Guyana Chronicle
November 18, 2002

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WHILE American high-tech super-tycoon Bill Gates is busying himself with a US$100M donation to help fight HIV/AIDS in India, a country wracked with the highest incidence of this plague outside Southern Africa, no significant single source other than the United States seems eager to do anything about that disease and the threat of famine on the Horn of Africa.

Those suffering millions on the Mother Continent face the twin perils of HIV/AIDS and famine brought about not only as a result of widespread drought on the sub-continent, but also by reckless and irresponsible diversion of billions in international and other aid sent there for economically productive purposes.

Tragically, much of it has been wasted for partisan political purposes or the acquisition of military armaments, which rulers turn on their own people or on neighbouring states.

It is sad that millions of people in a region so desperately in need of international aid and co-operation for developing critical areas such as agriculture, manufacturing and social services should find themselves at the mercy of political opportunists who see no higher purpose for their energies than to victimise on so massive a scale the very people they are sworn to serve.

It is not without good cause that a leading Barbadian journalist saw fit yesterday to draw attention to what is happening in Ethiopia and also to the atrocities in Rwanda over which local Pan-Africanists have drawn a veil of silence.

Anyone with a conscience is bound to be moved by the horrific suffering on that continent, specifically the sub-Saharan region, which continues, for the most part, without good governance. Those within our Caribbean region who are quick with their daily lamentations about inequities and inadequacies in our system of governance might have missed the point raised by media practitioner David Ellis yesterday.

He was not suggesting that there be no complaint as regards any real or imagined flaws in Barbados. Rather, he seemed to be encouraging a broad perspective on human suffering while indicating that ours may be minor irritants when compared with catastrophes elsewhere.

“One of the most horrendous things that has happened in our period that very few people talk about is the genocide in Rwanda,” he said. “That took many, many lives. Yet, for whatever reason, you get very little attention paid to it.”

It is interesting that he should also refer to a country such as Ethiopia, a nation much idolised by one of the newer sects in Barbados. By latest United Nations estimates, the death toll from a burgeoning famine there could exceed all fatalities caused by starvation in the whole of southern Africa.

Added to mortality from hunger is the complicating element of HIV/AIDS, both there and in Rwanda where gang rape of young girls and women has been used as a military weapon of intimidation and punishment.

The UN is yet to determine the extent to which HIV/AIDS infection has resulted from this kind of atrocity. At the village level, according to officers of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the rate of female genital mutilation, following gang rape by army personnel, is of staggering proportions.

We are fairly certain that by now the media practitioner mentioned above would have come to the view that the African Diaspora, of which Barbados is a part, is afflicted by what we described on previous occasions as a bifocal view of that continent and things therein.

That is why there is so little attention paid to the horrific wrong-doings and ills in those countries by the very people who jump on western capitalists, among whom Bill Gates is numbered, and on western countries, principally the US, but seldom, if ever, publicly acknowledge that from such sources Africa derives the vast majority of it foreign help, particularly in times of disaster.

Those same haters of the West do not exert themselves, other than by loud, empty rhetoric, to demonstrate their support for the same African countries.
(Reprinted from the ‘Barbados Advocate’)

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