I’ve now arrived in Germany to be greeted by the massive and violent scenes of the anti-globalisation protests in Rostock. In theory, I – a journalist from one of the poorest nations in the world, Uganda – should have no problem understanding the protesters’ cause.
As the rich world reaps supernormal profits from globalisation, ordinary people in poor countries are getting more and more marginalised.
In Uganda the proportion of people below the poverty line has finally ‘improved’ to 31 per cent. But maternal mortality, infant mortality and deaths due to the clinically treatable disease malaria are still shamefully high.
There’s a lot the rich West can do to change this. They’ve made a start, but it’s not enough.
One thing about the Rostock demonstrations is the predictability of it all. Yes, globalisation is simply marginalisation of the poor. Yes, the rich countries – including Germany – have reneged on their promise (renewed two years ago in Gleneagles) to give more aid to poor nations.
But will this violence against police and blockading of roads necessarily change the plight of people in poor countries?
In my view the biggest problem Africa faces is not the G8 leaders, but most African leaders.
Consider, for instance, that while such protests are permitted here in Germany (albeit with anxieties about the anticipated violence), organising a demonstration in countries like Uganda or Zimbabwe still requires favours from the police.
Attempts by citizens to assert their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression are rarely granted and have in the past been met with police brutality.
It is often said that a country gets the leadership it deserves, meaning that nationals of a country must participate in shaping its leaders. By pumping billions of dollars of aid to African governments, the West is not only enabling the political class to amass wealth through corruption, but is also removing the power of Africa’s impoverished citizens to question their leaders.
Perhaps the left-wingers should not only be fighting the G8 leaders, but also reject recent moves by African governments to label all donor money as general ‘budget support’. This makes it more difficult to distinguish aid from money in the national purse – and crucially, more difficult to trace when it disappears.
[A version of this blog appeared in die tageszeitung newspaper on 5 June 2007]