As the leaders of the world's richest nations try to reach agreement on a plan to end poverty in Africa and struggle to find common ground on the issue of global warming, African politics has reared its ugly head, proving that money alone is not the answer to the continent's problems.
While President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and heads of the six other nations attending the three-day G8 summit in Edinburgh, Scotland, that began Wednesday are under pressure from activists around the world to end the human suffering in the poorest nations on earth, it seems that African leaders are being given a pass. That's unfortunate because most of the problems are the result of corrupt governments.
No one is denying that poverty is the root cause of the extremely high death toll, especially among the very young, but the policies implemented by dictatorial regimes to guarantee their control of the reins of power have exacerbated the problem. Despite billions of dollars in monetary assistance and other aid being funneled to various African countries, the number of poor is growing, diseases such as malaria continue to kill and the HIV-AIDS epidemic is spreading like wildfire in some regions of the continent.
Thus, when the African Union, which ended its summit Tuesday, issues a call to the world's richest nations to forgive the debt of all African countries and to abolish all agriculture subsidies, the question that must be directed at the African leaders is this: What have you done for -- not to -- your people lately?
The idea that the industrialized world should bear responsibility for the economic implosion of post-independent Africa is ridiculous. Once thriving countries have been brought to their knees by mismanagement and widespread corruption. Food aid meant to alleviate hunger has been stolen by government officials and sold on the black market, while economic aid has been funneled into African leaders' private bank accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens.
The refusal of the African Union to acknowledge the political sins of the continent -- and to do something about them -- was clearly demonstrated by its refusal to address what is going on in the southern nation of Zimbabwe, where the president, Robert Mugabe, has launched a campaign of terror against his critics.
Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, most of them poor, have been left homeless by Mugabe's policy of destroying shanty communities and vegetable gardens. Children deprived of shelter have succumbed to the wintry nights.
Why would the African Union not take a strong stand on this human rights issue? Because there are very few African leaders who are without sin and can credibly cast the first stone -- without being held up to criticism and ridicule.
Thus, when President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and the other leaders of the world's richest nations deliberate the various proposals on eliminating poverty in Africa, there must be a parallel discussion about the politics of the continent.
If corrupt leadership has become the standard, then a way must be found to get foreign aid directly to the needy.