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Letter: Faith in the future of Africa

Sir: Your analysis of the developing crisis in Burundi (26 July) ignores the concrete initiatives that are being taken in Africa and how these can be applied in Burundi.

The most important of these initiatives is that announced in the Spring by the United Nations. Led by the World Bank and the UN Development Programme, it will co-ordinate the work of 28 UN agencies, along with countless NGOs. Education, health and the secure access to clean water are its largest components but it is not confined to these. It links them with programmes in peace-building, conflict resolution and national reconciliation; good governance; supporting an independent press; and stimulating domestic savings. Dare I introduce the concept of a "stakeholder economy"? And the debt issue will be re-addressed.

Together these set out to encourage in the minds of Africans a faith in the future and, of course, an identity with the present. Your opinion of self-induced "ethnic cleansing" leading to mass relocation and the redrawing of national boundaries has no place in such a programme.

This UN system-wide initiative fully recognises the menacing obstacles which today's Burundi manifests but these are obstacles confronted by all societies that settle for the unrivalled benefits that accrue from a pluralistic society. Think, in passing, how neighbouring Zaire might sub-divide if each of its 300-plus languages was to be granted a space of its own!

The 1996 Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Programme indicates the distance that many African nations must travel to attain a quality of life that is now generally agreed as acceptable. It also shows how and where we have failed in achieving for that continent what we have sought. So, not through liberal-minded philanthropy, or post- colonial guilt should we return to the fray, but because the obstacles can be convincingly overcome if only we put our collective minds to it.


United Nations Association

London W1