Sweden's African Wars: "Sweden finances wars in Africa," says a new book by a Swedish journalist and writer, Bengt Nilsson. Like a bomb blast, the book, published in September 2008, unveils how Swedish aid is diverted to fund wars in Africa. Moussa Awuonda reports from Stockholm.

Author:Awuonda, Moussa

Whenever the controversial role of Western aid to Africa is debated, there is always a tendency to make an exception for a set of donors. The Nordic countries, namely Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, belong to a league of countries whose aid policies and practice in Africa are often lauded. Their aid budgets normally reach the 0.7% of the target earmarked by the UN. Indeed, some of the Nordic countries exceed this by allocating 1% of their gross national product (GNP) to help developing countries, mostly in Africa.

Governments receiving Scandinavian aid talk of the lack of "strings attached". "The Nordic countries are true friends of the African people," said Nelson Mandela in Stockholm soon after his release from detention in 1991. As the Swedish scholar Susan Holmberg notes: "Sweden's development assistance can be conceptualised as one component of the international extension of its domestic welfare system." Therefore, in tropical Africa, Swedish aid workers go about as experts in planting trees, building schools, hospitals, water pipes and roads-social amenities and political institutions that party turned Sweden, once a poor country, into a modern state rising out of extreme deprivation and inequality among the classes. Nearly a third of Sweden's population migrated to the USA in the 19th century to escape hunger and persecution. Although Sweden has a weapons manufacturer called Bofors, it is unheard of for military procurement to be part of Swedish aid packages to Africa. Other European donors, especially such former colonial masters as Britain and France, have military interests and pacts that are paid through aid. Owing to the favourable popular image of Sweden, it therefore came as a bomb blast when a book titled Sweden's African Wars was launched in Stockholm in September 2008, authored by the Swedish journalist and writer, Bengt Nilsson. The 303-page book was published by Timbro, a think-tank based in Stockholm. Can it be true?

Many were sceptical and suspected that the book, with a provocative title, could merely be an alarmist stunt by those opposed to Swedish aid; if so it was the season to bash up the Swedish aid agency, Sida, by the centre-right coalition in power as it prepared to take up European Union presidency in 2009. Surprisingly, the book has kept its promise and the author has persuasive arguments and credible evidence on which to base his verdict. The book's main premise is that wars are costly and every war...

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