Africa’s moment?

Readers' Views No 251, September 2005
OECD Observer

Is it really "Africa’s moment" (No 249, May 2005)? You mention conflict, but how can we help stop humanitarian disasters, like the one that seems inevitable in Darfur, where we cannot say we were not warned. 

Essentially, some 2 million people (mostly elderly, female or infants), currently "sheltered" in sometimes abysmal refugee camps, now risk being shoved onto what effectively will become death marches into Chad by the very people who created the problem in the first place.

Now is a terrible time of the year for any human organism to survive the conditions; beri-beri, dysentery and postrains malarial infections will do the rest. The collaboration between power groups will likely guarantee the worst possible outcome for the average Darfuri, regardless of their ethnic origin, under these conditions. In its own way, what is now going on in the Darfur/Chad borderland is at least as bad as DRC/Burundi, although the details are not yet as numerous.

Anyone who has not lived or worked in this part of the Sahara will not necessarily understand quite how easy it is, logistically for example, to bury several hundred bodies at a time, per afternoon, or how easy it is to pass the blame. And who honestly thinks western taxpayers' money will be spent on DNA missions for Chadian paupers à la Srebrenica?

The UN and other development organisations will probably take some of the blame for this, especially from those bent on muddying the image of international government. Yet, who is not to blame?

On the bright side, the oil price spike may at last be passing for now, so perhaps it will not be as tempting for oil companies making another kind of killing in the Chad-Sudan region to look the other way. But I'll only believe any form of reasonable human justice in this matter, when I see it. Yes, Africa has great potential for growth, but its moment will never come unless we do much more to stop the genocides which we by our inaction are party to.

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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©OECD Observer No 251, September 2005

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