A Post Mortem, By One Who Was There

Friday’s New York Times included an excellent response to the recent Live 8 initiative by Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme of Cameroon, who placed Africa’s misery squarely at the feet of its corrupt dictators:

Neither debt relief nor huge amounts of food aid nor an invasion of experts will change anything. Those will merely prop up the continent’s dictators. It’s up to each nation to liberate itself and to help itself. When there is a problem in the United States, in Britain, in France, the citizens vote to change their leaders. And those times when it wasn’t possible to freely vote to change those leaders, the people revolted.
In Africa, our leaders have led us into misery, and we need to rid ourselves of these cancers. We would have preferred for the musicians in Philadelphia and London to have marched and sung for political revolution. Instead, they mourned a corpse while forgetting to denounce the murderer.

Charmaine Yoest, who was there, agrees:

After I spent a week with Live 8 activists, hearing that Africa needs more money, more trade . . . and “more mosquito nets,” I thought Tonme’s central argument was breathtaking … The one person I heard who kept raising the issue of corruption in Africa was . . . Djimon Hounsou — who is himself originally from Africa. He knows whereof he speaks.

Of course, the original premise of Live 8 was that political reform was to be a condition of Western aid. As Charmaine says, that premise was pretty much invisible during the recent concerts. Time will tell whether the G 8 countries will make reform a centerpiece of their agenda as they implement their decision to step up aid to Africa. Let’s hope so, because without political and economic reform, aid is worse than useless.


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