USAfricaonline VIEWPOINT
Kosovars and African refugees: Different strokes for different folks
by Joe Davidson
Special to USAfricaonline.com

With the conclusion of the air war against Yugoslavia, much of the world's attention is focused on the Kosovar refugees. Their plight is a tragic one and the response of many to it is heart warming. Given the circumstances, it's understandable that the refugee problem in the Balkans would dominate the focus of the media and the international community. But what should not be accepted is the way other refugees have been thoroughly short-changed by the press and those who fund programs for them.

The Los Angeles Times is one news organization that has examined the differences in the way the world treats refugees in Europe and Africa. It found that:
•The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spends 11 times more on each refugee in the Balkans than is spent on those in Africa.
•Some refugee camps in Africa have one doctor for every 100,000 refugees. In Macedonia, camps have as many as one doctor per 700 people, which the newspaper says is a far better ratio than that found in many Los Angeles neighborhoods.
•While refugees at most camps in Albania have ready access to clean water, Eritrean families with as many as 10 members are given about 3 1/2 gallons of water for three days
•Up to 6,000 refugees die each day from cholera and other diseases in camps in Africa, which hold as many as 500,000 people; that‚s 15 times the size of the largest camp in Macedonia, where fortunately, epidemics and starvation have not been a problem.

Given the Eurocentric pattern of foreign affairs news coverage, it's difficult for people in this country to know or care much about a devastating series of events that are claiming many lives in Africa. In Angola, for example, about 10 percent of the population has been displaced because of civil war. About 1.5 million are dead in Sudan and hundreds of thousands are homeless as a result of its 15-year conflict. Hostilities in Guinea-Bissau have dislocated about one million people in that West African nation.

Clearly there is much more that is positive in Africa and just focusing on the devastation would feed into the negative stereotypes that too many already hold. But news coverage can make an important difference, as it did years ago when pictures of starving people in Ethiopia generated an outpouring of public and private assistance.

When it comes to humanitarian aid, the problems must be illustrated so that those who live in the world‚s richest nation have the information needed to seriously consider how programs they help fund either address or neglect the needs of the world‚s poorest people.
Do we really support, can we really justify, a UN effort that provides only 11 cents per day for refugees in Africa? There must be a more equitable distribution of aid.

The Congress and the administration should insist that U.S. and international programs root out any double standard that favors a particular group's location or complexion. Granted, there are complex geo-political factors at play in this drama. But given the stark differences in the way refugees are treated, it‚s easy to believe that what really counts is white skin with a European address.
•Davidson, former Johnnesburg-based foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, is a contributing editor with Emerge magazine, commentator for National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and MSNBC.com. He plans to contribute to USAfricaonline.com and The Black Business Journal
(www.BBJonline.com).


PRESIDENTIAL PERSPECTIVE
Clinton on U.S-Africa Growth and Opportunity Act

Special to USAfricaonline.com

"The African Growth and Opportunity Act promises a new partnership with Africa based on mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Also (this July), African nations signed two significant documents -- a cease-fire in Congo, and a peace agreement ending the war in Sierra Leone. With these agreements, and with democratic government in Nigeria and a new leadership in South Africa, we have an historic opportunity.

The United States must do everything we can right now to support the efforts Africans are making to build democracy and respect for human rights, advance peace and lay the foundation for prosperity and growth.
This bill supports education and job creation so that all of Africa's children can grow up educated and productive. It supports better health care and the flow of ideas and technology that will help Africa's doctors save more lives.

This bill has strong bipartisan support in Congress, nearly unanimous support from the nations of Africa, and brings together a broad group of concerned citizens on both continents -- from Jack Kemp and Andrew Young to the African Association of Women Entrepreneurs. It represents an effort to build a partnership with African nations that involves listening and working with them.

It serves America's national interests: in creating new markets for American goods and services; in building strong, reliable and democratic partners overseas; and in creating a more prosperous and stable world."
William (Bill) Clinton is president of the United States.


USAfricaonline VIEWPOINT
Why I'll Vote For King As Person of the Century
by Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The editors of Time magazine will pick a "Person of the Century" to grace their cover in January 2000. Martin Luther King, Jr. is in the running for the top honor along with Hitler, Einstein, Elvis, Churchill and Gandhi, but just barely. The reason, among others, for you to vote for King, is that the editors of Time will probably swallow one of the huge myths of history. They, like much of the public, narrowly label King a "Black leader," a "civil rights" leader, or say that he simply imitated Gandhi.

It is true that King was an ardent student of Gandhi's preachments of non-violent resistance and non-accommodation to injustice. But he took his teacher's message and refined, broadened and stretched it into a global moral imperative for all humankind. That moral imperative went way beyond the limits of the civil rights movement.... King pledged that he would struggle and sacrifice until racism, poverty and injustice were, as he put it "crushed by the battering rams of justice." He more than kept that pledge. This is why I am writing the editors at Time to tell them that he should be the "Person of the Century."
-Hutchinson, author of the 'Crisis in Black and Black' and other books, is Los Angeles-based executive editor and columnist for USAfrica The Newspaper, USAfricaonline.com and
The Black Business Journal.

Why Dr. King's vision is valid into the 21st century