Mugabe: Humanitarian Imperialism, R2P, the Murder of Gaddafi, and the Destruction of Libya

In a speech yesterday that in many ways repeated key elements of the speech he gave at the UN General Assembly last year, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe did a fine job in exposing the hypocrisy underlying the dogmatism of “responsibility to protect” (R2P) and the doctrinaire formulas of advocates of “humanitarian intervention”. He did so by focusing on the destruction of Libya, the murder of Gaddafi, and the fallacious promises of R2P. That some will respond in an ad hominem manner, and shoot the messenger in order to deny the validity of the message, or carelessly attempt to caricature Mugabe as a “dictator,” is much to be expected in an age of increased irrationality in public debate that produces such irrational forms of argument.

For the Zimbabwean government’s file of Mugabe’s speech from this year, click here for the pdf. For last year’s, click here.

Readers should also note the discrepancy between what the press reported Mugabe saying to the General Assembly, what listeners would have heard, and the file actually provided by the Zimbabwean government. This is likely due to very recent revisions to the actual text that Mugabe would read, and which has not been updated online, and it appeared that Mugabe may have been improvising parts in response to a very recent address by Barack Obama. The extracts below are both from the original file made available, with additional quotes transcribed from the UN’s own recorded webcast of Mugabe’s speech.



Mr, President, if you might allow me, may I preface my speech with reference to the most glowing and most moving speech, address, we listened to from the President of the United States yesterday, the import of which was to get us to condemn the death, the tragic death of the United States Ambassador to Libya. And I am sure we were all moved, we all agree that it was a tragic death indeed and we condemn it.

But, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, a year ago we saw a barbaric and brutal death of the Head of State of Libya, a representative of his country and a member of the African Union. That death occurred in the context in which NATO was operating supposedly in order to protect civilians. As we, in spirit, join the United States in condemning that death [of Christopher Stevens], shall the United States also join us in condemning the barbaric death of the Head of State of Libya, Gaddafi? It was a great loss to Africa, a tragic loss to Africa, occurring in circumstances in which NATO had sought the authority of the United Nations Security Council under Chapter VII to operate in Libya in protection of civilians who were said to be at the mercy of the government of Libya led by Col. Gaddafi.

The mission was strictly to protect civilians but it turned out that there was a hunt, a brutal hunt of Gaddafi and his family, and Gaddafi and his family were sought. NATO caught up with them, they suffered the brutal deaths that we know about, Gaddafi and some of his children.

…they [the U.S.] alongside other NATO powers had the authority under Chapter VII to operate in protection–to operate in Libya in protection of civilians. But did it turn out to be that?

In a very dishonest manner we saw the authority given under Chapter VII being used now as a weapon to rout a whole family, to commit the murders that occurred in the country. Bombs were thrown about in a callous manner, and quite a good many civilians died. Was that the “protection” that they had sought under Chapter VII of the Charter?

So, the death of Gaddafi must be seen in the same tragic manner as the death of Chris Stephens. We condemn both of them….

…the increasing trend by the NATO States inspired by the arrogant belief that they are the most powerful among us, which has demonstrated itself through their recent resort to unilateralism and military hegemony in Libya, is the very antithesis of the basic principles of the United Nations. In that case of Libya, the African Union and its peace-making role was defied, ignored and humiliated. May we urge the international community to collectively nip this dangerous and unwelcome aggressive development before it festers….

The warmongers of our world have done us enough harm. Wherever they have imposed themselves, chaos in place of peace has been the result.

Libya has been made equally unstable, following NATO’s deceitful intervention under the sham cover of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the phoney principle of the responsibility to protect.

It is regrettable to note that certain unacceptable concepts are currently being foisted upon the United Nations membership, in the absence of inter-governmental mandates. For instance, there is no agreement yet on the concept of “responsibility to protect,” especially with respect to the circumstances under which it might be evoked. We are concerned by the clear mad growing evidence that the concept of “responsibility to protect” has begun to be applied and seriously abused, thus inevitably compromising and undermining the cardinal principle of the sovereignty of states and the United Nations Charter principles of territorial integrity and non-interference in the domestic affairs of countries.



For recent R2P-related essays on ZA, see: