Monday, May 31, 2010

Rylander: Just Another Western Diplomat in Zimbabwe

Rylander: Just another Western diplomat

By Tichaona Zindoga
Zimbabwe Herald

On a fine day, he would be imbued in the ambience and aesthetics of Zimbabwean culture and speak glowingly about how "Zimbabwean works of art in their various forms dominate capitals throughout the world."

On another, typical of any European who by the Mighty Will of the Above happens to be in this part of the world — which Europeans christened the Dark Continent — he would be spreading a helping hand to people afflicted by hunger, disease and poverty.

Better still, on another, he would be preaching the sanctity of private property rights and other rights and freedoms accruing to the liberal individual, the typical obsession of that high sounding Eurocentric ideology.

But outgoing Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, despite coming from a country that supported Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and opposed apartheid in neighbouring South Africa could not help kow-tow to European Union gangersterism against Zimbabwe.

Rylander came to Zimbabwe with a long track record in the region and having lived 16 years in Southern Africa before coming to Zimbabwe.

He had been to Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho.

A lot of good will had been expected of him.

He had the extra stripe of having supported liberation movements in the region, characteristic of his country where the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency has been synonymous with progressive humanitarianism.

But having landed into a Zimbabwe that had in the six years to his date of appointment in 2006 been at the centre of a Western illegal regime change agenda spawned by Britain’s displeasure with land reform, Rylander was soon singing a different tune, or so it appeared.

At the occasion of his country’s National Day celebrations on June 6, he advocated "change" saying it was "a positive thing".

Coincidentally, "change" happened to be one of the watchwords of a Western-sponsored regime change outfit called the Movement for Democratic Change.

"Many people seem to be afraid of change for some reasons; or they try to resist change because the process is driven by change agents they cannot fully control," he said.

"But the message is almost always a positive thing. Remember Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest species which survives, nor the most intelligent ones. Rather those who are most responsive to change’."

It did not take long for the ambassador to show which "change" he had in mind.

Apart from rebuffing reports linking him to a softening of the illegal EU stance against Zimbabwe (deriving from imposing sanctions against the Cotonou Agreement Article 96), he also moulded himself into a de facto opposition activist and spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s opposition outfits.

Rylander complained about the de-licensing of Western sponsored anti-Zanu-PF government papers, Daily News and Daily News on Sunday, which had wilfully defied the laws of the land to register.

In March 2007, he was one of the EU diplomats — along with American Christopher Dell — to throng the Harare Magistrates’ courts where MDC leaders were appearing for remand hearing for inciting violence in Highfield.

Part of a charade that could easily be mistaken for a diplomatic meeting of European ambassadors, he spent the greater part of the day at the court waiting to hear the fate of the opposition leaders.

Without any sense of irony, Rylander later wrote in a Western-sponsored weekly about his day at the court, elevating the Western-sponsored MDC’s struggle to unseat Zanu-PF to the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

The West generally supported apartheid in South Africa, with varying degrees of openness among countries.

Rylander was among Western ambassadors seen in the company of MDC activists on different dates, occasions and events undertaken by the so-called Broad Alliance involving the MDC, National Constitutional Assembly, Crisis Coalition, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwe National Students Union, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Christian Alliance.

During his tenure, Rylander was consistently identified with such groups, which dramatically mushroomed in an era of Zimbabwe-EU stand-off and whose sole aim has been to unseat President Mugabe.

In October that year, Rylander even sank so low as to make unsubstantiated claims about Government-sponsored violence against the opposition.

During the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Fund review meeting in Nyanga, Rylander alleged that Government was sponsoring violence against the opposition but when he was challenged to make good of his claim, he only undertook to "bring concrete evidence", which he never did.

This prompted the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda to write to the United Nations Development Programme resident representative Dr Agostinho Zacarias registering Zimbabwe’s displeasure about Mr Rylander’s conduct.

"It was unfortunate that such an allegation was made at the ZUNDAF meeting which to me is a development forum not a political one," Dr Sibanda wrote.

"The ambassador could surely have addressed his concerns with the appropriate authorities, that is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For him to throw his salvo at the Government of Zimbabwe in a development forum is not only discourteous but also undiplomatic.

"These are serious allegations he is making against a sovereign state. He therefore needs to substantiate them," said Dr Sibanda, in the letter dated November 7, 2007.

It later turned out that the diplomat got his information from a Western sponsored organisation, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers’ Association, who went on to produce a report with similar claims two weeks after.

Rylander’s baseless claims appeared in sync with the EU’s move to bring Zimbabwe to the agenda of that year’s EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, for alleged human rights abuses.

Earlier, during his summer holiday in July, Mr Rylander had flown home and held a number of interviews with the Swedish radio and television, attacking Zimbabwe for alleged human rights violations, State-sponsored violence and suppression of democratic space.

So the Swedish ambassador, who on the eve of his posting to Zimbabwe had noted the unfairness and predatory instincts of big powers against smaller countries like Zimbabwe, became responsive to British capitalist-inspired change.

Whether by design or consequence, Rylander turned out to be a trifle more than his predecessor, Kristina Svensson who was condemned, even by her own countrymen, for her biased reporting on the situation in Zimbabwe.

However, where Svensson could say Sweden was "motivated to support the future leaders of this country" in reference to the MDC, Rylander could afford to be more circumspect.

He could talk of the so-called individual rights and freedoms with the same regime change notion in mind, witness his celebration of anti-Zanu-PF "independent" media, masking his intentions by reference to his country’s history in media freedom.

Yet it all boiled to the same regime change agenda, which the two fruitlessly tried to precipitate on behalf of Britain.

Three years ago, one analyst reminded Rylander that Zimbabwe did not free itself — even with some Swedish help — to be subjected to Swedish neo-liberal lordship and that Sweden should not fight Britain’s war against Zimbabwe.

"We hate white paternalism," the analyst wrote, "and we are not going to pay for Swedish goodwill by our sovereignty.

"If Rylander and his country do not understand the nature and cause of the present standoff between us and the British, maybe let Sweden never understand it at all. What difference would it make anyway?"

Rylander just never understood, nor cared.

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