African leaders speak out against donors

18 June 2001

At a forum in Lagos Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo accused the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and creditor nations of being unfair to developing countries trying to repay crippling external debts, reports Reuters (17/5/01). Nigeria is one of the world’s most severely indebted nations with debt service payments due last year of more than $3.1 billion, or 14.5 per cent of its export earnings.

“We believe we have paid,” Obasanjo said. “When we paid, we deducted from our stock of debt. But our creditors deduct against the penalty, not the stock. So we keep on paying, and you keep saying we are not paying”, he remarked pointedly to the IMF. “If I need $3 billion, you say all that I need to do is open my house for foreign investment, you say the foreign investor needs infrastructure. How do I provide infrastructure?” he added.

President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, also launched an attack on donors at a Consultative Group meeting in Kampala. He told them he would not stand for them interfering in his country’s internal affairs. “This business of ‘we will not give you money because you don’t dance this way; we will not give you money if you don’t dance that way’ is squandering the partnership [between the donors and the President]”, he said. He warned that Africans could unite and fight donors “like we fought” the colonialists. “I don’t know why you want to recreate all this tension all the time. Does partnership mean compliance, or does it mean dialogue?”

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