Foreign Aid Freeze: A Human Rights Violation?

Many people do not agree with Uganda President and his parliament’s bill against gay people. However, the reaction to this bill is making me wonder what the real objective is, for all the lobby. Is it really about human rights or something else that is not being said? Are some rights better than others? Are gay rights now better than the right to education, right to healthcare among others which are provided by organisations reliant on Foreign Aid? Does a Foreign Aid freeze actually affect many governments or they simply make the poorest people suffer more? 

museveni does not need aid

It is with dismay that I read that the World Bank has frozen its planned loan to Uganda. I really don’t get the logic of this. Why is Foreign Aid constantly being used as a way of ‘punishing’ African governments who do not toe the line of Western Powers’ aspirations?

The rationale for foreign aid is usually that everyone has the right to education, healthcare, life, freedom of expression etc and in cases where local governments cannot fulfill this, foreign governments and organisations come in to fill the void. How then does refusing aid to organisations working in Uganda because the president signed a bill which ostensibly denies gays of their rights, becomes the right thing to do?

If anything, I just see many more children who were going to school because of aid to educational organisations, denied the right to education. Many people who benefited from foreign organisations providing healthcare denied the right to healthcare and many children dying at birth because organisations working to combat infant mortality are starved of the much needed funds.

The only aid that should be denied any government is military aid because it will affect the government directly. Unfortunately I doubt if this type of aid is ever frozen. In most cases, it mutates into a debt which the recipient country has to pay whenever the recalcitrant government leaves power.

This is just another reason why foreign aid should never be an option for African governments because it tends to be used as a weapon for negotiation. If any country is unhappy with Uganda, they should look for better ways to attack Museveni and his government rather than taking a route which will end up affecting the very poor, who perhaps do not matter to the government in the first place.

Paul Biya: Opium of the Cameroon Youth

One of the most oft quoted phrases by Karl Marx comes from the passage in which he derides and praises religion at the same time. While the title of this post already indicates that I intend to equate Biya’s role in the life of the Cameroon youth to what Marx considers the effect of religion on people, I will want to make it clear ab initio that every negative thing that Marx said about religion’s effect on human consciousness can hold true for Biya’s effect on the life of the Cameroon youth. However, there is none of the positives that Marx attributes to religion that could be attributed to Biya.  Marx calls religion  the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation.  I will look at these different attributes one after the other.

Unification Monument

The Sigh of the oppressed creature

Marx is of the opinion that religion’s purpose is to create illusory fantasies for the poor, while socio-economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life,  and so religion tells them that this is fine because they will find true happiness in the next life. For over 32 years, this is exactly what Biya has been doing to Cameroonians, especially the younger generation. Every year on the 10th of February, he makes a speech in which he exhorts the youths to hope and strive for better things to come. Names such ‘grandes ambitions’ [greater ambition], ‘grandes realisations’ [greater achievements], and ‘grande chantier’ [vast construction site], are all too popular with Biya’s never realisable visions for Cameroon. February 11 happens to be the day the Plebcite was held in 1961 to decide to fate of Southern Cameroons and today it is being celebrated as Youth Day but the best description would be Le jour de grands discours non réalisés – [The day of great unrealisable speeches]. 

The logic of the celebration is still hazy but nevertheless Biya has so succeeded in making it a tradition in Cameroon whereby every young person thinks the apogee of success is to get a meagre job in the civil service. The list is endless, of young people who waste their lives working towards one goal only – entering the Cameroonian Civil service. But unfortunately, since the service is so poor that it cannot employ every Cameroonian, the result is a comatose economy where youth unemployment is on a steady rise.

The Spirit of the Spiritless Condition

Marx is of the view that religion is irrational. His argument is that religion is a delusion and a worship of appearances that avoids recognizing underlying reality. In one of my posts on Biya, I already showed how delusional he is. This would not have been a problem in itself but just as Marx says that religion negates all that is dignified in a human being by rendering them servile and more amenable to accepting the status quo so does Biya strive to achieve the same of young Cameroonians.

For example, in the 32 years that Biya has been president of Cameroon, Cameroonians, especially the younger generation have grown accustomed to his rather atypical pattern of governance that defies every convention. Biya announced on December 31, 2011 that the 50th anniversary of Cameroon’s re-unification would be celebrated in October 2012 in Buea, the Southwest Regional capital. The significance of this could have been because Buea is the former capital of Cameroon or perhaps because he simply wanted to get a reason to visit this part of the country that is almost forgotten by his administration. This notwithstanding, it is clear that there is no rationale for such a celebration because British Southern Cameroon and French North Cameroun got their Cameroon is Unitedindependence (which is still debated in certain quarters with regards to the case of the Southern Cameroons)  on 1st October 1961 which is exactly 52+ years afterwards. That Biya finally made his appearance, after several adhoc cancellations, on February 20 of 2014, and yet no one questioned the illogicality of the celebration is reason enough to weep for the future of Cameroonians.

I have just watched how people came out like sheep to celebrate the reunification monument erected during this visit, even when the question of there been a united Cameroon still remains unanswered. It is sad to see that few dared question if it was still a 50 year celebration when it was actually taking place after over two years later for unexplained reasons.It is even sadder to have noticed from the pictures that the streets of Buea were given a facelift and whitewashed just to give Biya an impression that all was going on well whereas it is not the case.

In all this, the only winner is Biya, because when a people have been so oppressed and depersonalised that they live in awe and fear of a leader who adds nothing but misery to their lives, an opportunity to go out and see him becomes a cause for celebration.

 The heart of a heartless world?

Although Marx feels religion is the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through himself, or has already lost himself again, he credits religion with being the heart of a heartless world.

However, Marx feels that the abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness and this perhaps may have inspired Biya’s decision to order the closure of nearly 100 Christian churches in key cities of Cameroon sometime in August 2013, claiming that the activities of pentecostal pastors was a threat to National security. How this is the case beats any sound imagination.

While it may be true that there are many unscrupulous ‘men of God’ and Churches which pose a threat to any people’s conscious efforts to fight for their betterment, the real question should be what makes people vulnerable to religious scams. It is not a secret that the most poor people and the most religious, hence, the proliferation of palliative doctrines can only have an effect where there is much hopelessness. The heartlessness of the religious world could be very true in some countries but Cameroon is really not one where religion as yet poses a security problem. Biya, rather than blaming the Churches should ask the right question: Why are people going to these churches if they pose a security threat?

The Real Threat

The real threat to Cameroon’s security is no other than Biya and his system of governance. Every year, he makes speeches in which he promises jobs. What he does not say is that these will be only in the public sector, through the recruitment of soldiers, professional school leavers such as teachers, warders,
nurses and magistrates who for the most part had stayed at home for years after their training. The fact that little is done in the private sector can account for the stagnation of the Cameroon economy. That is a threat to security.

There is no gainsaying the fact that if nothing is done to curb the downward trend in Cameroon, the country stands the risk of loosing its best and brightest young men and women to either foreign citizenships (for those lucky enough to obtain this) or to despondency and lack of vision (for those who are unfortunate to be caught in the web of Biya’s dirty politics). This is the biggest threat to the future of Cameroon.

African Union: We cannot ignore the plight of Berkshire any longer

The irony of it all, beats my imagination. I want to assume for a split second that this is all a big joke. There is no doubt that the people affected by the floods really need help. But when such help is coming from certain quarters, I cannot help but recall the famous words of Maya Angelou
“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

Africa: Quo Vadis?

I wake up every morning and look at Africa in general and my Country Cameroon in particular and the questions always come up: Africa: Where are you going? What has gone wrong with all the aspirations of Africa’s great nationalists?

Africa

Is there anything inherent in the very nature of African governance and underdevelopment that makes development an impossible task? Myriads of religious, cultural, social-political and economic prescriptions have been offered but sadly none has produced any encouraging result. As a matter of fact, most of them have had negative results and some have even made bad situations worse.

Looking at David Moyes’s performance with Manchester United has really given me a clue to the problem. A man who has not won any trophies, no matter how good he may be, will find it difficult to motivate players who are used to winning.

Today, most people who talk about hunger and famine in Africa, will not recognise hunger if it struck them in the face.

Most people who advise Africa on governance issues do not know what it is like to live their lives under a ‘democracy’ like Cameroon’s where one man rules the country as if it were a personal estate.

Most people who are really concerned about the lack of democracy in most African countries happen to be people who do not know first hand what living under a dictatorship entails.

Most people who are experts on African security do not know what it means like to live in a place where everyday living is a battleground and war for some is the only existential reality.

The best experts on African Affairs, the best academic institutions dealing with African problems, the best conferences aimed at remedying the African plight, can be found anywhere but Africa.

Sadly, the only answer that will come from Africans will be a religious one – this in itself is borrowed and does not really fit into the African experience.

The great question of the day therefore remains: Do Africans really want to do this, or are we waiting for someone who does not have first hand experience to do it for us?

If Einstein’s statement that ‘the only source of Knowledge is Experience’ is taken to mean anything in this context, we can all agree that the best solutions to Africa’s problems must come from Africa and Africans.

There are no short-cuts – it is high time Africans become the architects of their own solutions rather than remaining as mere atoms in a mass.