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Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 30, 1998 / 3 Nissan, 5758

Don Feder

Don Feder Africa's leaders should apologize

BILL CLINTON is at it again. On his euphoric tour of Africa last week, the man who can't bring himself to apologize for draft-dodging during the Vietnam War, who will not apologize for his incessant philandering, who holds himself blameless for Whitewater, once again expressed profound regrets for an institution that ended 133 year ago.

"The United States has not always done the right thing by Africa," the empty suit in the Oval Office whined. "European Americans received the fruits of the slave trade. And we were wrong in that."

Ah, that old collective guilt. Us melanin-deficient Americans must accept responsibility for what our forebears did to African Americans. Well, speak for yourself, cracker! While your distant kin were doing their inbred thing in the Ozarks, mine were being chased by Cossacks.

Clinton made his collective mea culpa in Uganda. Funny, I didn't hear any Ugandans apologizing for Idi Amin, who (during his reign in the 1970s) butchered approximately 300,000 of his countrymen, many in ways too ghastly to recount here. Cannibalism was among the least of his offenses.

European Americans weren't the only ones to receive the fruits of the slave trade. African chieftains who sold captives into slavery and Arabs who acted as middlemen also did handsomely. Brazil imported six times as many Africans as the United States. Yet, you don't hear that nation's president blubbering over the distant past.

Apologies are only expected from unfashionable minorities, like Caucasians and Catholics.

Last month, the Vatican said the Church should have done more during the Holocaust. That wasn't enough for the legions of blame, who demand nothing less than the retroactive excommunication of Pius XII.

The World War II pope is excoriated not for what he did but what he didn't do. In an essay in the March 30 Newsweek, Kenneth Woodward rebuts this slanderous revisionism. ("In choosing diplomacy over protest, Pius XII had his priorities straight.")

Back to Africa. Besides his apology for slavery, Clinton implied that the West is responsible for Africa's present suffering. "Perhaps the worst sin America ever committed about Africa was the sin of neglect and ignorance."

Thus, the West is blamed not only for being too involved with Africa (colonialism) but for not being involved enough (failing to respond quickly to the Rwandan genocide).

The president even apologized for a Cold War policy toward Africa based on the containment of communism. Given that his own foreign policy is guided by a mushy internationalism, one emphasizing America's national interests must seem bizarre to him.

The real tragedy of Africa started when Europe withdrew. What the white man did on the continent from the 15th century Portuguese discoveries onward pales compared to the suffering inflicted on Africans by Africans since the end of colonialism.

Dr. George B.N. Ayittey, a Ghanaian who teaches economics at American University, estimates that since the 1960s at least 5 million Africans have been killed in civil wars, purges and inter-tribal massacres, including 1 million Nigerians, 800,000 Rwandans (in a three-month period), 400,000 in Burundi since 1993, over 1 million during Angola's 20-year civil war and 800,000 in Mozambique.

The death toll does not include those who died in refugee camps and the victims of government-created famine, most notably in Ethiopia and Somalia.

When not murdering, starving and torturing their subjects, African leaders devoted themselves to destroying their economies. Ayittey, "From 1970 to 1990, Africa's gross national product, excluding South Africa, remained stagnant or declined."

Socialist development schemes, collectivization of agriculture and "naked looting of public treasuries by corrupt officials" have, Ayittey says, led to a situation in which "hospitals have run out of such basic supplies as bandages. Roads have started to deteriorate, and telephone systems are falling into disrepair."

Would that we really had neglected Africa. From 1960 to 1990, Western nations pumped more than $300 billion in economic aid into the continent. Besides subsidizing collectivist inefficiency, this has permitted African states to spend $12 billion annually on arms imports.

These crimes against humanity happened not in the last century, but yesterday. If anyone should apologize for the suffering of black people, it is the tyrants, thieves, bureaucrats and military strongmen who have ravaged the continent for the past four decades.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.