A cautionary tale for Canadians

Dr. Lemma Degefa is the extremely competent and well respected Lutheran World Federation Country Representative for Ethiopia. His leadership has made sure the  investment Canadian Lutherans have made in development and relief work in that country is delivered in an efficient and effective manner.

Lemma spoke to our CLWR March board meeting and raised some valuable points that agencies like CLWR, and the government programs that support them, need to be aware of as they consider funding aid in Africa. Here’s a link to the video of what he said.

Dr. Degefa related a story from the history of Ethiopia concerning a time when they were preparing for an armed struggle against Somalia. The Russians armed Somalia “to the teeth” and they were poised to take over the southern portion of Ethiopia.  The Americans were the friends of Ethiopia. Aid to Ethiopia for the conflict had reached as far as the Gulf of Yemen and then the Americans felt that they couldn’t support the socialist government of Ethiopia and withdrew their support.

The Russians sensed there was an opportunity now to back a “bigger horse” and armed Ethiopia to the point that it defeated Somalia rather easily. Somalia is still recovering socially and politically from that event.

Lemma’s point is this – when the west is not there to help there is always someone else on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity and their motives may not always be the same. Africa needs collaboration from compassionate and peace-loving nations from the north and North America, but the African reality is that others who do not share our values or motives are waiting for the opportunity to take our place.

Tom Brook

CLWR Director of Community Relations

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