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Monday, July 6, 2015

SHARING COMMON GOALS, UNDERMINED BY CONTENTIOUS MEANS: THE CHALLENGES OF FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE AT CHIEFDOM LEVEL IN ZAMBIA

SHARING COMMON GOALS, UNDERMINED BY CONTENTIOUS MEANS: THE CHALLENGES OF FOREIGN DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE AT CHIEFDOM LEVEL IN ZAMBIA

Katele Kalumba, PhD (Toronto)
ABSTRACT:  This paper was written as a contribution to a Workshop organized by a USAID-supported program called SHARe/ZAMBIA for some members of their Royal Highness from across the country. It came at the end of SHARe II program that helped selected chiefdoms, including my Bwile Chiefdom in Luapula under Senior Chief Puta VIII Kasoma II Tefwetefwe in Chienge District, develop three year Strategic Development Plans using participatory methodologies and essentially piggy-bagged on fighting HIV?. While grassroots based development strategies appear appealing in intellectual circles, they often lack the resource justifications for a sustainable implementation program in donor countries and provoke curious political interest by central authorities in recipient countries, which deprive them both of local resourcing and political support. The author suggests that part of the limitations relate to failure to talk transparently about the tangible and intangible exchanges involved in development assistance [1]

INTRODUCTION TO SHARe II/ZAMBIA CHIEFDOM STRATEGIC PLANNING PROJECT
From the South to the North, the East to the West, a program called SHARe/Zambia, supported by USAID and PEPFAR (which has an interesting motto on their log “Zambians and Americans in partnership to fight HIV/AIDS”) engaged Chiefdoms in a sophisticated but participatory strategic planning for development. The idea was a simple one. In order to fight HIV/AIDS in a holistic manner, communities needed to address structural issues that limit their mobilization of resources for a sustainable approach to both prevention, management and care tasks for HIV/AIDS.
The Planning process involved a five-step approach using PESTELI and SWOT analyses. The first module was self-assessment. The Chiefdom participants from a broad spectrum of chiefs, headmen, elected councilors, senior citizens and chiefdom advisers, women’s groups, government workers, church and other civil society organizations, special sector groups like fishermen associations called VMCs, Farmers cooperatives etc were used to answer the question : “Who are we as Bwile Chiefdom?  This question required the Bwile Chiefdom to identify the essential qualities that define it, including its fundamental commitments i.e. vision, mission, core values, and mandates. The second module question asked, “Where are we in terms of Development?” This demanded that the Bwile Chiefdom critically analyses itself and the internal and external environments, and clearly outlines the development challenges it currently faces, as a springboard for defining its development roadmap.
A Third module required answering the question “Where do we want to go in terms of development?” This clearly required defining goals, objectives and strategic issues toward which or on which it should work over a period of five years of the Plan. A fourth question was “How can we get there?” This called upon the Chiefdom to articulate the strategies and actions needed to reach identified developmental goals and milestones, and /or to resolve the identified strategic issues. Lastly, the fifth module was to answer, “How will we know we have arrived?” This required the Chiefdom to define a simplified framework for assessing progress in the implementation of its strategic plan and in achieving set goals and milestones. In summary, this was as good as any logical framework planning methodology can be. The process was interactive and highly critical in terms of analyzing what was factual on the ground and what goals could be attainable.  A Bwile Chiefdom Development Strategic Plan 2013-1017 was colorfully launched during the annual Builile Ceremony by the then Minister of Traditional and Chiefs’ Affairs, Professor Nkandu Luo of the PF government. It included a well-researched brief history of the Bwile people in terms of the historical movements and settlement in the now Republic of Zambia. This approach was replicated in all the chiefdoms the program targeted. After this successful planning story, the project of SHARe II/Zambia was facing certain death. Advocacy for continuing appeared necessary and workshop seemed necessary to justify more USA funding. Washington appeared less than enthusiastic. How do we understand these forms of development assistance, the so-called capacity-building type without tangible results other than a document in form of Strategic Plan? There is an old Soul Music song during the Vietnam times, “There is something going on out here”!
 NOW START “ON AND ON” JACK!
Development partnership is a journey. Metaphorically, one can walk the journey by your side, in front of you or behind you. It is inconceivable, even in multi-dimensional terms to think of someone walking on top of you or under you. But if we entertain for even a slight second, Niccolo Machiavellian logic, it is perfectly thinkable that walking on top of you would amount to suppression while walking under you may amount to exactly what it says, undermining you.
Unless we are clear about the nature and purpose of development partnership, which walk to talk about, we may find ourselves, not in Joseph Heller’s most popular creative scenario of Catch 22 but in his more realistic account of chapters five and six  of Now and Then. The two chapters share a common theme, “On and On”.

IDEAS WE ALREADY KNOW JACK, TELL US ABOUT HOW?
At this point, I dare anyone to challenge the insight of a great American Development Assistance leader in USAID, Brian Atwood when he said these words:
           
”Building on the base of strong Agency experience, we have a new grasp of the importance of attacking development challenges at the grassroots, by strengthening local capacity. The central idea in our New Partnership Initiative (NPI) –that development can be energized by linking local business, indigenous NGOs and local governments—reflects a new understanding of the forces of change that are embedded at the roots of society. Few dispute the development theory behind NPI; now it is time to unleash that powerful idea” J. Brian Atwood (Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid “The Future of Foreign AID” Washington D.C. March 12, 1996 pp 4)
Brian Atwood added, a not so much “by- the- way” comment for anyone to appreciate, (If such a person has once been a number one diplomat for his country), he said:
“ I recognize that any new vision for our foreign aid program must be built on public understanding of the link between security at home and security abroad” (Atwood, ibid pp 8)
If anyone doubts the significance of this virtually clear premonition, then perhaps that person has a simple lesson to learn from a French philosopher, who observed,
“He fails to see what lies before his feet” Montaigne remarks on Thales from The Complete Essays as translated by   M.A. Screech, 1991. 
Development partnership is not a one-way street. There are tangibles and intangibles are exchanged, as countries try to walk together, one country capacitating another to walk freely and ably. This walk is made the more difficult because the exchange invariably involves change. That is it! Who has to change? Is it the one being capacitated or the enabler? I dare say both. An enabler who comes with a ready-made, Cantonese chow mien, risks the possibility of wasted dishes in a restaurant  full of Bwile Bantu[2] to whom a meal means a plate of nshima  or what Swahilis call “ugari” and some fresh cooked  fish especially Catfish or bream. Equally, a patient who wants to tell a doctor what prescription is best for him (not what she is allergic to), is often labeled a “difficult” patient.
Common goals can help the walk. How do you discover and share these common goals if the project design in the first place, has nothing to do with prospective development partners? In a digital world where everything gets outdated by the minute, we forget ideas too quickly. We confuse “googling” for ideas with ideas. We are looking for the next idea, we fail to see, that which is under our feet. A world well-known development thinker Ibrahim Helmi Abdel Rahman, contributing to a discussion in a book entitled, “Partners in Tomorrow”[3] wrote:
                        “Everybody wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.”
It is a profound thought and really, our paradox. We agree that poverty stinks. It puts a moral, if not a security burden on the rich. We agree as well that working with poor countries from the grassroots is the most effective strategy in development work. The problem, it is precisely the rich in these poor countries who are most able to attract the attention of foreign governments because of the needs of their own rich investors. The rich anywhere are astute, nay effective, at putting greatest pressures on their governments to come up with policies and even laws that favor and protect their interests. Rich governments succumb to them for reasons not just of economy but the VOTE, poor countries depend on them for rent seeking (the economic terminology for corruption), and for “good works”, including financing their campaigns. Where is the recipe for the real thing of development? Well, Heller’s old age creativity gave us this portrait:
“Call me Gene. I am a mean Gene…spiteful…malevolent and sneaky too. I gorge myself on the spleen. I keep my real self hidden…” (p110). “And there was a dominating compulsion to let go and talk dirty and say shitty things in the Lincoln bedroom of the White House….Oh, the things I could tell you, if I could only talk. But I can’t talk, so I can’t tell.
 I can only smell. Smell things, not give off odors…I can smell a rat for you and I can smell bullshit too. And there is more than enough, more than I want to smell.” (p116)[4]
Heller’s main character Eugene Pota in the novel Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man suffers a common development experience. A consolation of inadequacy as per Montaigne! If one proposal is rejected, just work a little harder and write another one. In Pota’s case, while everyone he consulted had ideas about what could be the subject of his final novel, no one offered any real answers. It is something catatonic. The world of the developed West and Africa in particular, appear to be spaced on different planets. When you read  Montaigne description of doctors’ medical prescription in Europe in 1500 and (not 2015 Africa), they included : urine of  a lizard, the droppings of an elephant, the liver of a mole, blood drawn from under the right wing of white pigeon, and for those with colic paroxysms, triturated rat shit![5] Now in my village, in 2015 by the Roman calendar, these pretty much stays close to ingredients in “medical prescriptions” by our “Ng’angas” or traditional healers (Please do not call them witch doctors, Europe called them doctors in 1500). Are we in a time warp, where we cannot perceive reality the same way? Do we mean the same things when we speak about development in the West and in Africa?
 Rahman (1978:5) was wrong in his paper to equate political timidity or lack of will for rational development or what today is called “lack of governance” as the “real answer” to a state of relations where no answer is never real enough! Why is it, we may ask, that goals towards development are always so clear and easily agreeable and yet talk about means is always so contentious? Europe, America and yes Asia, were once where we are today. Why cannot they talk about what works and what does not work in clear bankable terms with us, the poor?
I think Heller’s Spleen, the mean Gene, who keeps the real, self-hidden, could help us develop some insights. Can development dialogue be a little more transparent in terms of the stakes involved?  Can we open up the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House as Congress, USAID, State Department and our own miniaturized versions interact on issues of development assistance? Let us suppose for a moment: that there were no hidden agendas; no corrupt intent or acts; real will to redistributive thinking; positive terms of trade; clear and fair contractual terms with no hidden or small unreadable letters; a common human enterprise to fight poverty everywhere, a heaven of sorts, who would be willing to die for it? I think the most intelligent response would be, “that is too idyllic!”  If the good clean world is a fantasy, what is the practical, achievable world? What development pimples can we accept when we come face to face, the rich and the poor?

WHAT ABOUT SHARE III JACK, COME BACK TO SHARE!
The acronyms we use in Development Assistance reveal as much as they conceal. SHARE has such a tempting conception of a redistributive doctrine that reminds one of a history class on the American Marshall Plan on Europe. Yet, it smells so farfetched to contemplate that. We in Africa (I can generalize with some license) have the naivety to think that we can appeal to the emotional sensibility of our donor partners instead of our mutual interests. We should ask: why should American taxpayers spend their hard-earned dollars on chiefdoms development capacities in Africa? Is the idea itself  not repugnant to the very democratic ideals that makes America different and which are deeply enshrined in its Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, more so perhaps than in its own Constitution? Can these chiefdoms secure the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness better  than their elected councilors, Members of Parliament, their appointed Cabinets and  well our own somewhat elected Presidents, (assuming electoral imperfections are limited to poor countries alone)?
If we were to answer these questions based on our Zambian historical experience, contrary to popular democratic idealism, the answer would be a resounding YES! In affirming this position, I am committed to a project that reconciles Cicero’s objections to Aristotle’s obsession with means in harmonizing the pursuit of happiness, through justice and virtue in an organic context. Cicero’s fourth alternative of constitutionalism is only usefully accessed in terms of natural and unyielding principles that guide moderate human conduct Why because Augustine of Hippo was right, “lex inuista non est lex” (Unjust constitutions, unjust laws, are no laws, period),[6]
 It is a fact, (even granting the limitations imposed by the colonial relations) that our Native Authorities performed better than our modern Local Councils on the index of “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. Why we may ask? By “accident”, because they were organically embedded in the social structural properties that existed “to work” for the people and were adaptive to internal and external challenges. Traditional authorities had lived through ivory trade, slave trade, colonial rule and survived by challenge and adaptation. Our people were able to understand the legitimacy or illegitimacy of works demanded of them by their traditional institutions. They knew the boundaries of authority of chiefs and headmen. They petitioned for their rights as in a chi-Bemba folk song (one-liner) “Kuteke Mbwa, mano, wabula mano atekele mbwa mu chipwu yaya”. (The essential meaning is that without wisdom, good leadership and intellect, a chief can lose his people. They are note bonded). There is also the notion of the “consent and presencing of the governed” under chiefdom management. For instance, in the petition song “Aka kamana ukupoma, nipa mabwe, ne mfumu ukutangala, nipa bantu” (For this river to thunder like a waterfall there must be stones and for the chief to rule, there must be people…people do not accept bad rulers period!). When were villagers called to Council chambers to petition any claim of right? These modern rulers speak to themselves; even petitioning Parliament can infringe the Zambian Public Order Act and attract brutal force. Whom can you petition freely in modern institutions of governance without retribution? Chiefs are still petitioned by their villagers and headmen even today!
Democracy can only take root when it evolves organically. In the same manner, that Africa’s development plans have collapsed so have its “democratic” constitutions. The act of planning just as the act of constitution making has become an end in itself, like a disgusting overblown portrait of an African politician! One does not need to be acerbic to confront that which lies under our feet. We know little about what ensures constitutional endurance nor indeed how Malaysia, for instance, could turn around a disastrous economic performance into an admirable economic success using endogenous thinking. We do not even have a sense of our own national founding and thus celebrating it becomes a contentious issue. It is notable that what made America hold together in a Union, were fundamental compromises made at State (local) levels earlier in its moment of “founding”. It was a spirit of starting afresh as much as progressive dissolution of those traditions that contradicted common aspirations, including Slavery. Our independence constitution was written for us in England and the forms and numbers of compromises reached are up to this day, contentious or simply unknown. We continue with searching for a real constitutional answer like Heller’s Pota.  In my old age learning experience, I have come to some startling revelation that a Global average life span of a written constitution since 1789 is only 17 years. For Africa, this figure is 10, 2 years! At 18 years, Zambia’s constitution is in dying time.[7]   
Development has to evolve organically, in both cultural and, specifically knowledge terms. Start with what the people know. Knowledge is a critical element in building institutional capacity. This is no insult to our intelligence. It is cognitive reality. Please read this and I shall quote at length (without malice from Armstrong) and you are free to disagree with Karen Armstrong but I shall make my point:
 As a child, I had a number of strong religious beliefs but little faith in God…I believed implicitly in the existence of God; I also believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the efficacy of the sacraments, the prospect of eternal damnation…The Roman Catholicism of my childhood was a rather frightening creed…I listened to my share of hell-fire sermons. In fact Hell seemed a more potent reality than God. …When I was eight years old, I had to memorise this catechism answer to the question, ‘What is God?’: ‘God is the Supreme Spirit, Who alone exists of Himself and is infinite in all perfections.’…It has always seemed a singularly arid, pompous, and arrogant definition. Since writing this book, however, I have come to believe that it is also incorrect… As I grew up, I realized that there was more to religion than fear”[8]
Karen Armstrong reveals a cognitive dissonance that most of us experience as we make important choices, such as exerting effort to understand things or in fact, achieve certain goals about either politics or development. This concept of cognitive dissonance  is simply that the ‘simultaneous existence of cognitions which one way or another do not fit together (dissonance) leads to effort on the part of a person to somehow make them fit better (dissonance reduction).”[9] What does not fit with what people know or feel, sets them off to reconcile it. We are brought up to believe, behave, critically think and we actually live in certain ways. When you are told, in a three-day workshop, that what your people do is wrong and must change to alternatives that are celebrated with all pomp and ceremony as “civilized” or “developed”, it is a sort of dissonance we face. Karen Armstrong took a learned, life long process, right into her mature age to discover, not only that her childhood religious doctrines were incorrect but also that religion is more than fear.
It is not either the argument advanced here that Karen Armstrong’s conclusions are right or that the strategy of chiefdom development should take the lifespan of Karen Armstrong to bear fruit! Yet, it is an informed opinion that short-term development strategies are not only ineffective but also wasteful. Worse, they create a culture of “development recipients” in a manner that kills the human spirit for self-realization in the same manner food relief destroys a farmer’s spirit to grow food. SHARE II in Zambia inspired a good number of Chiefdoms to believe in their capacity to think through the planning process. This is laudable. But let us learn from what we know already. I wish to observe, the challenges to Central Government has never been a dearth of plans. Zambia’s history of development planning is one giant success industry![10] It is the failure to implement the many plans. If this culture were going to be transferred to primary organs of governance in Zambia such as chiefdoms, then the SHARE Initiative would have done greater harm that benefit. No success story, in any development initiative, is measured by the volume of papers partners collectively produce. There are some intangibles and definitely some tangible goods. At this point, my friend Jack may want to ask, What do you people really “need”? That could be an honest question.
HIT THE ROAD JACK, WHY NOT SHARE III?
SHARE II program in Zambia taught us, in the words of Mu-ANZA Nkulu Puta VIII Kasoma II Tefwetefwe of the Bwile, in Luapula Province of Zambia “I believe that the survival of the modern chiefdoms will depend on how well they balance their push for development while maintaining their cultural identity” [11] This is a powerful insight. It suggests clearly that there are many forces at play, most of which cannot be identified in a planning document nor even anticipated in a chiefdom’s “balancing act” There is the issue of what type of partners are acceptable to those authorities whose mandates exceed those of the chiefdom. There are questions regarding whether chiefdom policy to make choices, for example, to grow more cassava as a local staple would contradict national policy for growing more maize to reduce prices for urban dwellers[12]. We can plan, Oh yes we can. Can we do it? A Beatles Song comes to mind with its line “I get by with a little help from my friends”. The forces that real implementation would unleash for and against chiefdoms could create necessary chaos and possible bifurcations in terms of key nodes of power in our society. Chiefdom development should do well to be a mentored, through a stage-wise process to avoid political tsunamis from the centre. Equally, it would be necessary to manage the temptation on their Royal Highnesses to “de-link” from central development processes as part of the power-holding scenario. It is a delicate stage.

JACK, WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE FOR AMERICA?
Atwood was right. He will always be right if more people in the US Congress do not heed his call. In simple terms, there is much more for America: safeguarding life, liberty and happiness! A St. Louis Brentwood neighborhood friend would say “Give me a break, just say you need some bread”. Yes and no! America needs a break from many wars that are raging everywhere including Darfur. American citizens are dying to prevent global forces of anarchy and terror. Apart from periodic Great Lakes Region Vesuvius-like eruptions, this region has been relatively calm. It is the traditions of peacemaking and mediation rooted within our Bantu cultures that have resolved major tensions on the ground. We cannot quantify these in “justifications” section of project proposals. We are all too aware that our political capitals are often noisy, confusing, and even directionless but the structures of traditional governance have held us all together. Oh, this affirmation includes those in the Cities! They each have a root in some chiefdom. The cost of strengthening and stabilizing chiefdoms is far outstripped relative to costs of sending jets, drones and young men and women to overcome disasters caused by failing states. There is something else, and one can only touch upon it as an intuitive thought. There is a greater crisis of global natural resources looming on the horizon. Some countries have already started penetrating the villages looking for Africa’s untapped resources. It appears uneconomic now for other countries. But that time shall come, when intelligent exchange rather than scramble would be the scenario for tapping into Africa’s resources. Wars may be a means of course but there is a moral hazard. Have we forgotten Blood diamonds? Smart partnerships are possible in future built upon a progressive evolution of people-to-people relations at levels such as chiefdoms. As of today, I can honestly say, as a product of American and Canadian education, China knows more about Africa at the grassroots than the USA. Perhaps, it doesn’t matter now, but it will in future. In the language of diplomats, this may sound “quite interesting but not so convincing”.  That is always where we miss each other. Western scenarios for development assistance whether in Iraq or Afghanistan are always backed by a John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”  spiced with language of William J Mitchell “E-Topia” describing Roger Lewin’s Complexity if they have to be awakened. Can someone put some bankable numbers on this presentation for my American audience?
Chiengi, Monday, June 29, 2015




[1] This paper neither represents the consensus view of the traditional leadership of the Bwile to which I belong nor does it reflect any official position of those parties who participated in the SHARE II/Zambia. The author is Sub Chief Natende WA Lushiba of the Bwile people, however the views herein are solely his own. He has vast experience as a Health Systems and Policy Researcher, and Public Policy Leadership at country and International level.
[2] Muntu (singular) is person or human being, Bantu (plural), Bwile is a Zambian ethnic group
[3] Anthony J. Dolman and Jan van Ettinger (1978) Partners in Tomorrow. A Sunrise Book, E.P. Dutton, New York pp4
[4] Heller, Joseph (2000) Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man, Simon and Schuster, London
[5] De Botton, Alain (2000) Consolation of Philosophy,  London: Hamish Hamilton  Chap IV p119
[6] For the interested, let me call upon the Dutch Hugo Grotius and the British John Locke to take up the debate from here.
[7] Ginsburg, T, Zachary, E and  Melton, J. (2015) The Life Span of Written Constitutions, (Cambridge U Press) at www.constitutionmaking.org. retrieved on 19th April 2015
[8] Armstrong, Karen (1993) A History of God. London: Mandarin Paperback p1
[9] Festinger, Leon and E. Aronson (1968) in D. Cartwright and A. Zander (ed) GROUP DYNAMICS: Research and Theory. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers pp125
[10] Kalumba, K. and Paul Freund (1989) The Eclipse of Idealism: Health Planning in Zambia, Journal of Health Policy Planning, Oxford U Press.
[11]  Bwile Development Trust (2013) Bwile Chiefdom, Development Strategic Plan, 2013-2017, , under funding by USAID, PEPFAR and SHARe II/Zambia
[12] If these questions sound like straw men, a read of my account of a French Volunteer Group (BAM or Frères des homes) experience entitled Working with the Rural Poor, Katele Kalumba ( 1982) Institute For African Studies, Community Health Unit/School of Humanities and Social Sciences,, Lusaka, UNZA, monograph,  would be revealing