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G20 : They are taking us for a ride, we won’t pay their debt !
by Pauline Imbach
2 November 2011

On the occasion of the 10th edition of the People’s Forum [1], the African counterpoint to the G20 Summit, close to 900 African activists are expected to come together in the Malian town of Niono.

Whereas Ministers from the world’s 20 richest countries, Central Bank Governors and Heads of State will be meeting in Cannes on 3 and 4 November, to “restore confidence, support growth and the creation of jobs, and to maintain financial stability”, African citizens will be meeting and organizing themselves to denounce the illegitimacy of that group.

The issue of European public debt will be at the heart of the discussions. In a letter addressed to the other EU leaders, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, indicated that “our G20 partners are under the impression that if Europe does not resolve the sovereign debt crisis which is currently affecting it, the global economy will suffer serious repercussions”.

For African peoples, public debt is nothing new. For decades now, they have had to face the greed of creditors (IMF and the World Bank in the lead) and severe austerity plans, “structural adjustment plans” which have destroyed their sovereignty, plunging them into ever deepening poverty. Some 23 years ago, on 29 July 1987, Thomas Sankara, the then President of Burkina Faso, was already arguing in favour of forming a united front against debt: “The debt cannot be repaid because, first of all, if we do not pay, our financiers will not die. (…) On the other hand, if we pay, we are the ones who will die. (…) Those who led us into debt were gambling, as if they were in a casino. As long as they were winning, there was no problem. Now that they are losing, they are demanding that we reimburse the debt. And they are talking about a crisis… (…) We cannot reimburse the debt because we do not have the means to do so. We cannot repay the debt because we are not responsible for it. We cannot repay the debt because, on the contrary, the others owe us what no amount of wealth could ever repay - the blood debt”.

For more than a year now, populations have been gaining ground on the road to democracy and freedom. Revolutions sparked on the African continent, notably in Tunisia and Egypt, have opened the way to change, thanks to massive civil mobilization. Since then, people in the North, like those in the South, have found the collective force to resist. In Africa, since the Arab revolutions, demonstrations have taken place in many countries. Last 15 October, in response to the call from the “Indignado Movement”, huge demonstrations took place worldwide, with protesters refusing to pay for the crisis, refusing to pay debts that are public in name only.

This 10th People’s Forum is a fresh opportunity for Africans to come together to collectively refuse to pay the creditors. In 2009, the external public debt of all the developing countries stood at 1460 billion dollars, that is, less than the 1531 billion dollars allocated annually for the purchase of weapons. Worse yet, financing made available to the markets by the central banks and States between April and October 2008 totalled 7800 billion dollars.
Not only does the public debt of the developing countries represent but a drop in the ocean of debt, but the loans in question are largely odious and illegitimate and, as such, constitute a violation of the fundamental rights of the peoples.

From South to North, there is a real paradigm shift taking place. While in 2008 the revenue of the richest 500 individuals in the world exceeded the aggregate income of the 416 million poorest people, we need, together, to ensure a fair distribution of wealth, because “we make up 99%”.

Cancelling public debt seems to be a first step in that direction. It’s time to hear the voice of Thomas Sankara: From North to South, let’s refuse to pay the creditors by forming a united front against debt!

Translation from french: Angela Mitchell

Footnotes :

[110th edition of the People’s Forum “From Siby to Niono, the people are demanding self-determination!” The Forum will be an African counter-summit to the G20, and will be held in Niono in Mali from 31 October to 3 November 2011. Consult:

Pauline Imbach

CADTM France