Opinion: Sankara’s warning on the odious debt lent to the continent… is relevant today
Sometimes we need an reminder, that some powers and some states doesn’t come with the best intentions or with a real helping hand. If it is the famous white elephants or the other giant aid initiatives that doesn’t amount to anything. However, what is now at stake is for instance a lot African states and their loans to China. The Chinese has collateral in either ports, state owned enterprises or ability to directly extract the needed resources the current state with huge loans has. This is their trap and Sankara warned about this, just like the French, British and Americans has done in the past too. Nothing new under the sun, just new methods to get ahead.
What I am quoting is a speech done to the OAU in 1987, just a few months before his assassination. Therefore, the words and warnings seems more important. As in our time, the leaders of today is recycling the ills of the past. They are doing it out of greed and in the end, the people and the citizens will suffer. Not the multi-national corporations, not the state itself, but the public whose disregarded and have to reinvent money.
The wise words of Sankara:
“We believe analysis of the debt should begin with its roots. The roots of the debt go back to the beginning of colonialism. Those who lent us the money were those who colonized us. They were the same people who ran our states and our economies. It was the colonizers who put Africa into debt to the financiers—their brothers and cousins. This debt has nothing to do with us. That’s why we cannot pay for it. The debt is another form of neocolonialism, one in which the colonialists have transformed themselves into technical assistants. Actually, it would be more accurate to say technical assassins. They’re the ones who advised us on sources of financing, on underwriters of loans. As if there were men whose loans are enough to create development in other people’s countries. These underwriters were recommended to us, suggested to us. They gave us enticing financial documents and presentations. We took on loans of fifty years, sixty years, and even longer. That is, we were led to commit our peoples for fifty years and more. The debt in its present form is a cleverly organized reconquest of Africa under which our growth and development are regulated by stages an norms totally alien to us. It is a reconquest that turns each of us into a financial slave—or just plain slave—of those who had the opportunity, the craftiness, the deceitfulness to invest funds in our countries that we are obliged to repay. Some tell us to pay the debt. This is not a moral question. Paying or not paying is not a question of so-called honor at all” (Thomas Sankara – Speech given at the African Unity Organisation Conference, Addis Ababa, July 29, 1987).
Let us not forgot the lessons of the past, as we in the present is continuing a cycle of recycling debt, growing debt and cycles of repayment schemes, which will only make the next generation suffer. If not, when the grace period hits and the state doesn’t have a big enough tax-base or revenue. It defaults and has to give away extraction licenses, state owned enterprises and other vital transport infrastructure like ports and airports. Because, that what is happening.
This is happening in our time. The world is looking, but nothing is getting done. Peace.