08 April 2007

A weekend of bad Africa policy

Yesterday we got the lovely news that there may be a major food crisis for impoverished Zambians unless aid groups get a swift infusion of cash to buy food, which is, admittedly, available. However, the money for such a move is most readily available from the U.S. (or Europe), but U.S. law insists that food aid be purchased in America, not local producers. In spite of shockingly reasonable and appropriate Bush administration proposals to change the law, at least for dire circumstances like this one, Congress under both parties refuses to do so. Their rationale is that the bottom would fall out of corporate America's support for international aid, because they would no longer get rich off it, and we all know the general population doesn't care.

So there's that.

Then today we get the joyous news that the U.S. allowed the Ethiopians to buy military equipment from North Korea, after sanctions against such purchases had been put in place at U.S. insistence. Granted, few countries still produce parts that are compatible with old Soviet tanks, and those that do are probably also vile human rights violators, but, still. This revelation makes the whole War on Terror thing seem even more like the Cold War. In this case, alleged terrorists in Somalia were our enemy, and the Ethiopians didn't like them either, so Ethiopia is our friend and we should give them the leverage to do whatever they need to fight terror. Even if that means violating the very sanctions we wrote. Meanwhile, State Department lackies are gingerly suggesting that Ethiopia find a new supplier, which they've been doing for over a year.

And what caps it all off? Assistant Secretary of State (and official useless mouthpiece) Jendayi Frazer went to Somalia to express support for the recently beleaguered Somali government. She made no mention of the revelation that Somali, Ethiopian, and perhaps also African Union forces committed war crimes during last week's campaign against Islamic Courts loyalists (or, perhaps more precisely, anti-government fighters resisting perceived clan favoritism). I'm pretty sure open messages of support for weak governments by the United States will only make said governments weaker, given the super popularity of the U.S. at present.

1 comment:

matt said...

Moment of zen last summer at a port outside of Mogadishu.

Men are unloading sacs of USAID grain.

A man comes up, asks if i'm an american. I say that no, i'm not an american. He answers it's a good thing, because otherwise he'd have to kill me. I ask him why he'd want to kill me as an american, since there's an american flag on the food he's been unloading.

and he had a great answer (i paraphrase) :

"Why does the United States send us grain when we need it the least ? There's lots of local food on the markets, but the farmers are having problems selling it at a fair price because they're competing with the USAID food. So why do they send it now, and not during dry season when everyone's starving ? "