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On Criminal Silences
by Firoze Manji and
media is replete with images from Niger of dying children grappling with
emaciated breasts that have long dried from starvation.The famine in Niger
exposes the sham of G8 pledges to end poverty in Africa during and after their
recent meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland and the complicity of those aid agencies
who said not a word about this when they had accesses to millions of viewers
watching geriatric jives during the Live8 concerts.
is evidence that G8 leaders and international agencies (www.dec.org.uk ) knew about the crisis brewing
in Niger for nearly a year. They must have known that at the same time in Niamey
shops and markets were (and are still) flooded with food for the rich.
were G8 leaders and international agencies silent? Why was the issue not raised
by them at the G8 meetings? Conspiracy theorists may have a viable case for
suggesting that the famine was “delayed” as a media event: that a famine in the
middle of a G8 summit would have been an embarrassing example of how G8 policies
are responsible for denying people food so that they slowly wither and
don’t voluntarily starve themselves to death. Famine has clear early warning
signals. Populations are made more vulnerable to famine by inequities in the
global order like unfair terms of trade, onerous debt and skewed aid, to say
nothing of the sheer looting of wealth by the West.
edition at the time of the G8 summit ( see http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=28865
), we argued that “economic and social policies of African countries have been
subverted to serve the interests of the west - the repayment of debt, and the
opening up of countries to the needs of voracious international capital.” In
short, Africa is not poor because of some freak of circumstance, but because the
continent had been systematically looted. Yet the silence over this looting
persists – as does the silence over its endgame such as the famine in Niger, and
the growing crisis in Mali.
famine is avoidable, if existing policies maintained by rich countries
contribute to famine, then surely there is a strong case to be made that those
responsible for these policies be held accountable: that in a very real sense,
famine is a crime against humanity.
what has happened to people in Niger should be viewed as a crime against
humanity, then – at the very least - shouldn't the silence of G8 leaders and
international agencies be viewed as acts of complicity?
to more reading on Niger:
Humanitarian Policy Group Briefing Paper
Don't let Niger overshadow hunger in Mali
and EU are blamed for starvation
US Care About Niger Now?
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