HomeOpinionDictatorships must forfeit African solidarity

Dictatorships must forfeit African solidarity

By German president Johannes Rau

I RECALL the important part played by Julius Nyerere in the North-South Commission alongside Willy Brandt. Both were convinced that overcoming the North-South divide was just

as important as overcoming the East-West conflict. It is nearly 15 years now since the East-West conflict ended, heralding a new era that allowed our nation to regain its unity and people in eastern Germany to regain their freedom. In this new era we have clearly been on the winning side.

The huge economic and social disparities between Africa and the industrialised countries of the North remain as striking as ever, however. Peace and a decent standard of living for people in many parts of Africa remain a dream. The gap between rich and poor countries is growing wider.

To close this gap is, in my view, the major challenge facing us in the years ahead.

The end of the East-West conflict opened up new prospects and opportunities for Africa. But the hopes of an African renaissance have so far not been fulfilled. The triumph of democracy in South Africa and Nigeria was followed with keen interest by people all over the world. Those are inspiring achievements that have given people new faith in the future.

Nevertheless, we are bound to admit that no one can be truly satisfied with the current state of affairs in Africa. There are still millions of people living below the poverty line or whose lives have been blighted by civil wars and failing states. Africa’s share of world trade is around 1% and its share of global investment even lower. There are still millions of Africans eking out a living on less than US$1 a day. And in some countries in southern Africa whose economies have been doing well, the dramatic spread of HIV/Aids is not only causing untold human suffering but also undermining much of the economic and social progress they have achieved in recent years.

In practical terms, Germany’s policies are designed to realise the goals agreed at the United Nations Millennium Summit of September 2000. We have therefore opted to concentrate our efforts on the following:

* human rights and good governance;

*strengthening the rule of law, democracy and civil society;

*food security and the fight against poverty;

*crisis prevention, peaceful conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation;

*activities to help groups threatened with economic or technological marginalisation;

*the fight against HIV/Aids.

The causes of the continent’s problems are to be found both inside and outside Africa. In his book, The Burden of Memory, Wole Soyinka, the great Nigerian writer, sought to come to grips with these underlying causes. He reminds us of what a devastating impact colonialism and slavery had on Africa.

But he points out, too, that brutal military regimes that rob people of their dignity and deny them a decent livelihood have been a feature of the post-colonial era. Germany was certainly not one of the classic colonial powers. Nevertheless, we, too, need to explore our colonial past and its wrongs in an honest and critical light. Africans and Europeans have a joint responsibility for our past and present. By the same token, it is only by harnessing our efforts and working together that we can build a better future.

What can, what should be Germany’s and Europe’s contribution to this joint endeavour? There are five points to which I would like to draw attention:

l Our cooperation needs a stronger political focus. It is becoming ever more important to defuse latent crises before they break out and, when they do erupt, to take joint action in response. Over recent years Africa have experienced more wars and armed conflicts than any other region in the world. Every war brings death, suffering and misery. It puts at risk everything that entire generations have worked to achieve. Germany is keen to help African countries develop their own conflict prevention and resolution capabilities.

The best way forward is for African regional organisations and the African Union to assume greater responsibility than in the past for peace and security in Africa. Germany is already supporting the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Accra and a second such centre in Nairobi.

* Given the immensity of the challenge, there is clearly a limit to what we can do on our own to make a real difference. We therefore closely dovetail our Africa policy and our development cooperation with other international efforts. Such activities will in future take place under European auspices. As Tanzania’s cooperation with European partners has shown, by the way, coordinating the contributions of different donors is not only feasible and sensible, it also enhances their impact.

* Europe and all OECD countries need to do more than in the past to open up their markets to Africa’s agricultural products and to eliminate their own agricultural subsidies. We cannot call on our African partners to open up their markets and liberalise their economies and at the same time keep our own markets closed.

Free access to the markets of OECD countries would mean for the developing countries an estimated US$100 billion in additional revenues.

To grasp the true significance of this, we need only recall that the annual sum currently spent on development aid around the world is about US$50 billion. The heated debate over whether Africa stands to gain or to lose from globalisation remains academic as long as agricultural products from the continent are denied fair access to OECD markets.

*Over 30 years ago, in 1970, the governments of virtually all industrialised countries made a voluntary commitment to allocate at least 0,7% of GNP to development assistance. The fact that we are still a long way from achieving the 0,7% target should not be taken to mean that people in the industrialised countries are reluctant to share their prosperity with others.

Many people in Germany also pose critical questions.

They ask, for example, why debt relief should be given to oil-exporting countries that surely ought to be rich? They query whether it makes sense to fund infrastructure projects that stand little chance of surviving the next armed conflict? They ask why we should support countries that spend more on arms than on schools and hospitals? People arguing in favour of development aid must be able to give convincing answers to such questions.

* We Germans have decided to concentrate our support on those countries whose governments and political, corporate and community leaders are clearly focused on their country’s welfare and building a better future for all its citizens. To determine whether this is the case, we have established a number of benchmarks, namely:

*respect for human rights;

*the rule of law and all that entails;

* participation of citizens in the po-litical process;

* a market economy framework that pays attention to social needs;

* government policy and action that are geared to building a better future for everyone.

If these criteria are met, there is a high probability that development cooperation will be effective. If these criteria are met, political leaders in Germany and Europe will be able to convince their publics that development cooperation is not just an ethical duty and an act of solidarity but also in their own best interest. People’s readiness to help will be all the greater when they see our African partners also making determined efforts to tackle their problems. That is precisely the thinking behind what is known as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).

With this initiative the countries of Africa have acknowledged their own responsibility for combating poverty and exclusion. Nepad recognises that it is up to Africa’s political leaders to put in place the conditions necessary for economic growth, sustainable development and combating poverty effectively. Peace, stability, good governance, democracy and the rule of law: Nepad offers a ground-breaking vision that charts a bright future for Africa.

What is needed now, however, are practical steps to make that vision reality. The G8 countries have responded to the Nepad initiative with their own Africa Action Plan. Over the past two years Germany has made support for Nepad its funding priority. That demonstrates that African efforts receive both recognition and practical backing. If Africa can mobilise its own strengths and capabilities and take charge of its own destiny, that will send a powerful message to those who at present remain unconvinced that the dream of a buoyant, modern Africa will ever come true.

Let me add a brief comment at this point. I can well understand that some African leaders find it hard to criticise neighbours and partners with whom they once fought side by side against colonialism, racism and oppression. But those who – like President Mugabe – have nothing but contempt for democratic and rule-of-law principles and who bring their countries disaster and ruin have in my view forfeited any claim to the solidarity of their neighbours. Misconceived solidarity takes a terrible toll on millions who find themselves the victims of new injustice that destroys their hopes, their livelihoods and even their lives.

We in Germany will continue to do our utmost to ensure that people on our neighbouring continent can live in peace, prosperity and dignity.

To help where help is needed – that is not just a moral imperative. A politically stable and economically prosperous Africa is also in our own interest, rightly understood.

A real breakthrough in the fight against international terrorism can only be achieved, however, if we tackle not just its symptoms but also its root causes. Factors such as poverty, inequality and lack of hope as well as disregard for cultural values can all make people susceptible to the credos of religious or political fanatics who espouse violence in pursuit of their ends. The most reliable way to put a stop to their activities is to give people real confidence in a better future. Seen in this light, development policy is the best and surest investment we can make in the world’s future.

As we are all aware, achieving sustainable development in Africa still requires major obstacles to be overcome. That is also the tenor of the report on the social dimension of globalisation presented a few weeks ago by President Mkapa and President Halonen of Finland.

In their introduction the authors of the report wrote: “We seek a process of globalisation with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.” That, I believe, is the right approach.

Those who want to accomplish something for their fellow men and women must have confidence in what they are doing, and must be able to inspire the same confidence in others. That is why I advise people to keep on talking about the successes and advances that are happening in Africa.

I am thinking of the progress democracy has been making since the early nineties, the growing sense that Africa can and should take charge of its own destiny and the increasing willingness of the international community to support Africa’s efforts in this direction. Africa is no longer the forgotten continent. True progress, progress that brings people tangible benefits, is indeed possible. Let us work together to make this progress a reality.

*This is the text of a speech given by Federal President Johannes Rau at the invita-tion of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, Dar es Salaam, on Tuesday.

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