Mugabe and other dictator-friends of Lukashenka

The former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe passed away on the 6th of September. Alyaksandr Lukashenka publicly expressed his condolences to the incumbent president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe and Lukashenka had a friendly relationship, although the countries have not yet built either strong economic or trade ties. What other dictators have been friends to Lukashenka?

Mugabe-Lukashenka: friendship over the continents

The 95-year old former president of Zimbabwe passed away on the 6th of September.

“A man who made an invaluable contribution to gaining independence and strengthening the Zimbabwean state, increasing the authority and influence of your country on the African continent and the international arena passed away. A good memory of him will forever remain in our hearts,” sent Lukashenka his condolences to the current president Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe’s former president ROBERT MUGABE, who was once an independence hero but whose 37-year rule left his country deeply divided and nearly broke, has died at the age of 95. Forum, Zuma Press

Mugabe, the oldest authoritarian governor in the world, has been known not only for his property policy and leading Zimbabwe to currency crisis but also for election fraud mechanisms employed under his rule. The leaders of the countries have met during several international events, sent congrats to each other on holidays.

In 2015 in New York, both Lukashenka and Mugabe shocked the UN General Assembly with their intolerance to gay people.

“We equally reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs. We are not gays!” said Mugabe in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

After Mugabe’s forceful resignation, Lukashenka continued to build close ties with Zimbabwe. The successor of Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, paid an official visit to Minsk in 2019. Lukashenka mentioned that he hopes to conduct three-four projects that “would be noticed by the Zimbabwean people.” However, economic and trade relations of Belarus and Zimbabwe, one of the poorest countries in the world, remain rather weak.

“Brother” Gaddafi

When a former authoritarian leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, had lost almost all allies, Lukashenka did not betray the Libyan dictator. He arrived in Libya back in the 2000s, and Gaddafi paid a visit to Belarus in 2008.

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko (2nd R) and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi (L) inspect a guard of honour at the international airport in Minsk November 2, 2008. Andrei Stasevich/Pool

Supposedly, Lukashenka sent military support to Libya before Gaddafi got killed. At the UN General Assembly in 2015, the Belarusian president called him a brother and criticized the post-Gaddafi Libya.

Saddam Hussein and national library

When Hussein disappeared in 2003, the Western media even suspected that he might have settled in Belarus. Although the allegations appeared false, Lukashenka in fact had suggested political asylum to Hussein. Later, the Belarusian president talked about Hussein’s significant financial support to the construction of the Belarusian National Library. It remains unclear whether Hussein has invested into one of the most famous modern buildings in Belarus, but many believe the investment to the library might have been Hussein’s gratitude for Lukashenka’s political asylum proposal.

Hugo Chavez – Fidel Castro

Lukashenka sought to develop warm relations with non-democratic allies across the Atlantic too. In 2000, he received one of the highest awards of Cuba as recognition from Fidel Castro, who named Belarus ‘one of the most friendly among the Post-Soviet countries’.

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez (L) and his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko embrace at Miraflores Palace in Caracas June 26, 2012. Forum, Reuters

Hugo Chaves has visited Minsk several times familiarizing himself with the technological achievements of Belarus, while Lukashenka saw potential in cooperation with Venezuela as an oil provider and a new market for Belarusian companies.

“With Chavez, we are people of the same ideology. Those who struggle against us, follow another ideology. But this is not an issue of ideology. Here we have an economic issue!”, Belarus Digest cites Lukashenka.

Friendship of Lukashenka and Chavez was one of the most publicly visible. In 2013, Lukashenka paid his last visit to the funeral of the former Venezuelan president.

Nazarbayev and Putin

Lukashenka, Nazarbayev, and Putin have been allies for a long time.Often meeting, awarding each other, inviting to large-scale events, parades, and ceremonies. Clearly, there exists a question of how genuine the friendship of Lukashenka and Putin is, and whether it is not just dependency relations. At the same time, because of the close connections with Russia and Kazakhstan (the partners of Belarus within the Eurasian Economic Union), Lukashenka ensures his political safety within the local authoritarian network.

Lukashenka, Nazarbayev, and Putin.

By exchanging global experience through personal friendships and weak connections with developed democratic countries, Lukahneka just strengthens an image of authoritarian Belarus, keeping the doors for international business, trade, and tourism partly closed.

Alesia Rudnik

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