Friday, April 15, 2005

A $4.5 billion pledge!!! Call the collection agencies!!!!!!!

The billions pledged for reconstruction in Southern Sudan have certainly made many of us hopeful and grateful. The question remains about how soon some of these funds will start to be used to address the immediate needs.

In a previous post I argued that it was unwise for the US government to literally link the delivery of their contributions to improvements in the plight of the citizens in Darfur. My argument was that the loser in the intransigence of the Khartoum government is the poor Southern brothers and sisters of the equally victimized Darfur civilians. I believe that it was mere posturing by the US administration to insist on such a linkage, and my hunch was confirmed by the Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick seeming to back away
from the finding of Genocide in Darfur. That finding was echoed and emphatically promoted by none other than former Secretary of State Colin Powell last year. It might thus be the case that the US government is pursuing a different policy on Darfur and not really closing the noose around the regime to compel it to act.

Back to the pledged; collecting the funds is not going to be easy from previous experiences, and the Norwegian Development minister dwelled on that possibility a lot during the conference.

My headline above not withstanding, I believe that the best way to attain maximum international donor relief is to expeditiously, transparently and aggressively start to spend some of the allegedly escrowed $1.0 billion in Oil money owed to the Southern Sudan government by the Khartoum government.

Resettlement of refugees and former combatants, mass vaccinations against diseases, small scale water projects, power generation and rehabilitation in the more populated towns, water projects and other smaller ventures should be staged and scaled all over the South with these funds. By showing the international community that a measurable degree of progress will be independently and locally achieved, we would then be in a stronger position to get even more assistance, both technical and financial.

That is why I am lamenting all the lost time in completing the constitution review process and the formal installation of the government in Southern Sudan. Clearly, the institutions in the South cannot have immediate access and proceed to spend these funds until they are officially constituted. I am sure that there are legitimate reasons for the delay, and we cannot discount the political jockeying among all parties as the main culprit, but I would hope that shortcuts and compromises would be made to expedite the process. Every month lost to all this zillion meetings and conferences is time that could have been utilized to bring some relief to some of our least fortunates compatriots back home.

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