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Opinions Sun, 2 Feb 2014

IMANI & NGOs cannot bite the hands that feed them

Compatriots,

The University of Pennsylvania has recently rated IMANI Ghana highly in a recent study on ‘the best think tanks’ in the world, 'IMANI was also the only think tank from Ghana to feature on the global list of best think tanks with an annual operating budget of less than $5 million, ranking 8th internationally, as well as on the list of the 100 best think tanks operating outside the United States of America.' (http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2014/January-27th/imani-leads-ghanaian-think-tanks-to-top-of-international-rankings.php).

I University of Pennsylvania’s assessment is flimsy, to say the least. Their criteria for measuring the so-called 'think tanks' ('Afrobarometer methodology') is bamboozling and methodologically fraudulent. It does not measure up to what must actually be defined as crucial to alleviating poverty, ignorance and powerlessness around the world.

My criteria for alleviating poverty, ignorance and powerlessness in Ghana/Africa, rests on IMANI or any NGO’s ability to seriously challenge the basis of the poverty that has afflicted Ghana after Dr. Nkrumah’s ouster from power. This requires serious thinkers to challenge the basis of all factors which militate against Ghana’s/Africa’s development across social, political, cultural and economic disciplines.

To have done so effectively will have required IMANI and the other NGOs to emerge from their cozy air conditioned, western funded offices, roll up their sleeves to lead more impassioned challenges to western globalising capital. To date, IMANI has not uttered one EFFECTIVE word to criticise the complete capitulation of our clueless economists and political leadership to IMF-SAP diktats. They have not pointed out the complete abdication of the NDC-NPP leadership’s duty to defending the national economic self-interest - the interest of the poorest masses of our people.

Why have they been thus irresolute? Because to have challenged the status quo - of ongoing wanton exploitation of Ghana’s resources - would have led IMANI to question the complete sale, by our naïve leadership, of our entire: gold, diamond, oil, bauxite, manganese, cocoa and key industries mainly to globalising western firms. That would have been too controversial. It would have endangered their apolitical stance, causing them to criticise their income sources. This would have been too dangerous to their sustained pay packages; too alarming to the comfortable lifestyles their good education affords them.

What must be understood clearly by the Ghanaian public about our key NGOs is that they are funded mostly from the west. The subjugation of the excellent public sector-owned commodity and industrial sectors to the ‘Conditionalities’ of the IMF-SAP, required our PNDC, NDC, NPP governments to disenfranchise state control. This had been predicted by the IMF/World Bank and western multilateral agencies that ganged up to take Ghana to the dry cleaners. What did they do? They offered corollary funding support to NGOs and some lucky private sector agencies to undertake some of the roles abdicated by the Ghana state.

What this means is that top bananas in these NGOs, some whom may look and sound leftwing or ‘progressive,’ have become conduits for the very neoliberalist, privatising, disenfranchising foreign interests that, they had earlier resisted to the hilt. In doing so, they themselves have become active participants on behalf of western capital. They are now reduced to frisking, ransacking and exploiting intellectual capital for globalising western interests. The activist Indian writer, Arundathi Rao, who wrote the incisive, The God of Small Things (one of my favorite authors) comments on this:

‘Though they may not be the very same agencies, they are certainly part of the same loose, political formation that oversees the neoliberal project and demands the slash in government spending in the first place. Why should these agencies fund NGOs? Could it be just old-fashioned missionary zeal? Guilt? It’s a little more than that. NGOs give the impression that they are filling the vacuum created by a retreating state. And they are, but in a materially inconsequential way. Their real contribution is that they defuse political anger and dole out as aid or benevolence what people ought to have by right. They alter the public psyche. They turn people into dependent victims and blunt the edges of political resistance. NGOs form a sort of buffer between the sarkar and public. Between Empire and its subjects. They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators.’ devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs.’ (http://taraqee.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/arundhati-roy-on-ngos/).

Had IMANI and the NGOs in Ghana taken a principled stance in the national interest, their staunchness would have necessitated criticising the current IMF-SAP imposition by the west on us. It would have required them to assail the ridiculously incompetent and dereliction of patriotic duty of the NDC-NPP leadership - which has presided over many levels of administrative incompetence, corruptions and national wastages too many to mention (in China and North Korea people are shot for this)! It would have led to a decisive, possibly violent national demonstration against the self-interest of the neocolonial NDC-NPP leadership, and the western charitable trusts that fund them (ultimately CIA-compromised)!

It would have placed a responsibility on them to call for a new Ghana Constitution which is rooted to a self-reliant, manufacturing export economic module. It would have caused them to raise the oft-hidden issue of Ghana needing to nationalise its key economic sectors to fund a Development and Modernisation Programme (DMP)!

To conclude, the above list of reasons illustrates the duplicity of all current so-called NGOs in Ghana/Africa. They indicate the antithetical position of all our NGOs to our actual national independence and enduring freedoms that the Osagyefo declared on March 1957. I leave you to chew the cud on a number of questions. Where did IMANI get its $6 budget? What does 'Afrobarometer methodology' mean? etc.

I have proved in critical analysis that IMANI has been rewarded for its sterling job for foreign interests. They cannot bite the hands that feed them! Rao concludes, ‘In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among.’

Regards.

Columnist: Kofi of Africa