Togo leader slams rich countries over aid cuts

Togo's President Faure Gnassingbe waves on November 11, 2012 in Abuja.  By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe waves on November 11, 2012 in Abuja. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The president of Togo, one of the world’s poorest countries, on Monday slammed rich nations who have cut development aid saying it contributes to the spread of terrorism.

President Faure Gnassingbe told a UN Security Council meeting on terrorism in Africa that rich countries had unjustly cut foreign aid since the 2008 financial crisis.

“It is urgent that partner countries honor their promises” on aid, Gnassingbe said. “The crisis does not authorize donor countries to not respect their engagement to reach 0.7% of gross domestic product by 2015.”

His attack came ahead of a meeting at the UN headquarters this week of UN panel — led by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — that will set the agenda for the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

The Togo leader, whose country ranked 159th out of 186 countries in the latest UN human development index, said extra cash is desperately needed to boost security and alleviate poverty which, he said, encourages militant groups operating in countries like Mali and Somalia.

According to a 2012 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, international aid fell to 125.6 billion dollars in 2012 — 0.29% of the gross national income of creditor countries and down from 0.31% in 2011.

“This does not seem just to me when we know that poor countries must take up new challenges for which they are not responsible,” said Gnassingbe, who singled out the “frenzied industrialization of rich countries.”

The Togo leader, whose country organized the meeting as a president of the 15-nation Security Council for May, said more help had to be given to the poor alongside measures such as greater controls on arms transfers.

“It is only in assuring the well-being of populations, in particular the most poor and the weakest, that they will be less receptive to extremist ideologies and violence,” the president said.

While highlighting successes against Islamist militant groups in Mali and Somalia, US ambassador Susan Rice said that Al-Qaeda and its allies are becoming “more diffuse and entrepreneurial” in Africa.

She said African governments must be “wary of repressive approaches, which often fuel the very radicalization they seek to eliminate.”

“This requires fighting poverty and corruption. It requires expanding trade and investment, and building critical infrastructure so that African economies can grow sustainably,” Rice said.

Governments must improve health and education services, Rice said, “and it requires ensuring that people are able to hold their governments accountable.”