Sagrario Morán explains that although Africa is one of the richest continents on earth in natural resources, it is the one most plagued by violence, war, and human rights violations. In Morán‘s opinion there are both external and internal causes to Africa‘s trouble. Externally these issues arise from the foreign interference of colonialism and big business, while internally conflict stems from constant civil war, negligence in government, corruption, and ethnic, racial, and religious hatred. And yet, through all of the suffering that the continent has undergone, Morán believes that with intelligent planning, strategic development, and solidarity, a bright future can be achieved in Africa.
Sagrario Morán is specialist on armed conflicts, terrorism and political violence. She is a professor of political science at the Complutense University in Madrid and at the Rey Juan Carlos I University.
DESPITE WHAT MANY MODERN DAY PESSIMISTS BELIEVE, the human condition has improved greatly over the course of history. The number of wars, coups d’etats, and violent conflicts has decreased, while respect for human rights, and the fulfillment of peace agreements has grown.
TAKING PLACE ON AFRICA
Yet war still exists. Today twenty violent conflicts continue to rage around the world, and another twenty countries can be considered on the verge. Yet what is truly striking is that the majority of these conflicts are taking place on the African continent. Africa continues to be plagued by a myriad of problems, from war, to malaria, to the AIDS epidemic, to corruption in all levels of government, to the shameless exploitation of its natural resources.
But what is even more striking, is that all of this violence and misery is taking place on a landmass that provides 30 percent of the world’s mineral production, 95 percent of its diamonds, 75 percent of its gold, 67 percent of its cobalt, 35 percent of its hydroelectric power, and 11 percent of its oil.
ECONOMIC RICHES FOR NO ONE BUT THE RICH
With so many riches, why should Africa need foreign aid? The answer to this question is simple: great riches do not mean that the people of Africa are rich.
Striking is the fact that in Sierra Leon, one of the number one diamond suppliers of the world, the majority of people have no electric lights, no running water, and have never seen a diamond in their life. In fact, poverty is steadily growing throughout nearly all of Africa.
EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL CAUSES
One of the main external causes of Africa’s poverty has been the foreign interference of colonialism, which benefited cities and impoverished rural areas. While colonialism no longer exists in modern day, the intrusion of multinational corporations has taken its place. These juggernauts of big business throw around their weight, exploiting natural resources and robbing much of Africa’s wealth, widening the economic gap between the northern and southern hemispheres of the world.
The internal causes most responsible for the nonstop violence of the continent are civil war, government negligence, corruption, and class, ethnic, and religious hatred.
If you squint hard enough, it is possible to see a light at the end of the African tunnel. The dispatch of peacekeeping forces to various regions of Africa such as Darfur (Sudan) and Burundi marks an important step in the world involvement for the end of violence in Africa. The formation of NEPAD, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, a union of 13 African economic organizations, is a good step towards economic solidarity. The work of the African Union (successor of the Organization of African Unity) to accelerate political, social, and economic development, and promote peace, as well as the growing role of women in society; all of these are positive signs for a brighter future.
ADVANCES IN LIBERIA, RWANDA AND SOUTH AFRICA
In countries with recently painful histories like Liberia and Rwanda, women are participating in government and society in unprecedented numbers and importance. Ellen Johnson, elected President of Liberia in November of 2005, became the first woman president ever to take office in Africa.
Rwanda, after the horrendous genocide of 1994, has become one of the safest places in all of Africa.
South Africa ranks 14th for having one of the highest numbers of women in Parliament.
THE HUMILIATION OF WOMEN
But South Africa is a particular case. In the majority of African countries women are still suffering tremendously from abuses unthinkable in the western world.
The barbarous practice of genital mutilation has ruined the lives of over one million women and children in thirty African countries. Three out of four women have been circumcised in Mauritania.
CHANGING WAY WE GIVE AID
Finding a solution to Africa’s problems requires a variety of different methods. The current programs established by the IMF, the World Bank, and NGO’s should continue. However, it is necessary that we fundamentally change the way we conceive of aid to Africa, in order to maximize possible development.
The west must stop looking upon Africa as an exploitable means to cheap resources. We must invest honestly in the continent in order to make for a more dynamic African economy based upon the law of supply and demand, abuse-free.