a selective campaign against President Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe, the pleas for intervention increased no...

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