As the world is celebrating the departure of Robert Mugabe, the African LGBTI community is filled with optimism and skepticism.
Even though the departure of Robert Mugabe cannot be attributed to one factor, it can be argued his legacy was based on persecution of LGBTI people.
The year 2017 has seen two of the most anti-LGBTI dictators in the world forced out of power by their own people. Their legacy was characterized by anti-gay hate and scapegoating the west for the existence of LGBTI people in their countries.
Even though Emmerson Mnangagwa’s previous record on gay rights and other human rights is depressing at best, today he is entering into a new world with different societal dynamics compared to 1980s.
Mnangagwa’s record on LGBTI rights in Zimbabwe is inexcusable. Indeed people are right to be skeptical and worried about him.
The world is changing in terms of human rights, but this is not a guarantee for some countries. Many voices coming out of Zimbabwe now are celebrating for having entered a new world without Mugabe and are calling for renewed relationships with other countries and international bodies like the Commonwealth.
However, the world must remember the departure of Mugabe can only be attributed to the people of Zimbabwe. Therefore any change in the country in terms of human rights must be driven by the same people.
If the world can listen to Zimbabweans within and outside the country, then change can happen.
For example, the population of Zimbabwe shows the majority of the people are below 35 years of age. The Pew Research Centre in the United States shows younger people can influence a positive change towards LGBTI rights in many countries.
The departure of Robert Mugabe and Yayah Jammeh of the Gambia can present future opportunities for LGBTI people. We should not expect immediate changes but be optimistic, patient and strategic to realize change.
The incoming president of Zimbabwe has been a good servant of Robert Mugabe for the past 37 years, but now he is in charge of a country that is struggling to regain its glory. Therefore, he should be reminded Zimbabweans and the international community are watching and will judge and treat him accordingly.
Edwin Sesange is an African LGBTI rights activist.