Hama Tuma

In the Horn of Africa, History repeats itself always as a tragedy. Famine has come around, the guilty regimes point their fingers at the usual “culprit” drought and the preying vultures that call themselves NGOs and charity organization rear their heads in anticipation and glee much like the cruel vulture in that famous photos of a starving South Sudanese child. We have seen it all before and the tragedy continues, the charade is on as the vultures we knew so well warn the world help or else the Africans in the east and the Horn are going to perish!

There is hardly a pip against the main culprits, the corrupt regimes pampered by the West, which exposed their people to starvation and famine. Instead, Africa bashing is warming up (with a nasty drawing of an Africa in the shape of an African heads with the Horn opened as a hungry mouth that appeared in the Times of London, Tuesday July 7), angry articles are written in defense of spreading GM seeds/farming all over Africa (or else they will starve always and be a burden on “us”– in the same Times issue), and the whole cabal ) from Christian Aid to Save the Children, Oxfam UK, etc ) have put out ads soliciting immediate and urgent help. Back in 1984, the same scene was played out over one million Ethiopian corpses. There can be no doubt that Ethiopian (1973-4,1984) and other famine victims are grateful to the sympathy and help they got from the people of the world and that there were and there are NGOs and charity organizations true to their humanitarian mission. Sadly, it is equally true that food aid is part and parcel of politics and many NGOs play the political game and are parts of the Lords of Poverty. Back in 1984, the likes of Christian Aid, Oxfam UK, War on Want, Save the Children, Norwegian Aid and many others were playing politics on the famine victims and giving the food aid to the rebels of the Tigrean Liberation Front (TPLF) and the money to buy arms or to deposit it in their Saudi American bank account in Jeddah. All this is well documented and a hard fact despite the shrill protest from Bob Geldof and Christian Aid (the latter’s representative was even photographed handing over hundreds of thousands of Birr to a high level Tigrean rebel cadre who is now in exile and has exposed the farce and the conspiracy). The TPLF is now in power and the same aid organizations that were passing it the food aid and money are soliciting for money. Something is rotten in there!

The famine that is attacking the East and Horn of Africa has little to do with drought and much to do with corrupt and inept regimes, disastrous agricultural policies and callous disregard for impending catastrophes. The Meles Zenawi regime in Ethiopia was for many years boasting of double digit economic growth, grain surplus (“we are going to export maize to Kenya”!), agricultural policies admired by World Bank and IMF experts, massive handover of land to foreign companies (the size of Israel or Belgium leased over cheaply to Chinese, Indian, Arab and other firms who farm and take all their produce abroad). The reality was quite different. The double digit economic growth was/is fiction. Grain surplus is a white lie. In fact the grain stored was sold on the market and then an attempt made to by grain from South Africa to refill the silos. The disaster prevention the regime boasted about has proved another lie. The regime has supported the foreign land grab that has roved a disaster for the country as there is absolutely no technological transfer, no substantial employment and all the produce is exported or taken out by the firms. The regime’s own companies in the agricultural field enjoy monopolistic control, the so called Ethiopian Commodity exchange sector has assured the control of the agricultural export market (coffee, sesame, etc) by Meles Zenawi’s firms (Guna, etc..). The overall existing bad governance and ethnic discriminatory politics has also agitated against self sufficiency in the production field.

The variations in degree aside, the Somali anarchy aside, the other so called drought affected countries are characterized by being pro West corrupt regimes. Drought is the least of their worries; bad governance is their primary ailment. Existing conflicts and ongoing wars make the situation dire. In Ethiopia, land is owned by the State and dispensed by it irresponsibly. The impending famine is but an opportunity to plunder and fleece, to use food aid for political purposes, a chance for the usual vultures to prey and profit. That is why as things stand it is proper to call for vigilance against the misuse of donors’ food and money by the regimes in place and their callous allies. We saw it in 1984 in Ethiopia, how famine was used for crude political ends and how the aid organizations played along duped or, in most cases, knowingly. This should not be repeated. No food aid or money should be given to the regimes (especially to the heartless and thieving regime in Addis Abeba) and control must be imposed on the aid organizations themselves not to repeat the condemnable experience of the past.

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