Well my dear Portugal has taken over the EU presidency, and there is quite a buzz about their inviting Zimbabwe’s elected dictator Robert Mugabe to the upcoming Africa summit.
The UK and associated countries are upset, since there has been an ongoing travel ban on him and members of his government. Portugal is reportedly doing this because the African Union insists that every country be treated equally. But really this comes back to a classic debate in life, politics, you name it.
Isolation or engagement? Do you try to engage in dialogue with those you disagree with or those that have done something terrible? Or do you try to shut them out and find ways to punish or limit their capacity to act. And if you do either of these, what are the risks?
One of the common reference points is always the late Saddam and sanctions against Iraq. Then again there was also Qaddafi in Libya, which turned out quite differently.
At this point, taking into account this travel ban and the tactics adopted by governments critical of Mugabe, there doesn’t seem to be much change in terms of suffering Zimbabweans. He still does as he wishes and uses his office to carry out destructive policies and practices.
So maybe this is more than just pressure from the African Union. Maybe it’s time to try something else, including inviting the dictator you don’t like to some meetings; engaging in dialog. After all, he certainly wouldn’t be the only tyrant from Africa attending the meeting, and if you invite him, he has one less excuse during the next speech about how the “whole world wants to destroy him and the country”.