Aid is linked to democracy, warns European Parliament

A member of the European Parliament on Thursday warned there was a direct link between the availability of development aid to African countries and a commitment towards democracy and human rights on the continent.

Speaking at a Democratic Union of Africa media briefing at Parliament, European People’s Party (EPP) MP Michael Gahler said the recent G8 Summit had made it quite clear there was a lot more aid on offer, ”but in return for more democracy”.

The EPP is the biggest grouping in the European Parliament. Gahler was responding to a question on the likely effects of announcements that the Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) peer review mechanism will not apply to political matters.

On Wednesday, President Thabo Mbeki appeared to endorse a pronouncement, made by his Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad earlier this week, that the peer review process applied only to economic issues.

International observers are reportedly shocked by Pahad’s statement, and have described it as a setback for Nepad. Gahler said Europeans and the donor community were watching closely to see how this developed.

”You cannot expect us to pour in further money for development, and at the same time ignore the fact that in parts of Africa democracy and human rights are just irrelevant.

”There is a direct link between the two,” he said. Responding on the issue, the leader of Namibia’s main opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, Ratuutire Kaura, said the peer review mechanism appeared to be ”just another mirage”. He said hypocrisy among African leaders was not new. ”They have been so hypocritical over the years,” he said, referring to the fact that at one point African countries had elected former dictator Idi Amin as chairman of the Organisation of African Unity.

Thursday’s media briefing follows a joint DUA-EPP conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, titled ”The Future of Zimbabwe: A common Concern for Africa and European Democrats”.

In a joint resolution, the DUA-EPP said President Robert Mugabe’s rule in Zimbabwe was illegal and illegitimate, and called for a transitional government in that country, pending ”free and fair elections under international supervision”.

It further called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ”to adhere to its own written principles, commitments and minimum standards regarding democracy, the rule of law, and the conducting of free and fair elections”.

It also condemned ”all attempts to reduce the Nepad peer review process to a mere economic appraisal”. – Sapa

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