Africa And The West: Revising The Rules Of Engagement

Africa And The West: Revising The Rules Of Engagement
President Yoweri Museveni

AFRICANGLOBE – Lately, some African countries have signed anti-homosexuality legislations. The consequence has been retribution from the West in the form of withdrawal of aid and vilification in international media.

Other countries outside Africa took similar courses of action but till today receive different responses from the West. There appears to be a double-standard in how the West engages with Africa.

Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, a year prior to the CIA-assisted coup d’état that overthrew his government, penned the following words:

“The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside. The methods and form of this direction can take various shapes… More often, however, neo-colonialist control is exercised through economic or monetary means… Neo-colonialism is also the worst form of imperialism. For those who practise it, it means power without responsibility and for those who suffer from it, it means exploitation without redress… Neo-colonialism, like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries.”

Looking at post-independence Africa, any unbiased student of history can attest to the fact that Nkrumah, whose golden statue graces the Chinese-donated African Union Conference Center in Addis Ababa, was amazingly accurate.

Up until today, African states — though in theory independent — have their economic and political policies directed from outside. If they refuse to toe the policy line drawn by the West, development assistance is used to force compliance, with absolute disregard for the democratic institutions of the land and its evolution of democracy.

The Case Of Nigeria And Uganda

The Parliament of Nigeria passed the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in May 2013 and President Goodluck Jonathan signed it on January 7 this year. This was not an arbitrary decision taken by a dictator but instead by the people as reflected through their parliament and executive arms of government. Yet the response from the West was a smear campaign and a barrage of threats.

Needless to say, the West did not succeed in changing Nigeria’s policy. This is because Nigeria is a global powerhouse in its own right and any economic sanctions would result in reciprocation from the most populous nation in Africa.

Uganda and other less-economically robust African countries are not as fortunate, however. When President Yoweri Museveni enforced an anti-gay bill after the Ugandan Parliament had passed it, the West retaliated. The Netherlands stopped €7m aid to Uganda, while Norway withdrew $9m and Denmark chose to withhold about $8m.

Unfortunately, this is the lot for smaller developing nations. In 2013, donors using aid as a punitive tool potentially cost Uganda 0.7% in economic growth. Young mothers and children potentially had to forego health care, food, shelter or security as a result of canceled government programs. How does the restriction of economic means justify these ends?

Equality Of All Men?

Some of the greatest words ever penned include: “[All men are] endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is part of the 1776 United States Declaration of Independence. The US wrested independence from Great Britain because on a very basic level, they believed that all humans were created equal and, therefore, have a right to be free — free to make their own policies and determine the course of their destiny within the ambits of certain limitations.

How does the West justify these ideals, later enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, while in the same breadth applying discriminatory standards to less-developed nations?

This author once asked an ambassador of a Western nation why the scales were so uneven between the West and Africa. His response was a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

West’s Double-Standards

The Russian Parliament in 2013, much like Nigeria and Uganda, passed an anti-gay law. Yet no Western power has been bold enough to attempt economic war against the Kremlin as they have against African states.

A similar situation exists in the relationship between the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The US Department of State reports that in the UAE: “Both civil law and Sharia criminalize homosexual activity.” The report adds: “Under Sharia the death penalty is the punishment for individuals who engage in consensual homosexual activity.”

This report notwithstanding, no Western power has dared reacting toward the UAE like they have against African states.

In Saudi Arabia, a young Saudi man was reportedly sentenced to 500 lashes and five years imprisonment by a court in Jeddah for the criminal offence of homosexuality. These actions are wrong and much worse than what transpired in Nigeria or Uganda. Yet no Western country has dared to threaten Riyadh or gone ahead to withdraw aid as has been the case with Uganda. The question is why?

At least in Saudi Arabia’s case, though it is one of the most repressive countries in the Middle East by Western definition, it is also one of Washington’s closest allies. As uncovered by Hugh Eakin: “The US does more trade — overwhelmingly in oil and weapons — with Saudi Arabia than any other country in the Middle East, including Israel, and depends on close Saudi cooperation in its counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.”

In addition to gay rights, another source of major social conflict in these times is abortion. According to Deutsche Welle: “The Spanish government has approved tighter rules on abortion, making it legal only in the case of rape or when the mother faces a serious risk.” This is a reversal of Spain’s stance toward abortion.

In places like Malta and Andorra, abortion is illegal on all grounds. It is also very restricted in Poland. Yet neither the European Union (EU), nor the US is cracking down on any of these countries for stifling freedom by vilifying or threatening them with economic sanctions. If any African state that once permitted abortion reverses its stance by restricting it — as with Spain — it would surely attract retribution.

The double-standards of the West are a bit embarrassing. The US, Belgium, France and others have a history of forcefully replacing legitimate African governments with despots, all the while preaching democracy. This was especially prevalent during the Cold War period.

In addition to orchestrating the overthrow of former Ghanaian President Nkrumah — one of the leaders behind the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) — the US- and Belgium-orchestrated assassination of the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Patrice Lumumba, remains one of their most despicable moves.

Lumumba was ultimately replaced with Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled and impoverished the DRC for over three decades. Ghana’s case was similar and likewise Liberia’s where Charles Taylor, the CIA operative, became president for six years — destabilizing his nation and the surrounding region.

With such a track record, is it any wonder why Africa sees China as a viable alternate development partner? At least with China, what you see is what you get; plus Beijing does not meddle in domestic policies in Africa.

Part Two