With Mugabe out, time to end sanctions against Zimbabwe ••• Salon.com

Updated at 2017-12-03 19:53:17 UTC

Zimbabwe has finally toppled its longtime dictator, Robert Mugabe. So it’s time for the the West to lift its sanctions on the southern African nation, right?

Not so fast. The new leader of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was one of Mugabe’s most notorious henchmen until he fell out of favor a few months ago.

It would be premature to remove sanctions at this point, before we know whether Mnangagwa will fulfill his promises to uphold democratic elections and the rule of law.

Removing sanctions would also reinforce the fake anti-colonialism of Mugabe himself, who repeatedly denounced sanctions as a Western plot to reinstate “white” rule. We heard the same thing over the past few weeks from other African autocrats, who fear that Mugabe’s downfall might foretell their own.

In Uganda, an aide to President Yoweri Museveni — who has ruled the country since 1986 — charged that “intelligence services of the West” had “worked day and night” to depose Mugabe.

Likewise, a spokesman for Democratic Republic of Congo strongman Joseph Kabila denounced the toppling of Mugabe as a “fabricated demonstration dreamed up by those who do not accept the liberation of Africa” — that is, by white people in the West.

Even in Ghana, one of Africa's most democratic countries, I heard similar remarks when I taught there in 2008.

Amid reports that Mugabe’s thugs were killing and intimidating opponents during Zimbabwe's contested elections that year, one colleague dismissed the whole controversy as a “neocolonial” invention.

Tell that to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was beaten so badly by police the previous year that he had to be hospitalized.

Robert Mugabe was indeed a great anticolonial hero, who spearheaded his country’s liberation from British rule. But then he became one of the great tyrants of our time, invoking the false specter of colonialism to oppress his political foes.