President Bill Clinton once said, as he quoted Einstein: “To be doing the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result is madness.”
Senator Jesse Helms of the United States of America once alluded to aid to Africa as pouring money into a rat hole.
Below is an email from Chukwuemeka Obiajunwa, Executive Director of Africa We Care, to Mr. Dick Miller, the producer of CBC’s The Current.
Thank you for taking my call this morning. As usual, I was listening to The Current this morning, and listened very intently to the interview Ms. Tremonti had with the Vice President of the World Bank. My comment follows, but I am hoping that you would some how get me on your show some time soon. I have so much to say on Africa, be it NEPAD; Debt Relief; NGOs working in Africa; Poverty in Africa; water; etc. Give me a try! Give us a chance!
On Debt Relief to the African Countries
I know that all those who advocate debt relief for the underdeveloped poor countries mean well. Erroneously, they believe that debt relief would alleviate the suffering of the impoverished people of Africa, especially. I would beg to differ.
It is a well known fact that the preponderance of the African leaders and elites are corrupt, largely unelected by the people; unaccountable to their people. In his book, AFRICA IN CHAOS, Dr. George Ayittey, a distinguished Professor of Economics at the American University in Washington, DC writes, and I quote:
“’Government’ as it is known in the West does not exist in much of Africa. Leaving aside the democratic requirement that a government must be by the people and for the people, one expects at a minimum a ‘government’ to be responsive to the needs of the people, or at least, to perform some services for its people. But even this most basic requirement for ‘government’ is lacking in Africa. ‘Government’ as an entity is totally divorced from the people, perceived by those running it as a vehicle not to serve but to fleece the people.
“Dishonesty, thievery, and peculation pervade the public sector. Public servants embezzle state funds; high-ranking ministers are on the take. The chief bandit is the head of state himself”.
This is the backdrop for the advocates of debt relief to consider. If your young adult son comes to you for help with an out of control credit card debt; which good parent would not first require that the young person chop the credit cards into pieces before proceeding to the rescue.
I have never heard the advocates of debt relief make any requirements or demands of the so-called governments of the poor countries to be socially and morally conscious of the needs and requirements of the people they purport to govern. No one is making a demand and a pre-condition for debt relief that these so-called African leaders and elites make themselves “truly” elected by, and accountable to the people. They have not suggested or proposed any system of checks-and-balances so that the vampire African states would not slid back to their old ways after the slate has been wiped clean. They have not come up with a deterrent measure that would prevent these kleptocratic Africa leaders from using their newly printed bank cheques on the world financial markets to accumulate debts again.
How and why did these countries get into debt in the first place? What did the so-called government leaders of the African countries do with the money that they borrowed? President Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo, at his death a few years ago amassed a personal fortune of US$10 billion; and had stolen an entire gold-mining region, Kilo-moto, which covers 32,000 square miles with reserves of 100 tons of gold (The Washington Times, 3 January 1997). Mr. Miller, you have been to Nigeria. You may probably be able to attest as to the condition of the roads, water, power, and electrical supply; the poverty, hopelessness, powerlessness and helplessness of the people of a country that produces and exports 2.5 million barrels of the best crude oil in the world. And yet its ‘government’ is carrying such a crushing debt load on behalf of its impoverished people.
Dr. George Ayittey writes again, and I quote:
“In Africa, government officials do not serve the people. The African state has been reduced to a mafia-like bazaar, where anyone with an official designation can pillage at will. In effect, it is a ‘state’ that has been hijacked by gangsters, crooks, and scoundrels. They have seized and monopolized both political and economic power to advance their own selfish and criminal interests, not to develop their economies. Their overarching obsession is to amass personal wealth, gaudily displayed in flashy automobiles, fabulous mansions and a bevy of fawning women. Helping the poor, promoting economic growth or improving the standard of living of their people is anathema to the ruling elites. ‘Food for the people!’ ‘People’s power!’ ‘Houses for the masses!’ are simply empty slogans that are designed to fool the people and the international community”.
Dr. Ayittey goes further to write in his book, and I quote:
“In case after case, African government officials get rich by misusing their positions. Faithful only to their foreign bank accounts, these official buccaneers have no sense of morality, justice, or even patriotism. They would kill, maim, and even destroy their own countries to acquire and protect their booty because, as functional illiterates, they are incapable of using the skills and knowledge they acquired from education to get rich on their own, in the private sector”.
Those who advocate debt relief without first discussing and recommending how best to reign in the “vampire African states” must realize that they are encouraging for blank cheques to be given to “bandits and brigands”. If they think that debt relief would improve the lives of the impoverished people of Africa, they are mistaken. They must understand that trickle-down economics never trickles down. The advocates of debt relief for African presents another typical example of outsiders – the so-called experts on Africa – arrogating to themselves the right to tell Africans what their problems are instead of listening to Africans tell their story as to how best they can be helped.