March 24, 2007
SOUTH AFRICA LOWERS VOICE ON HUMAN RIGHTS:
After just three months as one of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa is mired in controversy over what could be its great strength: the moral weight it can bring to diplomatic deliberations.
In January, South Africa surprised many, and outraged some, when it voted against allowing the Security Council to consider a relatively mild resolution on human rights issues in Myanmar, whose government is widely seen as one of the most repressive on earth.
Last week the government again angered human rights advocates when it said it would oppose a request to brief the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where the government is pursuing a violent crackdown on its only political opposition. South Africa later changed its stance, but only after dismissing the briefing as a minor event that did not belong on the Council’s agenda.
This week South Africa endangered a delicate compromise among nations often at odds — the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.
Thabo Mbeki is a typical African leader, and he has been busily turning South Africa into a typical African nation, marked by support for other thugocracies, a paranoid, unscientific AIDS policy and support for the murderous Mugabe regime. That doesn't leave much room for moral exceptionalism.