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Africa silent on Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo, Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

© VoA/Wikipedia
afrol News, 9 October
- No prominent African politician has made statements of support or congratulation to Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who yesterday was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Press reports are sober.

Last year, South African President Jacob Zuma was quick to congratulate US President Barack Obama on being awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. "It is with great pleasure that I received the news," President Zuma said in a statement shortly after the news broke.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki equally "hailed" President Obama, as did Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a long list of African state and opposition leaders.

This year, with a Chinese dissident receiving the prize, the reaction in Africa is far from hilarious. Presidents Zuma and Kibaki are silent. PM Tsvangirai used the day to lash out against President Robert Mugabe's lack of respect for human rights - no word about China.

Also the African press has had a chiller reporting about this year's award than last year's Obama-fever.

From Algeria's leading daily 'El Watan' to 'Gabonews' and Senegal's pro-government 'Le Soleil' and most large French language African media, reporting on the Nobel Peace Price was based on the French agency 'AFP' and generally held in brief. China's "irritation" however did not go unnoted.

Some African newspapers however edited their own reports on the Oslo event. Senegal's conservative daily 'Walf Fadjri' gave a broad presentation of both Mr Liu and his struggle and of the Chinese view.

But the Senegalese newspaper, in line with several others, in its own analysis emphasised that the decision to award Mr Liu "appears to be an attempt by the West to give lessons in democracy and human rights in China." Between the lines, the analysis could be read as criticism to "Western lessons" also regularly sensed by Africans.

The other main angle by independently reporting African media was that Morgan Tsvangi

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and South African President Jacob Zuma are silent on the 2010 Peace Prize

© PM's office/afrol News
rai had "missed out on the Nobel Peace Prize again" ('Newsday', Zimbabwe). The Zimbabwean PM was seen as the major African candidate for the prestigious award.

Among African political leaders and the members of the press, the continent's new dependence on good relations with China has not gone unnoted. With China's massive investments in Africa, no other country has contributed more to the continent's impressive economic growth during the last decade.

Also, the Chinese feeling of humiliation over "Western lessons" is well recognised all over Africa, and in many cases automatically causes a reflex of sympathy with any nation criticised by the West. Too many times, Western double standards have caused irritation in Africa and other formerly colonised nations.

African governments and businesses currently are eager to deepen ties with China and to learn from China's impressive growth. By now, only four African nations still recognise Taiwan (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, São Tomé and Swaziland), while the list was much larger in the 1990s. The last African country to shift from Taiwan to Beijing was Malawi in 2008.

And while Western countries insist on having a "human rights dialogue" with China and African countries, Sino-African relations steer away from this delicate issue. Human rights issues are internal issues. Questions about the fate of Mr Liu are better left to the Chinese in these types of bilateral relations.

African leaders therefore will not consider asking for the freeing of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Mr Liu therefore will not get the same status as Wangari Maathai, Albert Lutuli, Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu. Despite the fact that Archbishop Tutu was key among those nominating Mr Liu.

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