Humanitarian despotism in Africa

The day of Africa is celebrated every 25th of May. It marks the anniversary of the African Unity’s foundation: “Africa’s voice in the international scenario and a lawyer at home for progress and peace,” says UN Secretary Kofi Annan in his message for that day.
African leaders have launched a great integration project in order to provide the framework, the tools and the common purpose necessary for the fulfillment of the objectives that the continent of hope has.
Since some time ago, Annan denounced rich countries for reducing humanitarian aid by 24 percent and assured that hunger risked the future of 12 million people in Africa. The secretary general requested a special effort when worldwide attention had turned its eyes and its money to other crises like the one on Kosovo and Afghanistan and now the one in Iraq and in countries that Washington considers to “go against its interests.” His words did not mobilize the international community and today, more than 20 million African people are threatened by hunger and by AIDS, when some actions could have been done with anticipation.
In front of the terrible situation in these African countries we must ask ourselves about the cause of that hunger –caused not only by droughts, but also by the impossibility to crop the lands- and of those wars that caused human displacements.
Maybe it is time to talk less of humanitarian aid and to denounce corruption and the abuses by the powerful developed countries, allied with corrupted leaders of the impoverished countries of the sociological South. In the name of human rights, some countries abuse of the concept humanitarian that is rising in these countries, in the armies and the economic and financial pressure groups with the monopoly of a new despotism that I don’t doubt of labeling humanitarian despotism. The noble ideas of the Illustration were prostituted in other times with the prepotency of the European kings who, affirming their monarchic absolutism, pretended to camouflage it with the label illustrated, which never stopped being despotism born out of their arbitrary will. Everything for the people but without the people because they don’t know what is best for them.
That attitude seems to be reproducing and society condemnig the arrogance of those European superpowers that imposed their ethnocentrism in the name of a cultural, scientific and even religious superiority. Today the almighty transnational groups of economic power have submitted governments and other democratic institutions for the dictates of their interests.
Going back to the great African continent, which has more than 800 million people, we shouldn’t invoke humanitarian aid so much as we should invoke justice in our commercial and social transactions. If the just price was paid for the raw materials that is despoiled from them, forcing them to intensive monoculture that erode the lands; if an absolute embargo were imposed in the sale of weapons so that no country member of the UN could sell weapons to African states; if we blocked the proliferation of factory branches from rich countries that inert themselves in impoverished countries to exploit cheap labor without guarantees of any form of social security; if we recognized that the external debt has already been paid with interests and that many countries need 60 percent of their GDP to pay for these interests; if their markets weren’t invaded by the production surplus of developed countries, which create in them new necessities and dependencies through the imposition of a neoliberal development model, and that has been proved efficient only when there has been a possibility to exploit cheap raw materials and labor force of other populations; if corrupt multinationals, corrupting powers and leaders of African countries were taken to international courts; if cooperation in conditions of equality with those countries was carried out to help in an endogenous, sustainable, balanced and global development –in accordance with their ideologies, their cultures and their own characteristics-, contributions would be done for a human and just attitude that goes beyond any sporadic economic aid and always in accordance with the interest of the donor countries.
It’s enough of prepotency, of lies and of false problems. Africa is a continent rich with peoples, cultures and civilizations, rich in raw materials, in irrigated lands and in forests. It is the largest reserve of every type of mineral in the world. Maybe that is why they do not ask for ‘humanitarian aid’. They prefer more justice and solidarity. Tanzania’s ex-president Julius Nyerere told a commission of donors from developed countries, “Please, don’t give us a hand, lift your foot from our necks.” This is important to prevent what Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya, said of the English people, “When they came, they brought the Bible with them and we had the lands; now, they have the lands and they left the Bible in our hands.”
More voices screaming necessary reparation –in strict justice and equality- rise each day for the spoliation that European superpowers did in Africa for 500 years. But it is possible that the best way to ‘help’ them would be to go away and by acknowledging their maturity and their capacity to build relationships with other countries and with other models of economic development that are different in terms of equality.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 05/03/2005