Ban Arms Sales to Africa – Nothing Else Required
By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe (June 15, 2005)
That Africa is poor is an assumption shared by the G8’s debt relief initiative for poor countries announced on 11 June 2005, and of Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa report published on 11 March. It is also false: Africa remains one of the world’s most richly-endowed continents, with an immense human and non-human resource base to feed, clothe, house, educate, provide peace and security, and construct an advanced civilisation for its peoples.
But to achieve all this, Africans must dismantle their “inherited” genocide-states through which ruthless African regimes have murdered 15 million of their peoples in the past four decades – from Biafra to Rwanda to Darfur. It cannot be stated too strongly that it is the African genocide-state that is the current bane of African social existence. This – not “debt”, “poverty”, HIV/Aids (or other diseases) and the myriad of socio-economic indices reeled off in many a commentary – is the emergency that threatens Africans’ very survival.
Africans Do it for Others – and Themselves
The Commission for Africa concluded that capital for Africa’s “development” would come primarily from western “aid”. The commission’s report is largely a revamp of the 2001-02 New Partnership for African Development (Nepad ) programme, which African leaders proposed at the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Canada in June 2002.
Like its doomed predecessor, Nepad-II is another “partnership” between the west and African leaderships founded on two doubtful assumptions: that the west will provide aid on the scale required, and that notoriously corrupt, inept and brutal African leaderships will bring good governance and accountability to their people.
The assumption about western “aid” is wrong on two counts. First, “aid” to the non-west has never been an instrument of large-scale socio-economic transformation, and Africa will be no exception. The experiences of South Korea, Malaysia, Japan (and Britain itself at an earlier stage) demonstrate that the primary engine of economic transformation is internal. Second, “aid” to Africa is too often a mirage: since 1981, Africa has exported a net sum of $550 billion to the west (an estimate of the 2005 sum alone is $150 billion).
Most of this capital outlay goes to service “debts” to the west (currently estimated at $350 billion), which were in the main contracted by corrupt and murderous African state leaderships. In 2005, these leaderships and their aides are likely in addition to transfer around $30-50 billion to their private accounts and investment portfolios in the west.
Thus, the African genocide-state lays waste its non-human resources as well as massacring its peoples. The enormous funds it wrenches from society would readily provide comprehensive health programmes across the continent; establish schools, colleges, and skills-training opportunities; construct an integrated communication network; and transform the agricultural sector to abolish malnutrition and starvation.
If no western government is really trying to reverse the stupendous inflow of capital from Africa, the reason is that – although African leaderships constitute the immediate obstacle to African transformation – the west created and partly sustains Africa’s present-day tragedy. The governments and institutions that have taken a long time to establish control and exploitation of Africa will not quickly abandon their spoils.
It is only Africans themselves who can terminate the horror of the wanton, systemic expropriation and exportation of their wealth. They are already doing so: the noisy publicity about western aid to the continent ignores the fact that the amount of money now despatched by African émigrés in the west far exceeds such aid. In 2004, the sum was $15 billion – three times western “aid” in real terms (i.e. minus the latter’s pervasive overheads) and already 60% of the $25 billion “aid” that the Blair initiative is attempting to raise “for Africa” over the next decade!
This $15 billion – in contrast to official, government or institutional, schemes – was invested directly in social areas that benefited people: food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, communication facilities, and other familial, social and community needs. African émigrés’ financial transfers and investments are now steadily moving into infrastructural maintenance and development.
Where Africans Need support
If the premises of western “aid” and African “governance” fail to convince, what – away from the hyperbole of the Commission for Africa and G8 initiatives – can and should western states do for Africa? The answer is plain: they should move quickly to ease the pressure that Africans working for genuine change in their homelands face from the militarised genocide-state, by halting arms sales to the continent.
This is especially a responsibility for Britain, the premier arms exporter to Africa (if United States arms sales to Egypt and Morocco – transactions more related to middle-east geopolitics than Africa – are excluded). Britain sells arms to all of Africa’s genocide-states, including Nigeria, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
In 1999 alone, Britain sold $80 million worth of arms to Africa; in 2000, the total was $188 million, and by 2004 had increased to well over $200 million.
Britain should ban all arms sales to Africa immediately and comprehensively – not only, as the Africa commission report suggests, to “conflict zones” (Nigeria would probably not qualify as a “conflict zone”, even though over 20,000 people in the country have been murdered by the military and other state operatives and assorted hoodlums since 1999). This decision can be taken at the Thursday cabinet meeting and implemented at once – it wouldn’t even require parliamentary approval, far less a Gleneagles-style G8 summit or a Davos-style jamboree of the world’s political and business elites.
An immediate British ban on arms sales to African states would begin to deny these states the repressive resources they wield to suppress democratic debate and prevent the emergence of social institutions of participation and inclusiveness. It would accelerate African citizens’ quest to build governing structures that provide real alternatives to existing genocide-states. And it would be the golden opportunity that Britain seeks to permanently erase the “scars of Africa” from its “conscience”, in Tony Blair’s terms.
Africans themselves can carry out the social transformation they require without input from abroad, especially the west and its uncritically trumpeted “aid”. The problem is how to utilise their huge resources, human and non-human, for their own express benefit at a time when their overall strategic goal must be to dismantle the architecture of annihilation represented by African genocide-states.
There are alternatives to the genocide-state: democratic and extensively decentralised new state forms that guarantee and safeguard human rights, equality and freedom for individuals and peoples. Africans have the vision and the capacity to create such alternatives. This is the way forward for Africa.
G8 and Africa
World Movement for Democracy in Africa
Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Originally appeared in opendemocracy.net.