Rights instead of Compassion for East Africa

Appeal of writers for action in solidarity and structural changes

We have to understand the roots of tragedies to avoid repetition. The crisis in East Africa is not at all „unbelievable“, as some commentators continue to suggest, the approaching disaster has been foreseeable for years and decades. People are dying not only because of an unfortunate drought but also of systemic, wide-ranging problems such as climate change, the consequences of neo-liberal ideologies, military interventions and unstable grain markets - and because the world of states is unwilling to outlaw and pursue the warlords that have been destroying Somalia for 20 years.

What we need are new, non-military Forms of Intervention!

Confronted with the environmental changes in the Sahel and after all these rainless years it would be wrong to talk about a drought. The truth is that the desert spreads and entire regions are drying out. The famine in East Africa shows the disastrous social costs climatologists have been warning against for years. We could, however, providing help to the local population if there were financial aid programs for nomads, herdsmen and small farmers to enable them to dig deeper for water and to introduce technologies to collect the torrential rainfalls.

The Victims of Climate Change have the Right to receive Aid – and not only after Disasters.

However, sustainable local agricultural production doesn't suit the goals of the ruling economic policy. Instead of supporting traditional, labour-intensive but self-sufficient technologies „development aid“ is increasingly used to introduce highly mechanised, fossil fuel dependent systems even in ecologically fragile countries. Particularly in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia and Sudan huge fertile areas have been sold to foreign investors who use the soil to grow food for privileged societies on other continents – a profitable business that is expected to become even more lucrative with the increasing climatic instability. On the stock exchanges commodity traders are already speculating with rising wheat prices. Price fluctuations due to speculations have been causing food crises in many countries not only in East Africa.

Land grabbing and Speculation with Food has to be stopped.

Even the reasons for the increasing political brutality that has deteriorated the situation in Somalia are numerous and complex. Until the end of the East-West conflict Ethiopia and Somalia were ravaged by proxy wars in which the United States and the Soviet Union encouraged and financed senseless aggressions of their favourite dictators. Thus the decade of „War on Terror“ in the Horn of Africa has only been prolonging Somalia's agony. The focus of the operation is not on the basic needs of the Somali people but on the control of important international shipping lanes. To this end even rival warlords were provided with arms according to specific political interests. When we then consider that the over-fishing of Somalia's waters is a central cause for piracy it becomes evident that the reasons for the ongoing devastating Civil War are manifold.

Military Interventions for own Security Interests must stop.

What we need is political responsibility instead of politics of compassion. Starving people have the right to be recognized as world citizens. They have the same rights as everybody else including the right to food as required under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Helping in emergencies and addressing the structural causes for hunger aren't acts of good will but part of international law. However, making these rights reality requires the political will of governments. And it requires public pressure from below. This applies to us too.

The appeal has been published with the support of the Frankfurt based socio-medical Development and Human Rights Organisation medico international.

Signed by:


Published: 11. October 2011

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