'It's in our hands'

2008-07-01 00:00

There were remarkable moments on the evening of Friday, June 27. Two striking events were taking place simultaneously. One could watch them both on television by flicking from one channel to another; on international news bulletins one could catch large glimpses of both of them.

So we have this extraordinary juxtaposition, these two starkly contrasting visions and traditions. Both Mugabe and Mandela could claim, and have claimed, to represent African traditions, and they are both right, for in Africa, as elsewhere, there are bad traditions and good traditions. On the one hand, authoritarianism, stubbornness and the resort to violence; on the other hand, ubuntu and co-operation and open-mindedness. (As I say, other places have dual traditions. In Europe, for example, there is a good tradition of collaboration, compromise and common sense, but there is also a bad tradition of wars for power and colonial exploitation of those less advanced technologically. In the United States too there is a good tradition of democratic openness and freedom and a bad tradition of supposedly patriotic coercion.)

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