In the News: Ebola, Western Interventions, and Local Agency

posted by Bangirana Albert Billy

Yet another unique and analytical contribution to the vexing Ebola crisis question. Gregg Gonsalves in “Why rushing off to fight Ebola in West Africa isn’t the right choice” highlights the entrenched complexities commonly ignored but yet critical gaps in the current response to the Ebola epidemic. Quoting the Nigerian writer Teju Cole (2012), Gregg affirms that there are more complex and wide spread problems – both intricate and intensely local that undergird the origins of the epidemic. The solution he argues lies in the commonly ignored notion of local agency. Obliterating the latter and reinforcing “a narrative of African helplessness” could continue to compromise the cause to avert the epidemic.

In the News: Ebola, the role of NGOs, and Western Media

posted by Tanya Schwarz

Last month, the Independent shared Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s letter calling for the international community to act on the Ebola outbreak. She said:

The time for talking or theorizing is over. Only concerted action will save my country, and our neighbours, from experiencing another national tragedy.

Yet, some have called into question the role of international NGOs and the Sirleaf administration in the crisis. Sisonke Msimang, in “‘There is no Ebola here': What Liberia teaches us about the failures of aid” for Africa is a Country:

Ebola has certainly foregrounded the reality of Liberia’s non-existent health system but the failure of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government to contain Ebola is emblematic of much larger problems of governance, leadership and trust…..

The Ebola crisis in Liberia has also shone a spotlight on the faults of the international development system that has propped up Sirleaf’s political leadership.  In many ways, one could argue that Ebola serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring cronyism in countries where a government that is friendly to Western governments is in place. Liberia is one of the most dependent countries on Earth: 73% of its gross national income comes from aid agencies and Monrovia, its capital city, is crawling with aid agencies.  There are literally hundreds of international NGOs with offices in the city, and in addition to the 800 million the country receives in foreign assistance each year, the UN spends an additional $500 million annually on maintaining a peacekeeping force.

So one might have expected that the easiest place to contain Ebola would have been Liberia.  There are already 7500 UN troops on the ground who would be able to mount the kind of logistical effort necessary to reach homes and communities with chlorine bleach, to transport the sick and to ensure stability should panic spark violence.  The reality has been the opposite.  From day one, the handling of the Ebola outbreak has been a study in the dysfunction of the aid system.

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In the News: Ebola and the African Union

posted by Bangirana Albert Billy

With now over six months since the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, critics are beginning to question Africa’s commitment in responding to this looming catastrophe. The outbreak of Ebola has again revealed the ugly dents within the African Union block. Liesl Louw-Vaudran in the article “Africa: The AU’s Ebola Mission – It’s Not All About the Money,” published in allAfrica, critiques the AU for the ‘too little, too late’ approach to the epidemic. Little resources allocation and continuous rhetoric has marred the AU’s counter-Ebola strategy. The article “African Union wants entire continent to fight Ebola”, published in CCTV America, reports on the AU call on member states to join the fight against Ebola in view of preventing possibilities for a widespread epidemic. In the article “Africa Union meets to discuss continent-wide Ebola strategy” published in Business Day Live, Dr Nkosazana Zuma – current AU Chairperson – reiterates the need for a collective responsibility in ensuring that Ebola doesn’t spread to the rest of the continent. Bruce Wiah, in his article for The New Dawn, “Liberia: AU stresses coordination in Ebola Fight” emphasizes the need to coordinate resources towards areas most affected by the epidemic – an approach that is yet to be fully realised by the AU member countries. It’s therefore evident that more still needs to be done as the African Union committee “Africa Union Support to Ebola outbreak in West Africa”ASEOWA recommits to a united, comprehensive and collective response to the epidemic. The question remains whether this will involve commitment of robust financial and professional resources to this critical cause.

In the News: Bible Study Publication Focuses on Economic Justice

Christian Aid, Jubilee Debt Campaign, and All We Can: Methodist Relief and Development have put together six bible studies that bring together economic issues and biblical teachings.

Entitled ‘Jubilee economics: Biblical teaching and financial crisis’, the set of six bible studies analyses economic issues facing people in the UK and across the world from a Biblical perspective.

Jesus’ teachings on hoarding wealth are examined in relation to inequality and financial crisis; old and new testament teaching on cancelling debts are looked at in relation to high levels of individual and government debt across the world; and the way  tax policies can increase inequality and injustice are examined.

Read the press release in its entirety here.


In the News: Ali Mazrui (1933-2014), Scholar, Teacher, Panafrican Activist

posted by Cilas Kemedjio

Ali MazruiChinua Achebe, in There Was a Country. A Personal History of the Biafra, claims that his generation has been referred to as the lucky one. Achebe’s generation bore witness to dramatic social and economic changes thanks to the modernization introduced by European colonizers. Besides the material changes that were transforming the African landscape, there was “a sense that we were standing figuratively and literally at the dawn of a new era.” They stood in-between the crumbling walls of tradition and the surging demands for independence. They witnessed and became, in their own right, « midwives » for the great cultural and political renaissance that vanquished the remnants of what Fanon termed a dying colonialism. The lucky generation is made of fraternity of great writers, artists, activists, and intellectuals who have brought African voices in the global village. This generation, as of late, is becoming more and more a disappearing act, thanks to the laws of biology.  The members of this fraternity—for it was mostly a fraternity—were recruited from the best students of the colonial schools. The trajectory of the brilliant pupil of the colonial school, to borrow this expression from literary scholar Lydie Moudileno, was familiar: “the gifted young student of the colonial school evolves in a world imprinted with both the classics of French literature and black diaspora movements of the beginning of the century, which lead him to a political awareness of his people, and translates into a political and literary engagement for a form of independence.”

Ali Mazrui, born on February 24, 1933 in Mombasa belongs to this exceptional fraternity of the brilliant student of the colonial school. As many of his fellow Eastern Africans, he Continue reading