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March 26, 2008


                           TOO POOR TO MATTER


What is happening in Africa?


A bloody war is now ravaging the seemingly endlessly chaotic Somalia.  Ethiopians are in the thick of that fight and mercilessly putting down a rebellion in its Somali-dominated regions at home.  The seemingly eternal conflict in the Congo seems to be waning.  Recently, in Kenya and Chad internal strife is rearing its ugly heads .  Meanwhile Sudan and Darfur remain the same.


Some might fairly contend that this is business as usual on the continent, but many have noticed subtle changes there, particularly after Nelson Mandela in S. Africa showed the world what true forgiveness looked like.  To us, the current events are heartbreaking.  Just when it seemed that the era of Africa “strongman” leadership was over, it’s back again.


As usual, the international community bears a substantial share of the blame for the mayhem because of its flawed policies.  President Bush and America are to be lauded for drastically increasing HIV/AIDS funding on the continent, as was highlighted on the president’s recent trip.  The success of the debt forgiveness movement is not to be overlooked, as well.


However, this is not enough.  The US and its European allies continue to sell arms to dictatorial regimes that oppress and torture their people.  This fact alone makes any western criticism of unjust regimes outside of their orbit a mockery.


America and its allies encouraged the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia that has resulted in over 6,000 dead and one million refugees in the last year (see “Aid Agencies Warn About Somalia,” AP story from 3/25/08).  America used the alleged presence of wanted terrorists in Somalia as a pretext for supporting the invasion. 


Perhaps, they expected us to not notice that there has been little to substantiate these claims.  Even if true, these terrorists didn’t suddenly materialize in Somalia when Islamic extremists were gaining power there.  Where was the urgency before?


The situation in Kenya demonstrates that putting one’s faith in elections and democracy to change the developing world is in many cases futile. 


Although much of the blame for this violence has to go to the Africans themselves, my complaint with the world community is the acceptance of killing and its ill-advised responses to crises.


Africa, although they have some oil in the north, is awash in poverty and despair.  However, a few nations are relatively new players in the oil game.  The Sudan, Chad, So Tom and Principe, and others currently have a neglible impact on world oil supply and price.  In time, their power and influence may grow.  Only then will we really care what happens there. 


For now, it appears as if the world doesn't care about the ordinary people in Africa.  Every now and then, lipservice is paid to one crisis or another.  But with no nuclear weapons to threaten the West and little military capability America and Europe have decided that all of the death and killing in Africa is unimportant as long as it’s not members of their exclusive club that are being killed.  In this regard, not much has changed since colonial times.


This selfish attitude goes against the bible’s command to be concerned with all of humanity, and it has led to trouble before (see Galatians 6:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Romans 12:10 Philippians 2:3).


America stood by for decades as millions were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).  We supported the instigator of most of the bloodshed, Mobutu Sese Seko,  because of our Cold War power politics.  I am at a loss to explain how Christian America also stood by for twenty years and watched 2 million Sudanese die in civil strife, many of them fellow Christians.


Yet we continue to support corrupt dictators as long as the prospects are good that oil will keep flowing or support in the “war on terror” is in the offing.  This makes us look like unprincipled, immoral hypocrites. 


Kenya is not important enough to waste a visit or the valuable time of our top officials until they just happen to be nearby.  In Chad we now support a dictator who came to power himself by way of arms and who has rigged two subsequent elections, by saying any violent coup is wrong.


This double standard may be because the Sudan supports the rebels in Cad and the recent offensive on Chad’s capital possibly was meant to prevent UN peacekeepers from deploying in the region.  This doesn’t matter.  The short, virtually casualty-free occupation of Liberia a few years ago shows how successful military intervention can be in Africa if done by the West’s advanced militaries and done for sincere reasons.


In and out quick with overwhelming force that causes little death.  Poorly trained, makeshift African forces are not up to the task.  Where is the will?  Even the fledgling UN peacekeeping force in Darfur is insufficiently manned and supplied.  It seems as if we talk a good game, get the idea.


How would the world look if we had been doing what we did in Liberia for the last decade or so?  Solving the easier problems first, removing the evil dictators and supporting honest, fair minded leaders, and helping improve the quality of life.


By now America would be loved and not hated—think of the international support we would have in fighting terrorism.  More importantly, think of the track record that we would have of actually helping people and transforming lives.  The good will directed toward us from our new friends and the blessings from the Holy Spirit would be enormous.


Instead, America abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets left, abandoned Somalia after “nation building” got a little tough, and waded into the deep impenetrable abyss of Iraq.  Such a tough nut to crack should have been last not first.


Now the hill that I propose to climb may be too steep; the US military is exhausted, if not broken.  We are still wasting our time when we could be tackling solvable problems.  Maybe it’s not too late.


Today the UN Security Council once again takes up the issue of Somalia.  The Secretary General has resisted sending UN peacekeepers to this tinder box.  I pray that the world body would do the right thing: abandon the fiasco of the Ethiopian incursion; accept the Islamic Courts movement, who had brought the first stability to the area for decades before the current crisis, as a legitimate negotiating partner; and call for the recognition of northern Somalia's relatively peaceful Somaliland region as an independent state.


However, I have little hope that this will happen.  The most important group of world leaders will take a pass.  If this happens, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.  What they have allowed to transpire in Somalia in the last year is criminal.  I fully expect that they will continue to support the US’s weak and hypocritical arguments about the danger to the world supposedly posed by the few thousand Islamic exremists driving around Somalia in pick-up trucks with machine guns on the back.  Why?


Somalia is too poor to matter.



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