'More Must Be Done' in Africa

Thank you for your editorial (Jan. 13), "More Must Be Done," about relief aid for Africa. Reps. Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.), Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) and Mickey Leland (D-Tex.) are on the right track. They have shown outstanding leadership in introducing a bill that will increase support for African nations. It is critical for all Western governments, especially our own, to see Africa's urgent need to end starvation and to develop sustainable systems of agriculture. The $225 million for longer-term recovery is a start in this direction.

Sens. Pete Wilson and Alan Cranston of California need to support or sponsor such a bill in the Senate. We must urge all our elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, to support legislation that will restore Africans to the self-sufficiency they enjoyed 20 years ago.

You are right in saying that more must be done. When we look at Africa before colonialism--20 years ago--it was producing almost 95% of its food. Today, every country, except South Africa imports all its food.

Thank you again for your coverage of this new and urgent bill.


Citrus Heights

The Reagan Administration has offered $235 million in supplemental aid to Africa. In HR 100, the African Famine Relief and Recovery Act, Congress could give as much as $1 billion.

--Can the U.S. afford this? Yes.

--Will it save lives? Yes.

--Will it foster long-term development? Maybe.

--Will it create a "welfare" or "emergency-relief" dependency on the part of African governments sometimes unwilling themselves to take needed steps to end starvation? Maybe.

--Should we allow more people to die on the basis of two maybes? No.

HR 100 should be passed.



The bill proposed by Reps. Wolpe, Weiss and Leland is an important piece of legislation that will begin to address the situation in Africa.

The money appropriated is designated not only for food assistance but also for transportation of that food to the areas of need. Included in this legislation is a fund for the purpose of administrating the aid so that it actually reaches the people who need the support.

An interesting note is that the money appropriated, approximately $1 billion, will for the most part be spent in the United States to pay American farmers and businessmen for grains and transportation of those grains.

Africa is a continent of devastating drought and starvation right now. To be effective partners and brothers with the African people we must realize that the hunger is only part of the story. The social and economic systems that we take for granted don't even exist there. We need to look to the potential of Africa and see that self-sufficiency is possible.

The African Famine and Relief Act of 1985 definitely begins to address both the immediate and long-term issues. Our love and support for the people of Africa will do much more for our relations with the Third World than all the munitions in the world.



I was pleased to see your editorial. At a time when many individuals and media representatives are turning their attention from the African tragedy to other events, it was heartening to see you re-focus our eyes on the area. Clearly the condition in Africa is getting worse and many more people there are facing starvation.

In many African countries, there has been no harvest to have changed that. People are still leaving their homes in search of food and water, and refugees continue to pour into camps. Right now 150 million people in 28 countries are affected by the drought. That number represents half the population of the United States. Since it takes several months for government allocations to be translated into food, we must start now to prevent the deaths of millions of people in the coming year.

The proposed bill would provide relief to the people who are starving by providing food and transportation, and it would begin recovery in the area by funding long-term projects such as agriculture and health care. Most of the money will be channeled through private and international agencies that have proven to be effective in providing relief. In addition, most of the money, will be spent in this country to pay farmers, blanket makers, etc., and it would therefore stimulate our economy. It makes more sense to do this through programs that save lives than through increased defense spending or subsidies to farmers.



Reader responses (Letters, Jan. 2) to Charles Powers' excellent series on Africa (Nov. 16-19) are typical reactions to criticisms of Africa. Namely, any critical reporting of Black Africa is (a) either racist inspired, and/or (b) the reporter overlooks the fact that condition in Africa are wholly the legacy of a colonialist past.

Having spent several years in Africa as an administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development or as a member of economic survey teams in the Congo, Tanzania, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, I cannot accept the racist-colonialist arguments.

There has been in fact an unarticulated tendency on the part of AID officials, reporters, U.N. personnel and businessmen to expect less from African governments and to excuse away poor performance on the basis of their recent emergence on the world scene. This in itself can be construed as a more subtle kind of racism, of course. Far from racist-inspired criticism, as Powers pointed out, the outside world has tended to treat Black Africa with kid gloves in an overly protective way.

The argument that colonialism is the ultimate source of Africa's problems is even more doubtful. Colonialism was late in arriving in Africa--the Europeans imposing their artificial boundaries in the 1880s. The European presence was not only less intrusive than in other parts of the Third World but its effects were also largely positive.

I recall a meeting with the late President William Tubman of Liberia during which he stated that he expected the United States to be more generous in its aid program in Liberia than in other African countries because Liberia had been independent and on its own over the years without "the benefits of being a colony."

It is a fact of life that those African countries or areas of a given country that had the greatest contact with the European colonialists are the most advanced, and conversely, those areas that had the least contact with Europeans are the most backward (or traditional). Of the three Third World areas--Africa, Latin America and Asia--the argument that imperialism is the source of most current problems is by far the weakest in Africa.

There is, of course, an explanation for Africa's backwardness that need offend no one, namely, its relative isolation throughout history, its harsh climate, and for most countries, the poor resource case. Over the centuries Africa was denied the stimulating presence of foreigners and their cultures because of the Sahara desert barrier and the lack of harbors. Moreover, the climate is harsh, giving rise to insect-borne diseases (white man's grave) and leached-out soil.

Take the case of one disease alone--the form of sleeping sickness borne by the tsetse fly that is fatal to domesticated animals in much of the continent. This has denied the African farmer the use of beasts of burden and has restricted the internal transport of goods, with far-reaching economic consequences.

So let's have more rather than less candid reporting on Africa, a continent that will not truly take its equal place in the world community of nations until it is judged and reported upon by world standards, without there being raised the banner of racism.


San Luis Obispo

As a Nigerian national who has been through most of the experiences cited in Powers' series, I'd say Africa has been dead for many years. The Ethiopian famine proves it. The question is: Can Africa be resurrected? Well, maybe I am one who will welcome back the colonial masters. Our leaders have killed us! I cry for my motherland.



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