USAID FrontLines - Jul 2009
Zimbabwe's Tsvangirai Meets USAID Leaders
The prime minister of Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, came to USAID headquarters June 9 to thank senior officials for U.S. assistance and to request additional financing and aid to help small farmers plant their summer crops.
In a follow-up meeting with staff from USAID and the Treasury Department, members of Tsvangirai's delegation said it is critical that farmers receive the aid in time to acquire farm inputs by September or the planting season will be lost.
The USAID visit was one of several for Tsvangirai as he looks to U.S. support to restore a functioning government in Zimbabwe. A transitional government with Tsvangirai as prime minister and longtime President Robert Mugabe retaining his post has been in place since February. In five months, reform has been incremental.
Tsvangirai subsequently met with President Barack Obama on June 12, when the president encouraged continued reform in Zimbabwe and committed $73 million in assistance.
The prime minister said his objective is to install democratic conditions, get a constitutional reform process "kick started" by July, and launch media reforms.
News reports out of the country say that police continue to arrest and harass journalists and human rights advocates.
The prime minister said that the repressive habits of the ZANU-PF party won't go away at once after 28 years of monopoly power, but the transitional government is setting up commissions to deal with human rights, corruption, media, and elections.
Tsvangirai said he has moved to reform the reserve bank and reined in soaring hyperinflation that made a loaf of bread cost millions of Zimbabwean dollars. And he warned that if international banks and the United States do not provide financial and development assistance "that help the people" it will enable Zimbabweans to say "'we told you so-they cannot remove sanctions'" blocking loans and financing.
"We have gone through a difficult period-some call it a lost decade," said Elton Mangoma, Zimbabwe's minister for economic planning and investment promotion. "There's a realization that things cannot continue this way."
Mangoma, who met with USAID representatives from the Africa Bureau, the Office of Transition Initiatives, and the Office of Food for Peace, echoed earlier appeals from Tsvangirai for donors to move from humanitarian aid and safety net programs to development assistance.
In the last few years, Zimbabwe's political upheaval led to food shortages, rampant cholera, and shuttered schools.
"Anything that's bad, you can associate with Zimbabwe. The people got tired of it," said Mangoma, who also said he believes momentum is clearly behind the new government succeeding.
U.S. foreign assistance goes to democracy and governance, health, HIV/AIDS, NGO programs, jobs, small-scale farmers, and food aid.
Zimbabwe officials said they need seed, fertilizer, herbicides, and some technical support to carry out the next harvest. The large commercial farms seized from white farmers in recent years are largely non-productive today. But small farmers should be able to feed the country's people, Tsvangirai said.
Photos Prompt Kenyans to Revisit Causes of Unrest
By Sven Lindholm
"Never again will I want this to happen to my country," said one Kenyan after viewing a photo display that documented the wave of violence following Kenya's presidential election in December 2007.
Kenya had been seen as an island of political stability and economic progress in East Africa until the violence killed over 1,000 people and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands during two months of chaos. The violence came after disputed elections between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
A power-sharing agreement in February 2008 resolved the immediate dispute, putting an end to the inter-communal violence as public attention shifted to the country's food crisis and political corruption scandals. Yet the underlying tensions remained.
To coincide with the first anniversary of the peace accord and to shed light on the suppressed tensions, the GoDown Arts Center, a multiethnic arts organization, compiled an array of dramatic pictures in the book Kenya Burning. It serves as a testimony that violent response to disputes does not spare any segment of society.
USAID is supporting the book to remind people of the dangers of ethnic politics, to mitigate the results of the chaos, and to help Kenya's citizens address the root causes of the instability.
Kenya Burning is split into four sections-campaigning and voting, violence, grief, and internally displaced-with comments by Kenyans preceding each section.
Reviewing the book, Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote in Kenya's
Daily Nation, "Kenya Burning is a very uncomfortable book to look at. The book, however, should not be kept away from the children...because it will give them an education about their country and its people that nothing can equal."
GoDown also organized a USAID-funded traveling exhibition. Over 3,000 people attended the opening show in its first three days and the public response was emotional.
After a show in Eldoret, a Rift Valley town that experienced post-election violence first-hand, one person left this comment: "After living through the violence in Eldoret, it is alarming how far we still have to go. The pictures in this exhibit are a reminder of how we must improve as human beings."
No Kenyan politicians attended the opening. However, copies of the book were sent to key government officials, including members of parliament, and to civil society groups, universities, and libraries.
By raising awareness of the scale and nature of the violence, GoDown and USAID aim to accelerate dialogue and reconciliation, and spur communities and leaders to reform.
The public display of the pictures of the political crisis has generated a discussion, which has placed pressure on the political leadership to address the underlying causes of election-related violence in Kenya.
Staff from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives in Kenya contributed to this article.