Dear G-8: Africa Needs Peace and Justice, Not Just Aid
I thought I'd write some of my general thoughts here on the upcoming G-8 Summit --
When the G-8 convenes next month, I really believe they and we have a great opportunity to address human problems and suffering that has been neglected for far too long. Obviously, my hope is that the G-8 will commit to 100% debt relief and significant increases in non-military relief aid directed towards social sectors like health, education, sanitation and housing. However, if the G-8 simply does that, we ought to be very disappointed. The problems of sub-Saharan Africa today demand more than charity and relief, they demand peace and justice.
Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 13 million people are internally-displaced and more than 9 million made refugees by war and genocide. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, nearly 4 million people have died over the past decade as a result of violence and civil war. More than 30,000 are dying monthly while the world forgets Congo. Of course, many of us have become familiar lately with the ongoing genocide in Darfur, yet so little action has been taken to pursue peace. Or in my own area of interest, the 19-year old war in northern Uganda has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than 1.6 million people and led to more than 25,000 children being abducted and forced into soldiering. Conflicts and violent instability persist in Somalia, Angola, Burundi, Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe among others.
Yet, when opportunities exist and continue to exist for the action to facilitate peace, the countries of the G-8 have been silent. Any aid to these countries has not been linked to progress by parties involved in peace processes.
Without resolving these conflicts and providing some sort of protection for the masses of displaced and destroyed by war, no amount of aid is going to solve the harsh circumstances of Africa. The G-8 must address the security needs and concerns of Africa.
Further, many of these conflicts have persisted as a result of geopolitics, military aid/alliances and arms trafficking driven by many of the countries who will sit at the summit to solve Africa’s problems. If you look at every single conflict on the African sub-continent, you can easily see how international, particularly Western involvement has benefited from fueling these wars. Whether it be the arms trade or the pursuit of highly-sought after resources such as diamonds, gold or oil, it is clear that many of the crises facing Africa today are global injustices.
Until the world is willing to walk humbly and speak honestly about these realities, justice will be evaded and Africa will continue to be haunted by the chains of colonial structures of exploitation and subjugation.
In the spirit of looking for justice not simply charity, the G-8 must recognize that much of the aid, trade and debt relief packages that have been given in the past and will be given in the present entrench corrupt, inept and inhumane political systems. Just think about it – by giving all of these benefits to existing regimes, the international bloc is actually enforcing and empowering those regimes. But what about those countries whose regimes shoot people in the face at protests, use child soldiers and embezzle monies that are supposed to fight AIDS?
The G-8 needs to realize that if it is going to give such aid – as it should given its complicity and responsibility in the face of such mass human suffering – then it must accept the responsibilities and obligations to be intelligent and targeting with that aid in the name of international values of human rights and human dignity.
In the coming weeks, we need to hear about the humanity of Africans, and consequently we need to hear about the humanity of Africa. So often we talk about Africa as this land of problems, horrors, suffering and darkness. And yet, it’s a land of bustling vitality and excitement and energy. Instead of seeing photos of kids starving to death, we need to see photos of kids kicking footballs and laughing and playing in the mud. We need to see families. We need to see marriages.
The African continent is only appropriately called the dark continent in that we know so little about it and its people. Not because it is difficult to know, but because we have never made it a priority to listen and learn.
Thus, our perceptions, the language we use enforces dependency theory where we dehumanize and delegitimize the dignity, power and knowledge of Africans whether then be in Nigeria, Angola or Uganda.
We need to start talking about justice, not charity. Solidarity not service. Brother and sisterhood. The ONE Campaign that Bono has championed is great in that its very name calls for that oneness between us – and yet I wonder how much the existing movements actually live and speak that oneness.
If the discussions surrounding the G-8 in these weeks do nothing more than tell us stories that humanize Africa, allowing us to go beyond the headlines and 400-word stories to connect with people oceans and continents away, it has done a hell of a job.