Comparative book review

Topics: Africa, Poverty, Malnutrition Pages: 6 (2246 words) Published: February 27, 2014
Comparative Book Review: Surrender or Starve and Dead Aid Mohandas Ghandi, the political and ideological leader of India at the Indian Independence period once said, “To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse than starving the body; it is starvation of the soul the dweller in the body.” This quote strongly demonstrates the importance of fundamental human rights. In this regard, Surrender or Starve and Dead Aid, two special books relating to the dismal situation of the postwar period in 1980s is qualified in Ghandi’s view of significance of rights. While Surrender or Starve deeply points out effects of ineffective governments and horrible civil wars on African ordinary people and the world, Dead Aid underscores the state of postwar development policy in Africa today relating to ‘aid, it is apparent by juxtaposing these two works that Africa in 1980s felt trapped in a dismal society that restricted fundamental liberty and had declined economic growth. Surrender or Starve covers the period from the late 1984 to the early part of 1987. It details the political chain of events throughout the 1980s that were the forerunner for the current civil wars and genocide tearing apart those specific regions. In late 1987, the famine returned, mainly for the very reasons cited inside. Most of the media covered the famines that devastated eastern Africa as caused by horrible droughts, which is partly true. Kaplan, however, asserts that Africans, and not only God, were also to blame, because the famines were greatly aggravated by ethnic conflict and class warfare. Famine in the Horn is both a tool and an aspect of the ethnic conflict, with the Ethiopian Amharas of the central highlands pitted against the Eritreans and Tigreans of the north. He goes further to point out the fact that few U.S. journalists “tended to emphasize the awful conditions of the camp, rather than what had driven the refugees there in the first place” (Kaplan, 2003, p.8). In Sudan, the northern Muslim government in Khartoum ignored the plight of Christians in the south. In Ethiopia, the ruthless Marxist regime of Mengistu Hailie Mariam turned the famine into a weapon of war against the ethnic Oromos, Tigreans and Eritreans. Massive "villagization" or forced collectivizations that displaced five million people were hailed by Mengistu as "famine relief." In 1986, for example, the World Human Rights Guide "gave Ethiopia the lowest rating of any country in the world" (Kaplan, 2003, p. 81).

Guerrilla armies and their anti-government people continued to destroy the network of ancestral villages and small towns across the desert. The starving people were driven from their own homes and relocated into refugee camps with such poor situations. A peasant was saying, “I felt like garbage that had been dropped in the middle of nowhere.” (Kaplan, 2003, p.109)

Kaplan also describes the inefficient governments filled with corrupt politicians whose allegiances lie with the Soviet Union. The USSR continued to supply money, weapons and armies into the Horn, further breaking the region into small pieces and leaving the peasants and nomads in extreme poverty. The government would move the tribal peoples from their thriving farms to lands without water or decent soil, destroying their cultures and decimating their villages. The disease and death that destroyed the infertile regions of these countries went largely ignored by the developing world.

Kaplan argues that while there was a drought in these areas, it was actually the governments that caused the extreme famine that brought death to millions of people. (Kaplan, 2003, p. 141) Relief campaigns such as Red Cross programs were delayed and eventually expelled from the areas that needed them most by governments who could not have cared less about their dying citizens. The Sudanese civil war and the mass genocide occuring in the Darfur region are the remnants of the wars and...
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