African leaders ask EU aid, not “meddling”

African leaders told the European Union (EU) November 17 they need aid, not interference in their reforms and policies.

“Stop interfering in the decision-making process of African states,” Uganda President Yoweri Museveni told donors at a conference on state governance in Africa sponsored by the European Commission in Brussels.

At the three-day conference attended by World Bank Director Paul Wolfowitz, more than 15 African leaders, and EU ministers, Museveni said his country risked an electricity shortage because donors had pressured it to stop building dams on the Nile.

Earlier this year, Museveni blamed Uganda’s power shortfall on “meddling” foreign donors who he said rejected plans to build two dams at the same time. The World Bank had advised Uganda to build the cheapest of two proposed hydro plants first, the 250-MW Bujagali Falls project (HNN 8/4/06), instead of trying simultaneously to build 200-MW Karuma downstream. Uganda subsequently said it would allot 99 billion shillings (US$53.3 million) to begin building both. (HNN 6/20/06)

“Do not use your wealth and power to try to create us in your image,” said Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, adding that governance “cannot be a one-way street, an instrument to be used by the strong against the weak.”

The European Union calls itself the biggest aid donor in the world, with its figures showing it provided US$43.3 billion in 2004, of which half went to Africa. For 2008-2013, some 3 billion euros (US$3.8 billion) is to be allocated to reward countries for applying reforms that the EU calls good governance.

“I accept the criticisms,” EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel responded. “I agree that sometimes with the best intentions we are making mistakes.”

But Michel rejected claims that new conditions were being imposed on aid.

At a summit the previous week, China raised its profile as a new world aid donor, offering Africa US$5 billion in loans and credit and a pledge to double aid to Africa by 2009. (HNN 11/6/06)

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