Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The culture of denial in Niamey

The government of Sudan isn't the only government acting like it has something to hide.

As most of you probably remember, there was a famine (or 'food emergency,' as the euphemism goes) in the West African country of Niger last year. Since it was a bad news story out of Africa, it not surprisingly received a lot of international media attention.

Apparently, there's another hunger crisis this year in the Sahel nation.

And President Tandja Mamadou wants to ensure that no more press attention reflects unflatteringly on him or his government. So he decided to withdraw permission from the BBC to report on the hunger crisis.

The government had granted permission to report on the issue and then quickly yanked it after one story. The BBC reported:

Officials said international and local media would not be allowed to do stories about the food situation as they did not want that subject touched.

And that:

Officials said they had no problem with our story, but the government did not want foreign or local media to report about food supplies or malnutrition.

However:

Aid workers say there is a culture of denial at the highest levels and they worry that donors may forget the suffering in Niger if the government stops them from seeing it.

My original theory was that the government simply didn't want any reporting on the issue because it would've made them look incompetent or unprepared; the same crisis occuring for a second consecutive year. But I've heard a competing theory that the government is jealous of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because they received a lot of the praise for addressing last year's famine and the government felt it didn't get enough credit.

Either way, Pres. Tandja and his government should be ashamed of themselves. When people die, it will be on what passes for his conscience!

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