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Out of Africa
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-06-14 09:17:55
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I always had – and still have - my doubts about the motives of humanitarian organizations supported by celebrities. But on the same time I always believed that since the situation is so desperate, every help is good help, even from Hollywood and rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof. However this week one organization, Anti-poverty group One, which was set up by rock star Bono, publicized a report accusing Italy and France of not only cutting their aid to the African countries, despite all the promises given at the G8 summit, but they are also responsible for other countries’ holding back.

Somehow all of this reminds me of something I wrote a few months ago, that Tokyo is closer to Rome, Paris or London than any African capital ever was. Strange, but this is how it is and it seems that this is how it will always be. Africa is somewhere down there and it was always very low on the priority list of the strong nations. Thanks to some international memorial days we remember its existence.

The African countries are suffering from too many issues, and I agree that controversial statesmen are part of the problem, but that doesn’t mean that we have the right to forget about them. Without active help, the African states are doomed. Yes, corruption is a huge problem, but starvation is a lethal problem and it claims thousands of lives, especially innocent kids. In 2005, the G8 summit decided to increase the African aid by 25 billion dollars, and it is impossible to describe in words how necessary and urgent the money is needed in Africa. Even if some of the money goes into the pockets of corrupted statesmen, part of it will reach the needed and even that is very important. The situation is this desperate.

Yes, the African countries have rich natural recourses, but the fact is that they cannot use them and the excuses are just too many. These include the lack of funding and the irresponsible milking of those recourses from the very same powers that avoid their obligations. Unfortunately the wrong person recently reminded us about that. The Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, visited Rome – apparently Libya is one of the biggest trading partners of Italy – exhibiting a photo of a Libyan rebel who was executed by the Italian colonial authorities. And yes, Gaddafi is the worst person to demonstrate something like that, but as we say in Greece: you learn the truth from a lunatic or a kid! Politically, most of the African countries suffered after the end of colonialism, because most of the colonial powers didn’t withdraw easily due to their huge geopolitical and economic interests. This left dictatorial and totally corrupt regimes that survived through violence and force; regimes that continued to explore and often destroy the natural resources, including diamonds, uranium, petrol and of course endless farms.

A lot of these African states are still in civil wars or in a state of uneasiness; remember Sudan and Zimbabwe if you need examples. The financial crisis in Africa is a disaster, constantly escalating, and due to an unfortunate coincidence it joins the international financial crisis. The only difference is that in Africa the crisis is a matter of life or death, with death winning at the moment. This is why I’m so critical of the EU, USA, Canada and Japan, who actively promised their help to do something. They should stop using the international crisis as an excuse for cutting off their aid. Especially since the G8 countries were also the first ones to point out the global domino effect stemming from Africa’s problems, and how a destroyed Africa can hurt all nations.

Italy and France were the first states to cut off their aid, but the UK and Germany soon followed their example. Ironically it was Italy that insisted on the urgency of this aid, and put it as a priority on the G8 summit agenda. Ironically the only thing that has reached globalization is poverty, and the French and Italian reactions - or better none-actions - are dragging down the rest of the group and everybody else willing to help. While welcoming Gaddafi in Rome, Berlusconi emphasized that it’s time for action, for “the wealthy countries to help bring Africa out of its misery”. I sincerely hope that euthanasia is not the way they will choose to help Africa out of its misery!

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Emanuel Paparella2009-06-14 14:32:11
To follow-up on the last legitimate apprehension, unfortunately that may be the “ultimate solution” for the African continent envisioned by the “do gooders,” the moral midgets who came to do good in Africa in the 19th century and did very well indeed. For the EU (the former colonizers) and the US are afflicted by a disease called moral callousness. They give to Africa as Santa Claus gives on Christmas: to feel good about themselves and their humanitarianism and generosity, since in their heart of heart they suspect that the problem goes beyond logistics to one of dehumanization, as Octavio Paz aptly pointed out some time ago. In the current situation all the frantic pleas of social activists for at least keeping one’s promises to the starving children of Africa will invariably fall on deaf ears. It is like asking for scarce money from two obese individuals who are not willing to even contemplate giving up their selfish addiction to food. Food for thought, but I am afraid the elephant will keep on going and gorging itself while the dog keeps on barking in vain…What did Heidegger say? Only a god can save us and that god is not Hermes either…

Thanos2009-06-14 23:33:54
I like the reference to ...Santa Claus and I agree, that's exactly what happens with the western countries helping Africa. they remember the African countries when it is convenient!

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