In the latest in a series of "America knows best for Africa" events, three African American members of Congress allowed themselves to be arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington "urging world leaders to take a stand against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's decision to expel 13 aid agencies from Darfur.â€ Western-based humanitarian leaders joined forces with five U.S. lawmakers, including Black Representatives Donna Edwards of Maryland, Keith Ellison of Minnesota and John Lewis of Georgia, to say the Sudanese government's decision to expel the agencies will leave "1.1 million civilians without food aid, 1.5 million without healthcare and more than one million without potable water.â€ Ellison calls it "wrong to deny aid to the most vulnerable people on our planet."
Whether or not aid for people in Darfur is being denied differs as to perspective. When al-Bashir threw the Western aid agencies out, he said "Sudanese would take care of the distribution.â€ But, Ellison, et al, views al-Bashir as another hapless African leader needing to be removed from office and Sudanese operations as incapable, lacking in agency, and in permanent need of external direction.
The three Black Congressional Crusaders went spastic because al-Bashir banned the aid groups, willingly taking the word of the aid agents known to be antagonistic to al-Bashir. But Africans, and many other non-Whites, could fathom that some among the foreign aid groups "aided" the International Criminal Court (ICC) in their indictment of al-Bashir for "war crimes.â€
Why is it beyond Western reason that aid agencies' agents tattled on Bashir's government; or that Sudanese can handle relief efforts there? Al-Bashir says the 13 agencies he expelled "used the Darfur conflict to embezzle money from Sudan.â€ He says that the humanitarian groups "claim to spend billions of dollars in Darfur,â€ but his government calculates "they spend less than $100 million a year.â€ Al-Bashir says his government is ready to "match that amount,â€ and ordered Sudanese aid groups to take over all relief distribution. Westerners call him "defiant" in saying: "If they want to bring relief, let them drop it at airports or seaports. Let our organizations deal with our citizens."
Who wrote rules that only Westerners can provide humanitarian aid in Africa? There is a $1.05 billion aid operation planned for Darfur in 2009 and other countries in the region say they will assist in Darfur. Yet Ellison and crew are wary of giving money to Sudanese, or regional agencies, without the involvement of Westerners. Al-Bashir's alleged Great Expulsion of the Humanitarians must be put into perspective: 85 nongovernmental organizations are still working in Darfur and less than 200 aid workers have left.
Surely "do-gooders" Ellison, Edwards, and Lewis need to slow their roll and be less paternalist and more realistic. At least the Blacks should pay attention to increasing numbers of non-Whites' call for "an end" to current aid practices. Be it Myanmar or Darfur, the sign says: "No (Western) Help Wanted.â€ "Trade not aid" is what Africans seek, but the three Congressional "crusaders for conscious" are caught up in a vicious cycle that helped transform the people who possess two-thirds of the world's mineral resources into the two-thirds that are the world's poorest.
Instead of paternalistic meddling and demonstrations for 13 aid agencies and 200 people to be returned to Darfur, isn't it time Black legislators abandon soapbox rhetoric on Africa and do some good toward helping break the bonds, and bounds, of African dependency and Western dominance?
(William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com)