Falende hulpverlening (II)

Gin is associated blogger bij Sargasso en blogt vanuit Sierra Leone. Dit is deel 2 van de serie Falende Hulpverlening, waarin zij Sierra Leonezen aan het woord laat over de hulp die zij ontvangen. Vandaag het relaas van Lansana.

NaCSA is de Nationale Commissie voor Sociale Actie in Sierra Leone. De missie van NaCSA is publieke projecten te financieren, die inkomens genereren voor ‘zoveel mogelijk arme mensen als mogelijk’, en armoede te verminderen. Het zou er in de werkwijze van NaCSA om gaan bij te dragen aan duurzame ontwikkeling, dat weer moet leiden tot: armoedebestrijding, vermindering van het risico op conflict, en het verhogen van het welzijn van Sierra Leonezen. NaCSA is een grootschalig project, en opereert op verschillende gebieden. Educatie bijvoorbeeld, door het bouwen van scholen, maar ook activiteiten die betrekking hebben op gezondheid, zoals AIDS campagnes. NaCSA wordt gefinancierd door: African Development Bank, Department for International Development (DFID/UK), de Franse overheid, de Sierra Leonese overheid, Islamic Development Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) en de Wereldbank. Op haar website en in de kranten publiceert NaCSA regelmatig haar achievements. De foto’s bij de berichten tonen de mooie gebouwen die door het project worden opgebouwd in opgeleverde staat, en wie puur op het beeld afgaat, zou denken dat NaCSA het ontzettend goed doet.

Wat NaCSA echter niet laat zien, is hoe haar werken tot stand komen. Lansana (Sierra Leonees in Sierra Leone) geeft u een kijkje in de keuken van NaCSA. Hij legt uit hoe de doelstelling ‘inkomens genereren voor arme mensen’ in de praktijk wordt uitgewerkt, en hoe duurzaam de ontwikkeling is die deze mensen doorgaan. Bij wegwerkzaamheden, een project waarbij NaCSA de lokale wegen ‘duurzaam’ zou reconstrueren, legt hij op camera vast welke machinerie NaCSA gebruikt om de – wat uiteindelijk een zandweg moet worden en zeer duurzaam zal blijken te zijn in het regenseizoen – grond vrij te maken van stenen en beplanting, en het grondoppervlak ‘vlak’ te maken: jonge jongens die niet eens genoeg betaald krijgen om zichzelf voor die werkdag te voeden.

Youth Exploitation
written by Lansana

Sierra Leone has gone through eleven years of civil war. Although it is popular to assume that diamonds were the sole reason for and behind the war, it were actually the marginalization of youths and the high level of unemployment amongst them, that led to the breakdown of law and order and absorbed many youths into the armed forces.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended that the problem of youth marginalization should be tackled in order to build sustainable peace, but since the report has been published, not much has been done to improve on the position of youth in Sierra Leone.

Six years after the ending of the war, the unemployment rate amongst youths is still incredibly high. The cities are overpopulated with idle youths, who resort to stealing to survive. Against this background, it is always good to see youths hard at work, like the energetic group of youths who work on the major roads and streets in Bo Town: they dig drainages, close potholes with stones and level the sand roads, with the simplest tools thinkable: shovels to clear the soil, rakes to level the roads, wheelbarrows to transport waste and stones, pickaxes to dig, axes to cut big roots and trees, and cutlasses to cut sticks. Tools that require hard manual labour.

Passing by one of the work sites, I approached the working youths, because I was interested in their work. I wanted to compliment them for their work, because most of the roads and streets in Bo Town are in a deplorable condition, making them inaccessible, and they need maintenance. I was amazed about how youths are presently motivated to work towards nation building through community development. Many youth organizations used to carry out road maintenance as part of community development, in the exact same way. I therefore assumed that the work was a community based program.

But to my surprise, they told me that the work is part of a government project. One of the aims of the project is to provide employment for youth. Because of the kind of tools they were using, I decided to interview them, because there were no differences between the type of tools the ordinary youth organizations normally used to carry out their community developmental work. I asked them if they receive any token for their hard work. They told me that they work eight hours from 8 to 4 p.m., for six thousand leones per day (1,70 euro). An amount equivalent to two meals or a fifteen minute phone call. They don’t get food for work, no medication and no drinking water. At the end of the day, they will have spent about two thirds of their daily earnings on their basic needs, leaving them with a crappy one thousand leones bill, that cannot buy them anything useful. The youths told me that when they learnt that the project is government sponsored through the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA), that in turn is sponsored by international institutions under the guise of ‘developmental aid’, they really regretted to have involved in that kind of exploitative work. Even the youths themselves had had the idea that the project was community funded, as it used to be, for this type of labour.

The workers complained to their bosses many times that they had pains all over their body, but nobody cared to listen to them. The day I visited the worksite at Njagboima section, most of the workers were fired from the job, supposedly based on their poor performance. Another batch of fresh youths was hired to take over. The laid off workers were paid 24.000 leones, for their last four days of work. In front of me, one of them paid a foodseller 18.000 leones for food she had supplied to him on loan. His net earnings for four days of hard labour: 6.000 leones. Not even enough to feed him for one day. Another worker did not know how to use the money. He had been starving himself for days, in order to save for other domestics purposes. What was he to buy?

With pealed hands from digging, pushing wheelbarrows, and cutting roots and trees, they left the worksite in dismay. They would like to find employment, but they have learned to stay away from exploitative forms of employment. The workers complained that as long as the work is going on, nobody cares to document it, but immediately after the completion of the work, pictures will be taken to impress the public. Society will never know the youths who contributed to the construction of the new road, and do their bit to build the nation.

Over de serie ‘Falende Hulpverlening’: Hulp moet helpen, maar helaas gaat er in de internationale humanitaire hulpverlening en ontwikkelingssamenwerking ontzettend veel mis. Sierra Leone is één van de landen waar al meer dan tien jaar veel geld en moeite geïnvesteerd wordt in humanitaire hulpverlening. Toch is het land nog altijd het armste land ter wereld, en bleek uit onderzoek van de VN vorig jaar dat Sierra Leone nog altijd de slechtste plek op aarde is. In Sierra Leone is nauwelijks schoon drinkwater, er is geen regelmatige elektriciteitsvoorziening, de gemiddelde leeftijd schommelt tussen de 37 en 42, de kindersterfte is torenhoog, een schrikbarend aantal vrouwen overlijdt tijdens de bevalling, 60% van de bevolking is nog steeds analfabeet, en meer dan de helft van de bevolking leeft van minder dan een dollar per dag. Uit de harde cijfers blijkt dat hulpverlening aan Sierra Leone al vele jaren grandioos faalt. Hoe komt het, en wat zou er aan gedaan moeten worden? In deze serie geven Sierra Leonezen hun eigen kijk op de hulp die zij ontvangen.

Informatie elders: In de White Man’s Burden beschrijft William Easterly, voormalig World Bank medewerker, uitgebreid hoe westerse instituties door verkeerde hulpverlening enorm veel geld verspillen. De Nederlandse journaliste Linda Polman beschreef in haar boek ‘De Krisiskaravaan’ hoe noodhulpverlening soms haatregimes ondersteunt, of oorlogen in stand kan houden. Renzo Martens maakte de ‘documentaire’ Epidsode 3, waarin hij de westerse mens een spiegel voorhoudt over hun houding ten opzichte van Afrika (te zien in Het Stedelijk Museum Bureau).

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    In deze serie leest u de bijdragen van de armen en kanslozen in de Sierra Leonese samenleving.

    Lansana is een 25-jarige student Geografie & Linguistiek aan één van de universiteiten van Sierra Leone. Hij werkt fulltime als vrijwilliger bij een organisatie die jeugd en kindsoldaten probeert te helpen eigen verantwoordelijkheid over hun levens te krijgen en te nemen. Lansana werkte eerder als vrijwilliger bij een jeugdorganisatie en bij een ‘environmentalist organization’. Hij werkt naast zijn studie als onderzoeksassistent en tolk/vertaler. Zijn studie werd betaald door het Nederlanse Lanloesau.

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    Zie hier het verschil tussen Afrika en Azië.

    China, Japan, Korea (zuid), Vietnam, Filipijnen, etc. etc. gebeurt al tientallen jaren exact hetzelfde. Ook is werken op het land in een gemiddeld dorp in Afrika niet echt veel makkelijker/winstgevender. Alleen wordt er in Azië nauwelijks over geklaagd en brengt het na verloop van tijd voorspoed. In Afrika is het opeens mensonwaardig en fout.

    Ja, je kan er natuurlijk 1 grote bulldozer voor gebruiken… Maar dan hebben die 15 mensen niet die 2 maaltijden per dag. Daarnaast levert een grote massa werkeloze jongeren geheid een nieuwe burgeroorlog op. Dus laat ze ajb gewoon hun energie op het wegen netwerk botvieren.

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    Ja, misschien komt er niet zo duidelijk uit het stuk dat er wel gesubsidieerd wordt voor machinerie en dat die gelden dus gewoon verdwijnen. Tussen de regels door kan je het wel doorlezen…

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    Dit stuk viel eraf (ik weet niet waarom dat steeds gebeurt, zal wel met de derde wereld verbinding te maken hebben…):

    Het probleem is niet dat jongeren dat soort werk niet willen doen, dat beschrijft de auteur ook: zo wordt normaal gesproken community labor gedaan en dat gaat meestal nog zonder welke vorm van vergoeding ook. In de dorpen bestaat daar zelfs een speciaal systeem voor, en werkt met in rotatie aan de wegen etc. De crux is hier dat dit gesubsidieerd wordt door grote instellingen die genoeg geld geven voor arbeid en machinerie en dat dat niet bij de werkers terechtkomt. Dát was juist de reden waarom jongeren in Sierra Leone ooit bij de burgeroorlog betrokken raakten, dat soort uitbuiting en corruptie, en niet verveling, althans, in het begin niet en voor een groot deel van hen niet…

    Het staat de lezer overigens vrij in het Engels te reageren, dan kan de auteur van het stuk direct antwoord geven. Mijn reactie hierboven is de mening van de auteur, dmv vertaling…

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    Stukje anti-corruptie in China:

    En hoe je van uitgebuite jongere komt tot kalasnikof dragende moordenaar van mannen en verkrachter van oudere vrouwen…. snap ik helaas ook niet. Helaas zal dat onbegrip wel bij (die) oorlog horen.

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    In terms of community development related work, maybe in Asia it is quite different from Africa. In Africa there is community development work, and youth are willing to participate in it, but for this type of work we are talking about a Worldbank funded project which is supposed to be implemented honestly, not to exploit people that you think are vulnerable. Youth in this country did not fight because of not having work to do. They fought simply based on this kind of attitudes: where the educated always take pleasure in exploiting the uneducated, youth marginalization, levying of high fines if a youth commit crime such as uman palava (disputes over women), to name but few. I don’t know if people in Asia will treat their young ones in that way, if they do I’m afraid. Here we are not talking of working on lands.

    Work to engage youth from not taking part in a war is a real bullshit, because if that is the case, European children and youth will just engage in a war until they are old as they have little to offer in terms work. If you tend to engage someone on a work to prevent war especially developing country like Sierra Leone will be well paid job not the type of job without feeding.

    It is really disgusting to say this things. How a youth can just take up gun? Is gun like a stone that is easily available ? I think if there is any issue of carrying gun will come directly from the same corruptive elderly people in another form of exploitation. They will be the one to buy the gun and look out for people they can full with small money.

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    Chinaman, ik just looks like the exploitation of youths in Asia finally is building the country up. There are two factors in Africa that differ. 1. too much lawlessness (+corruption) to build something worthwile at a competitive price 2. the nature of the Africans who let shit happen over and over again, out of their notion of “personal freedom”. Which always means “I can do what I want, no matter current tasks or obligations from society or the past”.

    This remark is especially valid in societies where traditional bonds/families are heavily disrupted. Sierra Leone is one of the countries where this has happened.

    The error of these youths is very small. The error of a shattered society that remains so is large.

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    I will elaborate on Sierra Leone as a weak African state.

    I will start to say that a shattered society always finds itself again. It may be as the boat of tradtitional Marxists-militants who took hold of the state’s army and finances. Or a coalition of local warlords. Or a band of peculiar groups which are governing nowadays. Or a new assembly of formerly traditional regional/religeous families.

    In the mean time…

    Woe to you if you belong to the losing party.

    Woe to you if you think that UN cares a bit about solving the people’s problems.

    But the UN *will* care about who remains the strongest in power.

    In Sierra Leone with its natural richnesses…

    – a weak and so called independant government will always be exploited and underpaid by western “helpers”.

    – traditional clans and families have not been the best keepers of welfare and prosperity for their peoples.

    – workers unions still are seldom if ever heared of

    – foreign religious movements will try to get influence. Christians will not try to govern the state. Muslims will try to. (Their track record in fair government is quite poor.)

    In the end, I have very little to offer….

    The country is in a mess. It will remain that way for a while. But it is much better than civil war.

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    Anyway, exploitation – in what ever way – cannot ever lead to nation building, instead, it lays the foundation for conflict. In terms of exploitation, there is no difference between Africa and Asia or any other part of the world; the end result will be negative. For lawlessness, I think African countries are doing well as compared to European countries where the use of weapons is common among young people. The kind of behaviour young people employ in for example Holland, is unimaginable in Sierra Leone, in peace time.

    The word corruption is a relative term. Look at what is presently happening with the financial crisis in the U.S. Europe is that not part of corruption? Check again…

    In fact, there is no African who is in favour of “shit to happen over and over again out of their notion of ‘personal freedom’”. The freedom Africans always want, is freedom from suppression from any power that might be, but that can easily rule.

    You are just saying things out of imagination not from reality, because traditional bond/families are well maintained in Sierra Leone, and are playing a greater role for national cohesion. In general, the faith of the youth in any country depends on the people that are in positions of decision making.

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    Chinaman: With your remark “how youths turn from being exploited to Kalashnikov bearing murderers of men and rapists of older women”, you highlight an extreme. Yes, the Sierra Leonean civil war was very brutal, but these kind of examples still belong to the world of extremes. Most young people fought with knives, they fought when it was necessary, and in most cases, they fought to protect their areas from rebels who tried to wreck their country and their very lives. Many youths joined the rebels in their initial ‘freedom fight’, a fight that most people in Sierra Leone feel was necessary.

    The country had seen a suppressing semi-dictatorship for thirty years. A regime that led the country into bankruptcy and desolate poverty. A regime that had no intention of letting go of the absolute power they held over the population. In 1991, that regime was forced to conduct ‘democratic’ elections by the ‘international community’. The country had seen this type of elections before, and they knew that that regime would end up winning the elections through fraud and intimidation, the same way they had won elections in the past. The rebels entered the country in those days, to prevent fraudulent elections and a repetition of history. They found support amongst the population because they were trying to free them from suppression, oppression and ultimately death. People were dying from hunger, and there was nothing they could do to turn their own situations around. The victims of that regime: children, women and most of all youths.

    Power, or even a simple paid job came with age. Men (of 35 years old for example, because the youth category in Sierra Leone in those days ranged from 16-35) did not have any possibility to build up a life, or to leave their parental house for that matter, because they were discriminated and suppressed. They had been working as slaves for their communities, and that is no exaggeration. At the end of a hard working day of hard, hard manual labour they met this: no respect, no food, no opportunities. For every little misstep they made, they could be levied a fine, which they could not ever pay. After all, they were not making money. Situations like these, drove young men from their homes, their villages or towns into, for example, the diamond mines, where they were exploited even more.

    The cities were full of young men and boys who had nothing, absolutely nothing to do. Create jobs for themselves? It was NOT possible. Their government supplied them with drugs and alcohol to terrorize ‘disobedient’ civilians. These young boys and men were not educated, raised in the streets and did not have the slightest feeling of belonging to any group. When the war came, and they were enticed to fight, were given a lot of drugs, they went. One young man carried a gun with the slogan ‘war is my food’, and that is exactly what war meant for a large group of those disadvantaged youths who got caught up in the war.

    Then there was the group of youths, who were idealistic and wanted to free their country from that suppressing regime. They fought, but when the war turned into an ‘economy’, they declined. Some left the country, some went back to their homes.

    Summarizing: Many different youths (and people for that matter, but we were discussing youth in this topic) fought in the war, in many different ways. Some of them fought because they liked the action (the smallest group), some of them fought because it was the only way to survive (the biggest group) and some of them fought because they had the idealistic notion to free the people (a fairly large group). Some youths committed horrific atrocities. Most atrocities however, were committed by adults and the young children.

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    I appreciate your reply Lansana. But it stresses once more how you positively want to see African people in a rosy light. It is too rosy for me. I do not want to take justified blame away from the western NGO’s either, let me be clear about that.

    I found one thing odd in your story, that these streetwise youths did nothing to circumvent the high prices for food service and drinks. Was it so hard to organize a pool of guys to buy stuff on the market ? Even here in Europe, we take our sandwiches in a plastic bag with us to work. And the little cup with the milky milky ;-)

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    So basically, we are talking about an NGO who supplies scores off young men with a decent, albeit low paid, job. A job, which was done by unpopular and unpaid community labourers before. Except that maybe the NGO’s finances are not perfectly checked and not every dollar reaches some kid… But hey, what’s new?

    One of the challenges of modern aid giving is to get money to the people. This project seems to do that. Stimulating the economy bottom up. I’m sure these food sellers would agree that the workers getting paid is a big advantage over the past. And how bad is a job that gets you more food then, let’s say, 30% of the people?

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    Chinaman: No, we are talking about youths who thought that they were doing a form of community labor, for which they sacrificed other work that would pay them more, to in the end learn that this was a sponsored project.

    OK, let’s say that it is a good thing that they do not use heavy machinerie to build the roads (which it is not, because this type of road should be asphalted, otherwise it would have been done through community labor anyway)to create employment for youths, then the money that is budgetted for ‘the work’ whether done by machinerie or by people, should go to the people conducting the labor, and not to the coordinators. Although this type of corruption or exploitation might not be ‘anything new’, on the ground it is not just a far theory, it is a problematic reality. And the fact that it is not new, makes it worse, not better.

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    M44: I agree with most of the points you highlight in your second post (#12), although the tone of the message downplays some of the seriousness of it.

    Your comment on ‘organizing’ to go to the market, however, is based on a western setting. The market is not open at 8 in the morning anyway, and if it were, to spend two hours cooking before work is a little bit too much if you have to do hard labor. Milky milky, by the way, will spoil in half an hour in this climate ;-)

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    I thought my tone was downright pessimistic and gloomy, just like my message. Ah, make that pijnappelsap, oh no, chinasapplesap then.

    (Was it May West who said “I like my coffee like my men, strong and black.” Cheers Gin.)

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    M44: For the sake of the people who read this discussion, and who are interested in the subject, not in my persona, I’ll indulge you with a reply… On your post that is, just in case there are more people who do not understand that life in a poor country like Sierra Leone is quite different from life in a rich country like Holland.

    The amounts specified in the article Lansana wrote, are the lowest you can find for food. Except if people buy larger quantities if they team up together, like you suggest, in the market. To go to the market, you walk let’s say, half an hour, let’s take a short distance. You buy all the ingredients you need. You walk back home. Half an hour. You fetch firewood somewhere, or you find a place to buy it, if you have the money. Then you fetch water somewhere, because cooking without water is simply impossible. You cook rice, if you are lucky that someone will lend you a pot, because as a youth, you don’t own these things. Why? Because you only earn enough per day to feed yourself, say, for 70% of your needs. On firewood, it takes about an hour, hour and a half for a big pot of rice to cook. Then, you start by cooking your vegetables, and if you are lucky, some meat. But maybe you are lucky, and someone will lend you two pots. If you are not lucky, you’ll wait another hour, hour and a half. You eat, you clean everything, which is quite a hard job with your fingernails, then you are off to work. Walk, again let’s take a short distance, half an hour. Work for 8 hours, with just a short break. During the break you open the plastic bag with your rice and vegetables/meat pulp. Rotten. Too bad. You walk back, half an hour, pain all over your body. You fetch water, take a shower somewhere, and go to bed hungry.

    Or in short: it is really easy to talk if you live in a country where structures and mechanisms are in place to make life easy. And it is not your own hard work that made that possible anyway. Except if you are really old, you met your society that way. Your tax money just maintains it. And big companies of course, enable you to buy prefabricated food you can take to work. Your refridgerator and the electricity enable you to keep stock in your house, so you don’t have any hassle in the morning to get prepared for work.

    (and … I don’t like coffee, full stop)

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    @13:

    Anyway, exploitation – in what ever way – cannot ever lead to nation building

    I beg to differ. The nature of nations is exploitation. You cannot build one without exploitation. Whether it be for the expropriation of natural resources or the exploitation of labour, it is always at the heart of nation building.

    @17:

    to create employment for youths, then the money that is budgetted for ‘the work’ whether done by machinerie or by people, should go to the people conducting the labor, and not to the coordinators.

    That is quite a naive view. The gross of the money always goes to the coordinators/bosses. That is the essence of the system irrespective of where it operates.

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    I thought that this grave discussion, Gin, could use an occasional joke here or there. I withdraw this if you want. Cultural differences, tell me about it.

    Anyhoo, you just proved my point. Africans make a mess of their lives and their society. This I will not withdraw.

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    #21: If you call corruption a ‘system’, which is not the case in Sierra Leone anyway. I know that there is no comment on differences in salary scales. Coordinators have higher salaries, everybody understands that. If they try to add to that salary over the backs of the people they claim and report to be giving the money to, then, it is problematic…

    #22: I can always take a joke, but lets not forget that I am not one of the people who is affected by this type of ‘misconduct’. Although I am in Sierra Leone, I am still free to go back to my own country if things get ‘too hot’ for me. I am in a privileged position anyway. The people in Sierra Leone who are reading and following this discussion are not, and their lives ARE affected by it. Some respect is in place. You can joke with me, or about me in any other discussion ;-)