American Millennium Challenge Account Raises Eyebrows

Published on 1st November 2008

I thought the old political vocabulary of aids with strings went with the cold war. But that is not the case in the Land of the Brave. This month in Namibia, the youth in particular the SWAPO Party Youth League (SPYL) are up in arms with their elders on the hefty donation of the US Millennium Challenge Account granted to the Land of the Brave.


Why? They allege that some senior members of the Party, in particular some of the cabinet ministers might have been duped into signing an agreement which is a sell out to the Namibians. Through the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), American government is injecting US$ 305 million in donor funding into Namibia.


However the Youth League is very critical of some aspects of the agreement – they claim that the Americans have attached strings to the multi-million-dollar grant.Apparently the Youth League managed to get the leaked document with the details of the agreed contract.


It states that the Ministry of Environment will award two lodges or exclusive access concessions for Etosha National Park and an additional two lodges within other national parks in northern Namibia, with a minimum term of ten years and allocated through competitive bidding to private sector and conservancy joint ventures.


Is there anything wrong there? Yes, the youth charge that the phraseology used casts doubt over the money given by US government. At the heart of the Etosha issue, the SPYL’s claim that the US government through private investor from that country intend to take over the two lodges in the park as well as two others in other national parks in the north.


The agreement went further stressing that all other laws would not be operational to this agreement with the exception of the Constitution ! This debacle had sparked off the youth wrath against the Works Minister Helmut Angula formerly Director General of the National Planning Commission who pencilled the agreement.


They want him dismissed because he allegedly withheld certain information to Cabinet before the document was signed. However both the National Commission and the American Embassy have denied.


They say the document was leaked to SPYL and the media before it was finalised. What are the facts? A show down ensued in a hastily called press conference to hear from both sides, the National Planning Commission, the American government on one side and the SPYL on the other side.


In this joint press conference where in a rare occasion America and Namibia stood one side against SWAPO Youth League, it was said that there was nothing sinister about the deal and that Namibia had proposed that money from the MCA be allocated to Etosha. The youth charged that Etosha was being used as a trade-off.


But the spokesman of the MCA, Penny Ekwenye insisted , “It is unfortunate it got out earlier. There won’t be two lodges in Etosha. We are only talking about concession on the periphery of Etosha” The MCA seems to have put the top SWAPO politician asunder. In one of the Dailies here, carried a big banner, “Etosha consumes SWAPO?” It says, the controversial MCA continues to cause discontent within the SWAPO.


The SWAPO Party Politburo had to convene an emergency meeting with the youth and the Party Elders to discuss the controversy around MCA. Once Parliament ratifies the MCA agreement with the US government, Namibia’s tourism sector stands to gain from a grant totalling US$ 67 million.


This money is intended to improve management capacity of Etosha, promote private-sector investment in tourism at Etosha and increase revenue of benefiting rural communal conservancies.


Namibia together with Tanzania and other twenty countries were selected for eligibility to apply for assistance from Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) a United States government corporation initiative that promotes democratic change and sound economic policies in developing countries by linking additional US aid to reforms designed to combat corruption and stimulate economic growth.


In an initial draft proposal to the US’s MCC, the Namibia’s Millennium Challenge Account team identified livestock, tourism, cash crops, aquaculture, human resources development, indigenous fruits and plants, as areas that need boosting, which were later trimmed down to five components of education tourism, livestock, indigenous and natural products and roads.


For the next five years, the funds would go towards the increase in income and creation of employment opportunities through strategic investment in the ecotourism sector and the Etosha National Park. Is Ufisadi there? The youth are suspicious, but may be this was the result of half truth emanating from the leaked document.


The issue has quickly assumed a name of American Millennium Challenge- gate Scandal. How about Bongo, are you safe this time with such contracts?


BY Kiangiosekazi Wa-Nyoka

Kiangiosekazi  [email protected] is a columnist with the Daily News




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