An update and a disclosure

My name is Elsie Bryant.

I haven’t mentioned my name before now because I’ve been unsure of how the blog would be received and whether I’d actually have anything valuable to talk about. I was afraid of failing, or people thinking that I’m talking a lot of rubbish (although I always welcome constructive criticism). I haven’t even shown my friends and family. Now, however, I feel I have a responsibility to put my name to this blog. It’s something I care about and I think we should talk about, so even if I get things wrong and make mistakes, at least it will generate discussion around these important issues. I would also really like people to contribute posts and articles and I can only really achieve that if this is honest and human.

I started Development Truths in March 2014 because for a long time I had felt a growing sense of unease about ‘international development’ as we know it, a million questions in my head and my heart and I wanted to explore, discuss and challenge these thoughts and feelings. At the start of this year everything just started to click into place, and now here I am.

It’s only August and I already feel like I’ve personally come along way since the beginning. Now, the narrow focus I began with (perceptions and stereotypes) has blown wide open and now I am starting to notice things more than ever before. Working to enlighten the world’s general public is one part of a long journey to true and lasting change. We need an awakening of our collective conscious, at all levels of society.

I now feel that I want to examine and challenge:

  • The discourse of ‘development’ – why does the ‘West’ get to decide what developed is? Why does it focus so much on money and economy? What effect does this discourse have, the assumptions and the stereotypes surrounding ‘developing’ countries? How has it developed and can it be transformed?
  • Why Western countries continue to perpetuate a cycle of dependency on them by ‘developing’ countries, and explore why this is damaging and why and how it can end. Can mutual respect and harmonious co-existence exist? Why aren’t we sharing and listening to others’ knowledge and values instead of simply trying to export our own? There are so many countries who are financially poor, but socially rich – why don’t we want to learn from them?
  • The ‘Saviour’ attitude of many different actors (more about this later) in Western countries towards the ‘developing’ world and the ridiculous charade of ‘altruistic’ development ‘aid’. What is our obsession with thinking we know what’s best for the world? At the very least, why can we never seem to strike a balance between morality and respect for the values of others?
  • Why and how the Western hegemonic powers can sideline an entire continent (Africa) in global decisions.
  • The truth behind the relationship between international development and international security – are they mutually exclusive?
  • The barriers to a truly level playing field in international economics, politics and society – who or what is truly in the way? Why are they there and how can we get rid of them?
  • What can be done to enlighten the world so that it can truly see these issues (and many more) and feel empowered and inspired to change.

There will be many more that come along and many I have forgotten to include, and I will add and transform these as I go along, but I feel that these are a good start. Please do feel free to suggest any I might have missed.

As usual, comments, thoughts and criticisms welcome 🙂

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The creeping hum of drones – the divine right of US intervention in Africa

The hum of US drones is becoming more familiar over African skies.

From Nigeria to Somalia, US military presence on the continent is a creeping reality. US troops may be thin on the ground, with the Pentagon preferring to rely on training and financial support to allied forces, but special forces are now operating at any given moment.

I spotted this article in the FT on the ‘creeping’ military invasion of the US across the African continent and thought it was important to share: 

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/cbc97f3c-141e-11e4-9acb-00144feabdc0.html?segid=0100320#axzz39YCZZJfz

I need some time to process the article fully, but it’s clear to me that the US has upped the ante in its modern-day military colonialism of ““ungoverned spaces” with the potential, like Afghanistan, to foster anti-American extremists”; I have lots of questions about why and how “African leaders threatened by extremism are now more ready to seek US assistance and asked Washington to put security on the agenda this week” – what’s the story here?; and worst of all, the US knows exactly what it’s doing:

US officials acknowledge that its record is mixed and calibrating the extent to which they get involved will remain a delicate balancing act.

For me, it also further reinforces my feelings back in May when I wrote about the #bringbackourgirls campaign in May. Read it here.

I don’t have any of the answers, but even the article points out that:

In the view of security officials across the region, one of the biggest recent boosts to the extremist cause came in 2011 when Muammer Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya by a US-backed rebellion.

and

Arguably, in Somalia too, extremists posed no more than a marginal threat until the US-backed Ethiopian invasion in 2006.

I have my own feelings about right and wrong and morality and I know that we shouldn’t stand by when atrocities take place and when people need help we should offer it to them. But this is something deeper and darker than that. US military expansion will not bring peace. The world must find another way.

I’ve ended up writing a lot more about this than I intended (I thought i’d just post the link – eek), but hope to pick this up again in future posts. Please feel free to leave your own comments and feelings about this article.

NB: I read so many good articles and comment pieces that I want to include here and discuss but at the moment I don’t have as much time as I’d like to research and write big meaty investigative posts, even though my mind is overflowing with ideas for them. I am working on tackling this and hope it will become easier once I have established a good routine. However, I don’t want to miss opportunities to share interesting content with you, so, where possible, I will make sure to pop great reading material up here when I see it, rather than storing it to talk about it future when I have more time. I can always go back to it and analyse when I can right?

Quote

‘People need to see Africa as it is’

I realise this is becoming the ‘Africatruths’ blog, but hey, Africa is synonymous with development right?! (Truthfully, there’s a lot more written about it, it’s the continent where ‘development’ is appropriated by the world as the primary discourse and contains some of my favourite countries in the world so there is a slight bias – I will work on it).

I don’t agree with everything in the article and it’s a shame that it focuses on business, but I agree with the sentiment: http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/?p=42154

[Mo] Ibrahim did however highlight a couple of misconceptions about Africa, one being that Africa’s 54 different countries are often clumped together and considered one homogeneous region. The existence of war or human rights violations in one country is often generalised to the entire continent.

He noted when there is war in Ukraine or genocide in Bosnia, no one calls all of Europe a “basket case”, like they do when these events happen in Africa.

Another misconception is that bad leadership is unique to Africa. Ibrahim said the continent is often remembered for its bad leaders such as Mobutu (President of the DRC, then known as Zaire, from 1965-1997) and Idi Amin (President of Uganda from 1971-1979). He argued that the western world has also had its fair share of bad leaders.

“Come on, you had Milošević, you had Berlusconi, you had Hitler, you had Mussolini. You had all those guys. So I just hope for the day that [the west] recognises that we [Africans] are just normal people, like everybody else, who is blessed with a huge continent. We have a lot of resources and we have mismanaged it sometimes… We have had some failure in leadership; we accept that as well. We all have our faults but we are dusting ourselves off and trying to move ourselves forward and we have a better, new generation coming through,” he said.

“People need to see Africa as it is. Africa is a normal continent. We are normal people just like you, the guys in America, or anywhere else.”

Thoughts? Is Ibrahin on the money or has he got it wrong? As usual, please do let me know!