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Make Bucks, Not War

Coen van Wyk

Posted on January 12, 2019 14:02

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Cross-border confrontation is on the rise once again. Tensions increase, arms manufacturers’ shares soar. Yet there is a better way. The flower generation exhorted: Make love, not war. But we can also make money instead of war, and that is a much better way to handle border issues, as shown by the Namibia/Angola and Ethiopia/Eritrea example.

The heat and humidity would hit you as the door of the airplane opened. Oshikango had a special smell. Scrawny cattle wandered around the few buildings. We would conduct journalists to a bunker overlooking the Kunene river. On the opposite bank Santa Clara stood: a ruined town with pock-marked buildings. Behind us a water tower sported a lookout post and a .50 machine gun, called the Missionary, because ‘it could send a terrorist to heaven at 2 kilometers’.

Remains of war fotothing.com



Today the Angolan war is long over. Santa Clara is a dusty town sporting a number of service stations because Angolan fuel, like their beer, is cheap.

Santa Clara today. João Neto

On the Namibian side the water tower now overlooks teeming shopping malls and hotels, catering for Angolan shoppers. Cars, trucks, busloads of shoppers crowd the cattle into the bush, and everyone is smiling.

Westlane Mall, artist's conception. Namibian.com.na


The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea is one of the most intractable problems in African peacekeeping. A border vaguely sketched on a map by Italian rulers of two colonies have caused untold misery, skirmishes, arrests and commissions of enquiry. Peacekeeping forces from a dozen African countries have served here. But today many would be surprised to see the bustling business going on at the disputed border.

Zambalessa then. AP


Adigrat is one such town. A few months ago the border was re-opened, and now Eritreans come shopping for chickens, spices, plastic ware, while they offer clothing and textiles in exchange. Trucks loaded with building materials groan towards nearby Zalambessa, an Eritrean town that was badly damaged in the hostilities.

Shopping spree. BBC/Girmay Gerba


How poetic, when people who were pitted against each other in war turn to commerce and enrich each other by trading. And how much more cost-effective both with regards to the treasury and the mental and physical health of the people. 

Oshikango now. The water tower is still there. livingstylishlywell.com


I have friends who still nurse the effects of PTSD from the Angolan war. Few can doubt the inordinate burden imposed on young people who answer the call to war. And while we honor them for their service, we should ask: Would it not have been better to let them become traders?

I know little of the American tensions with Central American refugees, or European problems regarding African migrants. Maybe I am naïve to ask: Would the expenses incurred trying to keep them from the borders not be better spent creating economic opportunities in their countries of origin?

Time for an update, flower people: Make bucks, not war!

Coen van Wyk

Posted on January 12, 2019 14:02

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Source: Reuters
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