Two teenage boys from Guinea (Conakry) were found dead of exposure at Brussels ariport in Belgium on 2 August 1999 hidden in the undercarriage of a Sabena plane which had flown in from Guinea. The boys, Yaguine Koïta and Fodé Tounkara, were found to be carrying a message to the people of Europe appealing them to come to the aid of African children, because of the terrible suffering they are undergoing everywhere on that Continent.
The boys had written: “Our problems include war, sickness, hunger, etc. As for the rights of the child, it is in Africa, and in Guinea above all, that we have a surplus of schools but a great lack of education and teaching. For our parents are poor and the most important thing for them is to feed us. Then we have no sports facilities where we could play football, basketball, tennis …
“Therefore, if you can see that we’re sacrificing ourselves and risking our lives, it’s because in Africa there’s so much suffering and we need you to fight against poverty and to put an end to war in Africa …”
Solidaire, the newspaper of the Workers Party of Belgium, commented as follows on the situation which drove these two young men to their tragic premature deaths:
Thirty-eight per cent of Guineans never reach their 40
birthday. Fifty per cent have no access to safe drinking water. 69% have no access to healthcare. One Guinean in four lives below the poverty line. The average Guinean consumes only as many calories as in 1970, while his protein ration has fallen by 6%. Food production in Guinea has fallen by a fifth over the last 15 years. The country is importing 23% of its food.
Yaguine and Fodé wrote that poverty was denying them access to schooling. In Guinea only one child in four goes to school and only one in five obtains a school leaving certificate. 64% of the population is illiterate. [Guinea is not exceptional, for Africa contains 14 of the 16 countries in the world where illiteracy rates exceed 60%].
Mineral wealth – iron ore and above all bauxite – have condemned Guinea to the status of a slave of capitalism. The country is completely in thrall to the multinationals, to the price of raw materials, to borrowing and markets… External debt has increased to $3.2 billion – 91% of GDP.
[Bled dry by debt servicing, low prices for raw materials on international markets and multinational super-exploitation, there is little left to meet the needs of the people.] Between 1970 and now the external debt of third-world countries climbed from $86 billion to $2,000 billion. During that period an equivalent sum has been repaid by way of interest. In spite of that, the third world is still paying $250 billion a year and its debt is still rising.
The loans finance: prestige projects built by companies from the imperialist countries; infrastructural works which mainly benefit imperialist enterprises; imports – of the products of imperialist countries; and debt servicing – to imperialist banks.
Third-world countries export, above all, raw materials, while importing finished products. The prices of raw materials, fixed in London or New York, are always falling, while the price of finished goods never ceases to go up. Unequal exchange becomes ever more unfavourable to the third world. Between 1990 and 1997 total African exports increased by 2.7% a year, but for its imports during that period the Continent was paying 4.7% more each year. Every year the third world loses $500 billion as a result of unequal exchange.
Imperialism destroys local economy
Unrestricted import of Western produce destroys the local economies of third world countries. For example the Philippines is forced to open its frontiers to American maize. But every American farmer receives in subsidies the equivalent of 100 times the income of a Philippine peasant. How can the latter therefore compete? This is how a million Philippine families have been left destitute.
At the same time import barriers are being raised by the imperialist countries against third world products, especially farm produce, textiles and steel. These barriers cost third world exporters some $500 billion a year.
Western imperialism is making fabulous profits on the backs of third world workers. Average wages in the third world are 70 times lower than those of their western colleagues. This is how hundreds of billions of dollars are effectively stolen from the third world.
The IMF will only lend to the third world on condition that it privatises the best sectors of the local economy – telecommunications, electricity, water, etc. Western multinationals are making a bomb from these at the expense of the economic development of third world countries, their workers and their consumers.
[With all these gigantic profits to be made by the multinationals, it is hardly surprising that there is intense competition among imperialist powers to get their hands on the loot. It is this competition that lies behind the outbreak of so many civil wars in Africa since the fall of the Soviet Union].
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, Western governments murdered millions of Africans in the name of the fight against communism. They brought to power people like Mobutu, the puppet of France and the US, who murdered at least half a million Congolese in his bid to stamp out the uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s. Also the US secret services set up, with the help of the South African apartheid regime, the mercenary Unita and Renamo armies in Angola and Mozambique respectively. In Angola, Unita is responsible for 1,400,000 deaths, while Renamo has murdered 900,000 Mozambicans.
Following the collapse of socialism in eastern Europe, the US and western Europe (above all France and Belgium)have been struggling for the redivision of Africa. Each of the two blocs arms its own fascistic local forces. France and Belgium perpetrated, through the Habyarimana regime in Rwanda, the worst genocide since Hitler. In the space of 3 months, a million Rwandans lost their lives. The US government took advantage of the overthrow of the stooges of France and Belgium to take over in Central Africa. It is now seeking to extend the area under their influence through the armies they have equipped and trained in Uganda and Rwanda, as well as through Unita in Angola.
At the same time the US has been arming Ethopia and Eritrea with a view to their waging war on the Sudan, and tens of thousands of young Ethiopians and Eritreans are being sent to their deaths in a totally senseless trench war.
What help can Europe give?
Given the facts explained above by
it is clear that all the charity in the world could do little in the face of such a brutal and inhuman imperialist system. It is of course only decent to provide money to Africa for food, education, etc, and to help the victims of war. But we can’t buy ourselves out of the fact that we live in the heartlands of imperialism and the working class in these countries serve as its palace guards. The vast majority of Europeans, however, are unaware not only of the connection between the activity of their imperialist masters and the suffering of, say, Africa; they are even unaware of their own complicity in preserving the imperialist system, hoodwinked as they are by a never-ending stream of media propaganda which translates imperialist warmongering into the pursuit of human rights! What above all we Europeans need to do if we have the humanity to be moved by the suffering of the third world is to crush the viper in our bosom – overthrow and dispossess our ruling bourgeoisie and establish socialism, at which point we will cancel all debts owed to imperialist concerns. There is a sense in which this seems to be just a hollow phrase, a mantra, so firm does imperialist control seem to be over people’s lives, their hearts and their minds. With the help of young heroes like Fodé and Yanguine, however, that imperialist control must begin to be prised off. With the help of Fodé and Yaguine our readers should be able to open eyes that were formerly closed to the true nature of imperialism – an unglamorous, practical, but truly revolutionary task, for people who know the truth are people empowered to fight for justice. Get up and go out now and start spreading the word. Let Fodé and Yaguine not have died in vain!