Ben Affleck on the Role of the US in Africa

21 Nov 2008

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Aid is not the only answer to Africa's problems, says actor and nouveau-activist Ben Affleck. The solution lies in paying attention to Africa; being invested in African issues and trying to understand them. He makes a case against imposing Western models of development on Africa.

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Patricia McFadden
3 Dec

Comments on Aid and Africa

I think it's really cool that Ben Affleck is speaking out as a politically situated individual from the USA - it bodes well for the US society that its young are beginning to think about and see the world differently.

However, Ben also needs to realise that the US has been deeply involved as a colonial power in Africa for over a 100 years - in its own 'exceptional' manner. From the former Rhodesia and South Africa to the Congo ( with Mabutu) and Mozambique and Angola. US involvement has been around land expropriation and the protection of settler whites; the continuing sale of arms, especially small arms to those very bandits that use child soldiers; the creation and support of bandits and dictatorial regimes in areas where Africa's most curcial minerals and oil are plentiful - all to the benefit of US and EU multinationls. The USA has been definitively involved in the plunder and destruction of our continent - and the best thing that US citizens can do is get their state out of our continent. We do not want the AFRICOM ( US militarization of the continent in the 21st century); we do not want the use of sanctions against countries that have strategic minerals like platinum ( under the guise of punishing a tiny elite, when infact it is the poor and working people of those countries who suffer) Take a look at the Zimbabwe Development and Reconstruction Act - passed by the US Congress in 2000 and see how many punitive and deliberate clauses there are before you get to the 'restriction of travel for the black elite in that country. US policy makers know that sanctions hit the ordinary people because they refused to apply sanctions against apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia, knowing that white settlers would also feel the pinch. However now it is convenient to pass an act of congress to 'make the Zimbabwean economy scream in order to separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANUPF' to paraphrase chester Crocker on this matter.

Therefore, while it is vey encouraging to hear people like Affleck speak with concern about the situation in Africa - it is even more important that they unlearn the myths about US 'neutrality' in Africa and or the claims that the US has not been involved colonially on the continen ( what was the slave trade about if not to open up the continent for colonial settlement as well).

As an African intellectual I can honestly say that we are tired of US citizens repeating the jargon of the US state, albeit in 'nice liberal tones' - and we want the citizens of this country to reform - or better still - transform their state and the ways in which it undertakes foreign policy on our continent. Like Ben says in the interview - Africans know how to fish. Better still, we would like t o be able to fish in the many lakes and rivers of our continent. We would like to simply have access and control over our resources, ( as US citizens do with a sense of entitlement) so that we too can get on with the business of making and living lives of dignity for ourselves and our children - and then, be able to interact with other communities in the world on an equal footing.

US citizens have too much work to do here - your economy, cities and homes are crumbling - charity begins at home - remember!!!

Patricia McFadden
Currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at Syracuse University, NY.

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