STATE FAILURE… QUID SIT?

I trailed off last week on a bad mood. There were many things I could not understand. First I could not understand why there was so much talk about unity and peace in the  world but what we experience everyday is war and strife. Yes! I could not come to terms with the so many assassinations that took place within the last few years in Latin America. Secondly I could not understand why the US always seemed to come up where ever a carcass had been found. Is it simply because the US is the ‘policeman’ of the world or simply that it has become a vulture that feeds on carcasses? I especially could not understand why it is that the Post World War II era has seen so much being put in place to make the world better but today rather than count our successes, we have a whole session aimed at discussing our failures.

Could Heraclitus have been right to say that strife was justice? Could Machiavelli have been right to  argue that the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states and that the ruler is justified in doing whatever is necessary to maintain the country, even if it is unjust? Could Marx have been right to say that history has simply being the arena for struggles? Could it be that the world today has an affinity with the 19th century Social Darwinism with its believe in Natural Selection stating that the competitive struggle amongst species secures the survival of the fittest?

Do all these have anything to do with Clapham’s (2003) opinion that “States are organizations capable of maintaining a monopoly of violence over a defined territory, and of controlling, to a significant extent, the interactions between that territory and the world beyond it“  The operating word here seems to be ‘monopoly’ because states are often considered to be sovereign. But can we talk about monopoly when talking of Africa or Latin American states? If this definition is anything to go by, then it becomes easy to understand why it is still a Herculean task for any country that has had any form of alien occupation or direct intervention in their affairs to have a strong state. The two case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti  that were discussed have one thing in common and it is the fact that their travails began or accelerated not from within but from outside intervention in their internal affairs. If a foreign power is not supporting a dictator stay in power, then it is participating in killing the person who stands for the well-being of the nation.  

As Danielle went through the lecture, I was assuaged by the clarity with which the source of the problems of failed states was communicated. “State failure” I was able to conclude, was certainly not the ‘seminal seeds’ of any country, but rather it would seem that states fail because other states deny them that which makes them states – MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE.

While I was beginning to accept the whole idea that states fail because of something beyond their making, Danielle threw another bombshell with Rotberg’s (2002) view that  ‘Nation-states fail because they can no longer deliver positive political goods to their people. Their governments lose legitimacy and, in the eyes and hearts of a growing plurality of its citizens, the nation-state itself becomes illegitimate.’  ILLEGITIMATE? Who defines what is legitimate and what is illegitimate in the world today. Should it be Europe or the USA or the United Nations or … may be the World Bank or IMF or the WTO? We all sat and watched when the US supported the Taliban government in 1979 to fight the Soviet Union in a senseless Cold War and is still struggling to destroy it to fight Al Qaeda in a meaningful war against terrorism; We all are witnesses of George Bush and Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq even when the UN had ascertained there were no weapons of Mass destruction in the country. We all listened when Gaddafi made his +90 minute speech  (which has been edited in most versions available online) at the UN in which a Dictator was bold enough to point out the salient truths about the failures of the international community. We are all watching how that same international community is claiming legitimacy in invading Libya and even considering arming rebels in the name of freeing the Libyan people. Not forgetting how these same countries especially the UK have enriched themselves from selling arms to Gaddafi. WE WILL ALL BE WATCHING WHEN ANOTHER FAILED STATE IS CREATED IN NORTH AFRICA. And WE talk of illegitimacy and Legitimacy!!! In what language can any sane person justify the fact that deliberate creation of the conditions necessary for a civil war has ever been the best means of freeing a people from tyranny.

Unfortunately the whole issue itself is a dilemma, first the principles of the U.N. Charter, such as the right of nations to self-determination and the fact that the UN resolution required that the intervention in to Libya ‘use all necessary means’ to protect the people. If it were an international war, where the aggressor is trying to kill large numbers of civilians and destroy the enemy’s right to national self-determination, it is easy for the mind to grapple with. In internal unrest and civil war, however, the challenge of the intervention is to protect human rights without undermining national sovereignty or the right of national self-determination and this is a pill too complex to swallow. In Kosovo and now in Libya, they are said to be aimed at stopping a government from committing mass murder. In the 1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime – one thing however stands clear in all this…

Those intervening can claim to be carrying out a neutral humanitarian action, but in reality, they are intervening on one side’s behalf. If the intervention is successful — as it likely will be given that interventions are invariably by powerful countries against weaker ones — the practical result is to turn the victims into victors. By doing that, the humanitarian warriors are doing more than simply protecting the weak. They are also defining a nation’s history.

Strangely enough, I could not fail to also realise the many ambiguities with which the term ‘failed states’ was riddled. Looking at the failed states’ index during the seminar discussions, we could not help but wonder if it could be a veritable tool for any serious policy formulations. While the position of Somalia was not surprising, the position of many nations such as China, Afghanistan and even Belgium (which has no central government,) put the integrity of the index to question. This not withstanding, the reality is that some states have disintegrated and some more are on the way. Shocking that it is happening at a time when there is so much talk about a globalised world there is need for all a sundry to reevaluate our actions and positions on several issues. The effects of failed states will surely not remain with them… they will increasingly become everyone’s problems.

In a nutshell we can all hearken to Bryan Froehle’s point that “The greatest danger is when structure is placed above culture, rules above relationships. Rules are important; structures are vital. Yet . . . they are at the service of humanity and not the other way around.” If the international community were to examine their motives in every action very well and realise how futile its politics has been in the past half a century. 

I am happy some nations are aware of this and this is the reason we can still talk of rising powers. The fact that some states are rising despite all odds means we are not yet about to witness the end of our world. But can we dare to be optimistic? Can these ‘so called’ rising powers make a difference? Next week will say as we consider rising powers and Development politics.

DEMOCRATISATION AND THE STATE IN LATIN AMERICA.

If I had some serious difficulties before beginning this week’s session, the first part of the session did little to help my situation. If anything, it actually made it worse.  This is because I had expected the lecture… I really don’t know what I expected… but I know it was something really big. Afterall it was a huge topic DEMOCRATISATION AND THE STATE IN LATIN AMERICA. But here was Tom‘s brief outline:

  • Geography & history matter
  • The development of democracy
  • Does democracy matter?

It got me really thinking because the concept of “democracy” that is so popular today, with the general public, the elite and especially the international community, is political. But given that we had established the primacy of politics and the difficulty seperating politics from economics I naturally expected the talk on democratisation to have a lot of politics and economics running through it. This is because “…democracy assumes a high minimum level of affluence and well-being, successful democratisation must be predicated on continuing economic performance… continuing economic performance is the foundation for sustainable democracy and national stability.”

But then… Why history? Why Geography? I finally got the point half way through the lectures: THEY REALLY DID MATTER!!! The spatiotemporal aspects of any form of governance could be said to be the most important determinant of its success. This took my mind back to the fundamental questions of knowledge raised by Socrates.

According to this Great Grand Father of mine, definition of a moral quality is not a matter of what people think. His argument is that we cannot determine what goodness, or justice, or piety, is by conducting a poll. As a result, whether something or someone has a given moral quality is also not a matter of mere opinion. Whether an act or a person is good, or just, or pious,  is not something that can simply be settled through the ballot. In the dialogue Euthyphro we see a good example of Socrates’ belief that moral qualities are real, not conventional. According to Euthyphro piety can be defined as what the gods all love but Socrates contends that even if all the gods agree about which things are pious, that doesn’t tell us what piety is. If the gods love something because it is pious, then its being pious must be something independent of their loving it – something independent of opinion – something objective.

The etymology of the  word “democracy” is  from the words demos “people” and kratos “rule” conjoined together to mean, literally, “rule by the people”. This can be said to be the only objective truth about democracy. When we begin to spread it to different places and give it different interpretations, it takes the form of the social milieu in which it is interpreted. Rule by the people will therefore be a very age and location-specific thing. The concept of ‘democracy’ should not therefore be considered ‘good’ without contention simply because it has been tested and it did work in one part of the globe at a particular point in time.

The one major challenge that Plato’s critique of democracy still poses is the question of  whether the citizens of today’s democracies are interested and informed enough to take part meaningfully in the democratic process. Can today’s self-proclaimed democracies boast of being societies where people are “their own governors”– where they are well enough informed to be effectively in control of their commonwealth and their lives? Do the citizens of these societies really understand why wars are declared, resources committed, debts incurred, relations denied, and so forth? Could it be that a majority of citizens live in a cognitive haze that reduces them to voting on the basis of uninformed convictions, catchy slogans, and altogether vague hunches and feelings? These questions all raced through my mind as I listened to Tom deliver the “tale of woes” that was the political history of Latin America spanning about 200 years. What was churning was not just the

  • 450 political assassinations  •20 coups •140 guerrilla wars or revolutions •113 crises
  • Argentina in four years (’73-6):–45 assassinations–3 revolutions–15 riots…

I could not say what was authentically Latin American and what was American or US. When statements came up like…

  1. Munroe Doctrine, the US began a  long history of intervention and influence in its backyard establishing its own sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere. More than 30 interventions in Central America and Caribeans in early 1900s to 1934.
  2. Central America: long US backed personal dictatorships: Samoza, Trujillo, Duvalier

… I could not help but arrive at a conclusion… To effectively understand the concept of democratisation in the world today, one must go beyond trite observations and homogenous definition like “a form of political regime in which citizens choose, in competitive elections, the occupants of the top political offices of the state” (Bratton and Van de Walle 1997) This definition did not mention the role of external actors… hence it is not a complete definition of democratisation.

Carothers, T. (2010) Takes a step in the right direction by saying that “… it is a mistake to assume that democratization—especially open national elections—is always a good idea. When tried in countries poorly prepared for it, democratization can and often does result in bad outcomes—illiberal leaders or extremists in power, virulent nationalism, ethnic and other types of civil conflict, and interstate wars.” The question is: if ‘they’ are poorly prepared for it, who then advocates for it in the first place? Carothers however plays an interesting tune and increases the rhythm when he goes on to add

“To prevent such results, certain preconditions, above all, the rule of law and a well-functioning state should be in place before a society democratises. United States, and the West generally, should rethink their approach and commitment to democracy promotion. In some countries, staying with an existing autocratic regime is a better alternative.”

May be… just may be, if many nations could be allowed a free hand at self-determination, we would have different stories to tell. Yes we may have had stories of another form of ‘democracy’ that has been forged out of the unique experience and geographical peculiarities of the Latin American region – but can this ever be possible when there is this “invisible hand” always coming from outside to determine when there should be peace and when there should be chaos? The preconditions of democratisation proposed by Carothers are themselves only possible within a democratic state. This is therefore an ideal too simple to conceive but unfortunately too difficult to achieve.

Sensing this of course, it would seem, Carothers proposes further that “…taking into account the many complications and risks of democratization and democracy promotion is gradualism, which aims at building democracy slowly in certain contexts, but not avoiding it or putting it off indefinitely.” This is the argument that makes me agree more with a Chinese who insisted the China was a democracy… yes! Who says it is not? Unless we want to openly acknowledge that their having elections every five years is not enough self-determination or that we have a problem with the fact that the government has recognised that it is in hostile international territory and does not give the “invisible hand” an opportunity to create disorder; or do we want to acknowledge that it is not only about the rule of law and a strong state (for China has these) which are prerequisites to democratisation; may be we should bring it down to the fact that there is no freedom of expression.

I hope the conclusion is not being drawn that I will prefer to be in an undemocratic state where there is no freedom of expression. That is far from being the case. What I am driving at is that no matter what the names we call them –  oligarchy to bureaucracy; Populism and corporatism; Bureaucratic-authoritarian state to democracy… anyone who knows the difference between theory and reality will prefer to be in a “communist China” than in “democratic Latin America.” It is better to know that you are not free and be alive than to live under the illusion that you are free and end up with a bullet. Many of those assassinated in Latin America where in the second category.

I find it difficult to stop but stop I must. Not however, without indicating that there is need to revisit the whole notion of democracy in this era of “globalisation” . This is because  we have two levels – the Macro and the Micro. By Macrodemocracy I mean when governments create international rules and institutions to deal with issues such as governance, trade, human rights, and the environment. Thus far, the international political arena has been governed by undemocratic rules – countries have little or no freedom of self-determination. This brings in the problem of Microdemocracy which we have been discussing. Its failure could be attributed to the failure of the macro to create the necessary conditions for it to thrive. Could this be the reason why states have been failing? Could it be because there is no macrodemocracy while there is a huge demand for microdemocracy? I am sure to find out next week

World’s Largest ‘Democracy’ In Search of Gandhi

I had always thought that there was no such thing as ‘conjunction’. I had this tendency of writing it off as a mere association of ideas by people, as a result of the mind’s ability to move beyond space and time and bring things together. I have had too much within the last few weeks to simply wave them away. How can I ignore the fact that just last week Jude Thaddeus Langeh sent me a link to a book he had just published The Relevance of Gandhi’s Doctrine of NonViolence: Africa Needs Gandhi, and this week we had to watch a movie/documentary In Search Of Gandhi”. Going through the movie, two things struck me – first the fact that I began to question the notion of India being a “democracy” as I realised that the concept was itself suspect.  Secondly I realised there was a vast contrast between what Gandhi believed and professed and what the average Indian politician today believes. Not that I expected them to be similar, but there was this yawning gap between the ideology that created the nation and the ideologies that are aiming at sustaining and developing the Nation – a gap that cannot be ignored.

It is common knowledge that since independence, India has faced and still faces several challenges ranging from religious violence, casteism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People’s Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. There are still high levels of poverty in a land of affluence and present trends suggest that the gap between the rich and the poor may be taking an upward trend. These are just a few of the visible problems which can be associated with India but as I went through the that movie, I could not help but notice that all of India’s visible problems are simply effects of an invisible problem, the problem of the ideologies that drive India’s day to day activities. What are these ideologies? What are their roots? Who benefits more from them – India or another Country or organisation? Have these ideologies been thoroughly examined to ascertain their suitability to the Indian experience, with some focus on her unique history and culture? These and many other questions kept running through my mind as the movie and discussions progressed. I could not stop myself from concluding that these questions and more where actually what needed addressing if one is to begin thinking about resolving issues not only in India but in most of the developing world today.

I immediately saw in India’s case a reflection of most of the Third World’s problems today. They had been caught in the whirlpool of globalisation illusions. And what this amounted to for any developing nation was the erosion of their ideological authenticity. While this may sound like painting a bleak picture, the reality is that even in the field of economics where globalisation can be said to be most successful, there is still a huge question mark. While it is a fact that globalisation can make the conditions for investment in poor countries more feasible and enhance the movement of capital into these regions, available evidence makes me feel that the poor countries got integrated into the global economy through the wrong end. To see Indian politicians involved in the reproduction of poverty and destitution in the name of creating Specialised Economic Zones made me feel like weeping. How could one in his right senses dig up a hole to fill another. Gandhi made what could have been considered to be a hard statement that “Western Democracy is a diluted form of Fascism.” At first I could not fully grasp what he meant especially with the oft-made statement that “India is the world’s largest democracy.”  After watching reading Langeh’s work and watching that movie, many pieces fell in to place – what people actually meant was that India was on the verge of becoming the world’s largest Fascism.

Pope Paul VI (1967 35, p. 22) held the view that “…economic growth depends in the very first place upon social progress: thus basic education is the primary object of any plan of development. Indeed hunger for education is no less debasing than hunger for food: an illiterate is a person with an undernourished mind.” I  think that the first step for India should have been serious education of its people. An education which will lead to the total liberation of the Indian people, and not simply enslave them to some defunct economic and political ideologies as happens to be the case with many educated person in most third world countries. It can only be through mental liberation, that every Indian will regain the sense of personhood and the boldness of asserting it before the international community. What I instead saw was a case where poor people who could not afford basic education and shelter where being driven out of their homes in the name of attracting FDI. With an under-nourished population who will be able to regulate or even benefit from these investments?

The argument that day in class was that every country does some lobbying to attract FDI. This is where my problem lies. Every country is not the same and nations cannot simply do things because others are doing it. Can the Indian government regulate the activities of a Multinational Corporation in the same way the UK or the USA will do? I don’t think so.  Miller pointed out that  “Shell Oil’s 1990 gross national income was more than the combined GNPs of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Zaire, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Pakistan—countries that represent almost one-tenth of the World’s Population.” (Miller 1995, p. 35) With such figures, can there be any doubt as to why and how Shell was able to buy-off their involvement in perpetrating the loss of human life and destruction of livelihoods in the Ogoni – shell saga that led to the killing of Ken Sero-Wiwa and eight others in 1996?

I hope I don’t get misunderstood here. It is not as if I have a problem with FDI or multinationals. Like  McCormick argues , “multinationals are a powerful force for good in the world. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. That’s why so many developing countries are competing fiercely to attract their investment.”

 I totally agree with him but what he fails to do is say in what direction the wealth is spread and whose standards of living is raised and who gains from the better ways of doing business. What he gets right though is that developing nations are competing fiercely for their investments. And this is where  I have another problem. This competition has made many so blind that they see only an end and neglect the means that will lead to that end.

According to Langeh’s analysis, Gandhi, was preoccupied with the problem of means and ends. In his Satyagraha, he propounds the non-duality of means and ends. The means precede the ends in time but there can be no question of moral priority. Truth is inseparable from non-violence and the method of achieving and clinging to the truth is non-violence. Gandhi therefore, referred to non-violence as being both the end and the means. He goes on to state that shortly before his death, Gandhi commented in a prayer speech in New Delhi that “means and ends are convertible terms.” The dialectics therefore that can lead to sustainable growth in Indian life and for most Third World Nations has to take this ideal as a thesis to begin with. Social progress and the good of all should be a prelude to economic development else all talk about economic development in the face of so much social injustice will amount to nothing but sophistry and illusions.

This however, will require a philosophical re-articulation of the Indian reality; a re-articulation because of the history of bastardisation of the intrinsic realities of Indians. It should be a philosophy of “existential hermeneutics” of self-rediscovery of the past, for an adequate re-integration and possible synthesis for a new way of being, doing and saying. In this sense, it should not be a mere mental or metaphysical outlook on life: not a mere ideological, and not even only an existential construct; but something that involves all of the above – a holistic vision and attitude to life. When this is done, there will be little reason to go out in ‘search’ of Gandhi because the ideals he fought and died for will be there for all to see.

May be I am getting it all wrong. May be India is actually a democracy and the dividends are there for all to benefit but unfortunately some people happen to be looking at the wrong places or… may be they keep coming a bit late. May be the politically motivated religious violence that are threatening the very fabric of Indian society are all the benefits of this democracy. May be…  I do not know the meaning of ‘democracy’ in the first place and that is why I am getting it all wrong. Good enough a thing, next week’s lecture will be on ‘Democratisation and the State’ – though it will be looking at the case of Latin America, I will surely use the opportunity to lay to rest my confusion about the concept of democracy.

Pope Paul VI; (1967) On The Development Of Peoples of Boston: St Paul Books & Media

The Case of Zimbabwe

I happened to have listened to Chimamanda‘s The Danger of a Single Story earlier in the week and was so moved by it that I could not wait to listen to Dr Cornelias Ncube give a presentation on Zimbabwe. Chimamanda’s argument is that a people’s story defines what they are and that the  power structures of the world make it such that a story is dependent largely on how they are told, who tells them, when they’re told and how many stories are told. Citing the Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti she points out that  the simplest way to dispossess a people, is to start the telling of their story with, “secondly.” I automatically saw why if we start the story with the failure of Zimbabwe and the crisis following the Mugabe land reforms, and not with the 19th Century fraudulent collection of the Lands by the Europeans and the colonial creation of the Zimbabwean State, we have two versions of a people’s story. The story that starts with ‘secondly’ will surely not tell us that Mugabe is/was an honoured knight of the British Queen’s court… maybe because one would question what he did to achieve such a rare honour.

The ‘single story’ is a tragedy I have had to deal enormously with throughout my study life. From primary school, everything I learned in History, was told from the ‘others’ perspective. The literature I studied was English literature and when I got even to High School, my most important Economics textbook was Stanlake (in which all examples were about foreign economies with nothing related to what I was experiencing). With philosophy I thought it was going to be different but that was before I encountered Hegel (one of the greatest minds the world has produced) who boldly wrote that

At this point we leave Africa, not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit… Egypt will be considered in reference to the passage of the human mind from its Eastern to its Western phase, but it does not belong to the African Spirit. What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s History (Hegel, Philosophy of History, p. 99)

Haven read these and many such utterances from Hume, Hegel, Levy Bruhl and many more like them, I was about getting into a stage of perpetual scepticism. Was there any room for objectivity in the world? Was there any such thing as knowledge anymore? How did one know whether an account was correct when the same sources one should rely on are questionable? But could Hegel have by any chance been right? Many of the African leaders today are working hard to prove him right – not least of which is Mugabe.

It was really a glee then to have had Ncube give another version of the story of Zimbabwe – a longer version. I will not go into an analysis of the objectivity or lack of in the presentation because for all I know, Ncube could have been also telling his own ‘single story’ as was evidenced in the reaction of the other Zimbabwean in the lecture room. Citing Locke a couple of weeks back I made the point that irrespective of our ideas about reality, the truth cannot be changed. Hence despite the different versions of the Zimbabwe – Mugabe story we have got, the thing that stands certain is, a majority of the people of Zimbabwe are really suffering and that there are serious socio-economic issues in the country. Looking at the situation, I have been able to arrive at some conclusions:

First: I can now fully appreciate the view that ‘the central and dominant variable determining…developmental success or failure’ is politics. If there is any reason there is widespread poverty in Zimbabwe today, it is the poverty of its politics. This means that the solution cannot come from the same failed politics but from a “…more explicit…  integrated theory of political and economic development” which will take into account the different nuances that make up the complex and unique political entity called Zimbabwe. This can only be achieved with studies carried out within the society and not from a distance – else we risk producing another volume full of rhetoric and sophistry.

Secondly, going from the above, it leaves little room for debate that the dominant variable in Development is politics. And clearly emphasise DFID’s position that ‘politics determines how resources are used and policies are made. And politics determines who benefits. In short, good governance is about good politics (2006). The failure of governance in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is primarily as a result of their lack of political astuteness.

Thirdly, while I may have had some doubts before, I am firmly convinced now that there is no such thing as ‘pro-poor’ politics.While I do not dispute that there was need for land reforms in Zimbabwe, I can bet my last penny that the reforms was not motivated by a desire to better the lot of the poor. Some may have benefited from it as it is argued but the majority are worse off. If it was really about the poor, then what I see as Mugabe’s egoistic fight would not have ensued for so long for he would have realised that when ‘two elephants fight, the grass suffer more’.  With the 2008 elections that ended in a power sharing agreement, one sees again politicians who are all interested in getting hold of a share of power at all cost – especially the wellbeing of the poor. What would one expect when a government is created out of a marriage of strange bedfellows. How can the poor benefit when two protagonists are at the helm of affairs.If Tsvangirai himself was not simply power-hungry but truly cared for the wellbeing of the Zimbabweans then he would not have agreed to such a frivolous agreement.

Fourthly, it is without much hesitation that I now can say that the African elites live in a world separate from the poor and though the poor may benefit from anything it is only by chance but they are the ones who will bear the full brunt of any failed experiments with political and development theories. When we talk of hyperinflation and shortages of money, Food crisis, fuel shortages, Decaying health system: cholera and HIV/AIDS, we are not talking of a situations affecting the whole country but simply the poor and it is the off-shoot of their so-called reforms and democratic processes. This minister captures it  “…We have among the citizens, individuals benefiting from the abuse of public resources and thereby contributing to unnecessary public expenditures and economic hardships’, (Finance Minister Mumbengegwi’s 2007 address to Parliament) and my stomach churns when I hear people like this “The inclusive government has bought peace and there is food in the shops,” while Julius, a 35-year-old teacher concurs that “Anytime you get a dollar, you can rest assured that you will find something to buy.” But the million pounds question is… how do people like Julius get a dollar when they are not paid their salaries and are often on strike demanding to “know why their country is so rich and yet so poor”

And finally, I make a submission I was a bit reserved in making last week… Aid has had nothing but a negative impact on Zimbabwe… I just discovered that since between 1952 – 1994, Zimbabwe received Aid worth Billions of US dollars from the World Bank alone and in 1994 the aggregate was 104,574,898.79 USD. What on earth has been happening to this money? Collier’s analysis drives to the conclusion that it is because of lack of checks and balances because “Democracies make even more of a mess of these…  than autocracies…  it turns out that democracy is a little bit more complicated… Because there are two distinct aspects of democracy. There’s electoral competition, which determines how you acquire power, and there are checks and balances, which determine how you use power. It turns out that electoral competition is the thing that’s doing the damage with democracy… And so, what the countries of the bottom billion need is very strong checks and balances. They haven’t got them. They got instant democracy in the 1990s: elections without checks and balances.’ And when these same structures begin to collapse, the first action is usually to impose saunctions which do not so much as deprive the failed politicians of a day’s meal… the poor suffer.

And many of these come as forms of conditionalities for Aid from most major donors. It all boils down to what the donor thinks is best for a country and not what is actually workable for that country. And since the politicians and policy makers need the money from Aid, they have ready-made proposals to present to donors which fall in line with with the demands of the donors and not with the needs of the country… hence the uselessness of the aid. The bottom line is that “…until we have a critical mass of informed citizens in our own societies, politicians will get away with gestures. That unless we have an informed society, what politicians do, especially in relation to Africa, is gestures: things that look good, but don’t work.” Hence if there is need for aid, it should begin by focusing attention solely on the business of building an informed citizenry through widespread quality education and only after then can we begin to consider aid as being in a position of having positive impacts in other aspects of African life.