LONDON (AFP) — Trying to impose democracy in Africa is wrong, Ethiopia's prime minister said Friday, contrasting Western attitudes to countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe to policies towards oil-rich Gulf states.
In a rare British newspaper interview, Meles Zenawi warned for example against imposing sanctions on Kenya to try to force the country to resolve the deadly standoff triggered by disputed elections.
"The threat of western sanctions as a response to the current crisis in Kenya is very, very misguided," he told the Guardian daily.
"If it is presumed that the Kenyans will democratise in order to eat the peanuts of development assistance from the European Union, for example, it would be a big mistake."
Kenya's opposition has called for international sanctions against the government it accuses of rigging the December 27 polls that led to President Mwai Kibaki's re-election.
Meles lamented the West's attitude towards Zimbabwe, whose President Robert Mugabe is barred from travelling to Europe and is treated as an international pariah in particular by former colonial rulers Britain.
"I believe democratic forms of government are applicable everywhere and are better than the alternatives. And we feel that countries and peoples can share their experiences to help others to democratise. So that is all to the good."
But he said: "When it becomes a problem is when countries pretend their foreign policy is based on democratisation when this is clearly not the case."
"For all the challenges in Zimbabwe, for example, it is a bit of a stretch to say it is less democratic than some of the sheikhdoms of the Gulf. But none of the sheikhdoms has a problem visiting Europe," he added.
And he went on: "We believe democracy cannot be imposed from outside in any society. Democracy is the expression of a sovereign people.
"To impose it from outside is inherently undemocratic. Each sovereign nation has to make its own decisions and have its own criteria as to how they govern themselves."
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