Rich get richer

Scores of aid projects in Africa are cap­tured by the elites, leav­ing poor worse off than be­fore

CityPress - - Business - AFRICAN IN­VES­TIGA­TIVE PUB­LISH­ING COL­LEC­TIVE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Atransna­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Kenya and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo has un­cov­ered wide­spread abuse of in­ter­na­tional aid. Donor-funded de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes in five ex­tremely poor re­gions – two of which are post-con­flict – in Africa have ben­e­fited mainly the rich.

An African In­ves­tiga­tive Pub­lish­ing Col­lec­tive team that went to north Uganda (post Joseph Kony), Kin­shasa in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Kib­era town­ship in Nairobi, western Ivory Coast and north­west Cameroon found that the aid projects had all been cap­tured by the elites, while the poor were no better off and, in some cases, were ac­tu­ally poorer. THE LO­CALS ARE SCARED

“You won’t find any­one talk­ing to you about these pro­grammes,” says Amadi Sid­iné, whose shop in Duék­oué sells ev­ery­thing from cans of toma­toes to light bulbs. Duék­oué is the main town in Ivory Coast’s war-dam­aged western re­gion ear­marked for dozens of donor-aided “re­con­struc­tion and de­vel­op­ment” projects.

We find that Sid­iné is, largely, right. Two non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) ac­quain­tances go AWOL when we want to in­ter­view them, and not one in­tended “ben­e­fi­ciary” will talk to us.

A lo­cal jour­nal­ist tells us that the hundreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in “post-con­flict as­sis­tance” and “presidential emergency plan” funds have mostly gone into con­tracts for state of­fi­cials to de­liver goods or ser­vices through their own com­pa­nies.

“As soon as these ‘big men’ ap­pro­pri­ate the con­tract, they run away with it,” Sid­iné says, ei­ther to im­ple­ment it in their own home re­gion or not im­ple­ment it at all.

An au­dit re­port by the Ivo­rian Na­tional Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity for Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment in 2014 con­firms a to­tal of 58 of 60 such “de­vel­op­ment” con­tracts were “ir­reg­u­larly awarded”. Gov­ern­ment’s an­ticor­rup­tion agency, the High Author­ity of Good Gov­er­nance, says they are “fully aware” of the sit­u­a­tion and that peo­ple “should re­port the cor­rup­tion” to them.

But lo­cal pas­tor Oboué Ar­mand ex­plains that “whistle­blow­ers are vic­timised”.

“The lo­cals see how the elite and of­fi­cials dis­tort the sys­tem to their ad­van­tage. But they are too scared to talk. Com­mu­nity lead­ers are en­ticed or pres­sured to ex­com­mu­ni­cate the snitch,” Ar­mand says. IN­VIS­I­BLE TREES

A spokesper­son at the palace of the tra­di­tional leader in Nk­wen, near Ba­menda in Cameroon, says he is happy with the tree plant­ing project in his com­mu­nity. When we tell him that we are in the area where the trees ought to be, but that there are no trees, he hangs up on us.

By his own ad­mis­sion, mu­nic­i­pal head Au­gus­tine For­ti­sah Che in Ba­menda’s Atu­azire area, has also seen things that aren’t there. He shows us a doc­u­ment for de­liv­ery of six World Bank-funded wa­ter wells in his area, which he signed in 2009, though he had only seen four wells – two of which were al­ready bro­ken at the time. “I signed be­cause I can’t read French,” For­ti­sah Che says.

The World Bank del­e­ga­tion had come from the fran­co­phone cap­i­tal Yaounde, while Ba­menda in the north­west prov­ince is An­glo­phone. But we are left with a nag­ging sus­pi­cion that both For­ti­sah Che and the Nk­wen tra­di­tional author­ity may have re­ceived an “en­tice­ment” in ex­change for their sig­na­tures.

Ac­cord­ing to sev­eral aca­demics and le­gal pro­fes­sion­als we speak to, this is com­mon prac­tice in “de­vel­op­ment aid mon­i­tor­ing” in Cameroon.

Like in Ivory Coast, the aid projects are cap­tured by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

“I see those pay­ments to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and their rel­a­tives in the projects,” an au­di­tor con­fesses. “But we give clean au­dits, oth­er­wise one is in trou­ble.”

The au­di­tor and his mother phone our re­porter that night, cry­ing, beg­ging us not to men­tion his name. CAT­TLE BREED­ING

We try one more large World Bank and Western donor-funded project – the Live­stock and Fish­eries De­vel­op­ment project, which has sup­pos­edly helped farm­ers with cat­tle breed­ing since 2014.

But Pius Mbipe, the project’s co­or­di­na­tor, is not in­clined to com­mu­ni­cate any re­sults so far.

“We don’t give in­for­ma­tion on the phone,” he says. He says no when we ask for an email ad­dress, then hangs up.

“The farm­ers had some train­ing,” says Ful Joy, ed­i­tor of the monthly mag­a­zine Farmer’s Voice. “But it’s al­ways those who man­age the projects who ben­e­fit more.”

Asked what hap­pens to the money poured into the re­gion by donors, he says it “dis­ap­pears in the hands of peo­ple who have big farms. They end up pre­sent­ing more com­pe­ti­tion for small farm­ers.” THE WA­TER AND THE WOOD

The in­vis­i­ble trees of Ba­menda are child’s play com­pared with what Ger­vais Ntariba, di­rec­tor of the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s state wa­ter com­pany Regideso, claims to see in Kin­shasa, the town where he and our re­porter Fran­cis Mbala live.

“Two thirds of Kin­shasa’s cit­i­zens have clean run­ning wa­ter by now,” is Ntariba’s open­ing re­mark dur­ing their in­ter­view.

When Mbala ex­presses sur­prise – Ntariba must know that peo­ple here walk around with buck­ets, of­ten for kilo­me­tres, at all hours of the day and night – the wa­ter di­rec­tor gets an­gry.

“You can’t count all of Kin­shasa,” he grunts. “Of course, we can’t do all of it. This pop­u­la­tion dou­bles ev­ery two years.”

Ntariba’s faith in the $190 mil­lion (R2.3 bil­lion) World Bank project called Pemu, which aimed to give the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo’s three ma­jor cities clear run­ning wa­ter by 2015 (now ex­tended to 2020) is per­haps partly in­formed by the fact that the com­pany he works for “can only sur­vive on bail outs from in­ter­na­tional donors”, as Charles Mbikayi Tshibangu of Kin­shasa’s In­sti­tut Su­perieur de Com­merce wrote in 2008. In 2014, with Pemu in full swing, the World Bank it­self ad­mit­ted that Regideso couldn’t even get other gov­ern­ment de­part­ments to pay for the wa­ter they used, or get the bulk of its own me­ters to work.

Eighty kilo­me­tres from the cap­i­tal, on the bor­der of the Congo River in Maluku, we are in­vited to see the re­sults of an­other World Bank project: the multi­bil­lion­dol­lar pro­gramme that is meant to pro­tect the coun­try’s ma­jes­tic forests and the peo­ple who live in them. As we walk along­side the river with a state of­fi­cial who works for the ministry of the en­vi­ron­ment, he points at a large boat slid­ing by full of wood.

“That’s Equa­tor wood,” he says. “It’s pro­tected. But lo­cals have started to log it be­cause all the other wood is ap­pro­pri­ated by the big com­pa­nies in which our of­fi­cials have in­ter­ests.”

For­est cam­paign man­ager for Green­peace Africa, Irène Wabiwa, con­firms that “for­est mis­man­age­ment” by those who are “sup­posed to man­age them” has left both the forests and its in­hab­i­tants worse off than be­fore.

“Vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple are at the mercy of un­touch­ables who are pro­tected by the gov­ern­ment. These big com­pa­nies pay their labour­ers $2 a day.” GENTRIFYING KIB­ERA

In Kib­era, Nige­ria, it isn’t wood or salaries that the rich ap­pro­pri­ate, but houses.

“We are their labour­ers,” town­ship res­i­dent Lu­cianna Wan­jiku (58) says, point­ing at new high-rise apart­ments across the road. Wan­jiku was once promised one of these houses, but they were snapped up by the po­lit­i­cally con­nected who could af­ford the ex­pen­sive rent.

Wan­jiku, a res­i­dent since the 1970s, still lives in a shack in the mud with­out elec­tric­ity. Sewage snakes along her street and peo­ple only cross the road to do clean­ing and other piece work for those who live in the apart­ments op­po­site.

Gov­ern­ment men came in 2000 to prom­ise Wan­jiku a ti­tle deed and an up­grade. In ex­change for $10 that she had saved up over five years, they wrote the num­ber “of the ti­tle deed” on her wall. It has since faded, but she re­mem­bers it: “KS/SD/57. I think it means rob­bery.” THE BIG MEN OF NORTH UGANDA

Out­side Peyero bar on Gulu Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Lan­gata Road in north Uganda is a car that, by the last let­ter on its li­cence plate, be­longs to State House, the of­fi­cial res­i­dence of the pres­i­dent. Upon in­quir­ing, we learn that both the bar and the car be­long to Har­riet Aber, the “so­cial friend” – as she was called dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion re­cently – of Gen­eral Salim Saleh, Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni’s brother and a veteran of the war against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Re­sis­tance Army.

This is the 20-year war that left the re­gional Acholi peo­ple land­less and des­ti­tute, and there­fore the ob­ject of large-scale poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and land re­set­tle­ment pro­grammes.

But the elites in Uganda also want the land. Saleh has been the tar­get of many protests by lo­cals re­gard­ing al­leged land grabs by him­self, his friend Har­riet and oth­ers.

Even land rights NGOs are scared to stand up to “those political lead­ers who are ac­cess points for land grab­bing”, as Pamela Ju­dith Ang­wech of the Gulu Women’s De­vel­op­ment and Glob­al­i­sa­tion calls it.

Her col­league, Elly Tu­ruho, who is also in land rights ad­vo­cacy – “be­cause land is ev­ery­thing here” – adds that her NGO Acord also hasn’t been able to “deal with [fur­ther] evic­tions” of the land­less.

The ap­pro­pri­a­tion by the big men in north Uganda had not up­set the pro­gramme’s donors. But the fact that $14 mil­lion of donor funds was out­rightly stolen by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials did. At least for a while. The UK, Nor­way and Ire­land sus­pended aid and de­manded money back; the World Bank said it would re­view its lend­ing to Uganda. But af­ter the ac­coun­tant of the pro­gramme was jailed and noth­ing hap­pened to other high-level cul­prits, they all came back. THE ELITES ARE YOUR FRIEND

The risk that elites, ei­ther in lo­cal communities or na­tion­ally, ap­pro­pri­ate aid to get even richer, and that this can re­sult in a “net loss to the coun­try’s econ­omy”, had al­ready been de­scribed in re­search by the Univer­sity of Glas­gow in 2006. A World Bank study un­der­taken in 2003 warned against “en­hance­ment of priv­i­lege” of elites as a re­sult of cap­ture of aid money.

The World Bank was sent ques­tions with de­tails of each of the case stud­ies we in­ves­ti­gated to com­ment on. No com­ments were re­ceived.

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