Civil groups slam proposed cuts in US aid to Africa


Nigeria's top civil society groups are warning that Washington's proposal to cut humanitarian aid to Africa would worsen poverty, undermine peace, and precipitate fresh conflicts on the continent, and urged that the policy be reconsidered.

The activists slammed a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump to step up military spending on the continent, insisting that the measure would only ratchet up tensions across Africa.

"The decision for the American government to cut aid to Africa is not a welcome development," Auwalu Musa Rafsanjani, the Nigeria chief for Berlin-based Transparency International, told Anadolu Agency.

"We call on the American government to change its decision, because Africa doesn't need weapons but educational and economics cooperation, and technical and infrastructure support, not weapons to kill its people," Rafsanjani added.

Under a proposal Trump sent to the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon is to get a $52 billion boost to its $575 billion budget in fiscal year 2018, with more money slated for military affairs in Africa, and sizeable cuts to humanitarian and development funds.

The budget seeks to cut foreign assistance overall by some 29 percent as well as slash humanitarian aid to Africa to $5.2 billion, down from the current $8 billion.

Some of the money in the Trump proposal would be shifted to security areas from humanitarian aid and development, the New York Times quoted foreign policy experts as saying in a recent story.

The newspaper said the budget proposal would also slash programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for people fighting AIDS by 17 percent, at least $1.1 billion.

It cited researchers saying the cuts could lead to the deaths of at least one million people in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

Rafsanjani said the cuts would have grave implications for the continent and the U.S. if they go through.

Idayat Hassan, head of West African think-tank the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), echoed similar concerns.

"The emphasis on military might as a means of countering violent extremism has never worked, but it seems foreign powers haven't learned from previous investments. A review of interventions in West Africa cum Sahel [the Sahara Desert's southern border] focuses on building a military approach, either through building military installations, training the military, immigration etc., with few attempts at a soft approach," Hassan told Anadolu Agency.

"The emphasis should instead be on a soft approach, winning the hearts and minds of the people, and there is no other way of easily doing this other than showing humanity. Cutting aid that directly benefits people will backfire in the long run," she added.

Yinusa Yau, a top counterinsurgency analyst, said the decision to cut aid aligns with Trump's campaign rhetoric but warned of dire consequences for Americans if the proposal goes through.

Yau said the cut would mean a stark reduction or total halt in social spending that now goes into building schools, alleviating poverty, and shoring up the ranks of the disaffected, which would in turn bolster the recruitment ground for violent extremism.

"The overall consequence is therefore to increase insecurity both in Africa and abroad. Overall, the immigration services of U.S. and European countries will be taxed to contain the new wave of immigrants fleeing the deteriorating situation in African countries," Yau told Anadolu Agency.

He added: "This will also generate new waves of violent extremism and lead to mass murders across the globe. The good work that foundations such as the United States Institute of Peace in promoting peace, security and stability ... across Africa will suffer and with that, we will see the rise of new conflicts. Ultimately, the economies of African countries will suffer.

"Who will pay for these dire consequences? It will be American citizens. In the end, therefore, this cut in aid from social services to military assistance will impact negatively across the continent and on ordinary American citizens who will have to keep watching over their shoulders as American society itself becomes increasingly insecure. I think the move will not be in the overall interests of the U.S. as a country."

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