Yes, is the gist of the argument in the Daily Nation over the weekend. This is not the first time we have heard this theory relating to Somalia and indeed much of Africa. A young man who grew up in my town told me about his experience in Africa with the Peace Corps and said that the first question they got from the people upon arrival was, what did you bring us?
Rasna Warah in the Daily Nation:
Somalia celebrates 50 years of independence this week, but many people are wondering whether there is anything worth celebrating.
For more than two decades, the country has had no functioning government, and even today, the recently-elected Somali Transitional Government is barely able to carry out its functions effectively, thanks to militia who control many parts of the country.
Relief agencies estimate that nearly 1.4 million Somalis have been displaced since the 1990s, and that nearly half the country’s population — more than 3 million people — is still in need of relief aid and assistance.
But this is the story of the Somalia that we all know. The less known story is that of a country that was systematically destroyed by international NGOs, UN agencies and donors who undermined the local economy by flooding Somalia with aid, especially since the fall of Siad Barre in 1991.
No one tells this story better than Michael Maren, a former Peace Corps volunteer, who in his 1997 book, The Road to Hell, explains how the aid industry in Somalia became “a self-serving system “that thrived on the chaos in the country’’.
His main argument is that the aid industry undermined development in Somalia by stifling the local economy through relief supplies that killed industries, and which were routinely stolen by warlords, merchants and government officials.
Here is my, sure to be labeled racist, question. In light of recent scams like the one in Maine where Somali former refugees were found guilty of ripping off medicaid, what came first: a long-standing culture of corruption or is it a relatively new learned behavior from their experience with NGOs in Africa over a few decades?