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Opinions of Monday, 21 April 2003

Columnist: Asante, Kojo Pumpuni

A Decorated Monkey Is A Monkey

A LOOK AT THE WEST’S CURRENT FOCUS ON AFRICA’S ‘WELL BEING’

During this Easter period I found myself in deep reflection about life and how as human beings we continue to live. As a Christian it reminds me of the crowd that cheered Jesus on Palm Sunday and crucified him on Good Friday. During this period of inner reflection we must reexamine the world we want to live in and what we are going to do to fulfill our aspirations.

After 9/11 (the terrorist attack on the twin towers), there was a new realization among world leaders, a new desire to reach out to other parts of the world, to some it was a new understanding that contrary to what delusions some people were under the world did not exist in Europe and America. Like many people I was outrage and supported the war in Afghanistan because it was a clear case of self defense, any other country would have taken the same action. In Whitehall in London, Tony Blair was talking about tackling the causes of terrorism, a new partnership with Africa to eliminate the breeding grounds for terrorist recruitment. Therefore there was going to be a serious debate on debt relief, tackle poverty, corruption and to promote sustainable development. Of course we have heard all this before but we were convinced that this time our ‘partners’ were genuinely interested in our well being; we did not have to wait long.

In December 2001, Tony Blair was given an opportunity to make good his word. The UK government had to consider selling to Tanzania a new Air Traffic Control System through British Aerospace as part of modernizing her Air Traffic. This system was to cost $40 million and it was a military defense system. Despite criticisms from the World Bank, IMF, the House of Commons, his own cabinet, Mr. Blair went ahead and approved the sale of the system to Tanzania. Tanzania has eight military aircrafts and was allowed to purchase an air defense system, whiles her citizens were dying of hunger. The icing on the cake was that it turned out, the $40 million was a commercial loan from a British Bank and Tanzania was expected to benefit from a $77 million debt relief from the UK government the following year, half of which had been recouped by the UK government before it was even granted. This is what sustainable development is all about; Tony Blair failed the acid test on the first outing, he could not resist another opportunity to make money.

Now in the aftermath of the Iraq War there is a new buzz and it is Aids and Terrorism. After years of destruction of lives by the Aids pandemic in Africa which has killed millions, the West finally sees it as a problem and the reason why? well apparently it is billed as the new breeding ground for terrorists. As a result the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) considers it as a non-traditional threat to national security. It was towards this end that the Bush Administration voted $10 billion towards tackling Aids in Africa.

What is happening here is clear for everybody to see, (I hope) when it comes to Africa’s needs it is only a priority if it affects in anyway the peace and stability of the Western powers. The funny thing is it was always the case but some of us thought because the monkey was now wearing clothes it was not a monkey. Well I am sorry to disappoint us all because a decorated monkey is a monkey. The sad and unfortunate reality in this whole issue is that it take something like 9/11 and the activities of terrorists for the Western powers to consider being fair in their dealings with the rest of the world and in particular Africa. Why can’t they be fair in the balance of trade, in debt servicing and relief, in international democracy and pursuing peace and justice and shunning double standards? They cannot genuinely seek our well being and survival, our self preservation must always be contrary to their own economic greed.

I have to be clear on the HIV-Aids pandemic because I welcome the money that the West has promised, because Aids is the biggest threat to survival as a people. It is cycle that will undermine nation building in the whole of Africa if something is not done fast. We are talking about the death of half of the workforce of many countries, the orphaning of half the population and the incapacitation of our military forces who sometimes have about 50% of their soldiers testing positive. In Ghana we can nip it in the bud if we put in a serious effort and I would encourage all to participate.

As we reflect and celebrate Christ’s triumph over death during this Easter period we have to remember his one message, love one another as I have loved you. We must express our love through peace, justice, fairness, understanding, tolerance and dialogue. We must be able to help those that are in need if we have more, because for those that much is given much is expected. The West cannot continue to profess these attributes for selfish reasons because knowing their track record when they get what they want, they will leave us in the middle of know where. They will then return to their houses which unfortunately is glass, until somebody throws a stone at it again which forces them to come out. It means that we cannot rely on others but ourselves and we must welcome these gestures but ensure that we concentrate on finding homegrown solution to our own problems, built on long term foundations, harnessing our own resources.

Happy Easter !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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