Tuesday, July 01, 2008

African Democracy

64 countries... 12 free ones

When the Bloke took part in that BBC discussion on aid to Africa, he was surprised to hear from the representatives of the aid industry that "the majority of African states are now democracies".

Their argument was that although in the past vast sums of our money have clearly been given to kleptocratic African dictators, things have changed fundamentally. Western aid bureaucrats are now so much more selective, focusing our taxes on countries that can demonstrate "good governance" - in particular, democracy.

The Bloke made a mental note to check the facts. But as it happens, the facts are checking themselves. The welcome given to the monstrous Mugabe by his fellow rulers at the African Union summit tells us everything we need to know. And even the most starry-eyed Prog Con propagandists like Jon Snow are admitting much of Africa's so-called democracy is a sham.

Take President Bongo. He's ruled Gabon for 41 years, winning a series of rigged elections. Arguing that Africans should not be bossed around by the West, he tells us:

"[Mugabe] was elected, he took an oath, and he is here with us, so he is President and we cannot ask him more. He conducted elections and I think he won... We have even received Mugabe as a hero."

Every year US think tank Freedom House (set up in 1941 by Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt) publishes its Freedom Index. The Index looks at both political rights and civil liberties, and according to its summary only 11 out of 53 African countries are free - ie about one-fifth (the charts above include the Middle East, where outside Israel freedom is unknown).

Of course, as the charts show, it also identifies a much larger group of countries that are "partly free". But since they include President Bongo's Gabon, I think we get the picture.

So how does the Department for International Development (DfID) use this information to guide the way it dishes out our money?

According to its Africa Factsheet, it has 14 priority African aid recipients: DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

You don't need to be an expert on Africa to realise they're not all democracies: indeed some are bywords for darkness. But see if you can guess how many the Freedom Index rates as free.

The answer is just one - Ghana. All the others are either not free or only partly free.

So what should we conclude?

Yes, we're back in the land of the box-tickers. You want some money? You have to hold an election. You've done that? Great, here's the money.

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