Dear Readers: This piece on Foreign Aid and its negative consequences and western hypocrisy was written some time ago more as a reaction to Canada’s unwarranted and malicious attack against Eritrea on the basis of unfounded allegation involving terrorism and other human rights issues. Canada’s main squabble with Eritrea has nothing to do with terrorism or lack of freedom; rather it revolves around the latter’s quest and determination to be economically self-reliant .
Matthew Mclearn’s of Canadian Business magazine recent article in which he deliberately misrepresented Eritrea’s National Service in a derogatory manner and went as far as equating it to “Slavery” is a clear testimony that exposes western governments’ disapproval of a mere idea of economic independence entertained, let alone practiced, by Eritrea or any other African country.
By Bruh Tesfa,
Foreign Aid Dependency and its Negative Consequences:
AMPLE examples can be given to illustrate the danger and ugly face of foreign aid dependency and its crippling effects in a given society. Suffice to say that almost four decades after the world-known famine hit the Horn of Africa, and despite the enormous response from the international community, the problem still persists in many parts of Africa, with little sign of abating.
The most troubling aspect of foreign aid dependency is the prevalence of conviction it instills in the minds of the recipients that they can not survive any future economic hardships without the support of or “a hand out” from the western “rich” countries. Sadly, such a crippling way of thinking did not come about by accident and in fact has become a powerful tool certain western governments utilize to keep Africa a begging continent, always at the mercy of “western donors” and in exchange for a much larger political and economic gain.
Praying for a rain…in Canada?
At one point during the famine of the 80’s Canada was one of the countries which helped in the relief efforts by sending tones and tones of wheat to those affected. While the aid had definitely helped alleviate the problem short-term, long term it created a crippling effect of dependency amongst the beneficiary-turned- victims. So much so that, it was said, people in the drought-stricken region who were accustomed to hand outs use to get so anxious over a weather forecast that would have suggested scarcity of rain or a possible drought in Canada.
As a consequence, the world has witnessed a generation who’d become addicted to aid and with a sick mentality that their lives can only be sustained if and only if “it’s raining” in a land thousands of miles away. It is sad and sometimes difficult to digest or contemplate such level of dependency in a continent that is blessed with natural resources so abundant that it should be looking for handouts from others. such mindset where people have gone beyond the feeling of helplessness and reached a point where they actually believe they can not function independently, as unfortunate as it may be, comes as a blessing in disguise for certain greedy powers who cash-in on such misfortune.
Breaking the Cycle of Food Aid Dependency:
Shortly after the formal independence in 1993, one of the major challenges Eritrea faced with pertains to the issue of foreign aid dependency and how to tackle it. Realizing early on the crippling effect of persistent food aid on a given society, the government of Eritrea adopted an economic policy that could, in a long run, help the country become self-sufficient. Amidst unwarranted war of aggression by Ethiopia and the subsequent persistent hostility from the west, the people and government of Eritrea worked diligently in the implementation of the agricultural programs set forth. Major work was accomplished in improving the country’s irrigation system through water conservation and building of big and small dams.
One of the proudest moments in Eritrea’s history that is attributed to its sound agricultural policy and is largely accredited its hard working people was when it declined food aid during the most recent drought in the region, citing food surplus, while some of its neighboring countries helplessly sought for humanitarian aid. Has Eritrea reached a point where the chain of chronic economic dependency inflicted upon the continent, be it by nature or man-made, is totally broken? The answer is certainly No. The writer is by no means to suggest that Eritrea has attained a state of food efficiency. But, it’s certainly building a foundation that paves a way in meeting such status.
And this is perhaps the main reason and where Canadian government’s “squabble” with Eritrea stems from. Oddly, the Canadian government finds Eritrea’s stand on foreign aid and its advocacy on and practice of self-reliance rather distasteful. To one’s recollection this may be the first time in Africa’s history where a long held practice involving food aid that has no long-term solution; one which can be equated to a use of a band aid to treat a gun-inflicted wound was flatly rejected. A resistance to food aid and a notion of mutual trade relationship without any political pressure entertained by a “small African State” was something unheard of before for countries who somehow feel that they should dictate any economic dealings with Africa.
Allegations of Human Rights Abuse and Terrorism against Eritrea: Canada’s Hypocrisy towards Eritrea
The government of Canada recently threatened to shut down Eritrean consulate for collecting a 2% tax from Eritrean-Canadians, a practice which is norm across the globe. Such threat of action, we were told, was because of Eritrea’s alleged link to Somalia’s militants and the unfounded claim that such remittance is being used to finance such group.
“Tsintsiway”, is the term commonly used in Tigrigna when one hears a garbage story such as this. And that’s what it is – A story fabricated by the likes of Matt Byden, a Canadian and Former Head of SEMG (Somali Eritrea Monitoring Group) and his collaborators as means of tightening the illegal UN sanction slapped against Eritrea in 2009. The termination of this man from his post as head of SEMG largely stems from his involvement in this and other illegal activities outside his mandate.
Canada, more than any other country, knows well that Eritrea has no involvement with terrorism what’s so ever. In contrary to what has been reported, this North American country also has firsthand knowledge about the good use of the 2% remittance collected from the Diasporas. If history is any guide, Eritrea was one of the first countries that was targeted by some elements of Al-Qaeda, way before the west had any knowledge of such group. Because of its secular system of governance, the militants tried to destabilize the country by engaging in cross border operations with out success.
Ignoring such a historical fact about Eritrea’s role on terrorism, the government of Canada has chosen to be at the forefront with those who are set out to harm Eritrea’s economy on the bases of some baseless, bogus and highly exaggerated “human rights abuse, terrorism” allegations.
What’s rather interesting is, however, to note how hypocrite Canada has become in its shaping its trade ties with other nations. From the get go one can deduce that Canada’s relationship with other countries has little to do with the latter’s human rights records and more to do with its geopolitical and economic interests. To confirm such assessment all one has to do is look at some of the countries this government has strong diplomatic and trade ties with. These are countries one by no means would consider democratic. Far from it. Some of these countries Canada wheels and deals with on a regular basis have zero religious tolerance and are involved in gross human rights violations; while others are accused for denying the rights of certain groups to coexist as neighbors by expanding resettlement programs in defiance to international law.
According to the Canadian government website, for instances, “Ethiopia is a country of focus for Canada’s international development assistance, and Canada is the third largest donor to Ethiopia. ……. In 2010-2011, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided $176.66 million in development and humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia through bilateral and multilateral channels as well as through Canadian civil society”
On the same government website, Ethiopia was described as “the most stable country in the most volatile region”.
Thanks to the internet and alternative media where accurate and unbiased information has become easily accessible, Ethiopia, aka “a western darling”, is not exactly how its friends want to portray it to be. At present time, there are reports coming from reliable sources in which over 30 students from the Oromia region have been gunned down by Ethiopian security forces in response to protest by the former opposing the alleged “integrated Master Plan of Addis Ababa ” which will expand deep into their jurisdiction.
The undeniable fact is Ethiopia is and remains the most unstable country in the region where gross abuses of human rights whether in Somalia, Ogaden or Oromia region are quite prevalent. The country is led by a brutal regime that rigged elections on two occasions, killing hundreds of civilians and imprisoning decedents; Addis Ababa is run by a terrorist regime that bombs its own people just to turn around and blame and accuse Eritrea or other rebel movements. These are not mere allegations but facts that were leaked via Wiki Leaks.
Ethiopia is a country that declared a unilateral war against a neighboring country-Eritrea and continues to occupy its land in defiance to international law and with the blessing of certain western “friends”. Yet, the government of Canada not only failed to address these significant human rights and geopolitical issues that are majorly contributing to the instability in the region, but chose to reward such reckless acts and prides itself for been “the third largest donor” to a country with the worst human rights records.
To highlight further on the severity of hypocrisy of the Canadian government when it comes to its trade dealings with others, let’s cite other examples in which the government has no qualms in establishing trade partnership with countries whose human rights records are far from impressive.
Saudi Arabia is Canada’s largest trade partner among the seven countries of the Arabian Peninsula, totaling more than $2,000,000,000 in trade in 2005, according to Wikipedia.
According to Canada government’s website, Canada-Israel trade relationship is described as such: “In 2011, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Israel was valued at $1.38 billion. This year, 2012, marks the 15 th anniversary of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) which extends preferential tariff treatment to goods originating in the territory to which Israeli customs laws are applied.”
While Israel may be more democratic with a fairly sound human rights records domestically as compared to some of its neighbors, it’s nonetheless a party largely to blame for blocking the UN endorsed establishment of a Palestinian state and for engaging in gross human rights violations in the Gaza strip and others. In recent months there have been some shocking reports of gross mistreatments of African migrants, including arbitrary arrests and forceful deportation by the Israeli government despite protests and outcry from the international community.
Yet, we don’t see the government of Canada come forth in speaking about human rights violations and lack of democracy against the aforementioned countries. In contrary, what we see is the strengthening of economic ties which could be only seen as a signal to continue disregarding international laws and engaging inhumanely.
It’s against such backdrop that people are beginning to pay little attention to the western media’s, including that of Canada, preach on human rights issues and system of governance that themselves have little regard.
When it comes to Eritrea there’s a clear case of double standard. For over a decade the west, through its main stream media, tried to portray the East African country in a negative way, labeling it as a “failed state”, “rogue”, “dictatorial” and, at times, equating its system of governance to that of North Korea. The so- called “Human Rights Watch” has been very instrumental in spreading such highly exaggerated and often false claims of rights violations in fulfilling their ill-conceived agenda against Eritrea. The deafening noise of human rights violation in Bisha we’re currently hearing from the HRW and the likes, just at a time when Eritrea is calling for intensification of investment in the country, is a well orchestrated act of defamation and a continuation to the previous malicious attacks to slow down Eritrea’s economic advancements.
Canada, one of the countries whose mining company is actively operating in Eritrea, not only remained silent over the false and fabricated reports of “forced labor” in Bisha for which the company was implicated (which many find it odd) it continues to accuse Eritrea of human rights violations and terrorism unabated.
No country is perfect. There’s a common saying that the faultless entities are those who do nothing- like a sitting duck. Eritrea, despite its limitations and the continuous and unwarranted malicious attacks from many corners, is doing its best to improve the people’s standard of living. As the saying goes “Rome was not built in one day”. And the same applies to Eritrea. In all fairness, which is a gesture that has become a rare commodity in the world we live in, Eritrea has performed better whether it’s in healthcare, education or the overall quality of life than its counterparts.
Recently, the country has received recognition from the United Nations for achieving some and on being on track of the UN Millennium goal in near-eradicating malaria, reducing HIV and infant mortality rates significantly, among others. Today, life expectancy in Eritrea is about 66 years, about 6 to 10 years higher than that of its counterparts with similar socioeconomic status. The policy it’s following, though by no means perfect with room for improvement, is nonetheless sound and the right path with which foreign aid dependency can be eradicated and an important key to socioeconomic liberty.
Based on the evidence of western hypocrisy described, it is quite obvious that Eritrea is a victim that has been targeted unfairly by Canada and other western nations. While the motives behind such malicious attacks could be anyone’s guess, most people can reach with similar, if not the same, conclusion. And it has little to do with the country’s human rights records. Rather, Eritrea’s policy of self-reliance –driven- economic emancipation is somehow perceived as a threat and unpalatable to the western-imposed policy whereby Eritrea, like most if not all African countries, is to remain economically dependent and always at the mercy of western donors in times of economic hardship.
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