New Internationalist

Please excuse us very much for daring…

Issue 350

Excellencies, gentlemen – members and those responsible in Europe, it is to your solidarity and generosity that we appeal for your help in Africa. If you see that we have sacrificed ourselves and lost our lives, it is because we suffer too much in Africa and need your help to struggle against poverty and war… Please excuse us very much for daring to write this letter.

This note was found on Yaguine Koita and Fodé Tounkara, aged 15 and 16, from Guinea who were found dead in the landing gear of a plane when it landed in Brussels in August 1999.


Poverty: Income per capita in Africa is lower today than it was 20 years ago when the International Monetary Fund’s ‘structural adjustment’ programmes began. Most sub-Saharan Africans live below the poverty line; life expectancy declined in 31 African countries between 1995 and 1998. The continent is saddled with debt. Africa spends $14 billion each year – $40 million each day – repaying debts and only gets $12.7 billion in aid. Total foreign debt stood at $319 billion in 1999 – 59 per cent of GDP.


War: Africa is the most war-torn region of the world. In 2000 it saw no fewer than 15 major armed conflicts. From 1989-98 the US supplied $227 million worth of weapons and training to African military forces. Of this $111 million went to governments involved in war, including DR Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Burundi, Chad, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The countries that sell most arms are the US, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. The countries that buy most arms – 66 per cent of the total value of purchases in 2000 – are in the indebted developing world.

Sources: Jubilee Debt Campaign Factsheet 4, July 2002
New Internationalist 326, Africa United, August 2000
The No-Nonsense Guide to The Arms Trade by Gideon Burrows, NI/Verso/BTL, 2002

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This article was originally published in issue 350

New Internationalist Magazine issue 350
Issue 350

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New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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