The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 April 2005

Zimbabwe Thug Seated Next To Prince Charles

Charles, Meet Robert!

Papal Mass Gaffe Reverberates Around The Globe

Nearly overshadowing the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla today, is what happened yesterday at the Vatican, where Charles was in the uncomfortable position of being seated next to thug dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

I'm not sure how often Charles has attended Roman Catholic mass, but there is a point where a "sign of peace" is offered to those in one's immediate vicinity. It's customary to shake hands with the people next to you. Refusing an extended hand is unthinkable.

Whether he was caught off guard, wasn't interested in provoking a diplomatic incident, or simply didn't want to look rude during the Papal funeral mass isn't clear, but nonetheless he shook Mugabe's hand.

Did he have an opportunity to think about it ahead of time, or did it simply happen spur-of-the-moment? Michael King and Josef's Public Journal have takes on the situation today.

Labour Party MPs and MEPs (Members of European Parliament) went on the attack against Charles, where pounding on him has become a national sport, but how big of a blunder is this, really?

As a key member of the Royal Family, Prince Charles has a customary duty to stay generally apolitical, no matter how the circumstances might present themselves. That made this situation especially uncomfortable.

It's the government's job to take these kinds of stances, Charles serves a ceremonial role. His mother is in the same position, with a slight amount of rarely-used constitutional powers and a great deal of less-formal political influence behind the scenes.

Charles is an intelligent man, raised in difficult circumstances, who must deal with the fact that his previous wife, pushed on him in nearly an arranged marriage, has been turned into a saint by the news media. She was as flawed as he is, there are no angels here.

The real issue, anyway, is not about who shakes Mugabe's hand, but how to get rid of the tyrant before many more lives are lost in Zimbabwe to famine, repression and disease resulting from his horrible rule.

Nobody wants Mugabe arrested and removed from power more than me, but there was no chance to seize him here without shattering diplomatic integrity for good. Vatican City (The Holy See) is an independent state smart enough to stay out of the European Union.

The EU travel ban therefore didn't apply to Mugabe in this instance.

Three other bloggers have expressed an interest in working together in an American Alliance For Zimbabwean and African Freedom: The Flag Of The World, P Scott Cummins and Josef's Public Journal.

It's still half-baked, where it will lead is uncertain, but if you're interested in the idea please let me know. I'm not an expert on African affairs, my international experience is with Caribbean and European politics, but I feel it's time to devote more energy to this critical topic.


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