It has been a weekend of festivities in South Africa and for many Africans across the globe who share the solidarity. Sunday in particular was glammed by street parades, speeches, prayers, music and military salutes and and many more fanciful displays.
While a parochial glance at the African continent makes such a celebration worth the while, a more synoptic view will only reveal one fact: as far as segregation and conflict go, Africa is in a relay race. So, while South Africa celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first ever all-race, democratic election that ended decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system, other countries in Africa have taken the baton of segregation and mass murder. In most cases, it has not been much about race or ethnicity but about religion.
The paradox of it all lies in that Christianity played a crucial role in providing theological rationalisations for maintenance of apartheid, in the same manner it did with colonialism. The South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church was unwavering in its support of the regime until the late 1980s. There were only a few voices, like that of Desmond Tutu, crying in the wilderness. Little wonder the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, Volume 4 Chapter 3 clearly states that:
Some of the major Christian churches gave their blessing to the system of apartheid. And many of its early proponents prided themselves in being Christians. Indeed, the system of apartheid was regarded as stemming from the mission of the church…Religious communities also suffered under apartheid, their activities were disrupted, their leaders persecuted, their land taken away. Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples – often divided amongst themselves – spawned many of apartheid’s strongest foes, motivated by values and norms coming from their particular faith traditions.”
The conflict in the CAR began since March 24, 2013. Muslim rebels known as the Seleka seized Bangui, the capital of the CAR, sparking the division between Christians and Muslims. As soon as François Bozizé was ousted, the Social Contract ceased to exist and there was a swift return to the State of Nature where chaos an anarchy is the only language the people understood .
If there is one thing I know about Christianity and Islam, it is that the adherents of these religions have an almost unquestionable loyalty to their leaders. The mind-boggling question remains therefore whether the leaders have not spoken to them in this instance or whether they have simply decided to kick the can down the road and look the other way as has been the case with other past atrocities.
In the case of South Sudan. its church leaders have urged expansion of peace talks to include the religious leaders probably because many Christians played a crucial role in South Sudan’s independence, reconciling fighting factions, providing services and building structures. But the fragility of the first mediation must be questioned and questions asked of this conflict which began after Salva Kiir alleged that his former deputy Riek Machar was planning a coup and arrested several senior politicians.
Wole Soyinka was spot-on when he said that “The man dies in all who keep silentin the face of tyranny.” And since according to Henri Frederic Amiel “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence“, the silence or half-hearted condemnation by religious leaders, of the mass murders going on in different African countries under the banner of religion, makes the leaders not only ‘dead men’, but given that these religions claim to be based on truth, out-rightly challenges the core of whatever these religions profess.
The past week has been a stormy one for me on an intellectually stimulating Facebook Group Perception. The most challenging discussion has been the issue of 2Billion Dollars worth of Contraceptives that is being sent to Africa by the Gates Foundation and the UK government over the period of 8 years.
Despite being a Catholic (who should according to her religion denounce any form of modern contraceptive), Melinda Gates argues that this is going to be a milestone in curbing the rate of women dying in the continent due to child birth. While it can be argued that statistics support her, given that a study of 172 countries published in the medical journal The Lancet says that although bleeding, infections and other problems are the leading causes of mothers dying during pregnancy and childbirth in developing countries, “family planning is the primary intervention to prevent maternal mortality.”
The Lancet study further argues that family planning is already responsible for the prevention of a record 270,000 maternal deaths annually. These statistics are further given credence by the prime ministers of Rwanda and Ethiopia who state that more than 40 million women in sub-Saharan Africa would like to stop or postpone childbearing but have no means to do so.
Unfortunately, contrary to the research stats and the views of the Rwandan and Ethiopian PMs, opinions in African seem to be divided about the seemingly wonderful project.
Before I make any analyis on the situation, it will be good to look at some of the reactions posted by Nono Nkele on Perception.
***************** CAMEROON: *************
This is a misplaced priority. The world’s poor do not need this. What they need is basic necessities like potable water, electricity, decent and accessible healthcare, quality good roads, quality education for their children and accountable governments who do not steal their tax and national resources but they use them to enhance their quality of life. These monies will just end up subsidizing the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and America.
GOD SAYS GO AND MULTPLY WHY ECONOMISE? I thick it those with empty wallats who are advocating for contraceptives.
******************* GHANA: ******************
If abortion means killing, then the use of contraceptive like condom is kidnapping since the semen is trapped
I do support family planning. But it has not received much attention because of the misconceptions about its practice. It’s sort of looked at as something that will cause more harm than good in the end and so people are not patronising it at all. It is only found among the elites and the slightly educated folks around. I pray it will get the needed attention to help save our women and our mothers.
I think the issue is not about one supports family planning or not. Let us be fair to ourselves and stop this craze for wholesome acceptability of everything from this white people. How do you expect Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation to give you their millions of dollars for free when their own citizens are living in constant fear of joblessness and poverty? There cannot be any free meal and I don’t believe all of them. Until Africans are consulted in some of these things (not the elite) this effort will be in vain. It is not real!
I think is good and would help mothers and teenagers in Ghana
***************** UGANDA: ******************
Our president together with the first lady are doing much to see that people get to know as well as putting it in use, with those deep in villages coz many shun away after hearing it’s disadvantages but most of them are trying to use it. I think it’s ok to be brought and used in Africa coz the growth of our population is failing to be managed and think that it’s the best way to control all it’s disadvantages.
Some new drugs have been manufactured so lab rats are getting readied for tests
The hardest and most worrying state of it is that when financial or medical support lands in the hands of the corrupt officials in government. The poor will only hear about it but not giving them freely or cheaply
Africa is a third world nations with many diseases of no proper treatment, therefore we can produce many children as well so that disease will kill the rest while other remain
********************** KENYA: *****************
No! God is planning for us.
After getting educated most of us don’t understand ‘intercontinental politics’, VERY UNFORTUNATE. As a Registered Nurse I will not buy that idea contrary to my profession. Every child must be born and in turn must multiply is my greatest believe. What is the essence of believing in God and at the same time you want your own way of procreation. Yes I agree that too many births have its own challenges but what do you understand by ‘NATURAL FMLY PLANING’?. Why don’t they talk of ‘health services, proper sanitations, improved lifestyle’? I believe they are up to something, two billion dollars for free? NO DAY. I was raised too disagree with manmade family planning but strongly believe in NATURAL
Family planning is not yet welcome in my country. People are still ignorant about the benefits of it. Especially those in the rural areas are against it as they view it negatively. There is also major cultural and religious aspects to the whole issue of family planning. The priority is creating awareness on the need for family planning especially to the poor and vulnerable in rural areas as well as the urban poor who often have large families that they cannot cater for adequately
FAMILY PLANNING, exclusive breastfeeding and polygamy. These are the solution not Millions of dollars.
********************* NIGERIA: ****************
If there is only one country that supports birth control, that country should be Nigeria. Looking at the level of inequalities in allocation of resources and high level of illiteracy, particularly in the northern parts, the birth control policy could have been a good option of ameliorating our plights. But, because of religion sentiment and extremism, some unpatriotic Nigerians are seriously kicking against it.
The crucial question we must answer is Why do third world countries have a higher population growth than the developed countries? Britain did not talk of birth control until she put two things in place; free education and socialised medicine. What is family planning to a young girl or boy in a remote village whose stock in trade is to eke out a living by hawking in the street. Children are social safety nets and security to an average family in Africa. I am skeptical of developed countries’ patronising do-gooders. Money ploughed into these laudable projects may not filter to those who really need it. My take is (i) provide free and compulsory education accessible to all (ii) free medical services to the poor, children, and elderly (medi-aid, medi-care) (iii) use the media to inform the people of government programs.
Over population is one of developing countries greatest challenged.
Advocating birth control without explaining the benefit is a failure in itself never rely on Nigerian Government to pick your map and locate these rural communities if you wish to attain any meaningful impact
As it is in Nigeria now you don’t need to be told before you go for family planning because the standard of living over here is unfavourable to polygamous families
********************* MALAWI: ***************
Ha ha ha why do they have so much attention on Africa, why don’t they Use that Money in providing good housing and sanitation services in the areas they deem over populated. They should try China, it is exporting to many people to Africa. Or that Money should be used for sound and transparent economic reforms that can be favorable for all Africans, that is if they do that in True faith. Instead of contraceptives they should be aiming at building better hospitals, health centres and provide midwifery training in rural areas, buy ambulances and introduce other convenient services that would reduce maternal deaths. Africa is not only found in the Cities and Town Centres. Africa is in my village, where people do not have proper health services, Proper water ETC. I couldn’t agree more with this view notwithstanding I am for promoting contraception in Africa
I am sure that One’s mind is a Contraceptive on its own, it just needs to be well equipped, You tell people about contraceptive in my village they will laugh at you. Some of us are able to understand the goodness of contraceptives because we have learnt to equip our minds with knowledge, good and health life. We do not need contraceptives, we need services that can transform and change people’s mindsets. Otherwise transformation as an objective won’t arrive home…..otherwise, Africans are really African in their African Environment.
Contraception is anti-God. I support family planning but doubt if it is getting the attention it deserves
It’s not you who takes care of life but God alone. You have to read Mt 6:24-34(This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food & drink you need in order to stay alive,or about clothes for your body…..)
******************** ZAMBIA: ******************
Use of condoms, child spacing, pill and many others.
I live in rural Zambia and I work in a hospital and work mostly with pregnant mothers. My observations is that most women in rural areas don’t understand how some contraceptives work, and some can’t access the family planning drugs because they have to walk very long distances to the clinic/hospital. With proper education and easy access..It can work effectively.
Developing countries such as zambia were most of its population survives on less than a dollar per day and looking at the income per house hold family planning is inevitable. I support family planning because that’s the only way we can slow down the fast growing population in Zambia and Africa at large.
******************* SIERRA LEONE: *************
I support it and I hope the Catholic Church will get out of the way and stop misinforming people about its use
In my country where I live, Sierra Leone do accept and take family planning, contraception seriously, youth both male and female counterpart do prevent themselves from unwanted pregnancy except for teenagers who may not aware of it.
************** SOUTH SUDAN: ******************
Our population in our sub region is fine we don’t need family planning but we need basic needs like health, support agriculture ,roads, regional market, education etc.
Yes if it is true, then my country South Sudan should be served the first because it is one of the poorest Countries on the planet due to it being the youngest nation with the majority of the population under 25yrs.
It will really help my people in South Sudan, because we are still using traditional midwifes & our ladies are always victim.
**************** SOUTH AFRICA ***************
To the benevolent Foundation, thanks. But no, thanks. We are aware of the agenda of depopulation being pushed in the name of economy and helping us to better manage our families. It does not end with contraceptives but also with experimental vaccines that do not work against disease but against fertility. Investigative journalists worth their salt should look into that. It does not go down well with some of us that your work is done only in our lands. Lands with the potential to produce lots of food given all this manpower. Instead of supporting farming, people are concentrating on altering ovaries… Serio
Family planning is needed because the number of people does not match with our resources,
*********CENTRAL AFRICA REPULBLIC: *********
We don’t need family planning. Stop all thing not contraception because it’s against the religion we’re Christians and we love God the meaning of contraception I read is not all for our society we must fight against deseases and family planning.
*************** SWAZILAND: ***************
I thought using condoms was the best and,not pills, injections and every thing
I suggest the Brits should start at home. Which will curb on the spiral of young single mums, or their draining resource on excess child care support. Cameron recently purported for a 3 child benefit policy- I think if they are really serious on budget cut. Then this package load of conceptive pill will work wonders in the UK than developing countries. After all Developing countries need to increase their economic market to align with the long time growth procrastination … While the Uk and the west need to shrink their market as it is over stretched. SO PILLS WILL MAKE A BETTER PLACE IN THE WEST THAN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES… Simply tosh
After going through these comments and engaging in a heated debate with some critical minds across the globe, I was beginning to wonder if the problem was because I already was sceptical about any form of aid that came to the continent in the form of finished goods that were simply handed out to the people. I was also wondering if the problem could be the knowledge I had about the failed development paradigms since the 1960s. However, I was vindicated when Jerome Ngoh came powerfully arguing that:
I can’t remember who said it but I can remember what he said: “it’s easier to pretend to be rich than it is to pretend to be poor”. Most of the comments in these thread make me laugh. Poverty is a societal self-sustaining philosophy. Yes, it starts with a male-dominated economic system in developing country but what keeps it in place has little to do with men. societal norms recruit previously exploited women to espouse and perpetuate this doctrine. Dady Kboy, is right: To change the story we need to tackle it from the economic/ educational empowerment of women. That is the recipe the West used. I am puzzled they deemed the chemical solution more appropriate for the “backward” people of the planet. That we are buying into it is more troubling. I hate bringing personal anecdotes into a story. I grew up poor. I remember the first time I told my mum about contraception, my grandma, not my father scolded me for bringing it up. I have discovered something about effecting change: I give my sisters the beat education money can buy. After exposing them to what the world has to offer, they don’t need a Bill- Melinda Gates foundation to educate them on the benefits of contraceptives.
I could not agree more with the above reasoning given that contraception is not a way of life – IT IS A CHOICE! Many women will have to choose to accept it or not! The ability to make that choice comes from education and awareness of what they want in life.
Provide all the contraception in the world to illiterate women and girls without the right economic and political atmosphere and they will become simply baby-less zombies.
Provide education, create jobs and an enabling environment and women will not need the Gates Foundation to provide for them – they will go look for it themselves and pay for it.
Empower the young women of Africa to think and stop thinking for them. Since a majority of these women are definitely illiterate, Melinda and her team have done all the thinking and decided that these women need it.
Actions such as these are what rob women of the ability to make informed choices and not the other way round.
Another aspect is the fact that when the West was faced with a similar crisis Malthus came up powerfully with his theory of population. As for the Malthusian theory of population I am not going to go in to all the theoretical debates he had with Ricardo and Keynesian contributions which clearly showed the contrary. However, let me state two points that are relevant to our discussion:
First, Malthus’s pessimistic conclusions have not been borne out by the history of Western European countries. The gloomy forecast made by Malthus about the economic conditions of future generations of mankind has not been realized in the Western world. Population has failed to grow as rapidly as predicted by Malthus and production has increased tremendously because of the rapid advances in technology. As a result, living standards of the people have risen instead of falling as was predicted by Malthus.
Secondly, Malthusian theory of population is based upon the law of diminishing returns as applied to agriculture. It on the basis of this law that Malthus asserted that food production could not keep pace with population growth. By making rapid advances in technology and accumulating capital in larger quantity, advanced countries have been able to postpone the stage of diminishing returns. By making use of fertilizers, better seeds, tractors and other agricultural machinery, they have been able to increase their production greatly. In fact, in most of the advanced countries the rate of increase of food production has been much greater than the rate of population growth.
Which brings me back to my basic question – can contraception solve any real economic problems in Africa? If so how?
Can education solve the controversy of contraception? YES! HOW? By giving women the knowledge to make informed choices.
Therefore – what Africa needs is the ability to think and not one foundation thinking and drawing conclusions – ones which they never implemented in their own case. Contraceptives may be good for birth control but when it comes to Africa as it is – I am apt to conclude that spending 2 billion is a misplaced priority.
To say I expected this session to be emotional will be an understatement. For ten weeks we have had this stormy journey. Raising questions and attempting to answer them – only to realise the answers are questions in themselves. Many people had thrown in the towel and considered the question of ‘development’ one with a forgone conclusion – failure. Nothing seems to have changed since the so much talk about development. Was it worth all the trouble? This is surely what happens when a discipline spends so much time reflecting on itself rather than on the world. It happened with philosophy as it got caught in the ‘fly bottle of linguistic analysis’ so it is not surprising that it is happening to Development studies. Fortunately, IDD seems to have sensed this and places emphasis on linking theory and practice; the raison d’être for some of us who thought there was still something worth investigating. I can boldly affirm that these ten weeks have made me realise how lucky I am to have engaged in the quest.
I happened to have been at the Foreign and Common Wealth Office today for a POLSIS Study visit and in the few hours that we spent discussing with Alison Kemp (Joint Head, Policy Unit): FCO foreign policy priorities; Sara Everett (Deputy Head, Afghanistan Group): Afghanistan and Greg Quinn (Head, UN Political Team, International Organisations Department): UN issues, several things we have discussed in the past few weeks took shape. I was able to put my questions to decision makers and hear their views about some of these issues. and was able to arrive at some conclusions…
First of all, the I came to the conclusion that the importance of understanding theory as a prelude to understanding the whole concept of development cannot be overemphasised. This understanding will leave little doubt that developments and politics are intricately interwoven.
Secondly, I was able to conclude that politics was indeed the most dominant variable in any discussion in development and that a talk on international politics could not go unsustained for long if it is not talking about issues of development. International Politics is inverted international development – was my ultimate conclusion. In the talk about foreign policy priorities – a talk which lasted about 20 minutes – Alison Kemp mentioned the term development (or sustainable development) about 8 times (once every 2.5 mins) a clear indication that issues of development were top on the priorities of the FCO.
Third any talk about ‘pro-poor’ politics is simply a charade. Any politics claiming to be aimed at the poor is simply a part of a bigger complex scheme. The endgame never benefit the poor – rather they suffer more when it goes wrong. The question I asked the Head of the UN political team was a simple one: why does the UN use economic sanctions on people like Mugabe and Abacha when they know very well that these people will not care a hoot if the country suffers, given that they will never go a day without their sumptuous meals no matter how harsh the sanction? Who suffers more from an economic sanction? If we can all answer that it is THE POOR… then the soul-searching question will be if the UN in its politics is not pro-poor, where do we begin a discussion on pro-poor politics in an international forum?
Fourthly, the issue of ‘failed states’ is one that cannot be wished away easily. The fact that the concept is riddled with controversies, notwithstanding, the deputy head of the Afghan group used it several times in his description of Afghanistan. When he acknowledged the fact that 1979 arming of the Taliban was a great mistake, I could not help pointing to the fact that its result (Taliban support of Al Qaeda and the failure of the Afghan state) was being replicated in Libya.
Finally, the last conclusion I arrived at is that the nature of international politics was changing and it was going to take many by surprise. The unprecedented rise of the Asian Tigers which challenged most of the conventional theories of development was simply the antiphon to a new era. Of course we should not have expected anything different if we recalled Marx stating in 1959 that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”
We have had the surprising rise of the BRICs but what should not surprise us is how China and India replay history in a refined manner. It was fascinating to see how Tom captured the concept of China’s trade relations to Africa… The many layered question is… Is it a dependency relationship or is it the flip side to modernisation? Difficult questions to answer but certainly thought-provoking.
One thing that stands out though is that China rose to power on the wings of communism and a ‘closed’ state and is now seeking to expand that power through Capitalist means. Maintaining communism at the home front and capitalism at the international level is a strategy that only time can tell its outcome. It however points to something… China is being flexible and to me that is ‘politics’ or better still ‘development politics’. Their recent neutrality in the resolution over Libya is yet another pointer of her cautious nature. China is avoiding any form of conflict while at the same time building an empire outside China.
In the final analysis, we can all begin anew by asking ourselves what actually is new in development. Is there something intrinsically new? Or are we simply filling new wine into old wineskins? Can they hold the new wine? Whatever the case it will do some good to remember Duncan’s words
… a focus on ‘what’s new’ runs the risk of ignoring ‘what isn’t new’, such as the bread and butter issues of development: reducing poverty; supporting active citizens and their efforts to build effective, accountable states; fighting for universal health care, education, access to water and food; and equal rights for all women and men.
The onus however lies in knowing the difference… and this I guess is what I have been able to learn from this module.