Sunday 24 April 2011

Did William Hague approve the Royal wedding invite for Mugabe's Ambassador?

The Royal Wedding is not, officially, a state occasion.

“It is not a state occasion ... it is a private wedding and the couple are entitled to invite whoever they want to it"

So says a St James Palace spokesman to the Sunday Telegraph, in explaining that the invitation to former Prime Minister Sir John Major is a personal one.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that "While Prince William and Miss Middleton have taken a “hands on” role in overseeing the guest list, the invitations sent out to politicians and foreign dignitaries will have been closely monitored by Buckingham Palace". However, there is a rather contrasting emphasis placed in a St James Palace statement to another Sunday newspaper, the Independent on Sunday, which was inquiring about foreign rather than domestic guests.

St James's Palace defended the wedding list yesterday, insisting the Foreign Office had approved it. "Invitations are extended from the Queen following the long-held tradition of inviting other crowned heads of state; we have taken advice from the Foreign Office about their continued inclusion," a spokesman said.

So perhaps the question of who wants the pro-Mugabe Ambassador of Zimbabwe, Gabriel Machinga, at the wedding remains something of a mystery.

Mr Machinga would seem an odd choice for the Royal couple to share their happy day with. But he would seem a rather odd choice for Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Foreign Office officials too.

Zimbabwean human rights groups have called for the invitation to be rescinded. The exile group Zimbabwe Vigil has written to William Hague to request this.

“Ambassador Machinga has always made it clear that he represents Mugabe and not the people of Zimbabwe or even their coalition government,” said Vigil Coordinator Rose Benton.

As Clifford Chitupa Mashiri writes in the Zimbabwean

It does not require a UN resolution for the Right Honourable William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary to withdraw the invitation to the royal wedding. It is not too late to act. It would be a great symbolic gesture of solidarity with the suffering people of Zimbabwe


It would be in very bad taste for Britain to ignore protest voices of Zimbabwe’s human rights activists and civil society. International isolation of Mugabe’s regime has proved effective in getting political reforms albeit a case of too little, too late.

It could be argued that the justification of the invitation by Britain that it has diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe is a lame excuse for wanting to warm up to dictator Robert Mugabe who has threatened to seize UK businesses in retaliation to targeted sanctions slapped on him and his inner circle for rights abuses.

Sanctions remain in place against Mugabe in an effort to create pressure for free and fair elections, and for the ZanuPF-MDC power-sharing coalition to keep its commitments to respect human rights.

The Foreign Office reports that human rights issues "remain a serious concern", with Amnesty International last week reporting on how human rights violations have continued unabated under the new government of national unity.

Zimbabwe quit the Commonwealth in 2003, when its suspension over human rights abuses and breaches of the democratic principles of the Harare Declaration was confirmed. Commonwealth human rights groups hope it will return to the organisation in the future, a hope shared by the British government too. Mugabe has said he would never rejoin the "evil organisation".

Inviting the ambassador was a mistake - whether by Buckingham Palace, the Foreign Office or, most probably, both. Zimbabwean human rights campaigners are right to call for it to be withdrawn.


Another unwelcome wedding guest is the Crown Prince of Bahrain, as The Observer reports.

The British government has been extremely muted in its criticisms of the Bahrain government's violent suppression of protestors, a government which has enjoyed close relations with both the UK government and the Royal family,

Physicians for Human Rights, a human rights group which has won the Nobel Peace Prize, released a report on Friday, protesting the arrests of medical professionals who treated injured human rights protesters, targetted because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces and riot police", according to the report. The Bahrain government denies the report.

The Guardian special report on Bahrain offers extensive coverage on the crackdown against human rights protests.


The King of Swaziland is still heading for a no expenses spared trip to the Dorchester Hotel with an entourage of around fifty people before attending the wedding.

Domestic opponents say this is rather undermining the "all in this together" message of his autocratic government during a severe economic crisis, as South African newspaper The Mail & Guardian reports.

Mary Pais Da Silva, coordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, condemned Mswati for making expensive travel plans while nearly 70% of his people live in absolute poverty. "If we had it our way, he wouldn't go anywhere," she said. "Right now, Swaziland is in an economic crisis. The government talks about belt-tightening but it doesn't seem to apply to the king. It must apply across the board. "


The campaign group Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, joined the criticism. Its director, Tony Dykes, said: "It is astonishing that the Palace, presumably with advice from the British government, have invited the king of Swaziland to the royal wedding. "They may claim they have done so due to some kind of protocol; if so, they are putting protocol before human rights. Whilst the king and his entourage party in luxury in London, the people of Swaziland are being pushed deeper into poverty and those who speak out face arrest and even torture."


Chris Brooke said...

All these more controversial invitations--the crown prince of Bahrain, and so on--seem to me to be thoroughly appropriate. The Royal Wedding is, among other things, a celebration of tradition, and monarchy has traditionally been about appalling violence and the denial of people's rights. Will and Kate, by issuing these invitations, are reminding us all what the Crown really stands for, and that is a lesson the amnesiac British people (and perhaps even some Fabians) badly need.

David Lindsay said...

You have to laugh at the little missive from the King of Cambodia pleading a prior engagement. It is a very useful antidote to Anglocentrism. The restoration of the monarchy in Cambodia is also very well worth examining by those, such as they are these days, who would wish to abolish the monarchy here or in any other the Queen's Realms.

But a very warm welcome should have been extended to the Crown Prince of Bahrain, including a demonstration. A little march to and rally outside where he was staying, in support of the action being taken to preserve the eight indigenous ethnic groups, the small but very ancient and entrenched Jewish community, the Gulf's only synagogue and Jewish cemetery, the black community that is part of the East African diaspora, the fifth of the population that is non-Muslim, the half of that fifth which is Christian, the strictly optional status of the women's headscarf, the Sunni third of Bahraini Muslims, the requirement that all legislation be approved by both Houses of Parliament, the election of the Lower House by universal suffrage, the regular appointment of women to the Upper House to make up for their dearth in the elected Lower House, the presence in the Upper House of a Jewish man and a Christian woman (the latter the first woman ever to chair a Parliament in the Arab world), the present position of a Jewish woman as Ambassador to the United States, the very close ties to Britain, and the fact that all of this is perfectly acceptable even to Salafi Members of Parliament.

David Lindsay said...

The confirmation that Ed Miliband will attend the Royal Wedding in a morning suit, such as trade union leaders used to wear to Royal Ascot in the days when they were always justly and often technically known as barons, confirms that he is True Labour rather than New Labour, as surely as David Cameron's vacillation on the subject confirmed his desire to be the Heir to Blair. Stuart Reid's always excellent Catholic Herald column this week points out that anti-monarchism was a Thatcherite cause back in the day, spearheaded by the Murdoch papers, and posits that as the explanation for middle-class mean spirits towards the Royal Wedding. He is, of course, quite right.

Thatcher scorned the Commonwealth, social cohesion, historical continuity and public Christianity. She called the Queen "the sort of person who votes for the SDP". She arrogated to herself the properly monarchical and royal role on the national and international stages, using her most popular supporting newspaper to vilify the Royal Family. She legislated to abolish the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for individual Australian states, to end the British Government's consultative role in Australian state-level affairs, and to deprive the Queen's Australian subjects of their right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council. And she legislated to pre-empt the courts on both sides of the Atlantic by renouncing the British Parliament's role in the amendment of the Canadian Constitution.

That last points to the fact that efforts to cut constitutional ties to Britain have been a white supremacist, and an anti-Catholic, cause ever since Thomas Jefferson. Which is to say, ever since Dr Johnson asked, "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" That wretched tradition has continued down through the foundation of Irish Republicanism by those who regarded their own Protestant and "Saxon" nation as the only true one on the Irish island, through anti-monarchist attitudes to Australian Aborigines from the Victorian Period to the present day, through Hendrik Verwoerd and Ian Smith, through attempts to abrogate the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, and through the patriation of the Canadian Constitution against the wishes, both of the Aboriginal peoples to whom the Crown had numerous treaty obligations, and of the government of Quebec.

The BNP wants to abolish the monarchy, the Queen being descended, via the "Negroid" Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, from the part-black Royal House of Portugal, and, via Elizabeth of York and her Moorish ancestors, from Muhammad. She has little of the "English blood" favoured by the likes of the EDL, and her children have almost none. If born of his marriage to Mr and Mrs Middleton's daughter, the successor of Lady Diana Spencer's son will be the first ethnically English monarch for almost, if almost, exactly one thousand years, since 1066. And even he will have plenty of other things in him, as all ethnically English people have had ever since that year, if not even earlier.

Only a movement of morning-suited Labourites, steeped in royal, parliamentary and municipal pageantry and charity, could preserve and celebrate the pageantry and charity of the City of London while ending its status as a tax haven and as a state within the State, Europe's last great Medieval republican oligarchy, right where the United Kingdom ought to be. The liberties of the City were granted to a city properly so called, with a full social range of inhabitants and workers. The Crown should explicitly guarantee the hereditary economic and cultural rights of, for example, the Billingsgate fish porters in the same way as it guaranteed or guarantees the economic and cultural rights of Aboriginal peoples elsewhere in the Empire and the Commonwealth.