African leaders ignore Amnesty’s call to arrest Bush
Radio Netherlands Worldwide, December 6, 2011
ADDIS ABABA, Dec 6 – RNW correspondents in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia went in search of supporters and detractors of Amnesty International’s call to arrest former US president, George W. Bush, during his recent visit to the continent.
Aiding and abetting in Addis Ababa
Ethiopians have had a good laugh about Amnesty International’s appeal, which most say is a ‘foolish’ publicity stunt to win African support for the rights group.
“This is a ridiculous attempt to show us that they are not a biased organization,” Mikael Atsbeha, a cameraman, said. “They abuse the opportunity of Bush’s visit to Africa to buy support.”
He also said the arrest is “never going to happen,” because of the strong ties Ethiopia had with the Bush administration. Ethiopia has been a loyal ally in Bush’s ‘war on terror’, fighting Islamic extremism in a US backed incursion into neighboring Somalia from 2006 to 2009. It even earned Ethiopia’s leader Meles Zenawi the nickname ‘America’s poodle’.
While most Ethiopians agree with Amnesty International that Bush should be arrested, they don’t think it is their country’s duty. “Bush is a criminal,” said Abiy Demilew, a radio show host. “But Ethiopia should not be involved in arresting a former US president. We would pay for that in our relations with the US”
Ethiopia, one of the top recipients of US aid, “would be devastated by the aftermath of the arrest,” Michael added. “We would pay big time.”
Ethiopia’s government has not officially responded to Amnesty International’s call but a senior government official said: “basically this is between the US and Amnesty”.
Michael agrees: “The US, the most democratic country in the world, has the infrastructure to arrest Bush if he is charged with human rights abuses,” he said. “Why don’t they ask the Obama administration to arrest that guy?”
Money versus morals in Tanzania
Unlike George W. Bush’s last visit to Tanzania in 2008 when angry protests greeted him, his stopover on Saturday was uneventful with the public and media hardly taking notice.
The call for his arrest by Amnesty International was unheeded. Instead President Jakaya Kikwete accompanied him to visit HIV patients in Dar es Salaam.
Senior political analyst Azaveli Lwaitama calls Amnesty International’s efforts to embarrass Bush wherever he goes a “courageous moral gesture,” but says “the Tanzanian government needs every coin it can get, even from the devil.”
“A few weeks ago when David Cameron said that anti-gay attitude in this country would mean British aid drying up, the same government people talked about neo-imperialism. You now have the bigger imperialist Bush here and they are clapping,” says Dr. Lwaitama.
“Amnesty International asking poor countries like Zambia or Ethiopia or us to arrest Bush is preposterous. We depend so much on international aid. They had called for Canada to arrest him in October, they didn’t. Now they expect us to do it?” asked a HIV patient (name withheld) at a USAID-sponsored clinic.
The media relegated the story of the proposed arrest to the back pages while highlighting the HIV programmes Bush visited. Mike Mande, a senior journalist, says, “Tanzania’s constitution prohibits former heads of state from being prosecuted, it would have made more sense for Amnesty International to approach the International Criminal Court to stop him from flying here at all.”
Aid for AIDS in Zambia
Zambia has failed to arrest former US president George W. Bush as called for by the international human rights organisation Amnesty, because it lacked adequate information says the country’s president Michale Sata who earlier hosted a luncheon for Bush and his family at State House.
The Zambian government has come out strongly against Amnesty International with the country’s foreign affairs minister saying: “Tell them to hang, and also please ask them to create their own country and wait for Bush to visit their country so that they can arrest him to suit their wish and not here in Zambia,” he said.
George Bush has been visiting Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zambia on a mission to boost the fight against cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Millions of Africans are said to have benefitted from Bush’s initiative, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR which saw many HIV infected Africans access free anti-retroviral drugs and clinical care.
But John Lwando of Lusaka feels that Bush is on an image cleaning campaign, and that the Zambian government should have heeded the call by Amnesty International to arrest Bush who enjoyed tight security.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan he killed millions of innocent people in his unpopular wars and he himself acknowledges having supported water boarding and other forms of torture as a means of extracting confessions out of prisoners. It is therefore very unfortunate that the Zambian government downplayed this call for his arrest,” he concludes.
The article was published on Radio Netherlands Worldwide (http://www.rnw.nl)