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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Does Africa need lessons in democracy?

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has vowed to increase pressure on Zimbabwe to hold free and fair elections, and criticised its president, Robert Mugabe.

News and Information for Africa
But some African leaders say putting food on people's plates is more important than human rights and good governance.

As this is a hot topic at this weeks EU-Africa summit, what do you think? Is the West justified in its criticism?




Let Mugabe gracefully leave office. It is a landmark that he led Zimbabwe into independence.

B.O.Osah, Nigerian in German
In an attempt to cling to power, Mugabe is using a populist policy to steer interest in a government that has failed its people. Why didn't Mugabe come up with a long-term plan for the hand over of such lands earlier? Does he have a program to reasonably allocate the land, or does he have a development plan for such land? The answer to the last two questions is obviously NO. I hope that Mugabe will not end up leading Zimbabwe into becoming a nation that depends on food aid from the UNO. Let Mugabe gracefully leave office. It is a landmark that he led Zimbabwe into independence. He must not and cannot solve all Zimbabwe's problems.
B.O.Osah, Nigerian in Germany

It is so easy to be carried away by sensational events only to forget fundamental issues. Is it vengeance against former colonialists or is it really white farmers only that fell victim to this move? Perhaps we could agree that land redistribution per se may not solve the social, economic and political problem of Zimbabwe. I am sure you will come up with a fairer and sustainable solution.
D Dessalegne, UK



The MDC have my wholehearted support and I wish them every success.

Gillian Guy, UK
It's not a question of either one or the other... Zimbabwe used to be a food exporter in the "bad old days" and could be again if justice prevails and the MDC are successful at the forthcoming elections. The MDC have my wholehearted support and I wish them every success.
Gillian Guy, UK

It's about time Zimbabwe stopped harping on about what a rough deal it had under British rule, ask the people who were there during British rule and they will tell you that it was an up and coming country, not the downwardly spiralling dictatorship, spouting racist and anti-British propaganda it is now
AJ, UK,

The British Government should back right off and let the UN deal with Mugabe, they should not just shout slogans but should actively redirect all efforts in a way which Mugabe cannot manipulate them for his own purposes. It is hard to understand how a man who fought so hard to bring democracy to Zimbabwe can also be doing so much damage to his own people.
Mark Marais, Ex-Zim now in the UK



If Africa wants to run with the rest of the world, there is some serious work that needs to be done.

Sue, South Africa
Yes, the West IS justified. If Africa wants to run with the rest of the world, there is some serious work that needs to be done, and NOT by the West. Why must it be the responsibility of the West to educate the people of Africa; why must the West provide 'better health care and sufficient food for all'? Why must the West carry on its financial support of Africa when it is quite obvious the money is not being used for the reason it was sent? Africa wanted independence; they have it and the have achieved nothing. It's time they stopped blaming the past and moved on!
Sue, South Africa

The problem in Zimbabwe is really due to the economic pressures in the country. As a Zimbabwean I know what the solution is, it is best for us Africans to be taught i.e. show how to run our countries. The truth is as soon as Zimbabwe gets a new president, the president will just be the same as the present one, corrupt! It will be a vicious circle. We definitely need to understand the term democracy...trust me it's the only way, besides our families who are suffering, they have the power to change the current system.
Perfect Mawaka, United Kingdom



For how long can we blame the colonial powers for all that is wrong?

ex-Kenyan, USA
It is almost 50 years since independence in many African countries. For how long can we blame the colonial powers for all that is wrong? If they were so bad, and have no right to preach, why is it that we have not been able to do a better job?
Corruption is the bane of a continent that is so rich in human and natural resources. It is sad that most African leaders are despots; nutrition, education etc. are not priorities - only personal gain is important to these folks.
ex-Kenyan, USA

The sickening situation in Zimbabwe calls for the international community help in vanquishing the forces of evil prevailing in once the most promising African nation. The more this time bomb is allowed to tick the more human abuses will mature.
JJ, Zimbabwe

When British Asians were driven out of Uganda during Idi Amin's rule, their property was shared among Ugandans who had no prior ideas on how to run the businesses. What happened thereafter is that the economy of Uganda collapsed. Is Mr Robert Mugabe sure this will not happen to his country?
Suhtah Bangang, Germany



The situation at present is NO democracy and NO food on the plates.

Mark Nielson, Zimbabwe
Your quote of "putting food on people's plates" rather than good governance carries no water in Zimbabwe, as the only way to feed the country is to make sure every black or white owned farm produces it's yearly crop. The situation at present is NO democracy and NO food on the plates.
Mark Nielson, Zimbabwe

It's sad and shocking to read that, while ordinary Africans are looking for support in their struggle against the excesses of repressive, corrupt governments, some of the contributors below are prepared to defend the oppressors rather than the oppressed - as long as the oppressors aren't white.
Henry Case, UK

Despite what Mugabe and the war veterans appear on the surface to be trying to achieve, the sad reality of the situation is that the "average" Zimbabwean who needs it most stands to end up losing from this short sighted and corrupt fiasco. After the dust settles on this issue; once existing and future foreign investors have been scared away, once hard working black farm labourers and their families have been displaced from their homes, once white Zimbabweans who are a vital source of employment have been ostracised, Mugabe will have proven once again that he has never had any real commitment to bettering the lives of the majority of this beautiful, promising and once peaceful country.
Adam Sargent, South Africa



I see President Mugabe as a dictator and racist who rejects reform in Zimbabwe.

Kenya, United States
One of the factors that has hurt democracy in Africa is that leaders of the independence movements in the past are too stubborn to relinquish power to the opposition. I see President Mugabe as a dictator and racist who rejects reform in Zimbabwe. If it were up to him he would remain in power up until his death. I hope that the people of Zimbabwe send him a stern message that his time is up and that he must let new leadership come in for the sake of their future.
Kenya, United States

The whites in Zimbabwe have until now tried to be apolitical. The farm invasions and the racist attacks on whites by Mugabe supporters have forced them to get down off the fence. They are now real Africans and real Zimbabweans.
Mike, Australia

Lessons are more or less useless. Mugabe and similar African leaders such as Arap Moi are following a time-proven and even logical policy which is underlined by a (often justifiable) belief that loss of power is equivalent to personal (and tribal etc.) annihilation. The West should establish a consortium between banks, NGOs and governments that would scrutinise corrupt politicians and have the power to seize their assets and/or personal freedom should they abuse their power too egregiously. Aid should stop (why does UK continue delivering military spares to Zimbabwe? This is plain silly). And, on the contrary, good behaviour should be rewarded.
David Krizaj, Slovenia



I think it is time African leaders accepted that the world expects them to comply to the same democratic standards as everybody else.

Ndabeni Madadeni, Zimbabwe
I think it is time African leaders accepted that the world expects them to comply to the same democratic standards as everybody else. There is no such thing as an "African" version of democracy. Having said that, I wish to stress that I appreciated Peter Hain's stance on Mugabe. Mugabe has impoverished Zimbabwe and has no right to lecture anyone on democracy. He is a killer and should be treated as such by the world.
Ndabeni Madadeni, Zimbabwe

I am not sure if democracy is the beginning and end of everything desirable. It has been proven time and again that well-defined property rights, economic freedoms, and a strong judicial system for complaints and redress goes a long way in making a country prosperous. This one man/party feature of many African countries occurs because of the lack of all the above features. Get them in place and in time such "Dictatorships" will disappear.
Hariharan, USA

We need no lessons. The problems Zimbabwe is facing are historical and can be traced back to the colonial rule by the British in this country. The reaction of the British government, press and public is more to do with the fact that now the whites are at the receiving end. Look at yourselves first because you are worse than Mugabe.
Mandlenkosi Mpofu, Zimbabwe

We live in a global family and so we as humans need each other. Mr Mugabe is wrong. What he is doing is taking food out of his people's mouths. Who is going to manage or control those farms so that they can be productive and feed people. Are they going to be turned into productive farms or what. African nations know what democracy is.
Lawrence Mogorosi, Botswana



I think Britain should do something positive now before the situation in Zimbabwe gets worse.

Onai, UK
I think Britain should do something positive now before the situation in Zimbabwe gets worse. There is no point waiting for the worst to happen instead of acting on it now when it's in an early stage. Being a Zimbabwean born person I know exactly what Mugabe is capable of and if no one acts now there is nothing stopping him from being the president once again.
Onai, UK

The age of colonialism is surely over. It is only fair that if it is not possible for a person from Zimbabwe to come to the UK and buy land and settle here then a person from the UK should not be able to go to Zimbabwe and buy land and settle there. I hope the white settlers of Zimbabwe will return to their own countries; unwelcome settlers in this country are detained and removed, bound and gagged.
A. Guest, United Kingdom

How can a country responsible for colonialism come back and lecture African leaders about democracy. The British are responsible for more suffering in Africa than all the African Dictators put together.
James Kimani, Kenya

Effort should be made to protect justice - equality for all - not democracy. Modern day democracy is laced with hypocrisy, injustice, deprivation, neglect, thievery and sheer arrogance. Democracy should come from within, not trusted, enforced or from afar. It should ensure equity, not divide and conquer.
Ike, Nigeria

African leaders are totally right! People's health, nutrition, and education should be a priority over human rights and good government. Human rights will come with improved education.
Damto, Ethiopia

The absence of interest in African issues throughout the entire Danish press makes it hard for the people of my country to comprehend the seriousness of the situations like the current trouble in Zimbabwe. We get plenty of coverage from the traditional hotspots in Europe and the Middle East, but where are the foreign correspondents, when we need them to land in Harare.
Johan Christensen, Denmark

Mugabe has gone too far this time. The dictator of twenty years has now singled out a small hard working minority to pin all the country's problems on that he had a hand in creating. This is no different than the racism that blacks and immigrants face in the U.S. and Europe and is justifiably criticised. But because the victims here are whites, everyone remains mute. These are people who were born in the country and are citizens of Zimbabwe, why should they be treated like second class citizens. Zimbabwe should be put under sanctions and its foreign assets seized to pay for any land that Mugabe's cronies decide to take over.
Ayan, USA

I think the western world is taking the easy way out in proposing a solution to the numerous African problems. Africans could hold democratic elections today, but the only thing we will end up with are quasi one-party states and dictators. If the west want a true democracy in Africa, they should help Africa educate its people, provide better health care and sufficient food for all, and a true democracy will follow in due time.
Yaw Sefa Wiredu, Ghanaian in Canada



Mugabe is definitely succeeding in turning Zimbabwe's problems into a racial problem.

Nigel Gaylard, UK (ex Zimbabwe)
Mugabe is definitely succeeding in turning Zimbabwe's problems into a racial problem. All that the west talks about is white/black. This is a smokescreen to the corruption and lack of democracy.
It does not matter what colour a farmer is, throughout the world commercial farmers own large tracts of the MOST FERTILE land, this is what provides the nations with food. Subsistence farming has never been proved to sustain a nation. With time the balance will change and black people will take to farming.
Nigel Gaylard, UK (ex Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe got what it wanted years ago; independence from Britain. I find it quite ironic that this far down the line Mr Mugabe wants Britain to compensate the farmers whose land he wishes to confiscate to line the pockets of his own hangers-on.
If that doesn't sum up both the failure of the independent Zim, and the hypocrisy of the present regime, then I don't know what does.
Paul Derbyshire, South Africa



You found us with our chiefs and kings and you did away with them. Now you expect us, about 100 years later, to be masters of democracy.

Thembelani, Zimbabwe
How long did it take the British to become democratic? We know kingdoms are not, so it must be around the time of the introduction of the government. You found us with our chiefs and kings and you did away with them. Now you expect us, about 100 years later, to be masters of democracy. I think even in nature a child is taught how to walk and not the speed how to do it. We have had enough of the lessons, now let us practise what you are still failing to achieve.
Thembelani, Zimbabwe

As a former officer in the Rhodesian Army circa 1974-75 I am somewhat familiar with the problems in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has done an excellent job of following in the footsteps of oh so may other Black African Dictators who were initially elected Prime Minister/President at the outset of independent home rule and rapidly descended into the quagmire of "one man, one vote," who decided that the president business was really quite alright and that he would be staying on for a while and is next seen as "president for life".
John Robertson, British Columbia, Canada

Yes if there is democracy and good governance in Africa I think food won't continue to be an issue.
Kidne Belay, Australia



Our continent is a continent of corruption, disease, mismanagement and hypocrisy.

Issa Oumar Basse, Senegalese in the USA
When on earth are we Africans going to own up to our misdeeds? I am very much disheartened by what I am reading here. Our continent is a continent of corruption, disease, mismanagement and hypocrisy. We always find some to blame for our shortcomings. It is always the white man who is behind our problems.
It is true that it is hard to accept that .6% of Zimbabweans (whether they are white or black ) would own 75% of the land but isn't it surprising that Mugabe has waited for more than twenty years to try to address this issue? Isn't it irresponsible for a head of state to so brazenly refuse to make law and order prevail in his own country and threaten to wreak havoc if the rule of law was to be enforced?
How can we explain the fact that after Zimbabwe became independent with the help of the European countries (whether we like it our not the victory of the Zapu and Zanu was made possible because of foreign support) Mugabe's first action was to impose a single party rule, thus denying the war veterans he is so hypocritically using today, the possibility to control their own future?
Issa Oumar Basse, Senegalese in the USA

Democracy can only come from an educated leadership who care more for their country than for their wallets. Unfortunately, we haven't seen the like in Africa (yet). I don't think this is something that can be "taught" cause it will always be the morons who pick up guns, overthrow governments (who probably do need overthrowing) and then create the same government they overthrew but in a different shade of colour.
It's no secret that the US and others often back rebels to overthrow African (and other) governments. We can't stop them from doing that, but I wish for once they would do a long-term analysis on the people they are backing. In the meantime we must deal with the current threat of famine.
Dawit, Ethiopian in New York

Mugabe's ZANU (PF) is facing the same problems as Kohl's CDU and Major's Conservative party - how do you avoid complacency, stagnation & sleaze after more than 15 years in power?
Garth, Zimbabwe



Britain's legacy to indigenous peoples, in whose affairs they have meddled in is often accompanied by hypocrisy, cant and double-standards.

Johannes, England
Britains legacy to indigenous peoples, in whose affairs they have meddled in is often accompanied by hypocrisy, cant and double-standards. In this respect Zimbabwe is no different to most African and Arab countries that bear the imprint of a colonialist past. In more sinister ways, the Palestinians, oppressed as they have been by the British and for the past fifty years by US and Zionist imperialism have been deprived of any semblance of democratic self-determination.
Johannes, England

The time has come for comrade Mugabe to step down as Zimbabwe President for the sake of prosperity. He cannot go on denying any longer the fact that his country's masses want an ever-lasting economic and political change. It's time for him to learn from the likes of the Honorable's Nelson Mandela and Ketumile Masire who stepped down when their time arrived.
Juda P Dagane, South Africa

The honourable Mr. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, like Malcom-X is one of the presidents who have managed to go his own way without dancing to the tune of any western countries. The western world is jealous of Mugabe because they had interests of gaining diamonds in the DR Congo. If the countries like USA sent troops to Iraq which is in another continent, why is it wrong for Mr Mugabe to help his friends in the DR Congo. The western world should stop bullying small African nations simply because they are poor.
Miriro, Germany

Who failed whom? If we talk of democracy in the 21st Century, what was the legacy of the colonial masters who now pontificate on the issue? And how come it is mainly Zimbabwean whites who have the right to a British visa? The chickens always go home to roost in the right nest - it is time we saw a black destiny in every decision we make. Mugabe may have his faults but sometimes the man has a point.
S. Adzei, Ghana



Zimbabwe's curse is a leader who would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

Sean, USA
Mugabe thumbs his nose at his courts with impertinence. He elevates those who serve his interests above the law, thereby damaging the rule of law. Land reform is only an issue to motivate the poor to support him, but ask how many of the farms already expropriated actually went to the poor.
Sean, USA

On the day that there were demonstrations in Zimbabwe there were also demonstrations in the UK, yet Robin Cook chose to harp on the demonstrations in far away Zimbabwe. The white people in Zimbabwe owning over 80% of fertile land - a colonial legacy - are British descendants. Britain is ready to give homes to 300 000 of them in case it becomes necessary. Why does Britain not offer residence and work permits to 300 000 African Zimbabweans, so that they would not need to fight for land on which to grow food to eat?
Sowaribi Tolofri, Sweden

Who do we think we are telling them how to run their country? And, given Phony Tony's track record in democracy (eg the devolution/London mayor processes), who is he to preach about democracy?
John, UK

It is just like Mr Gaddaffi said: What Africa needs are waterpumps. If you are having a hard time feeding your kids and yourself, democracy might be a minor priority.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands

Zimbabwe has a big problem right now and it has nothing to do with whether or not we are aware of the definition of democracy. Maybe we have the solution to our own problems this time. Everyone in this country turned up to register to vote in the forthcoming elections, and we are all going to vote against tyranny. It is not time for lessons, it is time for action.
Lloyd Mupfurutsa, Zimbabwe

It not fair for the UK to always blow out of proportion any problems experienced in developing countries.
Peter, Zimbabwe

It is really distressing to see how many still believe in inherent goodness of the West & whites.

Dan Tesh, Australia
It's amusing to read sermons to Africans, especially from Australian BBC readers. Mates, we are not really famous for our fairness to black people! Let's then give a chance to Africans to lead Africa. To some it's still the "white man's burden". Wake up, white men, and look yourselves in the mirror. (I'm quite white, by the way).
Dan Tesh, Australia

In the late 1980s it was estimated that the sum total of funds sitting in the Swiss bank accounts of Nigerian politicians was equivalent to the entire external debt of that country. Similar situations for certain exist with other African countries. And yet these leaders cry - send more money!
Michael Deman, Egypt

It has been proven that financial assistance in the past has been largely misappropriated by the Government. Nothing will change whilst Mugabe retains control. The "Food" will never reach the "peoples plates".
B G Chisnall, Zimbabwe

Mugabe has betrayed his own, and now he is acting like a despot. Not for much longer - Zimbabweans will take their land back.
Amos Maluleke, South Africa

I am an African and am saddened by the conduct of much of the leadership across the continent. If one were to be really honest, one would have to admit that our peoples of generally much worse off under 40 years of African leadership than they were under colonialism. The reason is very simple: corrupt leaders, operating in environments where the rule of law is absent, and the salutary effects of political competition which democracy brings is non-existent.
Harry Greaves Jr., US

It is both short sighted and wrong to blame the West for all the ills of the third world. That would be too simplistic. How would nations be able to solve the problems for the future by passing the buck, so to speak, on past (colonial) administrations, without taking into account the problems that need to be solved in the present administration?
Ram Subramanian, USA

What Zimbabwe has at the moment is not even close to democracy. Mugabe must take responsibility for Zimbabwe and his actions instead of blaming the rest of the world

AH , UK ex Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe cannot be shown the way to democracy, they must find it themselves as most of the successful world has shown. What Zimbabwe has at the moment is not even close to democracy. A leader who does not even try to listen to the people l is not going to benefit the country. He must take responsibility for Zimbabwe and his actions instead of blaming the rest of the world.
AH , UK ex Zimbabwe

The UK is to blame for the current situation in Zimbabwe. While I do not condone Mugabe's stance, it's amazing to think that there are 20000 British passport holders in the former colony and that the majority of them own the 4500 farms targeted for confiscation. The only reason the British government has reacted to this is because it affects white people. What about the aborigines in Australia? What is being done for them? Just remember us British opened the first concentration camps in South Africa and created many problems under the Empire and YES we are responsible for all of this.
A White man from Zim, living in the UK, England

I think the world community has a role to play in Africa. There is no reason why the world should stand aside and watch the callous disregard for the law and democracy that is going on Zimbabwe. Mugabe is one mad dog and he needs to get his shots once in a while, otherwise the rest of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa will catch rabies.
Cleto, USA

Mugabe is one mad dog and he needs to get his shots once in a while, otherwise the rest of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa will catch rabies

Cleto, USA
During the regime of Ian Smith the country was the bread basket of Africa, it ran a balanced economy where exports exceeded imports. Maybe this is what people mean about Bread before Democracy. History teaches us a lot, not least that we always fail to learn from history. The words and actions of Robert Mugabe and his thugs are no different to those of Hitler. Both used a private army to create an air of unrest before an election and both used democracy to further their dictatorships. And, NO Mr. Mugabe. I am NOT gay.
Roy Chapman, UK / Germany

Mugabe is not interested at all in democracy, his 'people' or his country. All he is bothered about is keeping his cushy number going and to hell with the rest of it. When he has finally bankrupted the country no doubt he will again be there with the begging bowl. Which will be quite a joke for a man who has grown rich while watching his people descend into poverty.
Steve, UK

No doubt Robin Cook will compare his ethical foreign policy with Mugabe's ethical domestic policies!

Zafar, England
The problem is who is going to give this lesson in Democracy? The US; well we all know about the LAPD and the NYPD are hardly shining examples. Perhaps it could be the UK, with its institutionally racist police force? And what will be in the syllabus, lessons in how to extract maximum funds from shadowy corporations and lobby groups? No doubt Robin Cook will compare his ethical foreign policy with Mugabe's ethical domestic policies!
Zafar, England

I can only agree wholeheartedly with what Marcus ter Haar has said. Africans do indeed know what democracy is, and are doing quite well at it. Mugabe should be aware that his people will not stand for his ways much longer - and similarly Mr Cook should be aware that they are a proud nation who definitely know their rights and do not need to be lectured to, that will only increase the animosity towards England. As all the others have stated too, "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".
Roslyn Coldrey, UK (ex South Africa)

Zimbabweans now have the chance to prove political maturity and turn this truly magic country around

Andrew Brown, UK
In the case of a country like Zimbabwe, there's no excuse for lack of food on plates. They have the land, the people... & oh dear... then Mugabe's mouth gets in the way. Zimbabweans now have the chance to prove political maturity and turn this truly magic country around. No longer is the begging bowl required, only the ballot box.
Andrew Brown, UK

Today Zimbabwe, tomorrow South Africa? Africa's "leaders" are nothing but egocentric elitists concerned with nothing but personal gain. When they ruin their nations, the rest of the world is blamed. It's tragic to see the African people suffer, but it seems that what we see today is a return to conditions that facilitated colonialism to begin with.
Fred Hiddletson, US

Democratic countries have two powerful ways to deal with inequities - a justice system that works and people who say enough is enough. Many African countries don't have either. We need to strongly support those African leaders who are committed to democracy and the rights of the individual. It's not an overnight event. As for the "gimme me more" mentality of some African leaders - it is beyond the pale that the West continues to pour money into countries where natural resources are diverted or misused by corrupt leaders. How about tying aid to reform and then actually following up to see if it is happening.
BJ - former humanitarian worker in Africa, USA

It is easy to look in from the outside and make judgements about any government.

Ross Hargreaves, UK
It is easy to look in from the outside and make judgements about any government. But Zimbabwe is my country and it is unbelievable to see the terrible regression taking place in all sectors of Zimbabwean life. The only way to help the situation is to leave it alone and let it decline. Only then (as we are beginning to see) will the Zimbabwean people rise up and say NO MORE!
Ross Hargreaves, UK

Not only UK needs lessons but all the West┐The Western Democracy shouldn't be the Global model for the rest of the world. Third World needs a kind of democracy but it badly needs food and mercy. I strongly support Mugabe.
Dr. Nasr, Egypt

Of course Britain has the right to criticise, what's the alternative? To sit back and watch an escalation of human rights atrocities? In the long term, continual abuses of human rights will lead to coups and bloodshed. It's happened before and will happen again.
Jon Evans, England

The biggest lesson Africa could learn, is it takes time, "evolution" to be in a position to run a country in this day and age

Steve, Australia
I think it should be obvious to any intelligent thinking person that Africa is a very corrupt continent. The UN should have some international guide lines for defining the despots such as Mugabe, and to this end should have the power to retrieve money stolen from these countries and stored in off shore bank accounts. In the twenty first century, this sort of corruption should not be allowed to happen in the world. The irony in Zimbabwe is that the blacks wanted freedom from the colonials, but were treated much worse, and is poorer now, than they were in the colonial times. Robert Ruwark wrote the book "Something of Value", and it sums it all up. The people of Africa are worse off today than they were with their respective colonial powers. They have been forced by the few to grow up too quickly, loosing all values they had before. It's all too obvious. The biggest lesson Africa could learn, is it takes time, "evolution" to be in a position to run a country in this day and age. A hundred years ago, the good folk of Zimbabwe hadn't even discovered the wheel. So yes lessons in democracy are vital.
Steve, Australia

Even being as open minded as possible and accepting that western societies may not provide good examples and may even, to some extent be found culpable in any examination of the root cause of African political ineptitude. However it must be said African politics and politicians seem to be the cause of many of the problems afflicting the Continent such as poverty, disease and war.
Shazad Suleman, England

There is more democracy in Zimbabwe than the UK. Just because there are small problems is no excuse to hit the country hard. It is arrogance to assume that just because our democracy does not conform to British ideological democracy, that we are not democratic. I shan't mention Stephen Lawrence and the lack of action of the British police to this day. Is that democracy?
Jabu S Sithole, Zimbabwe

It's the ordinary African people who have suffered the most.

Ray Marsh, Australia
African leaders need lessons on morality more than anything else. Over the past 40-years since colonial times, many African nations have gone backwards in prosperity simply because of the rampant corruption among their leaders. It's the ordinary African people who have suffered the most.
Ray Marsh, Australia

Centuries ago, the Stuart's relinquished their divine right to rule England; it is amazing to hear from the Anglo-Saxon tribes of this world that they are the repository of all morals, all ethics, scruples, democracy & freedom & that they have the unique right to tell the rest of the world how to conduct themselves. Just as the innocent bystander had to tell the emperor that he had no clothes on, the British have to be told that they have no moral or ethical clothes to drape themselves with.
Mohansingh, India

Poor governance and corruption are two of the main reasons why many Africans do not have food on their plates today after decades of assistance. The sooner democratic institutions & good governance are established the quicker ordinary Africans will see benefits from new investments and loans instead of these funds going to the Swiss bank accounts of despotic leaders such as Mugabe.
Andrew, UK

The question arises, are dictatorships or democratic governments more likely to supply the bread? Abuse of human rights leads to conflict, which does not help put bread on the table.
Andrew Mitchell, UK

Should we not get our own houses in order before preaching to others?

Jenni, UK
I thought the former Yugoslavia was part of the West. Should we not get our own houses in order before preaching to others? 'Truly democratic' Western leaders neither keep their promises nor live up to voters' expectations, so what have we to teach Africa? A fine ideal in principle, but nowhere does it seem to achieve what it was designed to.
Jenni, UK

OUR government needs lessons.
Richard L., UK

You have to look no further than the UK to find ballot rigging and truth twisting. Therefore, who is Robin Cook to lecture anyone on fair elections and democracy?
ND, England

The UK has taken each and every insult from this corrupt African politician for too long.

Alex Sanger, UK
Zimbabwe should be excluded from the international community until Mugabe stands up and apologises for the treatment of British diplomats on entering his country, and the comments made about the UK government. If he wishes to present himself to the world as an ignorant, racist, homophobic bigot, then he must be prepared to face the consequences from the nations he attacks. What would Clinton's reaction have been if US diplomats had had their bags rifled through? The UK has taken each and every insult from this corrupt African politician for too long. Blair should have made an example of Mugabe when he had the chance.
Alex Sanger, UK

Africa knows what democracy is. While Zimbabwe is embroiled in constitutional and civil crisis, take the time to look across it's borders. Namibia enjoys a democratic and peaceful existence. Botswana similarly, boasting the oldest democracy in Africa. NO attention needs to be brought to South Africa. Leadership like Mugabes will not endure in Africa much longer. Africans are beginning to see that they do not need to accept despotic rule. It will become a common thing for everyday Africans to stand up to and reject non democratic institutions. The Zimbabwe crisis will teach many Africans elsewhere that Democracy is not an impossible ideal. Africans know what democracy is and are learning their rights, the future looks promising
Marcus ter Haar, Botswana student (UK)

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03 Apr 00 | Africa
Mugabe faces rough ride
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