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Zimbabwe: Western aid not genuine

By Mabasa Sasa
October 18, 2007
The Herald

Earlier this year, CARE International announced that it was reviewing its relationship with the USA after realising the supposedly humanitarian partnership it has with that country was not benefiting Africa.

In fact, the NGO came to the conclusion that American-supplied "food aid" was treated as a business enterprise and was not only contributing to the US economy but was harming Africa's agro-industry and hence, the continent's development.

For CARE, this means walking away from US$45 million a year in federal financing and knowing how important money is to civic bodies, one has to wonder how grave the problem is such that this organisation can say no to all these millions.

According to George Odo, a CARE official who saw first hand the effects of "food aid" in Kenya, the distribution of American humanitarian assistance was propping up the US' already discredited agricultural subsidy programme while depressing the market value of African produce through unfair competition.

At present, the US government buys produce from its own farmers and businesses, ships it overseas on mainly American vessels and then donates the food to bodies such as CARE so that they can be sold at a give-away price to contribute to the NGOs' coffers.

Overall, it is a US$180 million a year programme. This is US$180 million a year that the US government self-righteously says is its contribution to fighting hunger in Africa.

This US$180 million a year is trumpeted into the faces of anyone who says the US only exploits Africa without giving anything back.

Nothing will be said about the fact that the US$180 million goes direct to American agribusiness and American transporters.

Nothing too will be said about the fact that NGOs selling cheap agricultural produce in Africa disadvantages African farmers already struggling to compete against American farmers who are already subsidised to the tune of billions of dollars.

NGOs will not say anything because it allows them to earn some money off the people. Others like Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and Save the Children have even come out saying they are not going to stop using this strategy.

Except for CARE International.

The US will not say it because this is part of their international image propaganda campaign.

As far back as 2005, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said "food aid" was for the most part designed to profit American agribusiness, American shipping concerns and American-based NGOs, an alliance referred to as the "Iron Triangle".

US law dictates that at least 75 percent of food for aid be sourced and processed in America and that at least 75 percent of the products must be shipped on American vessels.

Welcome to the politics of "humanitarian aid".

It serves the West's purpose to harp on and on about how much they are doing for Africa, particularly for countries like Zimbabwe which present "an unusual and continuing threat" to Washington's foreign policy.

And they will even get their numerous minions across the world to scream on and on about how much "humanitarian aid" they are extending to the "evil regime of Robert Mugabe".

USAid says America has set aside US$170 million for food aid for the "four million starving Zimbabweans" as well as an additional US$31 million for HIV and Aids programmes for 2007.

A small footnote is usually ignored by the media that yap on and on about American aid: That some US$30 million has also been earmarked for what Washington likes to call governance projects.

This is, of course, a euphemism for funding opposition groups in their attempt to effect illegal regime change and it is hard to imagine even for a moment that this "humanitarian assistance" is not somehow tied to the millions reserved for "governance projects".

Canada too has not been left out and we are periodically treated to announcements about how over US$100 million has been set aside for food programmes in African schools.

Again, there are only muted allusions in the anti-Government media to the fact that since 2003, tens of millions have been channelled into "strengthening civil society organisations working in Zimbabwe".

The Canadian International Development Agency is unabashed to declare that half of its major "development co-operation programmes" in Zimbabwe were premised on "human rights, governance and protection".

But the anti-government media will never tell you this. They will not admit to there being sanctions against Zimbabwe and yet Canada itself will tell you that in March 2002 it "withdrew all official Canadian direct funding to the government".

The "humanitarian aid" starts to look like a mere smokescreen to cover up the fact that extreme efforts are being made to isolate Zimbabwe and ripen it for a so-called colour revolution.

The UK's Department for International Development actually spends a lot of money publicising how much money it extends to Zimbabwe as "humanitarian assistance".

Apparently, the total is well over 120 million pound sterling since 2001 of which a fair proportion is undoubtedly for "supporting Zimbabwean civil society to monitor rights abuses and promote accountable governance".

Of course, the anti-Zimbabwe media never speaks of that last bit.

And where Britain is Australia is never far behind. Perhaps it is part of an attempt by the government in Canberra to outdo the country that banished them to that penal colony or perhaps they are simply trying to establish themselves as a world power.

Whatever it is, it would be nice to know how much money the Australian government has over the years set aside for the real development of the original inhabitants of that land, the Aborigines.

Instead, Canberra and its minion dunces here would like to talk about how much "humanitarian aid" is being extended to poor, suffering Zimbabweans.

If the US, the UK, Canada and Australia want to help Zimbabwe they can start by looking at the "small" matter of the sanctions they imposed on this country for simply pursuing policies that were in its own interests.

How can the West claim to be helping Zimbabweans by donating food when the sanctions that are in place are largely responsible for the food insecurity in the country?

Of what use is the money they set aside for HIV and Aids intervention when the Global Fund is ambivalent about institutionally capacitating the health delivery system?

Their aid remains just another political tool as long as the IMF, the World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions are instructed to treat Zimbabwe like a leper.

What is obvious is that the West would like Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa to remain dependent on their patronage for basics such as food security and hence we will never find this "humanitarian assistance" being extended to financing of agricultural mechanisation and other such genuinely developmental initiatives.

Without fail, all Western "humanitarian assistance" policies, like World Bank and IMF policies, are concerned with promoting the use of African land and resources for the cultivation of cash crops like tobacco rather than food crops like maize and wheat.

They just cannot bear Africa to be self-sufficient and the dependency syndrome has to be perpetuated.

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