It’s all a gimmick! Western societies are well aware of the fact that foreign aid is not the answer to Sierra Leone’s countless problems.
Whenever I think about all the foreign assistance that the West or the so called developed world has been giving to Sierra Leone over the years, the controversial reasons come to mind: Either we, as Sierra Leoneans, are not ready to see the country flourish and have been corruptly misusing these funds at the detriment of the masses; or the self-proclaimed philanthropists are the devil dressed in Christly robes, giving less and taking more.
Sierra Leone flouts conventional logic: Pulverizing poverty amidst immense mineral resources.
Helping Sierra Leone is a noble cause, but the campaign has become a theatre of the absurd – the blind leading the clueless.
The record of Western aid to Sierra Leone is one of abysmal failures.
Millions of dollars have been pumped into the economy since independence, yet only diminutive development is seen; aid has succeeded in creating a sense of dependence syndrome.
President Aboulaye Wade of Senegal once said: “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit.” Nations that have successfully developed — Europe, America, Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore — have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there.
Sierra Leone took the wrong road after independence. Some schools of thought have purported that the more aid poured into Sierra Leone, the lower its standard of living becomes. They further argue that foreign aid underwrites misguided policies and feeds corruption and bloated state bureaucracies.
The donors themselves contributed much to the failure of Western aid to Sierra Leone. Foreign loans and aid programs in Sierra Leone were badly monitored and often stolen by corrupt government officials and the donors taking back large chunk of the aid in the form of expatriate salaries and imported four wheel drive vehicles. More maddening, the donor agencies knew or should have known all along about the motivations and activities of corrupt leaders. They knew or should have known that millions of aid dollars were being siphoned into overseas banks by greedy ‘kleptocrats.’
“Every franc we give impoverished Africa comes back to France or is smuggled into Switzerland and even Japan,” wrote The Paris Daily, Le Monde in March 1990. Even famine relief assistance to Africa was not spared. Dr. Rony Brauman, Head of Médecins sans Frontières, lamented in the 1980s: “We have been duped. . . . Western governments and humanitarian groups unwittingly fuelled – and are continuing to fuel – an operation that will be described in hindsight in a few years’ time as one of the greatest slaughters of our time.”
Patricia Adams of Probe International, a Toronto-based environmental group, charged that “in most cases, Western governments knew that substantial portions of their loans – up to 30 percent, says the World Bank – went directly into the pockets of corrupt officials, for their personal use.”
With all the above references, it shows that misusing of western aid is not just a Sierra Leonean thing, but it cuts right through Africa, which implies that aid giving is a game to rip more. Have they re-defined colonialism?
Foreign funds can only help Sierra Leone if we want to undertake political, economic, and institutional reforms, but the commitment to reform has been woefully lacking over the years.
The democratization process in Africa has stalled through political strong-arm tactics. Only 16 of the 54 African countries are democratic, and political tyranny remains the order of the day. Often, those countries that are democratic remain deeply corrupt. Intellectual freedom is stuck in the Stalinist era – only eight African countries have free and independent media. The record on economic reform is abysmal. Only Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, and South Africa can be described as “success stories.”
At the July 2004 African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, frustrated UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told African leaders of their lack of progress on meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals that they agreed to in 2000. Four years earlier, he was less restrained, lashing out at African leaders and blaming them for most of the continent’s problems.
African children echo the same sentiments. At the United Nations Children’s Summit held in May 2002 in New York, youngsters from Africa ripped into their leaders for failing to improve their education and health. “You get loans that will be paid in 20 to 30 years and we have nothing to pay them with, because when you get the money, you embezzle it, you eat it,” said 12-year-old Joseph Tamale from Uganda.
World Leaders should listen to the voices of average Africans, who have not benefited from aid in the past and are unlikely to benefit in the future. Without domestic reforms, African politicians will line their pockets, but Africa will remain desperately poor.
By Ophaniel Gooding