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June 28, 2008


Adam McNestrie

I wonder how much Britain’s attitude to Zimbabwe, and the wider attitude of the West to Africa, is affected by imperial guilt. Throughout Britain’s recent exhortations and admonishments, the government has always insisted that Zimbabwe is ultimately the responsibility of Africa and a series of African intergovernmental bodies that most people in this country have never heard of. South Africa have to stand up to Mugabe; any peacekeeping presence would have to be African Union troops; this has to be a local issue. It all struck me as very strange. Why should it matter that these suffering people are African? How does that bind our hands? We would never say that it was down to the Middle-Eastern countries (with moral support from the UN) if the same thing were happening there.

Perhaps that attitude is wrong, though. Maybe the imperial history matters because it matters to the people of Africa. It just might be that imperial resentment has been so seared into their souls that the West could not act effectively on its own in the region.

Read more of my views at my blog, Just who the hell are we? on wordpress.com, at:

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