This premise may seem extreme for many people or nations embedded with aid mentality. But the reality is what it is. This is not preaching individualism or isolationism, but instead reminding a simple principle of life. Historically, if one looks around seriously, there is no country today called developed, which got to their current level of achievements in industrial, cultural, financial, or any other area through aid. Consequently, African countries which have for decades been forcibly fed with aid in its numerous and diverse forms, and sometimes blackmailed about it as David Cameron did when he announced that British aid would from then on go to countries which respect gay rights, need to realise that something else different from development is being pursued by donor countries.
In the Independent concise newspaper published on Thursday, 3 November 2011, an opinion poll reported that the British public backed its prime minister’s decision to increase spending on international aid despite the squeeze the country was experiencing. This controversial stand of the Tory government is in contrast with the situation where domestically strikes have been going on for some time now against austerity measures imposed by the Coalition.
With regard to the opinion poll’s credibility, if one considers for example the manipulation of information on events in Libya which justified NATO’s intervention up to until the assassination of Kaddafi, there are questions to be raised about the conclusion of the published information on aid support. It would be against any logic for the British public to be supportive of a government policy which would otherwise help alleviate the situation back home? Six billions of pounds of allocated aid for the present Parliament is not a meagre amount in current climate of budget cuts.
Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, said in the same article that: “It shows the innate generosity all across Britain, even in these very difficult times.” I don’t personally buy it. There is in Nineteen Eighty-Four novel of George Orwell a description of “a mental discipline whose goal, desirable and necessary to all Party members [or politicians – my emphasis], is to be able to believe two contradictory truths at the same time.”
That there may be some generosity among the British public, this is not what is debatable. That such generosity can rise up to unmotivated philanthropy in times of need for oneself, this is the question. And such concern leads us for example to the visit Andrew Mitchell did in July to Rwanda, a country whose government’s budget is financed by British taxpayers’ money at the level of £ 83 millions every year. It is not a secret for anyone about the level of abuse of human rights that the Rwandan president Paul Kagame has been accused of for many years. In comparison to Mugabe’s regime, the Economist indicates about the latter to be more accommodating.
With funding received from donor countries, Paul Kagame has been able to develop the most operational military in the Great Lakes region, with capacity of raging wars of invasion in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo [1996 and 1998] and continuous destabilisation which fortunately for the beneficiaries have helped a cheap supply of strategic raw materials for Western multinationals, this during the last fifteen years. 64% of world reserves of coltan, a mineral used in the fabrication of many electronic devices are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Is aid that Rwanda has been receiving translated into development? Yes if one understands development as only as construction of buildings in Kigali – capital [in fact these are owned and controlled by the 1% of the population], but no if one looks at it as improvement of Rwandans’ standards of living. Unfortunately, this is the common picture across the majority of countries on the African continent. Aid from donor countries and in its different forms has flooded Africa since the independence period. Despite billions of dollars wasted, rare are islands of prosperity. Those which managed to stand out from the lot are surely countries which found in themselves their drive for development, and organised and self-disciplined for improving their standards of living.
If donor countries cannot stop preaching that Africa needs their aid, it is time African countries through their enlightened and informed masses, and not corrupt leaders, stand firmly against such Western tool for perpetuating its exploitative hegemony on the continent.