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They know it’s Christmas but are they actually helping?

A remake of Do They Know It’s Christmas? has just been recorded.

Some of the brightest stars of British pop and rock music recorded a new version of Do They Know Its Christmas? yesterday, 20 years after the original became an international hit and raised millions for famine relief in Africa.

[…]

Chris Martin from Coldplay, Will Young, the Pop Idol winner, Justin Hawkins, frontman for The Darkness, Ms Dynamite and Joss Stone, the soul singer, were among the host of stars to attend.

It says everything about Band Aid, the original version, that what is still remembered as if it was yesterday are the various performances and pronouncements made by those pop stars, but that little attention is spared to even ask what exactly, if anything, was achieved with all that money.

Consider this, from a piece in the Spectator by Daniel Wolfe a few weeks back:

Geldof was the front man, and he has played his part to perfection, then and ever since. This is not to impugn his motives: Geldof is undeniably charming and sincere, but that does not mean that what he says is holy writ. He told the international media that agencies had to trust the representatives of the Mengistu government, thus seeming to deny, by implication, that the aid operation was being used by that same government. Yet the places where the aid was distributed, and the conditions under which it was distributed, were determined by Mengistu. There is something remarkably patronising in the assumption that an African dictator – as ruthless and cunning as they come, a survivor among survivors – might fail to see an opportunity when it was staring him in the face.

As it turned out, Mengistu knew a hawk from a handsaw. In 1984–85, up to a billion dollars’ worth of aid flowed into Ethiopia. Thousands of Western aid workers and journalists flew in with it. The regime ensured that the visitors converted their Western dollars to the local currency at a rate favourable to the government: in 1985 the Dergue tripled its foreign currency reserves. It used this influx of cash to help build up its war-machine, it commandeered aid vehicles for its own purposes and, by diverting aid supplies, helped feed its armies. The UN in Addis Ababa, which was co-ordinating the aid operation, denied that the level of diversion was significant. Later on, it became clear that a significant proportion of the relief food in Tigray – the epicentre of the famine – was consigned to the militia. The militias were known locally as ‘wheat militias’.

Above all, the government used the aid operation to support its military strategy: it saw food aid as both a tool for consolidating control over disputed territory and as bait for luring people from rebel-held areas into government territory…

And so on.

And now? Another war. Another famine. Another generation of popsters eager to help. I do not blame them, not the younger ones. They want to help. They like singing and playing their guitars, for this is what they do. If they are hoping for the best as a result of their efforts, rather than fearing the worst, this is hardly their fault. They mean well.

Geldof, on the other hand, ought to have learned something by now. Twenty years ago, he gouged a ton of money out of everyone, and became a secular saint. This time around, the assumption he still seems to be basing all his efforts on is that although flinging money at Africa may not do as much good as it might, it surely cannot do any great harm. But alas, if a lot of the ‘aid’ goes to the people who are causing a lot of the misery out there, then his ‘aid’ may indeed do some serious harm.

33 comments to They know it’s Christmas but are they actually helping?

  • DS

    In 1985 there were many a broken arm earned by self-absorbed rock stars patting themselves on the back for saving the world.

    What they should have bought the Ethiopian people were guns, not rice.

  • Pete_London

    The heart sinks. Will any country not have to suffer from having this bloody song played endlessly over the airwaves? If so, let me know where you are. I promise to come for a couple of months, be nice and spend some money.

  • veryretired

    I’m just a boy whose intentions are gooood,

    Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

  • Benji

    What they should have bought the Ethiopian people were guns, not rice.

    That’s right! Guns for the mothers, guns for the children and guns for the malnourished! Who needs food when you have a gun? Guns! Guns! Glorious guns!

    Maybe, just maybe, guns are not the answer to this particular problem, no matter how much you love them.

  • 1327

    That’s right! Guns for the mothers, guns for the children and guns for the malnourished! Who needs food when you have a gun?

    Yes but the poor sods didn’t get food did they ? They starved unless they did what the men with guns (who had food thanks to stupid westeners) told them to do. So do you see perhaps there is a link :)

  • Ah good old unintended consequences!
    T’was ever thus.

  • llamas

    I have no doubt that Bob Geldof’s intentions are nothing but humanitarian.

    But, as said, he should have learned his bloody lesson this time, and realized that all of his good intentions will inevitably come to naught if he persists in channelling the relief which he has worked so hard to amass through ‘the usual suspects’ – the UN, the assorted NGOs and, of course, the evil bastards in the governments which caused the famine in the first place and which are not a bit bothered by the idea of citizens starving.

    Time to dust off my C54 plan again, but of course it will never happen. Until Bob Geldof figures out that, for most of the people involved, actually putting food in the mouths of starving children is pretty low on their priority lists, we will not see the sorts of simple, direct approaches that are needed to prevent famine, and the C47s and C54s that could end the problem in days will continue to sleep quietly in Arizona.

    Africa Wins Again.

    llater,

    llamas

  • John Ellis

    I do see the link, but just maybe the much-loved American War of Independence Minuteman analogy won’t work in somewhere like Ethiopia in the present day.

    Dropping thousands of assault rifles on the tribal peoples of African states is not a method likely to lead to peace, justice and freedom for all. Just more fighting and the massacre of said tribal peoples by a better organised state army.

    Maybe, if we really HAVE to get involved, the only choices are apolitical humanitarianism (with the concommitant tacit support of the oppressive/incompetent regime in place) or some sort of concerted supra-governmental pressure by those well-known friends of Libertarians everywhere – the UN. Or maybe a judicious mix of the two.

    The only other model likely to work is invasion of said failing state and an enforced regime change. Unless the country concerned had huge reserves of oil or other such wealth it is hard to see anyone queuing up for that job – and even then, the new regime would likely be as bad as the old as soon as the benevolent neo-Imperialists took their eye off the ball.

    I suspect if you don’t like the first two methods, the only viable alternative is the steady improvement in the weath and education of the citizens of the country concerned – and that is likely to take several lifetimes before it reaches critical mass and leads to a more “viable” country, in Western terms…

  • 1327

    A few years back I was involved in a training program for technical staff from Sierra Leone who were brought over to the UK for on the job training. All of the ones I was involved with were bright and knew what they were doing but it was all pointless. If equipment went faulty they has some charity money to buy spares from the UK and USA. All well and good but the said spares never ever arrived because they would be stolen either at the airport or in the postal system. On a few occasions we sent spares out with staff traveling back and that way got a fair ammount of teaching equipment up and running again. However just a few weeks later we were told some local big wig turned up and simply loaded all the equipment into his car and left.

    This was my first involvement in anything like this and I found it amazingly frustrating. But since then I have spoken to a number of people who have worked in Africa doing similar work and it seems this is the norm.

    What can we do about it ? I haven’t a clue but giving them more free stuff and making Africa more dependant on is isn’t the answer.

  • Lorenzo

    But your’re wrong Brian, Bob the “Boomtown Rat” has learned a few things. If you listen to him speak, you’ll see that this economic illiterate has discovered that Africa’s ills can almost entirely be blamed on the evils of having to pay back their loans. He has, thus, drawn the obvious conclusion that all loans must be cancelled with immediate effect. Maybe if he lives for another 20 years he’ll discover that to help Afrika it needs to be left alone to help itself.

  • Bob has explicitly said that this isn’t about raising money – it’s about raising awareness so that political pressure can be placed on the UK government next year when they are heading up the EU and G8.

    Unfortunately, what he wants Britain to sort out is a stupid idea – i.e. debt relief and all that malarkey.

  • Euan Gray

    Having worked in Africa, I’d say 1327’s comments pretty much sum up how the place works.

    I don’t know what the answer is for Africa’s numerous problems. A significant part of the problem is that in large parts of black Africa the culture of the strong man is the ruling government theory and has been for centuries if not millennia. People tend not to challenge authority, but yield to it. When was the last popular revolt in black Africa? Exactly.

    People tolerate all manner of government abuse precisely because it is the government doing the abusing. Governments know perfectly well that the masses are never going to rise up against them, no matter how awful they are, so they just keep on doing what they want. This is unlikely to change any time soon.

    Giving aid doesn’t work, because as we see it gets diverted. Money gets stolen and stashed away in Swiss accounts. Encouraging people to stand up won’t work because basically they will not stand up. Cancelling debt only leaves space for fresh debt to be accumulated. The UN will achieve nothing because it never does achieve anything, anywhere. Enforcing sensible government is all very well, and probably not especially difficult, but as John Ellis says, what happens when the foreign soldiers go home? Plus, of course, you get all the crap about imperialism.

    In the end, I suppose the realistic answer is to do nothing but let them trade freely with us and fix their own problems their own way. I realise this means the problems will almost certainly never get fixed, millions will die unnecessarily and it is a shameful waste of human potential. But, what else can you do that would actually work?

    To get back to the topic, things like Band Aid don’t help. By encouraging dependence they actually make things worse. But it feels good for the Hampstead liberal, so it will happen, and it will no doubt happen again in another 20 years. And, in the end, you probably can’t do much else, anyway.

    EG

  • Rudolph

    I remember an Observer stringer telling a story of a report he was ordered to file from Somalia shortly after Band Aid. Rumour was, there had been a drought and a humanitarian crisis was looming. Following Band Aid, every editor wanted the story.
    The journos duly turned up, and found the place had had a record-breaking sustained rainfall, and was fine as it was. A bumper crop looked likely. However, because of the popular appeal of the theme at the time, the editors disagreed, and copy was duly filed.
    In rapid succession, vast amounts of money was raised in Europe by well-meaning famine-relief groups, which was used to buy grain, which was dumped in Somalia. The bottom duly fell out of the market, resulting in farmers going out of work and seeking a living elsewhere. Because nobody had harvested or planted any more grain that year, there was a real famine the following year. However, by that time, ‘donor-fatigue’ had set in, and as far as editors were concerned, African famine relief was last year’s story.

  • toolkien

    Perhaps (most of) Africa is essentially non-market oriented. Massive charity collects resources, but those resources are not likely to have a proper effect because there is no market to redistribute it. It’s about Force, and the collected welfare will only end up in the hands of those with the Force on their side. It’s really wasted effort.

    But it’s true of all trans-national giving. The same happens with the money gathered here in America (not sure if such campaigns fly elsewhere) for relief in Central and South America. Either the entire sum ends up in the hands of the ruling cabal directly, or eventually between payoffs initially, and the fact the ‘economy’ is polarized so that all of the influx ends up in their hands anyway. Of course most people who give have no idea that this is happening, they’ve bought their warm fuzzy and they go about their daily lives.

    The underlying lesson is that huge swathes of resources, no matter how amalgamated (voluntarily or through Force (taxes)) only provide power to people who you’d rather not have the power. I’m a huge believer in small scale with regard to living. I work for small companies, live in relatively small cities, and do my giving on a relative small scale where I can see the cause and effect. Big Anything (Government, Business, Charity) are all predicated on cavaliar attitudes of the rank and file, which are the fodder for those who crave power and a rank and file who don’t ask too many questions or want to be bothered by cause and effect details. Built into any large organization is this detachment between behavior and purpose.

  • Rudolph

    Interesting. Is it possible/practical to keep your buying habits to small independant retailers in the States, toolkien? Not being flippant, just curious.

  • Eric Jablow

    One thing about that song really bothers me. Of course they don’t get snow at Christmas in Africa. In most of Africa, Christmas comes at the beginning of summer.

  • Euan Gray

    In most of Africa, Christmas comes at the beginning of summer

    On a pedantically technical note, most of the land mass of Africa is actually north of the equator…

    EG

  • Snorre

    The aid should go to Zimbabwe, this time. They need it, after all those lazy white oppressioners upped and left. The good president Mugabe will know how to distribute it.

  • toolkien

    Interesting. Is it possible/practical to keep your buying habits to small independant retailers in the States, toolkien? Not being flippant, just curious.

    Not always, but many of the foods, wines, and beers I enjoy are not through the mass pipelines, and I live in a relatively rural area (or at least commute through them) and there are several cattle farms which do do their own butchering, so the meat is superior. I can afford to pay a little more, so I while I get most of my foods at groceries, I concentrate on the specialty areas where it is distributed in smaller batches so isnt’ so much a part of the block mass of distribution. Where I live (in Wisconsin) there are several small producers of excellent beer (several varieties per).

    Very small outfits can be spotty as far as reliability, and the conglomerates, while reliable, usually fix the normative curve at around average quality (the sacrifice of consistency for quality – there’s a statement about life in there somewhere). So I search for small middle market companies, who have a superior quality and a modicum of reliability.

    But on many items it is compromise, especially for goods that small providers are regulated from filling the market (gas, autos, utilities whereever the State invasion is decades old). I wish the market hadn’t been invaded by the State, and especially the Feds, but it did, and I have to live under it.

    Overall, I ignore mass marketing as much as I can. I don’t think I’m too influenced by it either. I buy what I like, and I can afford slightly superior quality if one knows where to look for it. I’m sure it’s not like Europe, which I gather still has much more specialty than here in the States, but I do what I can. I deal with the small guy as much as I can, and taste allows.

  • Harry Powell

    On an equally pedantic note, 62% of the poulation are muslim and animist and are unlikely to give a stuff whether it’s christmas or not.

  • Julian Taylor

    “Remind me,” Harvey Goldsmith, the chief promoter of Live Aid, was to say later following Live Aid, “next time Bob has an idea I should go on holiday.”

    If you’re reading this Harvey, try http://www.expedia.co.uk – they do some good deals.

  • Jim

    The unspoken assumption in Brian’s post is that there has been no change whatsoever in the character of the government in Ethiopia – indeed, that there cannot have been any change, because African governments are always and everywhere entirely corrupt and vicious, simply because they’re African.

    “Remarkably patronising” sounds about right.

  • Patrick W

    I’ve been in Angola the last three years and am working alot in Nigeria right now. The problem is not the individual capacity of Africans so much as the collective inability to move beyond a corrupt tribal culture. Some cultures just aren’t cut out for mature and responsible nation statehood no matter how hard anyone tries to make it so. (Cultures not peoples). I recommend Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs and Steel to anyone for a fundamental analysis on how this came about.

    What to do about Africa? I think Kim Du Toit has it about right: (Link)

  • llamas

    Jim wrote:

    ‘The unspoken assumption in Brian’s post is that there has been no change whatsoever in the character of the government in Ethiopia – indeed, that there cannot have been any change, because African governments are always and everywhere entirely corrupt and vicious, simply because they’re African.

    “Remarkably patronising” sounds about right.’

    Oh, I’ll take that one.

    The number of governments in Africa which are NOT endemically corrupt and/or vicious may be counted upon the fingers of one hand, with fingers left over. From Libya in the north to Zimbabwe in the south, if it is government-sponsored or -sanctioned corruption and vice that you seek, you will find what you are looking for almost anywhere in Africa. And it never seems to change.

    It is no coincidence that famine in African nations has nothing to do with the availability of food, and everything to do with the use of food as a political weapon. Ethiopia, the Sudan, Nigeria, the Congo, Burundi, Zimbabwe, the list goes on and on. I don’t know about your definition of ‘vicious’, but that’ld be a term I would use for a government that deliberately starves its own people to apply political pressure.

    I don’t know whether this state of affairs exists ‘simply because they’re African’, but the fact of the matter is that it does exist, throughout Africa, it has existed for decades, and it shows no signs of abating. This year, it is Darfur, where hundreds of thousands of Africans are once again in misery, and for what? Tribal and religious battles over land and power, in which food, rape, plunder and death are used as government policies to make the people do, what those in power want them to do. Next year, it will be some different place in Africa, just the same story. I see that the Cote d’Ivoire is bubbling nicely, and of course there’s always a waiting list of banana republics and their tinpot despots that are ripe for war, death, hunger and misery. When the elephants fight, it’s the mice that get trampled, and Africa is a continent well-stocked with elephants (mostly superbly-educated at the best European schools) who are always more than happy to fight.

    You call this assumption ‘remarkably patronizing’, and maybe you are right, but dismissing it in that way does not change the fact that it is true.

    Africa Wins Again.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Daveon

    Sadly, I am afraid I’d not leave RSA out of the list of corrupt countries, certainly not at the moment.

  • Jim

    llamas, your apparent inability to distinguish between degrees of corruption, or even between different countries or different eras, is exactly the problem. The original poster and many of the commenters here seem quite uninterested in whether African governments today are better or worse than Mengistu’s was in 1984, presumably because that assumption suits the prevailing preconceptions that (a) Africans are entirely to blame for their own poverty (b) overseas aid is inherently evil.

    However, not only is this assumption false – African governments have *on average* been slowly getting better, with of course plenty of counter-examples – it also undermines the incentives to improve. Debt Relief and Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account both offer rewards for improved performance, and both have delivered results. The HIPC countries who have had their debts cuts have considerably upped their spending on health and education, for example. If we all operated on the assumption that all African governments are entirely corrupt, HIPC wouldn’t have got off the ground, those African governments wouldn’t have had any incentive to get their house in order, and those schools and hospitals wouldn’t have been built. In this way, the ‘inherently corrupt’ hypothesis is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Julian Taylor

    Jim,

    Hear hear!

    There is a somewhat bizarre article on Reuters today, stating that, “Much of the money raised by the new single will go to Sudan’s volatile Darfur region, where tens of thousands have died since March alone from disease and malnutrition — and where most of the victims and needy are Muslim who would not be celebrating Christmas in any case.”

    Someone feel free to step in and educate me as to the need to withhold donating money to starving children, on the basis of their religion? I think that maybe the last thing on the mind of someone who has seen his family butchered, his crops burnt and his village razed to the ground, is dogma.

    (PS, of course I wouldn’t donate anything to or via Christian Aid – I’m not THAT stupid)

  • Well none of the people who are dying are actually Muslim. It is tres bizarre that Reuters would even suggest that. They are all either Christian or Animist. In fact its the bloody Muslim north that caused this bloody problem in the first place (in Sudan).

  • llamas

    Jim – for concentrated putting-words-in-my-mouth, your last post is hard to beat.

    Certainly, I can distinguish between degrees of corruption. I can even believe that the level of corruption in African nations is decreasing. But, as millions die and millions more prepare to die due to the corruption and vice that remains the inherent and dominant feature of African governments, I’m afarid that I find your academic distinctions to be, as the lawyers say, de minimis. Your words remind me of the sorts of waffle we have heard from the UN about Africa for 30 years – things are getting better! Tell that to the millions of dead for whom they didn’t get quite better enough.

    Likewise, I don’t consider overseas aid to be ‘inherently evil’, as you suggest. Never said it, never thought it. But I do consider overseas aid, as it is presently practiced by the UN/NGO monopoly, to be gloriously ineffective at achieving any worthwhile goal whatsoever.

    The UN is presently jetting to Nairobi to wring its collective hands about the problems in the Sudan, where 20-odd years of civil war have produced 2 million dead and no sign of abatement. We will see the same things we always see in these matters – a ‘peace deal’ will be brokered with promises of lavish foreign aid, and signed with many displays of sincerity. The aid will flow like water into the pockets of the combatants, who will continue fighting as before since they know (from years of previous experience) that the ‘peace deal’ is unenforceable and the desperately-worthy at the UN and the NGOs actually need strife, plunder and death to ensure their continued funding and power. And millions more innocents will die, while the elephants fight.

    Likewise, I do not say, or believe, that ‘Africans are entirely to blame for their own poverty’, as you suggest. On the contrary, I believe that a large part of the reason for famine and poverty in Africa is the continual and ineffective meddling of outsiders, whether it be bodies like the UN, the NGO’s or former colonial powers. The truth is that the poverty of most Africans is the fault of a few Africans – those inherently-corrupt and vicious leaders who play the international system and the ineffective and/or venal organizations within it to fill their own pockets and enhance their own power. And we, in the West, are at least partly to blame when we watch these tinpot despots being supported and strengthened in our names and by our charity, and we do nothing to stop it. Take Robert Mugabe, for example, who belongs behind bars for the genocidal insanity that he has inflicted on his people – he sits in power in Zimbabwe because the West has supported and tolerated him instead of giving him the bum’s rush he so richly deserves. Whether it’s post-colonial guilt, political-correctness or some sense of fatalism, we tolerate leaders of African nations who, in our own nations, would be locked in asylums. Not merely tolerate them, but actively encourage them as they kill, rape, plunder and starve.

    The UN and all of those desperately-worthy charities that solicit our donations with images of children starving in Africa could stop famine in Africa in weeks, if they set their minds to it. But they are so busy with their conferences and their plans and their political games of jetting around the world and hobnobbing with lunatic tyrants – first-class, naturally – that the goal of putting bread in mouths has become distinctly secondary – if it even really matters to them at all. The C54 plan, which I have described here before, would do it – the resources and the food are there, now. But the C54 plan would not allow UN leaders to play political games, it would not secure the institutional growth and funding of NGO’s, and it might even (perish the thought!) cause some murdering dictator to get strung up in some dusty capital somewhere-or-other. Can’t have that, can we? Might disrupt our next conference! All it would do is put bread in mouths, and, in the big scheme of things that is Africa, that just isn’t very important to anyone involved.

    Now – what do you got, again? ‘Things are getting better!’ Debt Relief! Let’s see you spread some butter on a nice thick slice of Debt Relief and feed it to some starving innocent. Until someone is prepared to do the direct and perhaps-unpalatable things that are required to stop famine in Africa, millions will continue to starve and die. That someone does not work at the UN, or at Oxfam, or at USAID, or at any one of the hundred-and-one other organizations that have their fingers in the African pie. I doubt that that someone even exists. But one thing’s for sure – if we keep pouring aid into Africa in the same ways we have done for the last 40 years – we’re going to get exactly the same results. Death, starvation, misery and grief. Pardon me when I get cynical about contributing to more of the same.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Blackie

    Yea I worked in Nigeria & Gabon in the early 80’s I love the ordinary people they are cool once you get to know them. During Live aid I didn’t donate but I did send £100 to an enginering relief set up where unemployed engineers were sent out all over to try and get wells bored or other sensible projects, with the local folk. I don’t know how succesfull it was. but simply chucking money at those countrys is unlikely to work, and the UN is a waste of space. I also think that the EU is causing a serious inbalance in prices of foodstuffs which just makes ordainary africans have to migrate for financial reasons, because they cannot compete even if they have farms to work on! Wish more folk would realise.

  • Jim

    Llamas, it’s funny that you accuse me of putting words in your mouth then cram them back in their yourself.

    You admit that corruption is decreasing in Africa (and every governance indicator shows that African governments are getting better), so why is poverty actually getting worse? Because there are multiple causes outside the control of African governments, obviously. But according to your amusingly limited world view, these causes simply *cannot* include debt relief or geography – no, it’s those liberal do-gooders again! To hell with the evidence, you’ve got your theory and you’re sticking to it.

    Again, you make no attempt whatsoever to distinguish between African governments who “kill, rape, plunder and starve”, and those who don’t, simply because it doesn’t fit your world view to acknowledge that such a distinction exists. Your single concession to any external cause is to blame this bizarre international conspiracy of UN and NGOs who apparently control all the overseas aid going into Africa (which is nonsense, as anyone even vaguely familiar with the situation knows) and ‘meddling colonial powers’ (thus excluding the noble Americans, presumably).

    You complain about Western ‘charity’ supporting ‘tinpot despots’ (no acknowledgement of the massive strides towards democratisation Africa has made), but mock those of us who think that countries who have managed to shake off their despots shouldn’t have to pay off the debts accumulated by their corrupt former oppressors. The idea that crushing external debts might have something to do with poverty in Africa is apparently totally laughable, as is the idea that debt relief might actually help anyone. Tell me, how is it a good thing that a government can’t build schools, hospitals or roads because it has to hand over 20% of its total revenues to service debts accumulated under a former dictator? How is it a bad thing that the African countries that have been given (limited) debt relief have significantly increased investment in schools, hospitals, roads and other poverty-reducing areas? By your logic, we should be taking *more* money from African governments. After all, they – because they are all the same, aren’t they? – must only use it to “kill, rape, plunder and starve”.

    I’ll say it again – your approach would effectively eliminate a massive incentive for African countries to reduce corruption and embrace democracy, by cutting off aid across the board and calling a halt to conditional debt relief.

  • llamas

    Jim – there you go again – from your pen to my mouth.

    Read what I wrote. I’m not opposed to foreign aid to African countries, and never said I am – quite the contrary. I’m just opposed to the ways in which it is practised today, where a tidal wave of western aid becomes a trickle by the time it reaches those that are hungry.

    “massive strides towards democratization in Africa”? It is to laugh, you sound like – oh, like someone from the UN.

    Likewise, I’m not opposed to debt relief at all, and in fact, have never expressed an opinion about it. What I did was mock your idea that across-the-board debt relief was somehow a cure-all for African famine.

    For the record, I’m all in favour of debt relief as a tool to advance African countries. I just don’t think we should let every tinpot dictator enjoy its benefits solely because he’s not the particular tinpot dictator that ran up the debt.

    Because, you see, the issue here is not good governance or democratization – a dictatorship can feed its people perfectly well if it chooses to. The issue is that people are starving – an issue which you do not mention one single time in the whole of your last post. Just like all of the talking heads at the UN, you simply talk over that problem, and instead waffle on about vague feel-good generalities like good governance and deomocratization.

    I stand by what I said. I illustrate by example.

    The Cote d’Ivoire is falling into anarchy because the ex-colonial power (France) cannot resist the urge to meddle in their politics. It was bad enough before they arrived, not the high-tech weapons have been broken out and thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, will die.

    What I predicted would be the outcome of the UN ‘summit’ in Nairobi on Sudan has come true to the letter. Mush waffling and handwringing, many unenforceable promises made to stop the fighting today, tomorrow, sometime, never, but of course, never a question about the river of UN-sponsored aid which will flow into the region. Well-fed soldiers will be killing all and sundry in the Sudan for the next decade, and millions more will die of starvation – I’ll wager you a bottle of your favourite tipple on it. And I’ll win the bet.

    The Congo and environs has had the benefit of the loving attentions of the UN, plus an army of NGO’s for several years now. Have you read the latest reporting coming out of the region? Guess what? It’s all falling apart again, as warlords and mere criminals roam the countryside again, killing, raping and stealing. But wait? Surely the UN peace deal said that wouldn’t happen? How can this be?

    You characterize my impressions of the UN/NGO axis as a ‘bizarre international conspiracy’, but I don’t know why you would say that – their record is abundantly clear. It’s neither bizarre, nor a conspiracy, and I never said it was. There you go again – from your pen to my mouth. No doubt their field workers are honest and sincere, but the fact is that they cannot prevent war and strife, they cannot alleviate hunger or poverty, and they more-often-than-not end up feeding the combatants and propping up the dictators who lead the combat that causes the murder and starvation. From Biafra to Rwanda and a dozen places in between, the story is always the same – in fact, if I was an African in a war-torn country, and I saw a plane marked ‘UN’ coming in to land – I’d try and shoot it down if I could, because experience shows that, no matter how wretched my lot, the UN never makes it better, and often makes it worse.

    So tell me – you’re awfully good at telling me what I think, why don’t you tell me what you think for once?

    – well over a million people are at dual risk of violence and starvation in Darfur. What would you do to put a stop to the violence and prevent the starvation?

    – Robert Mugabe runs a classic ‘l’etat, c’est moi” dictatorship in Zimbabwe, complete with state-sponored violence, breathtaking corruption and economic insanity. Millions of Zimbabweans are at risk of starvation, in a land that used to be a net food exporter, yet Mugabe refuses food aid for his own people. What would you suggest would be the best way to liberate Zimbabwe from Mugabe?

    – The Congo is collapsing into anarchy, killing and starvation – again. What’s your plan to put a stop to it?

    Don’t tell me debt relief, democratization and increased investment. People are starving and dying – today. What are you going to do about it – today?

    More of the same, I’ll be bound. Let me know when the summit meeting will be, and in which safe, well-supplied resort town it will take place.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Magdalena

    Hey, all of you are right with parts of your comments, but does this put the food in poor darlings mouths, who haven’t got a clue about politics, corruption, government and mainly why are they dying….why they have empty belly, why they can’t open their inflamed mouths anymore! They struggle to live for one more hour, every hour! You better disclose the ideas how we can help them as individuals. Come up with some sensible idea and I am up for it, even if I have to take my holiday to NIGERE with 2 suitcases (one full of rice , one full of long-life milk). This will feed one village for maybe 2 weeks! And here we are, most of us overweight, eating ourselves fat, we can buy any possible food you can think of,our kids are picking what they want to eat, obese too, throwing food in the bins, I just think that is very disguasting that in 21 century there are people dying because of starvation! It’s shame on all of us!
    I don’t think we should wait for any governments to help. We should do something ourselves…anyone with a clever ideas?

    Magdalena