Monday, December 05, 2005

Democracy: The Answer or the Disaster?

By Matt. G.

It is not surprising that there are many who feel that democracy will never work in Africa. There is a lot of evidence to support this claim. Look at the countless countries who, after independence from the west, set forth with such high democratic or socialist goals just to meet severe disappointment less than a decade later. There are some who feel Africa is just not ready for successful sustainable democracy. Some place the blame on the fact that western, or liberal democracy, was not developed to suit the conditions of Africa. Noted Nigerian born sociologist said that Western style liberal democracy could not work in Africa because it is a, “society which is still pre-industrial and communal and whose cultural idiom is radically different [from the West].”(Ake 239) While I agree that it would be foolish to simply take western models of democracy and paste them over African countries, I believe that some type of democracy is in the best interest of African people in the present and in the future.
I do not buy the argument that democracy will not work in Africa because the society is not ready. First, democracy does seem to be at least burgeoning in several Sub-Saharan African states like Ghana or South Africa. While possibly an oversimplification, I agree in spirit with the claim, “A country does not have to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fit through democracy.”(Sen 4) It is true, some states are more resistant than others to successful democracy, but failures in the past and difficulty in the future should not be a legitimate cause to drop the entire movement. It was not democracy that has failed in Africa, but the states that claimed to be reaching for it. A combination of inept leadership and poor structure has, “turned the high expectations of the independence movement into painful disappointment.”(Ake 240)
One of the other arguments against democracy in Africa is that the people would have to pay too high an economic price for the eventual promise of a more free and open society. This is the argument leaders like Yoweri Museveni have used to defend against those who believe that governments need to further democratize. Unfortunately this is a relatively common belief among Africa’s “New Leaders.” Though not as visibly autocratic and ruthless as earlier post-independence leaders like Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, this new breed of African leadership seems no less interested in long term democratic reform that does anything but support their own bid for power.(Richburg 131)
These “New Leaders” appear to, “all subscribe to the notion that economic development precedes democracy, and reject the view that democratization and development are mutually supportive processes that occur at roughly the same time.”(Gordon 123) This is a false belief being put forward by rulers only interested in maintaining their own power. The actual truth is that “In Africa, the return to economic growth has been inextricably linked to political reform.”(Gordon 125) While this can not be claimed true in all situations, like that of Museveni’s economically successful “no-party” Uganda, it is an overall trend.
I do not doubt that Museveni has pursued successful economic policies during his tenure as the leader of Uganda, but what is to stop him from reversing his policies at whim? It was not so long ago that the Robert Mugabe sent a relatively successful Zimbabwe into economic free fall. Museveni’s recent arrest of his strongest political adversary does not convince me that his liberal economic policies truly reflect a support for Western ideals of a free and open society.(Lacey)
While I understand that opening the democratic process to more free and fair competition brings with it the fear of greater instability, lack of openness eliminates the protective qualities of democracy. It is clear that, “political and civil rights give people the opportunity to draw attention forcefully to general needs and to demands appropriate public actions.“(Sen 7) One compelling fact is that, “in the terrible history of famines in the world, no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press.”(Sen 7) Where else in the world would the ability to resist famine be more applicable than Africa with the long going famine in Sudan and the recent famine in Niger.
Democracy does not only protect against famine or promote economic growth, but protects human rights as well. While human rights may mean different things to Africans it is not some Western ideal, human rights are an international goal. While democracy does not automatically mean there will be a respect for human rights, there are some long democratic countries in Africa with poor human rights records, it would seem that human rights are a goal only reached through democracy.(Aidoo 705) Akwasi Aidoo states it clearly when she says, “the full range of human rights cannot be guaranteed unless they are specifically promoted and protected in law and by popular organizations.“(707)
While I know that there are further criticisms of the viability of democracy in Africa, they are all of the same ilk. While democracy may have been born in the West, it is not limited in scope to Western civilization. African states need accountable, law based, and free states if they ever hope to improve not just the economy, but the lives of their peoples. But these governments can not be manufactured from the outside. Africa needs domestically created democratic governments better fit to the social and economic needs specific to African nations. Hard times are probably ahead for Africa, but letting go of democracy will only maintain the status quo of underdevelopment, famine, and human rights abuse in Africa.

Works Cited
Ake, Claude. “The Unique Case of African Democracy.” International Affairs. Vol. 69, No.2 (1993): 239-244.
Sen, Amartya. “Democracy as a Universal Value.” The Global Divergence of Democracies. Eds. Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 3-17.
Richburg, Keith B. “Africa’s Rulers Do Not Support Democracy.” Africa: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. 130-136.
Gordon, David. “Africa is Moving Toward Democracy.” Africa: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. William Dudley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. 119-129.
Aidoo, Akwasi. “Africa: Democracy Without Human Rights?” Human Rights Quarterly. Vol. 15, No. 4 (1993): 703-715.
Lacey, Marc. “Uganda: Opposition Leader Sent to Court-Martial.” The New York Times. November 26, 2005. (December 1, 2005).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Is Famine a Man-made or Natural Disaster?

In Asia, Africa and Latin America, well over 500 million people are living in "absolute poverty". over 9 million people die worldwide each year because of hunger and malnutrition. 5 million are children. Some 1.2 billion people suffer from obesity. For the price of one missle, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years. EVERY 3.6 SECONDS, SOMEONE DIES OF HUNGER. Famine is the last hurrah of long-term hunger. How does this persist in the 21st Century?Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Niger, Ethiopia...the list keeps growing of countries that are currently or will soon be experiencing famine. How can this continue?
Below, see some perspectives from our guest blogger, Jamie P (The imagine is taken from the following website? ~afronord/hsdoc/famine.jpg)

Is Famine a Man Made Problem?
Famine can be traced back to the roots of civilization and seen throughout the annals of history. This empirical fact leaves one to conclude famine is inevitable, given the occurrence of natural disasters associated with the passage of time ( And while environmental catastrophes have reigned supreme as the cause of famines for many years, is it still true today? In other words, economically and technologically speaking, does the world today possess a certain prowess that would allow man to circumvent the hardships inflicted by Mother Nature? One scholar laments that “Once we begin to see beyond the rather seductive and ironic depictions of the famine encounter, we will be in a position to recapture a glimpse of the real causes of famine and cautiously avoid the conflation of natural calamities with ‘man made’ famines”(Araia). Yet, other experts cling to environmental attributions, stating that natural disasters still lie at the root of all widespread hunger (FitzGibbon and Hennessy). I would argue, however, that while this second point, respectively, may initially be the culprit, pernicious famine is exacerbated largely by man. Thus, while Mother Nature may initiate hunger, man bears the onus for creating or at least not averting widespread famine.
Famine may be referred to as ‘the regional failure of food production or distribution systems, leading to sharply increased mortality due to starvation and associated disease…’ (FitzGibbon and Hennessy). Historically speaking, in a majority of the situations where this definition comes into play, natural disasters are the initial cause. Many possibilities exist within this realm including drought, earthquakes, flooding, tidal waves, and insects such as locusts (
Pestilence is also an environmental condition which can lead to famine. It is commonly known that diseases of epidemic proportions such as AIDS and Malaria are highly prevalent in many of the African countries. These Sub Saharan territories, in which the threat of famine always exists, are crippled when entire chunks of the population fall prey to these infectious diseases which thus severely curtail a population’s ability to produce or acquire food ( Yet, while all of these environmental issues, are certainly problems, countries internally and internationally should be able to circumvent these issues to prevent the wide spread famine that follows the initial hunger.
The natural disasters stated above do not necessarily result in a famine. A flood may wipe out the crops for an entire country which causes initial hunger; yet, famine happens later when many die of starvation due to poor governance. Colonialism is an example of this phenomenon.
The colonialization of the imperial powers in the African countries caused many problems. Their insistence on growing cash crops continues today so that “…the persistence of using good land to grow ‘cash crops’ such as coffee, tea or cashews for export, continues in many countries today. Often the best land is used in this way” (FitzGibbon and Hennessy). In addition, the problem is not exactly lack of rainfall “…but the vulnerability of a given society that wholly depends on a rain-fed agriculture” (Araia). Theories abound as to why exactly Africa remains underdeveloped today. Whatever the exact cause may be, exploitation of colonial powers certainly did not help Africa’s long term development. This underdevelopment only perpetuated famine today.
Poor governmental planning is also a cause of famine. While a natural disaster may devastate the crops in a region, a sound government should have stored enough food or resources to acquire sufficient provisions to prevent widespread death from starvation. Also, the world community should step in to remedy the problem. Poverty is also rampant in Africa, and many situations occur in Sub Saharan countries today where food exists but the people are simply to poor to buy it. Obviously, fixing these solutions are easier said then done; yet, it demonstrates how in these circumstances, famine is caused by man and not the environment.
In addition to man exacerbating the hunger that stems from a natural disaster, certain famine occurs completely void of environmental problems. War, including internal strife, which persistently has ravaged the African continent for decades, often involves pillaging, looting, and burning. This has caused thousands to go hungry and die as a result of this man made famine (FitzGibbon and Hennessy).
Another example of man made famine is genocide. Often, dictators in power will suppress food from their enemies in order to eliminate them. Hunger is also used as a tool in order to cause certain sects of the population to comply. Sometimes, it can be harnessed as a means of punishment. Examples include Ethiopia and the Sudan where internal strife and the government’s suppression of food for factions of their populations occurred. Graft can also produce famine in a population. In corrupt governments, which are pervasive in Africa, food and aid from other countries is sometimes confiscated by corrupt officials who then sell the resources for their own profit preventing the aid from getting to the people it was intended for (FitzGibbon and Hennessy).
Sudan serves as an example of a direct link between government and famine. In this case, in 1997, the northern government decided it would not allow international planes to land in the South to administer aid because of the civil war that was occurring. In essence, they thought that by stopping the aid, they could eliminate their enemy by starving them to death and also illicit support by placing blame for the food shortage on their enemy (FitzGibbon and Hennessy).
A similar example occurred in Ethiopia in the mid 80’s where the government halted the flow of food into Eritrea during a famine because of threatening rebel forces. “Through these actions, the government hoped to reduce the support for Eritrean rebels, and eventually to force them to surrender. However, these acts caused many thousands of deaths within Eritrea” (FitzGibbon and Hennessy)
Another example in which government is to blame is Niger. Nigerian leaders denied there was a food shortage and turned away 19 million dollars from the World Food Programme (WFP). The governmental leaders accused the WFP of exaggerating the problem and denying the mass starvation (
Natural disasters certainly are a problem and they live up to their name, disaster. Today, however, it seems that man is the true disaster in regards to famine. Examples abound where famine after a natural disaster could have been prevented if there had been proper planning and support from the international community. If utilized properly, technology, production, and distribution could ensure that there are adequate resources to feed the entire world population. Also, in today’s day and age, famine is solely a man made problem with the persistence of poor governance, war and poverty. Despite natural disasters being the root of some hunger and loss of food, man is the ultimate cause of death due to starvation.
Helpful Websites:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Zimbabwe: On A Fast Track to Disaster?

Freedom fighter, patriot, "revolutionary hero". Robert Mugabe has held many titles, but his most recent is perhaps most fitting according to Stacey H., below: cartoon figure of the archetypal African dictator". Two guest bloggers, Stacey H., and Kate D., offer their perspectives on the issues.

Mugabe: The Face of Zimbabwe
A person’s first impression of Africa usually focuses on negative aspects plaguing the continent like poverty, AIDS, and genocide. Africa has its success stories that can prove those initial impressions wrong, but countries like Zimbabwe only encourage the stereotype that many Africans are trying to disprove. Once hopeful and growing, Zimbabwe has taken a turn for the worse. It became independent in 1980 at the end of a struggle that transferred control from a small white community to current President Robert Mugabe. Initially, it appeared as though Mugabe would improve stability throughout the country. Zimbabwe had the ability to prosper because of its promising markets built around tobacco, agricultural products, and cotton. Nowadays, Mugabe’s country is plagued with poverty, high unemployment rates, civil strife, and a weakening economy. It is clear that Mugabe has been causing more harm than good, leading Zimbabwe into a crisis.
Beginning with the Land Acquisition Act of 1992, President Mugabe has been obtaining land for redistribution. Following the land seizures, government-backed militia killed several white farmers and their workers. Over the past five years, Mugabe has increasingly allowed the seizure of white-owned commercial farms, providing his supporters with the opportunity to prosper. However, Mugabe’s plan has decreased Zimbabwe’s overall production, leading to the breakdown of its agricultural-based economy. In April of 2002, the government declared a state of disaster charging that a drought had generated food shortages. Mugabe has also claimed that the people in Zimbabwe are “very, very happy” and not going hungry, despite aid organizations’ estimates that 4-11.6 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation [1].
People continue to blame drought for Zimbabwe’s deteriorating situation, but recently, Deputy Agriculture Minister Sylvester Nguni explained “that people without the slightest idea of farming got land” [2]. Even Zimbabwe’s Central Bank governor expressed that the Zimbabweans were using their new land in a “criminal” manner [3]. Zimbabwe’s agricultural output has been dropping since the land reform program intensified in 2000. Also, its overall economy and way of life have been suffering. In 2002, 70% of Zimbabwe’s population lived below the poverty line as opposed to the 60% in 2000 [4]. Also, Zimbabwe has the world’s fourth worst rate of HIV/AIDS and the highest rise in child mortality of any nation [5]. Christopher Dell, the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe said that “the Zimbabwe government’s own gross mismanagement of the economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis” [6]. Mugabe is unwilling to manage the crisis since he will not take responsibility for Zimbabwe’s growing problems.
One of Mugabe’s most recent projects was his “Operation Murambatsvina” or “Operation Clear the Filth” beginning on May 19th, which involved the arbitrary destruction of urban slums and “illegal” buildings. The destruction displaced thousands into rural areas without access to health care, clean water, and economic support. Mugabe claimed the demolitions would increase law and order in the cities, as well as development. However, the UN has estimated that 700,000 people have been left without jobs or homes [7]. Audrey Gaughran, an Amnesty researcher asserted that Operation Murambatsvina was “the latest manifestation of a massive human rights problem in Zimbabwe that’s been going on for years” [8]. Mugabe’s government has also stalled UN aid to the many victims. However, The New York Times reported on the 18th that Zimbabwe is finally allowing the UN to construct around 2,500 homes for the victims. Mugabe had initially promised to build new homes, but the fulfillment of his promise has been lacking.
Ironically, Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe was originally deemed a freedom fighter, helping the former Rhodesia to independence by establishing a stable democracy. During the 1970s, the world viewed him as a “revolutionary hero, fighting racist white minority rule for the freedom of his people” [9]. However, the world is becoming more and more likely to call him autocratic, as well as a “cartoon figure of the archetypal African dictator” [10]. Typically, Zimbabwe’s current problems are not a product of colonialism, but stem from Mugabe’s rule. Zimbabwe’s economy is suffering and it is going in the direction of a failing state.
The international community has tried to put pressure on Mugabe, but it has been unsuccessful with diminishing his power. The European Union has imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s political elite and the IMF has demanded fiscal reforms to mend Zimbabwe’s economy that is struggling with “a jobless rate of over 70 percent, triple digit inflation and acute struggles” [11]. The efforts to reduce Mugabe’s power have not been effective and have only increased his resistance to the west. Under Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe “has suffered an economic decline of 40% in recent years and a brain drain that is probably irreversible” [12]. Because of Zimbabwe’s growing problems, emigration is becoming more common, with hundreds of thousands leaving [13]. Many migrants, including white farmers, have cited economic and political factors as reasons for leaving. Clearly, there is no progress in resolving Zimbabwe’s growing crisis. Investors have begun to loose confidence, while media laws have become more restrictive and inflation has reached 254.8% [14].
As Zimbabwe’s problems have begun to worsen, Mugabe plans on running in the next presidential election in 2008. By then, he will have finished another six-year term at the age of 84, marking 28 years in power. Recently, Mugabe’s opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has been trying to gain control. However, the party has lost three national elections that were allegedly rigged. Adding to the MDC’s inability to gain power are documented cases of political intimidation of opposition parties and their supporters [15]. Without a solid opposition, Mugabe is able to strengthen his authority. Just recently, a bill was introduced that would create a new 40-seat Senate, remove landowners’ right to appeal against expropriation, and deny passports to Mugabe’s critics. Mugabe knows how to maximize his power as president and prevent others from speaking out. Unless a civil war breaks out or he finally dies, Mugabe and his party will stay in power, only to ruin Zimbabwe.

Check Out this Site (It’s a slideshow): If you go to this site, you can see video of Zimbabwe’s conditions (top of left column):

[1] “Mugabe: ‘People Very Happy.’” 19 September 2005. 15 October
[2] “Zimbabwe Admits ‘errors’ on Land.” BBC News. 1 November 2005. 13 November
[3] “Zimbabwe’s Poverty is Man-Made.” Business Report. 21 September 2005. 15
October 2005.
[4] “Zimbabwe.” CIA World Fact Book. 1 November 2005. 13 November 2005.
[5] “UNICEF releases statistics on Zimbabwe’s forgotten children.” 17 March 2005. 13
November 2005.
[6] “U.S. Envoy Blames Mugabe for Crisis.” 3 November 2005. 4 November
[7] “Country Profile: Zimbabwe.” BBC News. 5 October 2005. 13 November 2005.
[8] “Report: Zimbabweans Dumped in Slum Camps.” 20 August 2005.
29 October 2005.
[9] “Mugabe: Going Strong after 25 years.” September 2005. 13 November 2005.
[10] “Mugabe: Going Strong after 25 years.” September 2005. 13 November 2005.
[11] “Zimbabwe Seen in Deeper Hole after Constitution Vote.” 13 August 2005. 13
November 2005.
[13] “So Where Are Zimbabweans Going?” 11 August 2005. 13 November 2005.
[14] “Zimbabwe Presses Constitution Changes.” 18 August 2005. 29 October
[16] “Zimbabwe: Obstacles to Free and Fair Elections Documented.” Human Rights
Watch. 21 March 2005. 29 October 2005.

Zimbabwe: On a fast track to Disaster? by Katie D.

To say that Zimbabwe is simply on a path toward disaster would be a gross understatement of the situation. Since his election at the time of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have taken any possibility the country had for success and virtually thrown it down the drain. Mugabe’s most outrageous violations of the rule of law and human rights thus far have been the land reforms starting in 2000 and the slum clearance movement, which began in 2005. Both of these have already crippled the agricultural sector and left hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans hungry, homeless, and without jobs. Even with Mugabe expected to resign in 2008, political turmoil within Zimbabwe continues to increase. The only substantial opposition to his ZANU-PF party, which is experiencing many of problems of their own, is the crumbling MDC party. As the MDC party deteriorates, and the ZANU-PF party continues to violate and starve its own people, the prospect of political stability in Zimbabwe is diminished.
Although Zimbabwe was once considered Southern Africa’s breadbasket, Zimbabweans are currently deep in a hunger crisis. Relief prospects seem grim due to the government’s crumbling relationship with NGO’s and other food aid donors. To make matters worse, President Mugabe has said, “if charity comes our way, we will use it…we don’t need America and we don’t need Britain”. He would rather ignore the absolute fact that millions are starving and continue to declare to the international community “Zimbabweans would choke if they were given any more food”. (1) HIV/AIDS presents another major problem in Zimbabwe, especially since many people dying of the disease are roughly between the ages of 18 and 30, and are the group most likely to bring democratic progress. The disease is strongly related to Zimbabwe’s problems of political stability and the recommendations that come out of research in this area show that in order for any democratization program to succeed, it must take HIV/AIDS into account. (2)
When he was first elected 25 years ago, President Mugabe expressed his commitment “to a process of national reconciliation and reconstruction as well as moderate socioeconomic change”. He also announced “that his government would begin investigating ways of reversing past discriminatory policies in land distribution, education, employment and wages”. (3) Knowing this it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when he followed through on his plan twenty years later. Mugabe began seizing white owned farms and redistributing them to landless blacks in addition to destroying countless homes and buildings in poor urban areas through his slum clearance operations known as “Operation Restore Order” or “Operation Murambatsvina” in 2005. The International Crisis Group’s report on this issue found that “Operation Murambatsvina cost some 700,000 Zimbabweans their homes or livelihoods or both and otherwise affected nearly a fifth of the troubled country’s population. Its impact, as documented in a scathing UN report, has produced a political shock that has returned Zimbabwe to the international spotlight and made the quality of its governance almost impossible for its regional neighbors to ignore, however difficult they find it to be overly critical.” (4)
Mugabe’s legacy of personal rule politics indicates clearly that he has no regard for the basic survival of many Zimbabweans, and he has put the country in a state of crisis. It is hard to pinpoint where one would start the process of positive change. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, sent Anna Tibaijuka to Zimbabwe as his Special Envoy and she published her report in 2005, making details of Operation Murambatsvina available to the world. “Her findings show that the Zimbabwe government collectively mounted a brutal, ill-managed campaign against its own citizens. Whatever its intent—the urban clean-up claimed by authorities, or more sinister efforts to punish and break up the political opposition lest resentment explode into revolution—that campaign has exacerbated a desperate situation in a country already sliding downhill.” (4)
So why hasn’t the United States or some other world power intervened and attempted to fix the political problems and aid the suffering Zimbabwean masses? Maybe some would say it’s because of the lack of U.S. national interests in Zimbabwe, or perhaps wanting to give the African Union the chance to come up with solutions for problems on their own continent. While the US has not tried to change the governmental operations in Zimbabwe, the US did give almost $300 million in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, mostly in the form of food aid, between 2002 and 2004. (3) The United Nations also has plans for a $30 million dollar humanitarian relief program but it has been stalled because the Mugabe government cannot agree to the terms of the plan with UN aid agencies. (5)
In October 2005, inflation rose to a staggering 411% in Zimbabwe, making it one of the highest rates in the world, and gas shortages are causing additional problems for industry and transport services. (6) The Zimbabwe National Reserve building in Harare is locally known as “Big Bob’s Takeaway” referring to Mugabe’s personal use of national funds. (7) The Zimbabwean economy is in serious disarray, and instead of trying to find new ways to generate wealth, Mugabe’s policies are only deepening the poverty. Even though a new system for foreign currency trade was introduced in October, little progress has been made because investors worry that the exchange rate will be controlled by Mugabe’s politics. Zimbabwe didn’t always have these problems; in fact, the nation was considered Africa’s second most industrialized country, that is until Mugabe began to dismantle it. Mugabe is now seeking stronger economic ties with Asia, rather than the US and Europe, however the economic outlook is still extremely grim.
Mugabe’s relations with many Western countries have deteriorated significantly over the past few years, primarily over charges of human rights violations and election rigging. Condoleezza Rice has referred to Zimbabwe as an outpost of tyranny, and even some of the Zimbabwean government officials are starting to admit to the wrongdoings and place blame with President Mugabe. Even though the EU has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s political elite (including travel restrictions), Mugabe continues to travel to United Nations events where he makes a mockery of the UN, using his platforms to blast other world leaders, while being cheered on by many African delegates.
The United States and other world powers need to address the situation in Zimbabwe immediately, focusing first on helping those most in need and continuing to give food aid. Secondly, maintaining international pressure is key, and expanding the sanctions against Zimbabwean government officials should be part of this phase. Thirdly, the international community should support neighboring countries such as South Africa in their efforts to help Zimbabwe and conduct meaningful diplomacy. Most importantly, the US, the EU and the greater international community should “give no development assistance until there has been some meaningful progress toward political and economic reform, and then only upon the condition that specific further benchmarks are met.” (4)
Zimbabwe is most certainly on a fast track to disaster, if it hasn’t already arrived there. The rising poverty has forced thousands of the nations youth to make a living either as street vendors or prostitutes, worsening the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Faced with little opportunity in their own country, 3.5 million Zimbabweans have already sought jobs and homes abroad. (8) Parliamentary elections coming up on November 26th have caused new splits within the MDC opposition party and this election, like many before it, is not expected to produce much change.

(1) Thornycroft, Peta. “Food used to buy votes, judge finds”. October 18, 2005. National Post, (The Financial Post), Canada.
(2) Prabhala, Anna. “A Plague on Democracy- HIV/AIDS”. Elections Today- Summer/Fall 2001.
(3) U.S. Department of State, Background Note: Zimbabwe. Bureau of African Affairs, September 2005.
(4) International Crisis Group. “Zimbabwe’s Operation Murambatsvina: The Tipping Point?” Africa Report N.97, August 2005.
(5) “Rights groups seek action on Zimbabwe”, November 16, 2005.
(6) “Zimbabwe inflation hits 411%”, November 12, 2005. The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario).
(7) Thomson, Alex. “An Introduction to African Politics”, Second Edition.
(8) Chinaka, Cris. “Zimbabweans travel a hard road to survive”, November 18, 2005. The Toronto Star.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Museveni: The Next African Mugabe?

The once respected freedom fighter President Robert Mugabe did it in 2002 to Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda is doing it to his main challenger, Colonel (retired) Dr. Kizza Besigye. The arrest of Besigye in Kampala on Monday on questionable charges of treason and rape puts almost 20 years of progress and stability in Uganda under question. Besigye had just returned to Uganda from exile in South Africa in preparation for the March 2006 presidential elections.

What makes this latest African spectacle such a tragedy is that Uganda seemed to be a potential African success story. Uganda was once synonymous with violence, chaos and Idi Amin Dada’s predilections for human flesh. But since 1986 when Museveni and his rag-tag band of guerrilla fighters took over Kampala, there was hope. Museveni promised to bring political stability, economic growth, and good political leadership to Uganda. And he did for many years.

He introduced grassroots participation through Local Councils and a “no-party” political system. Past instability in Uganda was linked to politicized ethnicity argued Museveni, so if Ugandans could focus on the individual merits of candidates rather than their political party or ethnic, religious or regional affiliation, Ugandans might be able to focus on their similarities rather than their differences. Ugandans, fearful of a return to chaos, agreed to give it a try.

In June 2005 Ugandans voted in a referendum to adopt a multiparty political system rather than retain the no-party political system of government they had for the past 19 years. Museveni was able to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term in the March 2006 Presidential elections.

While Western governments and the donor community were uneasy about Museveni’s questionable dedication to multi-party democracy Museveni’s economic successes and embrace of macro-economic reform helped assuage some of those concerns. Uganda under Museveni had one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. It had opened up its markets to international investment, and was willing to implement stringent structural adjustment programs. Museveni became a poster child of economic reform, receiving millions of dollars in foreign aid, and 100 percent debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Museveni was viewed as a new breed of African leader – a visionary -- one of the African Renaissance leaders. He was intelligent, savvy, beyond corruption (although it was doubtful that those surrounding him were) and dedicated to his people.

Of course, not everything has been so encouraging in Uganda. The Ugandan army has been fighting a northern insurgency since 1986, currently led by Joseph Kony, the fanatical leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Uganda’s imagine was tarnished by its military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And, most disturbingly, Human Rights Watch, an internationally respected non-governmental organization, published a 76 page report documenting widespread torture of political opposition members in Uganda.

So, what happened? How did the “darling of the West” start sliding down the slippery slope of authoritarianism? Did power simply become too intoxicating? Museveni and his supporters became convinced that no one could run Uganda as well as he could. A familiar argument made by many former self-appointed “Presidents for life”. Museveni is not an anomaly: The number of African leaders that have peacefully stepped down from power can be counted on one hand: Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya, and of course Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Unless Museveni allows Besigye to run for President and lets the democratic process and rule of law determine who should be Uganda’s next president, Uganda may join the ranks of some of the current African trouble spots including, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

The international community must demand that Museveni uphold the rule of law in Uganda. Donors should cut off aid to the Museveni regime, and the African Union should strongly rebuke Museveni. But most importantly, Ugandans must peacefully demand justice and democracy. The world is watching, and hoping desperately for another African success story in a country that Sir Winston Churchill once called the “Pearl of Africa”.

By Susan Dicklitch

Monday, November 14, 2005

Darfur: Whose Responsibility?

Darfur Sudan. Many Americans don't even know where that is. For many in Darfur, it is hell on earth. An estimated 2.6 million people have been effected by mass killings, torture, rape, the destruction of villages, theft and other human rights abuses. After the Holocaust the world said "never again". After the genocide in the former Yugoslavia, the world said "never again" And after Rwanda, the world said, "it depends". Well, I guess that's where the people of Darfur are. The United States has recognized that what is going on in Darfur is a genocide. It has been going on since February 2003. Why is it still going on? Two guest bloggers below, Nana K., and Thomas T., offer their views...

Sudan Is our Problem
By Nana K. (Okomfo Anokye)

Sudan an Eastern African country gained its independence in 1956. War has raged in Sudan for at least 38 out of its 49 years of independence. The most recent round of fighting has been going on since 1989. Since February 2003, the war has assumed a new dimension. In Darfur, a region of Western Sudan, over 180,000 people have been killed and over 1.8million people have been displaced ( What is going on in Sudan today is a modern-day form of genocide. The government in Khartoum, Sudan is supporting the oppression and the killing of Sudanese nationals in order to maintain its reign. The global community with America as a hegemony has done nothing to help end the crisis.
A casual observer might ask the following questions. Who cares about some war in Africa? Has America not involved itself in too many conflicts? Are our soldiers not being killed overseas? As we live in constant danger of terrorism, should we not worry about our own welfare first? Engaging in foreign wars is killing our economy? If those “primitive” Africans are stupid to fight among themselves and killing each other, is that our problem?
Despite these concerns and fears and contrary to what we want to believe, Darfur is our problem. The critics will say “that is the most ridiculous thing we have ever heard”. Unfortunately it is not a ridiculous assertion. Darfur is our problem because we have a social-moral obligation under the Geneva Convention, through our US foreign policy we have supported and funded the warring factions, and our socio-economic well-being at risk.
The United States is a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention therefore; the US has a moral responsibility to fight against all acts of genocide. In Article 1 of the convention, it states clearly that genocide is a crime under international law and that all signatories will prevent and punish it.1 Clearly, under the convention, we are obligated to put an end to any inhumane acts regardless of the racial or ethnic identities of the group being oppressed. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention Common, Articles 3 and 147, all governments of the world are obliged to bring to book any perpetuators of inhuman treatment.2 The United States and the World as a whole have failed to live up to our responsibilities to safe-guard the rights of the people of Darfur.
So what? Who cares? Are we the only ones who have failed? Why does the world want to pin the problem of Darfur on the United States?
The US regretful to say has played a much larger role in maintaining and sustaining the genocide. The US government has indirectly funded the Khartoum government’s war. Between 1998 and 1999, the United States gave the Sudanese government $42 million in development assistance.3 In 2001, the United States also gave Sudan $27 million dollars in aid.4 No matter how altruistic the US government’s intention was, it is a widely accepted fact that that foreign aid is not always used for its intended purposes.
So why did we and do we still give Sudan aid? Well, one of the reasons is that Sudan is our ally against terrorism. In 1996, Sudan expelled Osama Bin Laden and they even wanted to hand him over to the Clinton administration, but we declined because of lack of indictable evidence.5 In President’s Bush’s September 20th speech, he was quoted as saying “Terrorists want to overthrow exiting governments in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia.etc. They want to drive out Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa. America therefore should support its allies with security assistance”. 6 Aside from funding the government, the US has been supporting the other rebel movements in the south icluding the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLM). The United States package to help the SPLM can be found in the House of Representatives legislature known as the Sudan Peace Act. Under the Legislature, the US government pledges to provide $10 million dollars in assistance to Sudanese opposition forces.7 The Christian Right is also placing tremendous pressure on the US government to support Christian groups like the SPLM/SPLA that are being threatened by Islam.8 Supporting the opposition will not stop the war, it will rather give them less incentive to end their armed struggled. Moreover, the SPLM soldiers are not saints, they have committed atrocities in Sudan including killing, looting and raping. Instead of curtailing the war, the United States is feeding it.
Though the problem in Darfur is geographically isolated from the United States, the effect that the repercussions of the war has on the US is greater than we want to accept. The United States imports approximately 17% of its from sub-Saharan Africa.9 Due to the crisis in the Middle East, the United States is focusing on Africa as its primary source of its oil. The Sudanese oil fields pump out at least $500 million a year. According to recent media reports Sudan will soon raise its oil output to 500,000 barrels per day.10 Since the US economy is negatively affected by oil shocks, it is in the best interest to stabilize its oil sources including Sudan to prevent any further mishaps to the fragile economy.
The refugees running from Sudan are also becoming burdens to the countries in which they are seeking asylum. These countries that have young developing economies like Ghana cannot sustain the pressure being induced upon them by the refuges. If these young economies are not safeguarded, they will collapse and the countries will be back begging at the feet of America.
In terms of terrorism, the Khartoum government is putting the whole world at risk. It is inculcating into the minds of young Sudanese that the war in Darfur is a holy war against the infidels. The government is therefore brainwashing these kids to join an unfounded Jihad. When the war in Sudan comes to an end what is our assurance that these brainwashed kids would not traverse the globe to implement their unfounded Jihad of the sword.
Contrary to what many politicians and social commentators would like you to believe Darfur is indeed an American problem. The United Sates can no longer afford to be apathetic or passive about what is going on in Western Sudan. We have meddled too much in Sudanese politics to extent that we cannot just pack up and leave. In concert with the global community we must work to find a long-lasting solution to the crisis.

1The United Nations Text of Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
2 The Geneva Convention of 1949.
3Aid at a Glance for Recipient Countries and Territories Index of Charts “The Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) Aid recipient chart.
4 US Agency for International Development.
5 Sudan’s Perfect War by Randolph Martin http: //
6 Stop Subsidizing Terrorism by Brett Schaefer http://
7 Sudan’s Perfect War by Randolph Martin http;//
8The Christian Right and American Foreign Policy by William Martin, Sudan’s Perfect War by Randolph Martin http;//
9Africa’s Oil Boom and the Poor by Ian Gray.
10Sudan to Raise Oil Output to 500,000 :-the New Vision.

Genocide IS Our Problem
By Thomas T.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide calls genocide “a crime under international law which [member countries] undertake to prevent and to punish.”[1] Because the United States has committed to preventing and stopping genocide by joining this Convention, it must act when it recognizes that genocide is occurring. The United States has made a promise to the world. In 1994, a 100-day genocide in Rwanda cost the lives of more than 800,000 people, as the world sat idly by. The international community had blood on its hands, and we resolved to prevent it from happening again. It’s happening again in Darfur. Because Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush have labeled the actions in Darfur as genocide,[2] we are legally entitled and morally obligated to do something to stop it. If we break these promises, we will be partially responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
In order to understand why we have been weak in stopping the genocide, we must understand the government’s reason for non-intervention. The United States government believes it has strategic interest to not intervene with the genocide in Darfur, because it fears losing an ally in the War on Terror.
[3] The administration continues to believe that another ally is more important than innocent peoples’ lives.
Now call me old fashioned, but I still believe that the strategic interest with Sudan cannot justify any inaction in the prevention of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people a year. While we must work to make sure that Sudan continues to help us on the War on Terror, we cannot simply ignore the genocide in order to do so. If we choose to ignore the plight of the Darfuri people because of our interests, we would be condemning the Darfuris to a world of pain and death. We would be assisting in the rape and murder of innocent civilians. And how again are we supposed to be morally superior to Al Qaeda?
The violence is not over, and the killings will not stop without international dedication. Just last week there were reports of 1,500 men attacking six villages in Darfur. Two million people still cannot or have not returned to their homes due to the fear of continued attacks.
[4] The Darfuri people live in terror, and we cannot abandon them. Morally, how could it even be possible that we even consider breaking our promise to stop the violence that continues to occur to the Darfuris like we did to the Rwandans?
Some opponents to intervention legitimately argue that we do not want to send any more American troops to any more conflicts. Now, I agree that because of our country’s current situation, we do not want to lose any more American troops than we have already. Sending in Americans would likely cause more problems than it would solve, especially because the Arab World would likely describe the American intervention as another imperialist attack on a Muslim country (while ignoring the fact that the Darfur refugees are mostly Muslim). The African Union, however, has been willing to do the job. African countries have decided to send their own troops to stabilize the country, but they lack the resources to do their job to the best of their ability. Even though they have insufficient numbers, are inadequately equipped, and suffer from a weak mandate, they have been reasonably successful in deterring theft, rape, and other types of violence by their presence.
[5] While attacks like the ones last week still occur, they have decreased in frequency (but are still at high enough levels to terrify refugees). Imagine, though, what the African Union could do if they had the resources that they needed.
The United States can easily provide the African Union soldiers with what they need, without ruining its relations with the Sudanese government. In fact, the United States and the international community have been calling for more action and larger numbers from the African Union. An international call against Sudan has already been made, and all we would be doing is putting our money where our mouth is. This would not likely harm relations between Washington and Khartoum intolerably.
By helping fund the peacekeepers at a cost of less than three hundred million dollars a year (a miniscule amount when compared to other United States government projects), the United States could help the African Union have phones in its offices, fuel for its vehicles, and money to pay the salaries of its soldiers.
[6][7] In the words of an AU official, “The international community, UN, European Union and NATO can't ask us to increase our force in Darfur and then not come up with the money.”[8] We have the means to cutting down and ending the violence. We do not need to use our own soldiers, but rather to monetarily support those that are already there. How could we morally refuse do this? There is no reasonable excuse. We already have Rwandan blood on our hands. Do we really want to add Darfuri blood to the mix?

[1] “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” <> Nov. 11, 2005
[2] “Powell Calls Sudan Killings Genocide” Sept. 9, 2004 <> Nov. 11, 2005
[3] Ooldenberg, Susan. “Sudan Becomes US Ally in ‘War on Terror’” April 30, 2005 <,12271,1473788,00.html> Nov. 11, 2005
[4] “Sudan: Killings Reported in South Darfur, says UN” Nov. 11, 2005 <> Nov. 11, 2005
[5] O’Neill, William G. and Cassis, Violette. “Protecting Two Million Internally Displaced: The Successes and Shortcomings of the African Union in Darfur” The Brookings Institution. <> Nov. 11, 2005.
[6] Blog entry from an aid worker in Darfur. July 27, 2005. <> Nov. 11, 2005.
[7] “SUDAN: African Union short of funds for Darfur mission” Aug. 18, 2005. <> Nov. 11, 2005.
[8] “SUDAN: African Union short of funds for Darfur mission” Aug. 18, 2005. <> Nov. 11, 2005.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Is Genocide Uniquely African?

From 600,000 to 1 million souls slaughtered in just 100 days in Rwanda. Thousands killed, raped and mutilated in Darfur, Sudan. On-going civil war and instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Cote D'Ivoire, Northern Uganda .... is violence and genocide unique to the African continent? Why does it persist? Below, our 2 guest bloggers this week, Sarah G., and Kennan J present their views.
Dr. D.

Sarah G.
There will always be genocide in Africa as long as "tribalism" exists...

"There will be no rescue, no intervention for us. We can only save ourselves. Many of you know influential people abroad, you must call these people. You must tell them what will happen to us... say goodbye. But when you say goodbye, say it as if you are reaching through the phone and holding their hand. Let them know that if they let go of that hand, you will die." -Paul Rusesabagina, Hotel Rwanda. The atrocities of the Rwandan genocide certainly turned heads around the world. In only three months, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in the hands of the Hutu extremist group known as the Interahamwe. On the surface, this massacre appears to be the result of tribalism. However, this is a common misconception as the Rwandan genocide was not the result of tribalism but rather of lingering ideals and policies implemented during colonialism furthered by deficient government and economic disparity. This theory serves as a microcosm of the situation throughout Africa.

Unfortunately, the term "tribalism" usually carries a negative connotation in which society is divided into a myriad of small groups prone to hostility and violence towards one another. While enmity does exist within tribalism, it is often the product of invariable factors such as scare resources and corrupt governance. In fact, it is arguable whether or not the degree of brutality within tribal societies overshadows that of civilized societies. African tribalism parallels the theory of ethnocentricity in the sense that the disparity between in each tribe is the same by which we can all be culturally defined. In other words, the religious, linguistic, and cultural lines that identify a Tutsi or Hutu are no more than what makes someone an Irish Catholic American. In the same ways that large populations have grouped together to form states and nations, so have small ones to form tribes, and in this way is tribalism no more than a sub category of social evolution. Who is to say then, that existence of tribalism cannot be a peaceful one? If tribes of Chinese, Japanese, Italians, and Indians can all make rest in New York City, than why not in Africa? The answer to this question does not point towards flaws in tribalism but rather the faults of colonialism.

The recent situation in Rwanda serves perfectly to link colonialism to genocide. German and Belgian rulers brought with them to Rwanda pre-conceived notions of racial hierarchy and white supremacy. The kindness and elegance of Tutsi tribe, coupled with their European-like features greatly impressed them as they implemented a system of indirect rule. In this case, not only did colonialism create tribal divisions but it also fostered a sense of primacy between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes, which led the Tutsi's oppression of the Hutu erupting in the 1994 genocide. "When people ask me, good listeners, why do I hate all the Tutsi, I say, "Read our history." The Tutsi were collaborators for the Belgian colonists, they stole our Hutu land, they whipped us. Now they have come back, these Tutsi rebels. They are cockroaches. They are murderers. Rwanda is our Hutu land. We are the majority. They are a minority of traitors and invaders. We will squash the infestation. We will wipe out the RPF rebels. This is RTLM, Hutu power radio. Stay alert. Watch your neighbours" -George Rutaganda, Hotel Rwanda.

While direct rule may not always be the case as it was in Rwanda, the effects of colonialism and their pertinent link to genocide are numerous and widespread. In his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney examines the way in which European nations economically exploited African resources, creating monocultures that divested national economies. Post-colonial theorist Franz Fanon investigated the psychological effects of colonialism, arguing that years of domination and subjugation led to an overwhelming sense on inferiority and inadequacy, which in turn barred nation's growth following independence. European nation's cherry-picked Africa's wealth, squandering her resources, demoralizing her people, and causing nations to fall into a pattern of dependency. Following independence nations were abruptly forced to fend for themselves. Economically and socially they were weak and divided and politically they were inexperienced and the continent became poverty stricken and politically corrupt. It was this that paved the way for coup d'etats and genocide.

All in all, African tribes do not innately lean toward genocide, but rather has colonialism influenced and instigated them. The peaceful existence of tribes in Africa is completely plausible, but it has been hindered by colonialism's numerous long-lasting effects.

Helpful Links:

Monday, October 31, 2005

NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development) is a Sham

The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) came into existence in 2001. It is purportedly a new partnership between African countries and the West in an attempt to bring Africa out of its steady decline. Will it work, or will it be another African-led disappointment? Our 2 guest bloggers this week, Roz D, and Paradon M, offer their perspectives below. Dr. D.

When we take a look at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), established in July 2001 by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and accepted by the G8 Summit of 2002 at Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada, we already see the failings of another to-be failed endeavor. An endeavor spearheaded by only five head of states at the time and supported by Western money and institutions, both private and government acting. Like much of Africa’s constitutions throughout the continent, the goals and wording are visionary in nature, with flowery language and phrases of idealism such as “good governance as a basic requirement for peace, security, and sustainable political and socio-economic development (,” but are highly improbable to achieve in reality, at least for the time being. What is addressed below is not that African countries do not appreciate outside help from various countries and organizations…it is that many African leaders are blind to their actual countries needs, blinded by the Western education, blinded by an idealism that is hardly based in reality. Of course, African leaders try to legitimize their political, economic, and social reforms under the heading of OAU, NEPAD, or even the UN. What are needed instead are truly African organizations, based in realistic goals, with greater autonomy from Western influence, via money or Western policy-making dictating this or that over the other. What are needed are organizations that are not a sham.
Too often there are program initiatives that are brainstormed, produced, and implemented by legitimate organizations, in this case the NEPAD. What organizations such as NEPAD fail to recognize is that “fixes,” if you can even call them that, expect too much in too little time. We are not talking about the three to five year terms of projects that often get started. What is needed are truly long-term projects lasting at least ten years, preferably fifteen years as a median term for change. That is not to say that because now there is more time that more “goals” can be established; it goes against the whole idea. For example, on website, there is a heading titled What are the immediate desired outcomes of NEPAD? with “conflict prevention and the establishment of enduring peace on the continent” and the adoption and implementing “principles of democracy and good political economic and corporate governance, and the protection of human rights.” One thing to say about those goals: ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!! Those are immediate goals? What is your long-term goal: world peace? The remarks are not meant to be cynical. It is just that when one’s “immediate desired outcomes” are those goals that are still continually fought everyday in even developed countries, one has to wonder if NEPAD is living in a fantasy world. One has to keep in mind that many African countries are lead by corruption and the cult of personality, some would say a legacy from the colonial age. Instead, NEPAD, if it is truly going to be effective, must tone down its immediate goals and focus and work locally with respective African nations in establishing the basics such as food, shelter, and education. Although this is a simple statement with many caveats, essentially once you have a country with an educated populace that has enough food and shelter, a governance structure and along with it, rule of law, will begin to emerge.
To establish a credible and legitimate governance within a country, what is needed are not necessarily Western forms of thinking and governance. Instead, what is need are respective African country versions of governance. Too often, Western nations hope to influence how a country develops and “grows up.” They do so by using money as the carrot. That is, basically saying that if you want our money to develop your country, you are going to have to develop according to our terms and conditions. Already, the NEPAD is mired in Western bureaucratic mess. Even the leaders of the respective countries in the NEPAD think like Westerners. What many African leaders and most Western leaders fail to recognize is that problems within a country are not necessarily just internal but also inter-state conflict. For example, that is a “civil war” in the Congo has already involved individuals from eight countries. Even more, the NEPAD must distance itself from organizations like the G8. Yes, those countries mean well but they do not understand how to help. It is like asking a car mechanic to fix a plumbing issue in a house: yes, the car mechanic wants to help and does so but does not quite understand the intricacies and needs of the plumbing system as a fully certified plumber would. To allow for greater autonomy, the NEPAD must take a stand. NEPAD must demand to those nations willing to offer help that, “We welcome your money but we’ll fix our own way. What works in Senegal does not necessarily work in Sierra Leone.”
Lastly, there is a lack in the perception of historical success among many African nations. There is the thinking that nations can be restored to their “former glory.” To be honest: there NEVER was a former glory for many African nations. Instead, most African nations are experiencing success, or at least attempts for it, on their own and for the first time. As such, there are no leaders, including those from NEPAD, that can truly say that what they are doing has been tried and tested and works. Whoever says that is lying. How does one person, how does one organization know the key to success? They do not. It takes a group of people, the citizens of a country to make success happens. Yes, an individual can prompt a reform…but it is the citizens that want to carry it out.
In the end, NEPAD, for all its talk is a sham. It needs to realize that its goals need to be more realistic and/or increase the number of years. It needs to realize that Western influence and policies do not work for every single country. Finally, it needs to realize that what they are attempting to do has never been done before and to take baby steps.

Paradon M.

NEPAD: Africa’s Pursuit of Successful Destiny
By: Rosalyn D.

Now only four years old, NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) has become an integral part of Africa’s progress made towards economic growth. The start of a millennium signaled Africa to take charge of their destiny, and pursue a new ambitious goal towards economic development. The continent saw a need to design an alternative strategy to the PRSPs (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) in order to confront its challenges of rising poverty levels, continual underdevelopment, and marginalization of its markets within the global economy. Hence, in July of 2001, NEPAD was adopted by the African Union.
NEPAD specified major areas of particular development assistance, including urgent debt relief; significant resources for infrastructure development; sustained financial outlays so that Africa can meet the United Nations millennium development goals of halving poverty rates by 2015; and, the end of trade distortions and agricultural subsidies by rich nations so that Africa can trade its way out of poverty through better access to lucrative Western markets.
Largely influenced by Thabo Mbeki and his idea of ‘African Renaissance,’ the institutionalization of key NEPAD principles are based on the idea that African dependence on aid and foreign intervention is a major barrier to African success. The main NEPAD principles and components are: African ownership and responsibility for
the continent’s development; the promotion and advancement of democracy, human
rights, good governance and accountable leadership; self-reliant development to
reduce dependency on aid; building capacity in African institutions; promoting intra-
Africa trade and investment; accelerating regional economic integration; advancing
women; strengthening Africa’s voice in international forums; and forging
partnerships with African civil society, the private sector, other African countries and
the international community. The efficiency of the program is characterized by executing these principles.
Endorsed by the G8, the NEPAD policies and priorities have become the internationally approved framework for Africa’s development. The APRM, African Peer Review Mechanism, has been largely successful. This peer review system has helped to establish camaraderie among the fifty-three nations, creating a forum in which each country is accountable for one another.
NEPAD has helped spread democracy and improve financial conditions. For example, in Mozambique, the world has observed peaceful changes of leadership for the first time. Also, since the implementation of the program, the average economic growth rate of Africa has increased from 2.9 in 2002 to 5.1 in 2004.
Copying is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. The NEPAD ‘Fight Against Aids’ campaign is a plan that addresses the impact of HIV and AIDS in Africa through integrated health sectors and new training techniques. This African program has been so successful in achieving positive results that other countries around the world have implemented the NEPAD Health Strategy.
Also, improvements and innovations have been made within the field of education. NEPAD has helped endorsed African partnerships through distance education learning, and exchange programs among African nations. These programs are geared for students interested in pursuing teaching, and focus on training and development.
The examples mentioned are a few of the many NEPAD successes. Clearly, the success of this program has helped to uplift Africa’s civil society. NEPAD has curt-tailed development within Africa, and has built the platform for all of Africa’s socio-economic success.
NEPAD is actualizing the AU vision of an Africa integrated, prosperous and peaceful, an Africa driven by its own citizens, a dynamic force in the global arena.
Ultimately, only time will tell how successful NEPAD will be in achieving economic development of Africa. However, the monumental progress made in just the first four years is quite notable. The initiative undertaken by the NEPAD plan is the first time Africa has banned together and taken charge of their plight. Taking charge means being held accountable for the issues that have continually plagued Africa, These include resolution of conflicts, poverty reduction, fighting corruption, eliminating the burden of disease and strengthening the capacities of African states. Arguably, the most important aspect of NEPAD is its initiative to facilitate the idea of African ownership of development issues. Unlike other development programs that have come and gone, NEPAD was created by Africans for Africans, ensuring the sustainability of success in the future.

Works Cited:

Coleman, Sarah. “ The NEPAD Formula” [Online] World Press Review. 27 October 2005.

NEPAD – The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (October 2001), 57 pp. e-disk

“NEPAD” [online] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 27 October 2005.

“Nepad, the AU and the EU: the challenges of a relationship” European Union: Delegation of the European Union Commission of South Africa. [Online] 27 October 2005.

Taylor, Ian (2004) “Why NEPAD and African Politics Don’t Mix”, Foreign Policy in Focus e-disk

Monday, October 24, 2005

100% Debt Relief: The Answer for Africa?

Who couldn’t agree with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and rock stars Bono and Geldolf that something has to be done about poverty and underdevelopment in Africa? A quick fix of debt relief and more foreign aid would make everyone feel better. But in this feel-good age, jumping on the debt relief and foreign aid bandstand to assuage Western guilt and right some historical wrongs is not the silver bullet for Africa the recent superstar hype promises.
Africa does not simply need another quick fix of more money and debt relief – it needs to enter the twenty-first century. There is an important jump in logic here: debt relief does not ensure better governance, accountability, transparency, a better standard of living, or more effective use of foreign aid. The track record suggests that it does the opposite: it allows less than democratic leaders to co-opt opposition, beef up militaries and Swiss Bank accounts, and court thoughts of being President-for-Life.
The celebrated Columbia University economist, Jeffrey Sachs, may insist that Africa’s problems are mainly due to economics, but this ignores the more serious political causes: bad government.
Africa is the only continent in the world to have become poorer since independence – even though Africa has received over $568 billion from 1960 to 2003 (in today’s dollars) to end poverty. Where has this money gone? Not in education, health care or infrastructural development – often more simply into unmarked Swiss bank accounts of self-described Presidents-for-life. One governance expert for the African Union contended that billions of dollars leave the continent each year for secret bank accounts in the West – with capital flight estimated to have reached $148 billion since the end of colonialism to 2003.
Some may argue that this is too pessimistic of an analysis – blaming Africa for all its woes and absolving the West of its responsibility in perpetuating the problem. But by forgiving debts and giving more foreign aid, we would simply be perpetuating the problems of the past. Africans are not stupid, untalented people – they are some of the most resourceful people in the world. Africa is not resource poor – it is simply poorly resource managed. Many Africans will tell you that what Africa needs is the promotion of trade not aid. Africa wants to be an equal partner, not a pathetic poor cousin to the rest of the world.
The late Albert Mukong, a respected Cameroonian human rights octogenarian activist once asked me, “Why do you people in the West continue to give money to our bad leaders?” “Why do you help keep them in power?” It may not the West’s responsibility to make African leaders accountable to their people -- only the African people themselves can make their leaders accountable. However, the West must do its best not to help keep corrupt, repressive leaders in power by funding them with more foreign aid, or relieving them of any responsibility for repaying debts that they may have incurred or former dictators before them.
Instead of giving African leaders a carte blanche, more effort needs to be made by foreign governments, international institutions, the African Union, and current African governments to freeze and recoup the assets of former dictators and their families that stole from their own people and to punish those that continue to rob the children of their future.
The G8 have proposed to immediately forgive the debts of 18 countries, 14 of which are African (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia). These countries have successfully completed the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. This would free these African countries of an estimated $16.7 billion they owe international lenders, specifically the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Nine other countries in Africa will be eligible for debt relief under the HIPC initiative in 12-18 months, including Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Malawi, Sao Tome, Sierra Leone.
None of these countries are not democratic powerhouses. According to Freedom House (a non-profit organization that measures the level of freedom in the world by examining civil liberties and political rights) five of these countries are ranked “free” (Benin, Ghana, Mali, Sao Tome and Principle, and Senegal), five are ranked “not free” (Chad, Mauritania, Rwanda, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo) with the rest “partly free”. More disturbingly, most of these countries are at the bottom of Transparency International (a German-based non-governmental organization that ranks perceptions of corruption within various countries) list. So when push comes to shove, who will the leaders be accountable to? Certainly not their own people.
Consider one case study: Cameroon, in line for HIPC initiative relief in 12-18 months, has been lead by President Paul Biya for 23 years (1982-present). He was re-elected for another 7- year term in the 2004 presidential elections, which were fraught with voter irregularities and fraud. Cameroon also has the dubious distinction of being ranked the most corrupt country in the world two years in a row (1998, 1999) by Transparency International. Torture is widespread and systematic in Cameroon with government repression of minorities commonplace. Cameroon continues to suffer from high levels of corruption. Debt relief will simply further entrench this leader like other African leaders in line for one-hundred percent debt relief.
The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation established by the Bush administration, although off to a shaky start, has the right idea about what is necessary for sustainable poverty alleviation and development, namely good governance, with a focus on anti-corruption efforts, economic freedom, and investment in the African people through increased commitments to education and health care. Unless African leaders are held accountable for spending, there is no guarantee that any debt relief or aid will go to the neediest.
Do Africans a favor – not by dumping more aid into the pockets of their corrupt leaders – but by refusing to keep them in power by stocking their Swiss bank accounts. Fighting for more debt relief and foreign aid for Africa might make you feel better, but it won’t help the poorest of the poor. For that, accountable, representative and honest government needs to be promoted in Africa.

Below, we have 2 guest bloggers, Ron A., and Ashley I, who have some other suggestions about 100% debt relief. Dr. D.

Proponents of 100% debt relief for African countries have capitalized upon the massive public support for such a program which promises to facilitate economic growth and development in 3rd World countries by simply erasing the countries foreign debt. The rational underlying this call for total debt relief is that eradicating the debt of these impoverished countries will enable their governments to allocate a greater portion of their federal budget towards social welfare programs and the establishment of political and economic infrastructure which can attract foreign investment, thereby helping to foster economic growth. While ideally 100 % debt relief could provide African Governments with the necessary revenue to enact social and economic programs designed to facilitate growth, the persistence of structural and environmental obstacles which have impeded economic growth in the past remain likely to undermine opportunities for growth in the future. Total debt relief for African countries is not sufficient in and of itself to engender economic growth without accompanying changes in the political culture of African society.
One of the main problems associated with granting complete debt forgiveness to African countries is that it completely ignores one of the fundamental realities of governance on the continent; corruption. Studies have shown that approximately $148 billion, a figure equivalent to 25% of the continents annual GDP, are wasted on corrupt activities by African governments each year. Thus, the ultimate result of any program of debt forgiveness without conditionalties attached only serves to increase the funds available to these corrupt regimes. Until this culture of corruption is eradicated from the African continent, the effectiveness of any relief package is going to be undermined.
Many of the social and economic programs enacted will not be based upon the perceived benefits they will provide to the developmental process, but to the degree to which they solidify entrenched patron-client networks and develop new such networks. Not to mention the portion of the funds which will go to lining the leaders own pocket. One of the main arguments supporting multilateral debt relief is that since multilateral debt (which includes debt to IMF, WB, African Development Bank, etc) is generally financed on time, each dollar saved through forgiveness programs will be available for the government to use on welfare and development programs. However, believing that this will actually happen naively ignores the degree to which corruption dominates the political culture of the African continent.
Another argument commonly made in opposition to calls for total debt relief is that doing so creates a moral hazard. According to this line of reasoning, debt forgiveness is harmful because it sets a bad precedent which discourages creditors from lending to these countries again in the future. It also leaves the debtor country with the impression that any future money which the country borrows will not have to be paid back in full, thereby discouraging debtor countries from showing any degree of fiscal restraint. This is a particularly relevant point given the corrupt nature of many African regimes. The leaders of many African countries more are likely to divert the money which was intended for debt servicing through illegal channels than towards positive social and economic programs.
Moreover, based upon the socio-economic history of many of these African countries, it is safe to assume, even in a best-case scenario, that at least some of these countries are going to need additional funding in the future. If these countries prove unable to maintain a sense of credibility with the international lending community, these funds are unlikely to be made available in the future. African countries need to demonstrate to investors that they are capable of handling their own economic crisis' without depending upon third parties to bail them out.
Any program of 100% debt relief not only decreases the likelihood that such funding will be made available in the future, it also runs the risk of decreasing the actual amount of funds that are available. If lending institutions forgive the debts of third world countries, they are not only going to be less inclined to make future funds available to these countries, they are going to be less able to do so. Without the inflow of funds from debtor countries, multilateral credit institutions are not going to be able to make future loans available, either to African countries or to underdeveloped countries in other regions of the world.
Thus, when some underdeveloped county, or group of countries, runs into some sort of financial crisis, they are not going to have anyone to bail them out. The IMF and WB have enacted the HIPC program as means of reducing debt burdens to sustainable levels. These levels must remain sustainable not only so that debtor countries can afford to service these debts, but also so that lending institutions can continue to grant additional loans in the future.
The notion of 100% debt relief for Africa carries wide popular appeal because in principle, it sounds like a fair path to economic development. Apologists for colonial/neo-colonial exploitation of Africa see debt forgiveness as a way by which they can both clear their own conscience and help to pave the way for real economic growth on the African continent. However, a program of total debt forgiveness has unseen implications which make other alternative paths to African development far more attractive. Foremost of these would be the removal of subsides and external tariffs for agricultural goods among industrialized countries. Studies have suggested that the removal of government support/protection for agricultural goods among the developed countries would make a more significant impact on African development than all of the current aid programs combined. Reducing obstacles to trade makes more economic sense than a program of complete debt forgiveness. It provides African Governments with the ability to alleviate foreign debt through mechanisms that exist within the structure of the world economy, thereby maintaining, and actually improving their financial credibility and investors confidence, without incurring the risks of moral hazard or those associated with providing significant new funds to corrupt regimes.

Ron A.

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100% Debt Relief the Answer? NO!

Canceling the debt of underdeveloped and impoverished countries would only be a temporary solution to the problems that are plaguing Africa, because the 100% debt relief initiative does not address the root causes of the continent‚s problems. This summer, people from all around the world gathered together at the Live 8 concerts in hopes of reliving experiences from “the day that rock 'n' roll changed the world” 20 years earlier. The original Live Aid concert, in July 1985, brought artists together for two huge concerts in Philadelphia and London with a goal to rally worldwide attention, and gain support for African countries suffering from poverty and famine. Similarly, this year‚s Live 8 concert was also aimed at mobilizing concern for Africa, but endorsed a very different agenda than the first concert by shining light on the root causes of the continent‚s poverty, rather than asking for donations to alleviate it.
I n addition, it was no coincidence that this year‚s Live 8 concert was held just days before the leaders of the industrialized world met at the G8 summit in Scotland. The reason for the date of the concert was to promote the ”historic” change being made to the global agenda, 100% debt relief for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) that qualify for debt cancellation. Under HIPC, countries that want these levels of debt cancellation are required to execute six years of structural adjustments. Unfortunately, in order to qualify for debt relief under HIPC, countries often have to do some things that are very harmful to them. For example, in order to gain HIPC status, Mozambique privatized its water system just as the World Bank had ordered. One year later, floods devastated the country and the French Firm, Saur, pulled out of the 15-year contract that it had entered into a year earlier. Much of the country was left beneath water, at an enormous cost. The World Bank also pushed Mozambique to raise user charges for health care. If people don‚t pay, they don‚t get service. This shows how dangerous liberal economics can be, and in this case, even fatal.
The G8 agreement enforces liberalization and privatization by saying that developing countries must combat corruption, increase growth and expansion in their private sectors, attract investment and eliminate barriers to both foreign and domestic private investment. Forcing countries to adopt a liberal economics system is as burdensome and difficult as it would be for them to have to pay back the debt that the agreement relieves them of. Subjecting these developing countries‚ fundamental services to the harshness of market forces will have very severe costs and consequences. In these countries, where people live on $1.00 a day or less, they cannot afford to pay what a commercial business would demand for these services.
While African countries should not be forced to partake in the international market, they should be given direct investments from the West to build hospitals and schools, and to construct industries. Handouts will not benefit Africa in the long run. In order to further development and end its poverty and misery, Africa will need true investments and substantial education. By benefiting businesses within Africa, they will cause industrial revolutions, growth in employment and an increase in revenues. By creating employment opportunities in Africa, rather than giving cash, the states and the citizens of underdeveloped countries are “being taught to fish” and with these new institutions they “will never go hungry”. G8 leaders need to review the 100% debt relief agreement and their trade policies and reconsider them so that they will produce business growth in Africa.
Debt and poverty is not the only issue troubling Africa. Solution to Africa‚s problems, as can be seen by looking at Ethiopia‚s grim record of human rights violations (the 1985 Live Aid concert raised over $100 million for the famine stricken country). G8 leaders should place just as much time and energy addressing human rights abuses as they are in their efforts to fight the countries‚ poverty and to cancel their debts. These human rights abuses account for a great deal of the miseries that plague the continent of Africa.
Granting African countries 100% debt relief would only solve the countries‚ problems for a temporary amount of time, if at all. In some cases, this initiative will even be damaging to the countries that strive to make themselves eligible for debt relief. G8 leaders need to reconstruct their plan in a way that addresses the root causes of the continent‚s poverty and misery in order to bring about its development and happiness.

Ashley L.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Foreign Aid is a WASTE of Money

So, is foreign aid a waste of money? With all the hoopla going on with Bono and others clamoring for more foreign aid to Africa, how can it be a waste of money? After all, many are still starving to death, others are dying from preventable or treatable diseases like diarrhea or malaria. How can the West turn a blind eye to the plight of millions of Africans that still rely on foreign aid? A recent Christian Science Monitor article ("To eliminate Poverty", CSM, 17 October 2005) suggested that "The noblest charity is to prevent a man from accepting charity; and the best aims are to show and to enable a man to dispense with aims". Are we making Africa as a continent continually dependent on the West for handouts? How do we end this cycle of poverty? Is debt relief, more aid, or disengagement the answer? Below we have two guest entries from Jeff L., and James K on whether foreign aid is a waste of money...
Dr. D.

I would imagine that an initially negative response to the concept of economic aid is hard to come by. Besides, isn't it the ethical and moral duty of any wealthy nation such as the United States to support less fortunate countries like those belonging to the African continent? It would be easy to respond with an emphatic "yes!" if you were unaware of the underlying conflicts involved with this affair. Suppose however, that economic aid wasn't the solution to the problems in Africa. Suppose that economic aid only fueled African conflict. If you believed these statements, would you still support the practice of foreign aid grants to the continent?

The United States has developed a trade based relationship with many African nations, in which it exchanges manufactured goods and economic aid in return for raw materials. An individual could easily assume that Africa is gaining necessary items for economic and industrial development through these interactions. This however, is not the case. Many African nations are being exploited by the United States (Segal). Aside from a few exceptions, African nations have developed a "negative balance of payments in the flow of aid, trade, and other resources" (Segal). That means in essence that America has taken more from Africa than it has offered. How can Africa ever develop industrially if it continually exports raw resources at a lower rate than it imports foreign goods? The answer is that it can not. Africa will never develop economically until it is able to compete with foreign markets, and the practice of foreign aid is only allowing outside nations to exploit Africa for its cheap goods.
There are a few places throughout Africa that have gained more through trade than they have given, namely South Africa. Ironically enough, South Africa is home to a certain level of "white-dominance" (Segal). According to Aaron Segal, the only places in which these exceptions occur are places in which a large white population is present or the Pentagon has interest in developing a military base (Segal). Although to America it may seem that economic aid is a very productive agency, to Africa, the supposed benefactor, it is a cause of exploitation and a breeding ground for mistrust directed at the western world.

To look at economic aid from a different perspective, we can explore the use of it once it reaches the African nations. Although African nations have received over 110 billion dollars in aid since 1995, they remain among the poorest and uneducated countries in the world (Dicklitch). A large percentage of the foreign aid, which was intended to improve African governments, education and various other ailments, has been pocketed by the political leaders (Dicklitch). Not only does this handicap the development of Africa, but it allows kleptocratic single-party states to thrive. By sending economic aid Africa"s way, America is only empowering corrupt leaders and disturbing any chance Africa has at escaping their current problems and developing new society.

After familiarizing myself with the corruption and greed associated with the practice of foreign aid it is much easier to denounce the concept as unnecessary. Not unnecessary in the sense that Africa is no longer in need of aid or that America no longer has a commitment to third world countries, but rather, unnecessary in the sense that foreign aid is being granted and used for the wrong reasons. I would go as far as to say that foreign aid is a waste of money. Why should we continue to exploit the federal treasury, in order to fill the pockets of corrupt leaders? Or on the moral level, how can we continue to use aid as an excuse to exploit Africa for its goods? The concept of economic aid on its most basic level is easy to agree with, but once it becomes manipulated it is better left unpracticed. In fact, economic aid isn't the answer at all. In order to help African countries, we need to find solutions to their problems of industrialization, corruption, and exploitation.

Dicklitch, Susan. "African corruption is a crime against humanity." Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2004.
Segal, Aaron. "United States African Relations." J-stor online journal.
For more information on foreign aid relations with Africa, visit J-stor's online research database.
Jeff L.

Is Foreign aid in Africa a waste of money? In short, right now in the non-democratic countries -- it is. Foreign aid is not a new concept; it has been successfully used since the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe after WWII. Foreign aid given to Africa is different then aid to most areas of the world because of the rampant corruption in politics and abysmal conditions of economic and sometimes social channels. Since the 1960's foreign aid to sub-Saharan Africa is has reached about 500 billion dollars. In Africa most of the aid sent goes from our government to the government of the African country, and not directly to the people who need it most. Once the African government has the aid money they are free to do with it as they wish, and the governments who submit the aid do not have too much control as to how it's distributed. The corrupt leaders do not provide relief to those who need it most and instead spend the money on programs and services designed to keep the current regime in power. According to Doug Bandow, from 1982-1985 Ethiopia received 1.8 billion dollars in aid and spent 1.6 billion dollars on military, Zambia received 1.6 billion dollars and spent 700 million dollars on military, and Zimbabwe received 1.5 billion and spent 1.3 billion dollars on military. Donating billions of dollars in additional aid likely will continue to finance military projects within a country and keep the leaders' Swiss bank accounts well stocked in the millions. It seems logical at first that more aid should be sent to those countries, which are experiencing bloody civil wars because of the number of refugees and displaced people who need help. However, sending aid to these countries is an absolute waste because the money never reaches the people who need it, instead the money is used to continue fighting the civil war and more people end up dead or needing help.

So then why is there a global call to send more aid to African countries? Many multi-national corporations lobby for increases in aid because not only does it make them look like the "good guys" but they too end up seeing the benefits. Corporations that are friendly with the authoritarian leaders are likely to receive breaks from the government because of the persistence of cronyism in these corrupt countries. These corporations do not need the relief money, which is meant to feed the poor people; they simply want to turn more of a profit. The poor continue to suffer because the incoming aid reaches only the rich and powerful.

I believe that most people are some what disenfranchised over the amount of aid already sent to Africa with little to no progress being shown. In order for foreign aid to be effective as relief to the poor, the corrupt officials of African countries have to become accountable for their actions. Until then more aid might as well be halted because continuing to fund the corrupt government helps to keep the poor suppressed. Do you believe that providing more money to countries such as Sierra Leone or Niger, which rank last and second to last on the Human Development Index, will change the situation at all? I think it will actually make the situation worse. Infusing more money into a politically, economically, and socially unstable countries is a recipe for disaster. Like the infamous Notorious B.I.G. said "more money more problems." Before any aid is sent to any African country, the country needs to be relatively stabilized. Corrupt authoritarian leaders need to be deposed and democracy needs to be instated, otherwise the aid will continue to perpetuate the vicious cycle of oppression. I am not saying that we shouldn't give any money to these African countries that need it the most. What I am saying is that other measures need to be taken first so that more aid is not wasted and starts to make a difference. James K.