Letter: Mixed messages on Africa's future

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article 'Africa is not a lost continent' (11 April) would appear to lament the 'widespread view that Africa is a lost continent . . . so remote from our concerns that nothing can be done to help it'.

While the observation is regrettably accurate, it strikes me as odd that a newspaper instrumental in shaping public opinion dares utter this view without considering how its African coverage may encourage that attitude. I find, sadly, that the Independent's coverage mirrors, and perhaps tempts, the syndrome it decries.

You write that the widespread view cynically holds that 'rescuing the lives of white nationals is about the only reason for becoming involved'. But of the Independent's three front-page articles that have appeared about the Rwandan fighting, one (9 April) solely concerns the evacuation of white expatriates, and another (11 April) largely concerns the same. Both articles were written by a European writer in faraway Brussels, not someone likely to be intimate with the story. When the article of 9 April ran, it received fewer column inches than the story of the rock singer Kurt Cobain's death, also front-page news.

Only the remaining article (8 April), written by an African in Rwanda, solely concerns the real horror, that of Africans thrust into this bloodbath without the convenient option of escape. The European writer, opening a story on page 10 of 9 April, wrote that the fighting had claimed 'the lives of government ministers, nuns, priests, aid workers and Belgian, Ghanaian and Bangladeshi peacekeeping troops'. Is it not germane, or at least humane, to mention the thousands of Hutu and Tutsi lives lost? Perhaps from Brussels, these people are 'so remote from (her) concerns'.

Lastly, your editorial quite correctly goes on to state that Africa must 'find ways of containing the pressures of ethnicity'. However, it is a touch insensitive and patronising to dwell on the point, to the apparent exclusion of a concern for Africans' welfare, as you did in declaring that Africa 'is becoming a paradigm for the rest of the world' riven by ethnic forces.

Would it please Britons to hear their nation celebrated as a paradigm for the evaporation of economic might, if the commentator were oblivious to the attendant human cost in redundancies, crime, and homelessness?



Wadham College


11 April