How Africa will remember David Cameron

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The dust of the political tsunami caused by the UK`s vote to leave the European Union (EU) is at least settling. There is a new Prime Minister, the Pound Sterling is finding it ground little -by -little after it suffered its biggest loss in more than 30 years. And the market which was “rattled” by the outcome of the vote is picking up, but uncertainty still looms large and the economy is teetering on the brink of recession prompting Governor Mark Carney of the Bank of England to cut interest rates to 0.25% for the first-time since 2009.

Following Brexit, Prime Minister David Cameroon who lost the battle of the idea decided to step down to allow fresh blood to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that will kick-start the formal negotiation process of British divorce from the EU. This ends Mr Cameroon’s six-year tenure as prime minister of UK.

No sooner had he ended making his resignation speech at No. 10 Downing Street in a quaver and a cracking voice than the debate about his legacy as PM started not just about his domestic achievements and shortfalls. But also what he has bequeathed to the world.  His legacy like many is not near perfect, but it is head and shoulder above most.

As Prime Minister of four nations-in-one, UK, and the leader of the “compassionate” Conservative Party, David Cameroon has some astonishing accomplishments in many African countries such as Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, but also dark history in today’s war heated Libya which was once a promising and vibrant nation.

Africa is among the regions that suffered the most as a result of centuries of British colonial rule and exploitation. This was preceded by decades of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade that bereft Africa many of her energetic youth and highly promising talents. From the small riverine nation of The Gambia in the West, Kenya in the East to Botswana in the Southern of Africa all were trapped by the gigantic net of British colonial rule.

By the end of the second half of the 20th Century, British rule in Africa was history. Since then successive British PMs have different approaches in dealing with the continent.

David Cameroon inherited the premier at a time of grave financial difficulties and a general feeling of donor fatigue. Moreover, countries in the advanced world were still reeling or recovering from the contagious effect of the 2008 global financial crisis that left their economies in the doldrums with sky-high unemployment.

Despite all these grave challenges, UK under David Cameron kept her promise to give 0.7% of her Gross National Income (GNI) to the international aid and development, an agreement reached by G8 leaders in Germany in 2007.  It was at this 2007 meeting that the G8 leaders proposed that the solution to Africa’s problems should be a massive increase in foreign aid something akin to the Marshall Plan, but only the UK kept this promise. This has had a huge impact on poverty alleviation and boosting the economic growth of many countries.

Developed countries whitewashing Africa with aid money is not a new phenomenon. In fact, between 1960 and 2003, African governments received more than 600 billion dollars in aid. But chronic poverty remains pervasive during this period as well. Many critics argued that flooding the continent with foreign aid monies is not the solution to rescue Africa out of the yolk of poverty. But what is new and what makes a striking difference with British aid money is the approach and its design.

Rwanda is the exceptional and glaring case in point where UK aid money has helped transformed the country that was almost brought down to its knee during the 1994 genocide that killed millions. There was a steady flow of UK’s aid money to Rwanda until 2013 when the government of Rwanda came under huge criticism for supporting the M23 rebel group in neighbouring DR Congo which resulted in partial suspension of some foreign aid to Rwanda. Interestingly enough, the flooding of Rwanda with British and other countries aid money helped the country to turn a new page and become the envy of many countries in the region. The country has seen a spectacular record in school enrollment and a remarkable stride in combating child mortality rates.

It’s of course, unfair to credit Rwanda’s success story entirely to UK funding, but is also equally unfair to fail to acknowledge the importance the aid to the country’s rapid transformation.

Under the leadership of Andrew Mitchell as the International Development Secretary, Britain aid money started to change lives for good.

Mitchell who has vast experience working in Africa as a development aid workers is also the founder of Project Umubano, a Conservative Party- social action project in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, launched in 2007.  Rather than lecturing Africans about good governance and human rights, Mitchell used his wealth of experience as a volunteer in Rwanda to make foreign aid more effective and beneficial.

At the heart of his operational policy was transparency and accountability. This strategy had worked well and citizens of Rwanda, for example, have reaped the best out of British aid money.

For many people around the world, Somalia is synonymous with Al Shabab and Piracy in the Gulf of Eden. Somalia as a state ceased to exist in 1992, after the collapse of the communist rule of Siad Barre. But for the past few years, the international community in collaboration with the AMISOM, African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalis, has driven Al Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu. This gave the government space and time to ponder on how to rebuild the country.

The EU is the single-largest donor to Somalia, and UK under David Cameroon is the third biggest contributors to the European Development Fund (EDF), after Germany and France.  The EU has pushed hard to make sure that the AMISON is given the necessary funding and wherewithal to bring peace and stability in Somalia.

A modicum of peace and hope has returned to the war-stricken East African Nation. In April 2013, in a hugely symbolic, but significant gesture William Hague, then Foreign Secretary of the UK, raised the Union Jack in Mogadishu to re-open the British embassy.  This shows the world and the business community that Somalia is ready for business and investment. The following month the UK government and Somalia co-hosted in London one of the biggest conference on Somalia to coordinate and galvanise support in helping Somalia to rebuild after decades of war.

Also, in 2014 Africa saw the biggest and the deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus. It started from Guinea and suddenly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone and left at least 10,000 people dead.  David Cameroon, appalled by this tragedy, dispatched a battalion of British nurses, soldiers, doctors and volunteers to help arrest the spread of the virus and keep it at bay. This was a game-changer in fighting the diseases that literally overwhelmed the World Health Organisation and the poorly build health sector of Sierra Leone.

Libya will be one of the legacies that will earn David Cameroon more opprobrium than approbation. He will be remembered for leading the coalition alongside the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy; a political coalition which smashed and killed colonel Gadhafi. Evidently, the aftermath of Gadhafi has left the country shambles. A trouble which the so-called revolution is also feeling its pain.  

The post-revolution planning in Libya was so slapdash that it now became a breeding ground for would-be terrorists. And further create a safe haven for human traffickers and its related social vices.

Apparently, as those a few who managed to reach the shores of Europe are trapped in the so-called jungles like Calais and France. The UK has also earned the wrath of fellow EU member 

countries and humanitarian organisations for not doing enough in settling the Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war in Middle East ravage nations.

Many Africans will hiss and frown upon hearing the name David Cameron, particularly among conservatively devout Christians and Muslims for legalising same-sex marriage in the UK. This campaign was side-by-side championed by US president Barack Obama in selling the agenda to African countries. This went futile as it was vehemently rejected in African soil by all faiths.

In a continent of 54 nations truly heterogeneous with great variations in physical, economic, political and social dimensions, it is next to impossible to touch the lives of everyone in every country directly or indirectly.  However, David Cameroon’s policies towards Africa have indeed had a huge impact. It is now up to his successor, Theresa May, to build on that legacy and forge a better ties between the fastest growing continent in population and economics term and the world’s fifth largest economy.

The author, Ousman Bah, is a student doing his Master’s in Political and Social Sciences at Gazi University, Turkey

Author: Ousman Bah
Source: Picture: Ousman Bah