The ‘West’s’ role in Africa

27 March 2013 | ResolutionPossible

The last week has seen significant events take place in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda – the transfer of Bosco Ntaganda to the International Criminal Court in The Hague;  and the Central African Republic – a coup led by the Seleka militia groups against President Francoise Bozize.

Western/African relations – according to Mwenda, the West is on a mission to save Africa from Africans.

Both events demonstrate, in different ways, the roles that western countries play in this region, from international justice to humanitarian intervention.

We came across this piece by Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda strongly challenging the presence of the so-called ‘West’ and thought it could spark some interesting discussions. The article originally appeared in Ugandan paper The Independent.

Extracts are below but read the full article to follow Mwenda’s arguments.

Since the end of the Cold War, a movement to save Africa from Africans has grown and gained momentum across the Western world. This movement is reflected in campaigns to end poverty by giving aid and canceling debt, to try African leaders at the International Criminal Court and to promote human rights. On the face of it, this movement seems humane and well intentioned…

…Thus, when you visit Africa today, our public policies are designed by the IMF and World Bank, the hungry are fed by World Food Program, the ill are treated by Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, refugees are cared for by UNHCR, those in conflict are “protected” by UN peacekeepers, our Malaria is fought by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, our story is told by The New York Times, our poverty is fought by Jeffrey Sachs and Bono, our crimes are tried by the ICC, our public serves are financed by a generous international aid community, our debts are cancelled, our press freedom is defended by Reporters without Borders and CPJ, our human rights are promoted by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Our heroes are Angelina Joly and George Clooney, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy.

‘Well-doers’ in the West sending their old beaten up shoes to the poor in Africa

Our hands go up here – earlier we linked to several western stories about Ntaganda and the coup in the CAR, including the New York Times. A google search (from here in the UK at least) reveals a plethora of western media sources but no regional ones. It’s not easy to hear about African news without a western perspective, unless you’re motivated and know where to look. It’s not surprising, therefore, that to the average person living in western countries their involvement in Africa is accepted as a given. Opinions like Mwenda’s can feel quite jarring.

What are your thoughts about Mwenda’s article? Does it seem harsh or fair to you? Do you think a broad reaching, high influence presence by western countries is necessary or damaging – and in what ways? Do you think African countries primarily welcome western involvement across the business and humanitarian sectors, or does it feel like an imposition? Do you think there’s a difference in the ways African governments view western involvement compared to citizens? And what about the increasing presence of China – is this viewed any differently?

We’ve been reporting on various topics over the past few months, admittedly often using ‘western’ media for our information. It’s the reason we launched our commentary section, to try to highlight more voices from all over the world. Here are some examples of local news sources reporting on the stories of the last few weeks such as the fire in the Central Market in Bujumbura, the surrender of Bosco Ntaganda and the coup by the Seleka armed group:

Incendie du marché central de Bujumbura : le Forsc demande une contre-expertise – IWACU, Burundi

Bosco Ntaganda a comparu pour la première fois devant la CPI – Radio Okapi, DR Congo

The root cause of the DRC conflicts shouldn’t be ignored – Mushikiwabo – News of Rwanda, Rwanda

Central African Republic rebel chief declares transitional rule – The New Times, Rwanda

DR Congo warlord Ntaganda now in custody of the ICC – The Independent, Uganda

Overthrow of CAR regime spells uncertainty in pursuit of Kony – Daily Monitor, Uganda


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