The Herald (Harare)

3 July 2012

Africa: The Bane of Foreign Aid

Aid is sometimes vaunted to be the magic bullet to revive ailing economies. However, when manipulated by the giver into a tranquilliser dart, aid has the power to turn a country into a donor nation.

The Collins Dictionary defines aid as money, equipment, or services that are provided for people, countries, or organisations that need them, but cannot provide them for themselves. Aid is not as innocuous as it sounds. Today, for instance, weaker eurozone countries are squealing under austerity measures that stronger European Union (EU) partners insist must accompany bail-outs that the countries with ailing economies are asking as lifelines for their own survival within the European community.

This situation in point goes to show that conditions attached to aid - any aid for that matter - can really be dizzying for the taker who has to decide to swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker or opt to trudge alone along the rugged road hoping that, by the grace of God, a good Samaritan will stop by and throw in a rescue package with no noose attached to it.

For the uninitiated, the impact of foreign aid particularly on developing nations has the potential to undermine national sovereignty by subordinating a recipient country to the donor to the extent of influencing, nay directing a country's foreign policy.

The case of former president of South Africa, Cde Thabo Mbeki who mediated in the political impasse in Zimbabwe, culminating with the Global Political Agreement and the inclusive government of Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations in September 2008 is instructive.

As the South African leader weighed into the fray Western countries frothing at the mouth over land reform and drooling after the Zanu-PF Government's liver, might have fallen over each other trying to shove keys to their banks in Mbeki's hands for any amount of loan South Africa needed if Cde Mbeki could only deliver

President Mugabe and his party to the wolves for the kill on their behalf.

But a discerning Mbeki stuck to his quiet diplomacy and delivered what Zimbabwe needed the most at that trying time - political unity which those using foreign aid as cat's paws would certainly have had none of since a united people stand as a fortress against imperialists machinations.

During Africa's decolonisation, former colonial powers angry at their ouster, used aid to destabilise newly independent states in West Africa. The erstwhile rulers gave aid by way of training black officer cadets at their elite military academies in Britain and France, countries that had previously been imperial powers in Africa. The blacks were indoctrinated with the garbage that African military culture was "primitive" compared with "civilised Western military culture".

Encoded in their lessons was a silent message that the blacks should not allow themselves to work under civilian governments - and the result was a string military of coups that have continued to dog some West African countries to the present time.

The leaders who were overthrown, but survived with their lives must have killed themselves in anger at their failure to discern secret agendas underpinned by manoeuvres of the imperialists. For the same obvious inability to see the hidden objective behind the aid being lumped on her country by the donor community,

Malawi's new president, Joyce Banda, might sooner or later come to grief should she be seen by her benefactors as trying to turn her back on them and therefore be perceived as "biting the hand that feeds her" and her people.

By breaking with the African Union's common stand opposing the arrest and handover of Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court at the Hague -- in order to please the Americans and the British for lavishing her country with the aid they had withdrawn during the rule of her predecessor president

Bingu wa Mutharika -nJoyce Banda has left many African leaders seething with anger over her defiance.

Malawi had been due to host an AU summit on 6 July, but the venue has been moved to Addis Ababa after the Malawian leader said al-Bashir would be arrested if he came to Malawi for the summit and be handed over to the ICC which wants to try him for alleged crimes against humanity stemming from the civil war that resulted in the succession of South Sudan.

Her pledge to the West to repeal the anti-gay legislation by her predecessor and to blacken waMutharika's political legacy, is the lone star kind of behaviour that the imperialist West has always sought to divide and weaken Africa and then embark on an orgy of exploitation of the continent's rich raw materials.

Her country's own Voice newspaper described President Banda's decision not to host the AU summit as a "good donor-pleasing decision, poor leadership decision, counter productive African decision, and a wrong business decision". In Ghana, Kofi Ali Abdul Yekin, chairman and co-ordinator of think-tank Action Group of Africa, called Banda a latter-day Judas Iscariot.

Coincidentally, history seems to repeat itself for Malawi. For it was under the Presidency of Joice Banda's namesake, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, that Malawi first went maverick by establishing diplomatic ties with apartheid Pretoria before going on solo again to recognise the "independence" be stored upon the Transkei Bantustan by Pretoria.

The writer is the former editor of the Sunday Mail, and the Chronicle.

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