Africa: Clowns in the G8 Circus

Published on 5th July 2005

Rock stars around the world have been singing for Africa in the Live 8 concerts purported to try to pressure the G8 leaders into action. Tony Blair, the British prime minister, who have put Africa at the top of the agenda, will chair the G8 summit this Wednesday and Thursday. \"There is an enormous focus in the West on Africa right now. Everyone is competing to show who loves Africa more,\" says Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, a Nigerian analyst. \"Africans should send the G8 a unanimous message for action on debt and trade. Aid is the weakest link in the chain, because more aid does not make sense if the unfair rules of trade and illegitimate debt remain.\"

\"The current situation in Africa is the slow pace of development, increasing poverty and a rising rate of unemployment. These are no doubt unimpressive indicators which can only be redressed through a genuine commitment by the international community to help Africa out of its doldrums,\" says Olusegun  Obasanjo, the African Union (AU) chairperson  and  key influence behind the wording of a message that African leaders are expected to send to the G8 summit  about rescuing the continent of 800 million from poverty, war and disease.

\"Africa has got the will but does not have the means (to provide more resources to fight poverty),\" Abdullahi Sheekh Ismail, the Somali foreign minister, says, \"And the G8 has got the means and all the logistical supportive means. It is very important that the political will should be combined with the resources that the G8 can afford to provide (help) to Africa.\"

Desmond Orjiako, an AU spokesperson, says: \"We have requested Western partners to expedite debt cancellation for the whole of Africa by 2007. They should also improve the quality of the aid so that it is really helpful to poor African people.” The message is simple. The message is that the G8 should cancel the debts of all African countries,\" says Charles Murigande, Rwanda\'s foreign minister. \"The problem is not to give finance. The problem is how we can enhance and improve the African economy,\" says Mustafa Osman Ismail, Sudanese foreign minister.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, urges African leaders not to go begging to a summit of rich nations but embrace self-reliance and reject conditional aid from the West. \"Begging will not make the future of Africa, (instead) it creates a greater gap between the great ones and the small ones,\" he told the opening session of a summit of the 53-nation African Union (AU) in Libya. \"We are not going to beg at the doorsteps to reduce debt ... We are insulted constantly and we deserve it. We don\'t need assistance and charity. I would not accept that (conditions for aid).\"

Gaddafi\'s message is unlikely to set the tone of the gathering, which is geared to adopt a broadly favorable stance on a British-backed drive for more help for Africa to be presented to a Group of Eight (G8) summit on Wednesday and Thursday.While Gaddafi is the host of the meeting and a founder of the three-year-old AU, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Nigerian president, who wants more democratic and accountable governments around the continent, currently chairs the organization.

Obasanjo rejects the call to African leaders by AU host Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that they should not go begging to the rich nations\' summit but instead embrace self-reliance. Obasanjo, president of Nigeria, Africa\'s most populous country, says he hopes the Group of Eight (G8) summit will extend a recent debt cancellation beyond the 14 African countries that benefited from it.

When will Africa unite? When will Africa chart her own course? African leaders, how your citizens wish you knew the war you are drawn to! “In case you did not know”, says Professor George Ayittey, “the West is thoroughly fed up with Africa which it regards as a cry – baby, hopelessly incapable of solving any of it’s problems. What do you think the expression “donor fatigue” means? It is the diplomatic way of saying that the international community is fed up with incessant Appeals and begging.”

Historically, every foreign entity that goes to Africa does so to pursue their own interest, not those of Africans. Witness the scramble for Africa in the 1880s.The Chinese do not go to Africa because they love black people so much. They go there to pursue their interests. Exactly the same can be said of Cubans. This competition for influence in Africa became pronounced during the cold war, when super power rivalry led to the establishment of client states across Africa. The West supported the likes of Mobutu Sese Seko, Samuel Doe, Hastings Banda etc. The East supported the likes of Mengistu, Dos santos, Mattieu Kerekouetc while Arab countries also backed their clients in Sudan, Mauritania, Chad etc.

From what is happening, says Ayittey, ”It is clear we have drawn no historical lessons from our dealing with the West and other foreign blocs. Here is a popular adage: If someone cheats you once, he is the fool but if he cheats you again, you are the fool. And have you not learned that if you give an African problem to the Britons, Americans, French or the Chinese to solve it, each would solve it to their advantage! Does the mantra African solutions to African problems make sense to you?”

Let us beware of being props in the hands of foreign powers.


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