Wednesday, August 3, 2005

African Reality After Live8

First, let me say it's good to be back after a long hiatus.   So much has happened in the world that it's hard to know where to begin.   I guess there's no better place to start than discussing Africa -- the birthplace on mankind.    The following is truly a thought provoking article.  I  hope you'll have a moment to read it in its entirety.    plk
Africa does not experience nationhood as outsiders expect. Its borders and structures were imposed from outside, its politics are winner-takes-all and its rulers do not connect with the ruled. Richard Dowden says that the best way the west can help Africans is probably not by giving money but by taking the time to understand all this - and there is not much sign of that happening.
Read the entire article on

“Seek ye first the political Kingdom!”  aid Kwame Nkrumah, the prophet of African independence and Ghana's first leader when it became independent in 1957.

His advice has been followed diligently by every politically ambitious African man ever since.

The few who got to the top of Africa's greasy political pole -- no woman has yet made it -- have seized it and held on tight, usually until pushed off by force.

Africa's winner-takes-all politics lie at the heart of everything that has gone wrong with the continent.

It is the reason why it has fallen behind the rest of the world economically, the reason for its wars and poverty.

Its roots go back to the creation of African states themselves, the lines drawn on maps by the European colonial powers at the end of the 19th century.

The process eventually produced fifty-three states overlaying some 10,000 pre-existing societies and political entities.

It has three big tribes and more than 400 ethnic groups, yet its people have to elect one president and one government.

By comparison, imagine a Europe whose larger tribes (Germans, French, British) and twenty-five European Union states were united by force (not referendum); where the French are Muslim, the Germans Catholic, the British Protestant; where the only source of income (oil) is under German control; and where, if anyone mentions putting their own people first or forming an alliance with another ethnic group, they are accused of being "tribalist" and endangering the future of the state.

African states, with a few exceptions, have no common understanding or experience of nationhood.

Their flags, national anthems, and identities were created by outsiders.

Patriotism, in the good sense of positive loyalty to one's country and fellow citizens, is in short supply.

If you want power, you play the ethnic card or smear your religious rivals.

When you achieve power, you bring your own people into government -- and even more important, into the army.

The state treasury becomes your private bank account.

When you run for election the entire state structure and all its officials are at your disposal.

If anyone inside the continent says anything you accuse them of interfering in internal affairs.

If anyone outside Africa criticises you, you accuse them of racism and neo-colonialism.

It's a simple formula, one that has worked brilliantly for Robert Mugabe and many others.

Those new to Africa are often struck by a contrast: how individualistic and cynical African politicians are, and how communal and hopeful most African citizens are.

Between rulers and ruled, there seems to be little connection or even shared values.

The result is a dysfunctional political culture.

Botswana has been coup-free and relatively corruption-free.

The presidency has passed through three safe pairs of hands.

Tanzania remains virtually a one-party state but the recent election of a new presidential candidate by the ruling CCM party was as democratic as it gets.

Ghana and Senegal have both changed governments through elections.

None of these states are free from problems of regional or ethnic discontent; Botswana with the San Bushmen, Tanzania with Zanzibar and Senegal and Ghana with minorities that feel excluded.

Uganda under Yoweri Museveni was the darling of aid-giving governments for years, to the extent that aid supplied more than half its budget.

A report commissioned by the World Bank found that it has turned into a corrupt one-party state and recommends that direct budget support to Uganda be stopped.

In Kenya, the corrupt old regime of Daniel arap Moi was replaced in December 2002 through the stunning electoral victory of an opposition alliance led by Mwai Kibaki.

Two years on, Kenya seems to have become even more corrupt than before; the resignation of its anti-corruption chief, John Githongo, in February 2005 is symptomatic of the problem.

Then there are the big holes on the map; Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria itself -- all ruled in great parts by local barons and warlords and where there is no democracy despite, in Nigeria's case at least, elections.

This overall picture makes the prospect of turning Africa around with aid and debt relief seem at best problematic, at worst a pipedream.

Uganda illustrates the terrible dilemma facing those who wish to help Africans improve their lives.

To punish Museveni by cutting aid could mean hurting millions of Ugandans who are beginning at last to see real change.

The country is so dependent on aid that dropping it would risk destroying the economic gains it has made in recent years.

This aid-agency-driven agenda -- on prominent display at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland -- creates the illusion that the hungry African child the NGOs use in their fundraising propaganda can be directly reached by individual donors' money.

First, the west can fight to end two kinds of subsidies -- the agricultural subsidies for farmers in Europe, America and Japan that keep world prices low and squeeze African commodities out of the global market, and the export subsidies that allow cheap food to be dumped in Africa, destroying African markets.

Britain has resisted signing the United Nations Convention on Corruption and British companies are fighting regulations that would make them responsible for corrupt practices by their agents as well as their own staff.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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