Friday, August 3

Why is the UN Pleading for Food for Zimbabwe?

We all know that Zimbabwe, once a breadbasket in Africa, is now a complete and total disaster.

However, the disaster part is only just starting for the population, as there is now an impending food shortage ready to strike the population. This has brought the UN's World Food Programme rushing to the rescue. And they need your help:

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is asking donor countries to fund an expanded aid operation in Zimbabwe.

The WFP says a poor harvest and the country's worsening economic situation means hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are running out of food. It says it will have to provide assistance to more than three million people over the coming months.

Without additional funds, UN food stocks will be completely exhausted by the end of 2007, the agency says. According to the WFP an estimated 3.3 million people will need assistance during the peak hunger period between November and March. It has appealed for $118 million dollars (£58 million) in aid from international donors. - BBC

Why is the Government of Zimbabwe not doing the begging for food aid?

Why aren't they paying for the food?

Why do they appear completely uninvolved?

The simple answer is that they really don't give a crap about this problem or their people.

Considering their previous actions against the white farmers in the countryside and the poor in the capital, maybe they just figured that starvation is a lot simpler way of thinning the population without having to worry about charges of genocide. Having thugs go about killing people, like they did when they forced the white farmers out, leaves lots of evidence.

Sure, letting the UN's World Food Programme come into your country to feed your population is going to interrupt those plans, but as a side benefit, their entry into the country provides two immediate benefits:
  1. Relieves them of the responsibility of caring for their population

  2. Provides a new stream of revenue for the Leadership
As cold-hearted as it sounds, it is not the UN's responsibility to care for Zimbabwe's Citizens. If their Government is willing to kill off its own population, then that is their problem. It is an internal matter.

If the International community has a problem with this, then they should act through the UN, through 'dialog' for whatever good that might do, and through the sanction process. Then, if there is failure to act to solve the problem, then their leaders should be hauled before the International Court for crimes against humanity. In a worst-case situation, the country might have to be occupied.

The UN should not accept the responsibility for feeding another country's people. All it does is let the 'host' government off the hook, leaving no incentive to solve the problem. As far as the government is concerned, the UN is solving the problem by stepping in. This goes for a number of UN member states that require perpetual aid.

Having the WFP relieve the immediate suffering also acts as a pressure relief value against pressure for the Government to reform itself. After all, it is not the World Food Programme's mission to force change on the Government of Zimbabwe. That would be contrary to their mission. They really need to make sure that they irritate Government officials as little as possible so that they are not told to leave the country. You could even say that the population has become hostages of their own Government, forcing those coming to their aid to conform to Government requirements in order to get access to those people. This leads to bribes, payoffs and diversion of the aid itself. (It is possible that in North Korea, all 100% of UNDP Development Aid was diverted from its intended purposes!) There is no reason to expect any different outcome from Zimbabwe.

The situation there is so desperate that the United States has decided to provide a massive amount of food aid through the US's USAID. You would think that the Government would be grateful, but like I said above, these people just don't care:

[Zimbabwe's] Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu accused the U.S. of meddling in its affairs and supporting opposition leaders. And he says the U.S. food aid is part of that support, a trick to turn the people of the country against its government. - Marketplace

While he is at it, why not just blame the US for the famine itself?

Of course they are going to accept the food aid. After all, their cronies need to eat as well and it's hard to get aid workers to pay you off when you refuse to allow them access. However, once large numbers of the population starts dying, they can always blame the US for not giving enough food.

However, with their attitude, maybe the US should just sit this one out. Of course the Government should be pressured, perhaps through the UN, or through the African Nations that are currently resisting the EU's attempts to sanction Zimbabwe. Currently, a number of African countries refuse to participate in EU meetings if Zimbabwe is not invited without restrictions. Well, if they want to accept responsibility for Zimbabwe, then let them, starting with answering the call for food aid.

As leaders of a country, they have a responsibility to the people they rule over. If they neglect that responsibility, there is always sanctions against them as well as sending them to the International Criminal Court to face charges for crimes against humanity. This responsibility extends to those countries that defend these criminal states.

Sadly, this crisis was seen coming already a year ago when I had written:

This is essentially an internal matter for Zimbabwe. However, at some point the rest of us will have to pay for the criminal activity of the current Government there, while at the same time being on the receiving end of complaints that the destruction of the country was somehow really OUR FAULT and not the fault of the President of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe. - FFI

We will need to keep paying as long as we are willing to keep paying.

So before you get pissed off at me for saying that we should just let these people die, do understand that they are dead already as long as the current Government remains in power. So in reality what I am suggesting is to not interfere in a way that only delays the inevitable outcome for the majority of the population. (Look at North Korea. They were near total collapse after the collapse of the Soviet Union, until the US, and others, came to their aid.)

Sending aid only delays the outcome as nothing is done to fix the source of the problem. This problem will never be solved as long as their own Government does not consider it a problem. For the moment, they don't.

I am not alone in calling for a hands-off approach concerning Africa's problems. There are growing calls from Africans to stop giving aid to them as it is the aid itself causing much of Africa's problems:

The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.

SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

SPIEGEL: If the World Food Program didn't do anything, the people would starve. - Spiegel (GO READ THE REST. It is an eye-opener)

Then, take this recent behavior of another African leader:

Last February, I wrote about the expensive tastes of Daniel Sassou-Nguesso, the ruler of the desperately poor African nation of Congo and the president of the African Union. In a September 2005 stay in New York, the man who keeps demanding Western aid also demanded a lot of room service. He dropped over $190,000 in cash as a down payment on a $326,000 bill for a week's stay during a UN session for Sassou-Nguesso and his entourage. Now the Times of London reports that Sassou-Nguesso ran up another bill in 2006 which belies the abject poverty of his subjects:

IN two short visits to New York last year the leader of one of Africa’s poorest countries spent $400,000 (£207,000) on hotel bills as members of his entourage drank Cristal champagne and charged tens of thousands of dollars of room service to accounts paid by the Republic of Congo’s mission to the United Nations.

Detailed hotel bills obtained by The Sunday Times showed that a Waldorf Astoria suite occupied by Congo President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, chairman of the African Union, recorded £12,000 of room service charges during a five-night stay last April that cost his country £73,000.

When he returned to the same hotel during the UN general assembly meeting last September, almost £14,000 of room service was added to his bill during another five-night stay. His entourage, including several members of his family, occupied 44 rooms which together ran up a bill of £130,000 — comfortably more than the £106,000 that Britain gave the country in humanitarian aid last year.

The latest revelations about Sassou-Nguesso’s lavish travel habits have appalled anti-corruption campaigners and embarrassed the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Last year they agreed to a large debt relief package on the grounds that the country — known as Congo-Brazzaville to distinguish it from its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo — was too poor to meet its financial commitments.

At least Sessou-Nguesso is consistent. He continually runs up bills higher than the foreign aid that the West has granted his nation. I suppose we could just ask the World Bank and the IMF to just simply transfer the aid directly to the Waldorf-Astoria, and cut out the middleman.

In a five-night stay in April, the entourage ran up $23,000 in room-service charges, or around $4,600 per night. That amounts to over three times the GDP per capita of his nation. In September on another visit, the room-service bill ran to $27,000 for a trip that lasted five days and included 44 people. And bear in mind that this just calculates what Sessou-Nguesso spent at the hotel. Who knows how much cash he dropped in New York restaurants and other entertainment destinations?

The Western industrial nations have been pressured to forgive debts of African nations, including Congo. France pressured the World Bank to implement its debt-relief package for Sessou-Nguesso after the revelations of his earlier stay in New York caused Paul Wolfowitz to suspend the deal. Now we see how that aid gets used -- to entertain a Marxist dictator while 70% of his citizens live off of one dollar a day or less.

It behooves us to give struggling nations in Africa a helping hand, if not for humanitarian reasons, then at least to keep al-Qaeda and other terrorists from exploiting the people and resources of nations struggling to survive. George Bush rightly limits that assistance to nations which have reformed their political systems in order to ensure that the aid does not prop up dictators and kleptocrats. Sessou-Nguesso provides a brilliant example of why we need to follow that wise policy. - Captains Quarters

We (the West) allow them to not care. It is time to stop. Unfortunately, some will die in the process, but I suspect that it will be many less lives lost than if we keep excusing these leaders for neglecting their citizens.

Africa is rich in resources. Gold, diamonds, iron ore, oil, fisheries and human labor. They can fund their own development. What they are missing in terms of technical know-how and equipment they can pay for, like everyone else.

Zimbabwe photos - Land reform - 22 August 2006
The UN Cannot Save the North Koreans (So Stop Trying) - 1 Feb 2007

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