GERONTOCRACY: AFRICA by @seunfakze January 2, 2013Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, GERONTOCACY, Seun Fakuade
At the rate that Africa is moving, with recycled old people clinging to power; it may be decades before the younger generation have the opportunity to impact their nations in Africa. And this is hardly surprising. Today, the average age of the African head of state is 62, which is three times the average age of the African population.
It is time for the older generation to move out of the way. It should be chanelling the way that connect youths to opportunity, creating chances and raising a replacement generation with outstanding values and approach to wealth and sustained development, not plundering them. It should be creating platforms towards an inter-generational interactive exchange that helps create and assures a bold vision of an African century.
Half of the population of Africa is under 20. Given this rising youthful population today, by 2035 the African labour force will be bigger than China, and by 2050 a quarter the global workforce will be African. At that time, nearly half the global youth population will be African. How do we then prepare these young people for the challenges of the future if we are not interacting with them today or preparing them for the roles and challenges of the future? How can they do better if they do not know better? How can Africa compete at the global level if they are not prepared for the challenges ahead?
After taking the oath office at the National Assembly on November 3, President Paul Bathelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, has entered history as one of Africa’s longest-serving Presidents. Biya is the third oldest African President after Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 87 and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, 85. The 78-year-old, whom the Supreme Court declared winner of the October 9 Presidential controversial poll, will be starting his 6th mandate as President of the Republic of Cameroon. By the time he ends his new mandate; he would be on record for having been in power for 36 years.
According to a recent rating by the East African Magazine, Biya is one of Africa’s “sit-tighters” who have seemingly eternalised their stay in power through fraudulent elections. Biya is considered by observers as one of the presidential Methuselahs of Africa. Since 1982 when he came to power, a country like China, that is a non-democratic, has had five presidents; neighboring Nigeria has seen eight Presidents.
They are: Gen. Muhammadu Buhari,1982 to 1985; Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, 1985-1993; Ernest Shonekan, August-November 1993; Gen. Sani Abacha, 1993-1998; Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, 1998-1999, Chief Olusegun Obassanjo, 1999-2007, Alhadji Musa Yar’ Adua, 2007-2010 and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan since 2010. The US has had five Presidents: Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1982-1989; George Herbert W. Bush, 1989-1993; Bill Clinton, 1993-2001; George Walker Bush, 2001-2009. The current US President, Barack Obama is there since 2009.
Children who were born in 1982 in Cameroon are 29 years old today. They know only one President – Biya. Biya has reiterated an earlier promise that he would transform Cameroon into a permanent construction site of development projects as from January 2012. But his critics have dismissed the promise with the wave of the hand, saying the President will not be able to do in seven years what he has been unable to do in 29 years. Eighty percent of Angolans today have only ever called one man President.
Sure, some have had other allegiances; there was a serious armed opposition and there were 27 years of civil war, but José Eduardo dos Santos has remained the head of state for 33 years. His party hasn’t lost power since the anti-colonial war was won in 1975. But following impossible uprisings in Tunisia and elsewhere, talk of regime change in Angola has grown more serious.
Given the challenges of pollution, corruption, housing, transport, education and social welfare (amongst others) plaguing African nations, it is imperative young people are brought up to speed on the methods, tactics and strategies that can bring African nations out of the doldrums. Much of Africa is still under-developed hence the third world categorization. Worryingly, the lack of basic amenities is constantly in demand by the frightening growing young population. How will Afrcia grow if it’s young are ill prepared of the challenges ahead? Who cares about them anyway!
African leaders have cited corruption as the main stumbling block to growth but I wonder who it blames when it’s old (often clueless) leaders cling to power without shame. The same corruption abounds in Brazil but amazingly over the past decade, tens of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, unbelievably! In spite of the brazen corruption in many of the emerging or developed societies like Brazil, government systems in education and health empower the young with jobs, or skills that can make them earn a living! How many African nations can boast of that?
The growing population trend in Africa is a troubling one, deeply unsettling. This is so for instance in Lagos state, Nigeria where Urban migration is constantly posing a threat to the survival of the city. Across Africa, our growing young population is constantly asking questions on infrastructural investments from their leadership, with few of their questions getting the required answers they deserve.
Clearly insightful leaders, as the ones in Singapore, will not only provide visionary leadership in its policy and its implementstions but also pave way for empowering emerging leaders through education (human capital) and equipping the next generation by creating interactive platforms for them to become more informed and prepared for the challenges ahead. Not Africa!
The problem for African leaders are diverse. Only recently did they start recognising or pushing for inter-African trade. Wondering what took it so long. For long, we have acted as 54 separate countries, weakening our bargaining power as a strong economic bloc, and failing on this regard to ensure our collaborative relationship brings incredible African benefits. African nations, operating as units, ended up as insignificant exporters of raw materials whereas their bargaining power could have been duly strengthened if it operated as a continental bloc!
Worse, our intellectual capital wounds up in the developed world as the lack of opportunities in Africa end up making our young leave the continent for greener pastures. The real failure of gerontocracy in Africa is the political inability for our leaders to create and implement working policies, create a realistic future and make Africa a strong economic hub for its growing citizens.
The verdict is simple, if Africa’s old leaders cannot invest in infrastructure, get a grip or hold on Corruption, empower their institutions to be strong, so much as they can provide the needed jobs for its growing populace; then it’s time for it to get out of the way!
I am @seunfakze
GHANA ELECTIONS by Prof George @ayittey December 13, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, democracy, elections, Ghana
The situation in Ghana is infuriating. In Africa, we take one step forward and then three steps back. Same problems, same rituals and the repetition of the same foolish mistakes in one country after another. We touted Kenya as a “bastion of stability” in the East African region; then after the Dec 2007 elections, “Poof!” it imploded – over 1,200 dead and more than 500,000 rendered homeless. We show-cased Ivory Coast as an “economic miracle.” Then came elections in November 2010 and “Kaboom!!” The country was plunged into civil war with both Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo claiming the presidency. Same thing happened after Congo DR’s elections in xxx 2011 elections with both Joseph Kabila and Etienne Tshisekedi claiming they won. We praised Mali as a model of good governance; then in March of this year, “Boom!”– a military coup. We have been crowing about Ghana as a beacon of democracy that can teach Africa a thing or two about peaceful transfer of power – see this link: http://bit.ly/SAcpXs. Then uproar over last week’s elections with at least 10 dead http://bit.ly/T4YEQi. Now, Ghana’s democratic credentials are in danger of being shredded. So tell me this: What at all can governments and leaders do right in Africa?
• Practice democracy? Only 14 of the 54 African countries are democratic.
• Develop their economies? Fewer than 10 are economic success stories.
• Feed their people? We rely on foreign aid to feed ourselves, importing food worth $25 billion a year. We used to export food in the 1950s.
• Provide clean water, sanitation, health care and reliable supply of electricity to their people without constant black-outs? Only 30 percent of Nigerians have access to reliable supply of electricity. It is an oil-producing country but can’t supply refined petroleum products for its people; it imports them.
• Provide railway transportation? Our railway system has collapsed and we are asking the Chinese to fix it.
• Provide basic security for the people? Rather, the security forces brutalize and turn their guns on the people.
• Resolve conflicts? We are always appealing to the United Nations or the international community.
There are just three things most of leaders know how to do very well: Loot the treasury, perpetuate themselves in office and squash all dissent or opposition. The late Col Muammar Khaddafi amassed a family fortune exceeding $60 billion; Hosni Mubarak, $42 billion; Ben Ali of Tunisia, $13 billion; Mobutu Sese Seko, $10 billion; Ibrahim Babangida, $9 billion; Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, $7 billion; Sani Abacha, $5 billion, etc. etc. Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Theodore Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe have each been in power for more than 30 years. As for Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, he says he will rule for one billion years. In Ethiopia, any journalist who criticized the late Meles Zenawi was branded a “terrorist” and tossed into jail. There are no private journalists left in Eritrea; they have all fled brutal repression. Each year, Mo Ibrahim awards a $5 million prize to any African leader who steps down from power after his term expires or loses an election. This year – and for the third time since the inception of the prize – he could not find an eligible recipient. The leadership in much of Africa is a disgrace – a far cry from the traditional leadership Africa has known for centuries under our chiefs and kings.
I am not a card-carrying member of any political party – either in Ghana or the US – and I care less who is the winner of the December elections. I am not interested in the presidency of any African country. If we are doing something, we must do it well; it is a duty we owe to the country, our children and future generations. Our primary concern should be the integrity of the electoral process, rule of law and Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democracy. That is what all Ghanaians must defend and protect.
Holding elections should not be that complicated. There are 5 stages of the electoral process:
1. Registering and compiling a list of eligible voters (voter’s registry), identifying polling stations and setting a date for elections.
2. Transporting ballots, ballot boxes and other materials to the polling stations and allowing people to vote freely without any hindrance or intimidation.
3. Counting the votes in a transparent manner with representatives of all political parties present. There is a “collation sheet” at each polling station which they must sign to verify that the counting was accurate.
4. Resolving any discrepancies in the numbers and any other disputes to the satisfaction of all parties.
5. Announcing the results.
Problems can occur at each of these stages:
1. Ineligible voters may be registered – for example, minors or citizens of neighboring countries; some eligible voters – say supporters of a particular party – purged from the voter rolls. Or the register may be inflated with fictitious or ghost names.
2. On election day, ballot materials may not arrive on time; ballot boxes may arrive already stuffed; voters may be prevented from casting their ballots through intimidation, beatings by hired thugs; indelible ink can easily be washed off, allowing some people to vote multiple times, though this is not possible with the current biometric system but the machines can break down, etc.
3. In vote counting, the media and election observers – both foreign and domestic – may be debarred from polling stations to witness the actual voting. Not all ballots may be properly marked and must be rejected. There may be a sudden black-out, forcing votes to be counted in the dark or by candles, flashlight and lanterns. A fake tally sheet may be substituted for the real one and polling agents may be bribed to sign off on it. Polling agents of some parties may not even be there.
4. Resolving inconsistencies, discrepancies and disputes. This stage may be skipped altogether. The Electoral Commissioner may act arbitrarily, refuse to engage or consult with reps of the political parties, and rush to announce the results. Or he may engage them but intimidate, bludgeon or railroad them into accepting his final results.
5. The last stage is announcing the results. Obviously, the final results must be certified by all parties BEFORE they are announced. This is to ensure that all issues – inconsistencies, discrepancies, etc. – have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties before the results are announced. What if voting in some polling station is not complete or votes are still being counted, or some ballot boxes are missing?
Certainly, there were problems during Ghana’s elections: Allegations that the voters’ register had been padded with over 5 million ghost names; ballot papers did not arrive on time, forcing the extension of voting to the next day, instances of voter intimidation, etc. The following incidents were reported on Twitter: #ghanaelections:
• Ayigya EC polling officer arrested for not stamping over 200 ballots cast!
• Snatching of #BallotBoxes here and there… Manhyia, Kentinkrono, Ablekuma,
• Chaos at Ablekuma North constituency. Voting has been halted.
• Voting in Mbrom polling centre to be deferred
• The DCE of Walewale has reportedly been arrested for allegedly snatching a ballot box but was later released.
• Unconfirmed report says there are still no materials at the Dome Kwabenya constituency
• The citizens of Nkwanta South in the Volta Region say they are not voting for lack of dev. in the area.
• Reports that an NDC supporter has just been beaten to death in the Ashanti region?
• A tear gas shot at the Ablekuma North Constituency to deter people from creating confusion
• Just heard of a guy who got lynched while running with a ballot box at Ayeduase, Kumasi.
• Verification machine not recognizing the thumb of Dr Wireko Brobbey
Considering the fact that there were over 26,000 polling stations, these incidents were minor. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), for example, reported incidents of intimidation and harassment at only 13 polling stations – less than 0.01 percent. http://bit.ly/STqAqe. Media access was also generally free. Here are the views of Rebecca, a first time voter on video http://bit.ly/TYtHMo
Stages 1, 2, and 3 appeared to have gone smoothly, earning the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, high praise from all quarters – from ECOWAS, AU, both foreign and domestic observers. However, it appears stages 4 and 5 were seriously compromised. I warned about this, referencing Josef Stalin, who once quipped: “It is not those who vote that count (matter) but rather those who count the votes.” Voting can occur smoothly – free and fair without intimidation or violence, as was observed on Dec 7 and 8. But that is not the full story. Counting of the votes and tabulation of the results can be falsified or doctored. But such errors can be easily detected and rectified.
The Constitution provides a mechanism for remedial action. Chapter 7, Section 49 states:
(1) At any public election or referendum, voting shall be by secret ballot.
(2) Immediately after the close of the poll, the presiding officer shall, in the presence of such of the candidates or their representatives and their polling agents as are present, proceed to count, at that polling station, the ballot papers of that station and record the votes cast in favor of each candidate or question.
((3) The presiding officer, the candidates or their representatives and, in the case of a referendum, the parties contesting or their agents and the polling agents if any, shall then sign a declaration stating:
(a) the polling station; and
(b) the number of votes cast in favor of each candidate or question: and the presiding officer shall, there and then, announce the result of the voting at the polling station before communicating them to the returning officer.
Now, if there is a dispute over the results all that needs to be done is to cross-check EC’s numbers with those on the “collation sheets” signed by the representatives of the political parties at each polling station and then correct any discrepancies between them. That was all that needed to be done. But was this done? If not then do it. That is what transparency is all about. If a dispute still remains, the Constitution provides a mechanism for resolving it. Chapter 8, Section 64 states clearly that:
(1) The validity of the election of the President may be challenged only by a citizen of Ghana who may present a petition for the purpose to the Supreme Court within twenty-one days after the declaration of the result of the election in respect of which the petition is presented.
(2) A declaration by the Supreme Court that the election of the President is not valid shall be without prejudice to anything done by the President before the declaration.
(3) The Rules of Court Committee shall, by constitutional instrument, make rules of court for the practice and procedure for petitions to the Supreme Court challenging the election of a President. http://www.judicial.gov.gh/constitution/chapter/chap_8.htm
Now, if Nana Akuffo-Addo or any other Ghanaian believes the election was “stolen,” he or she has the right to petition the Supreme Court within 21 days after the declaration of the results and let the Court rule on it. This is known as following procedures and obeying the Constitution – or, in short, enforcing the rule of law. The streets or the airwaves are not the place to resolve constitutional issues. The president of Ghana is required to uphold and defend the Constitution. If any citizen of Ghana seeks to challenge the validity of December’s election by petitioning the Supreme Court, the president of Ghana is required to support that person because the Constitution guarantees that person the right to do so. Even in our supposedly “backward and primitive” traditional system, a goat with a grievance is given a full public hearing.
This is not an issue to be cast in “NDC versus NPP” terms and polarize the country. Only 50.7 percent voted for the president, John Mahama, meaning nearly half did not vote for him and not all of them are NPP supporters. If any of those who did not vote for him has a grievance, he has a guaranteed Constitutional right to petition the Supreme Court. Why even argue over this?
Even more important, once the issue is brought before the Supreme Court, it should be allowed to deliberate on it and reach a decision without any intimidation or political interference. Nana Akuffo-Addo, the main opposition leader, will present his petition to the Supreme Court on Friday, Dec 14. Until the Supreme Court makes a final decision, all other things relating to the elections, transition inauguration activities, etc. must be placed on hold — no celebrations or street demonstrations to protest results. Any such activity before the Court rules must be deemed to be in contempt of the Supreme Court. Democratic maturity mandates following the Constitution and allowing the Supreme Court to make its determination.
These issues, it must be emphasized, are not without precedence and not unique to Ghana or Africa alone. Even in the US November elections, there were allegations of vote fraud http://bit.ly/V5b7Sz and vote suppression http://bit.ly/SJALx7 And Mitt Romney, like all losing candidates who find some excuse to blame for their losses, blamed his loss on Obama buying votes by giving “gifts” to certain block of constituencies. One may also recall the dispute over the election results in Florida in the Bush versus Gore 2000 elections that made famous the term “hanging chads,” The US Supreme Court eventually settled that dispute http://bit.ly/125tGg9.
We may choose to resolve our electoral disputes as laid down in the Constitution or in the streets with cutlasses and bazookas. The choice is ours to make but we should remember this: The destruction of an African country always always begins with a dispute over the electoral process and transfer of power: Algeria (1991), Burundi (1993), Nigeria (1993), Rwanda (1994), Zaire (1996) and more recent examples include Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008), Ivory Coast (2011), Libya (2011), among others.
So let us continue to repeat the same stupid mistakes again and again.
The author is a native of Ghana. He is the president of Free Africa Foundation in Washington, DC and author of Defeating Dictators, Palgrave/MacMillan, 2011.
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WHY AFRICAN COUNTRIES IMPLODE (2) by Prof G.N. @ayittey November 20, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, George ayittey
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The “POWER EQUATION” lies at the root of Africa’s never-ending cycle of war, political instability and chaos. The “power equation” can be summarized as the centralization of power, the monopolization of power and the exercise of power to benefit certain persons or groups to the total exclusion of other groups. Sustainable development in an African country is not possible without addressing the “power equation.”
Currently, Rwanda is touted as an economic success story. It has reduced poverty by more than 50 percent and attracted billions in foreign investment. But that economic success is not sustainable because President Paul Kagame has not addressed the “power equation.” Neither has President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who in 1986 declared that “No African head of state should be in power for more than 10 years.” In 2012, he is still in power.
Recall that in the late 1980s, Ivory Coast was called an “economic miracle.” What happened? The power equation was not addressed and the country descended into chaos (1991) and civil war (2005 and 2011). The following countries were also described as economic success stories but collapsed into chaos, mayhem and war because they too did not solve the power equation: Zimbabwe (2000), Madagascar (2003), Tunisia (2010) and Egypt (2011).
It is vitally important to recognize that the “power equation” is not a new phenomenon but an ancient one which our so-called “backward and primitive” ancestors had grappled with. They recognized the dangers of concentrating power in the hands of one individual or centralizing power in the hands of the state – that is, the state and the individual heading it is necessarily dangerous or evil. So they crafted two unique ways to deal with this potential threat. The first was to abolish the state altogether and dispense with centralized authority. These societies are called acephalous or stateless societies. Examples are the Ga, the Igbo, the Gikuyu, the Somali, the Tallensi, among others. These tribes have no chiefs or kings. The Igbo expression, “Ezebuilo” (the king is an enemy) says it all. The Somali dismiss government as “waxan” (the thing). Thus, stateless societies solved the “power equation” by eliminating it; it does not exist in their societies. For more on stateless societies, see
The second way was to have states and centralized authority but surround them with councils upon councils to prevent them from abusing their powers. Without the council of elders, for example, the chief was powerless and could not make any law. African kings had no political role; their role was spiritual or supernatural and they were mostly secluded in their palaces to keep their royal fingers out of people’s business. The Yoruba Oona, for example, can only venture out of his palace under the cover of darkness. He can come out of palace at night and bark all the orders he wants but the people would be fast asleep – snoring. Clever people, the Yoruba. In fact, their political system, the Oyo Empire, contained a complex web of checks and balances – in existence in the 17the Century, well before the US was born. For more, see this link: http://bit.ly/IDkJBh
Note that the traditional way that African tribes and clans form a nation is by confederating. The Ghana Empire, Songhai Empire, the Mali Empire, the Oyo Empire and Great Zimbabwe were all confederacies. Even smaller polities, such as the Ga and Ashanti Kingdoms, were confederacies. Confederacies are characterized by great decentralization of power and devolution of authority. Modern day Switzerland, where African bandits stash their loot, is a confederation of 26 cantons.
In traditional Africa, kings have little or no political roles. Theirs was supernatural or spiritual – to maintain perfect harmony among the three cosmological elements: the sky, the world and the earth. Each was represented by a god and the king’s role is to propitiate them and keep them “happy.” The sky god is the supreme among them and if it is “angry,” there will be thunder, floods, etc. If the earth god is angry, there is poor harvest, famine, barren women, etc. if the earth god is angry, there will be conflict, war and devastation and state collapse. Thus, if there was famine or poor harvest, it meant the king had failed to perform his duties and off went his head (regicide).
At the tribal level, there are various centers of power: The royal family, the Queen-Mother, the Chief, the Council of Elders, the Village Assembly and other political pressure groups. The Chief can be removed at any time by any of these groups for dereliction of duty or incompetence.
Decision-making is by consensus at village meetings variously called asetena kese by the Ashanti, ama-ala by the Igbo, guurti by the Somali, dare by the Shona, ndaba by the Zulu or kgotla by the Tswana. Taking decisions by consensus is a different form of democracy where all minority positions are taken into account to reach one acceptable to all. Its downside is the length of time it takes to reach a consensus the larger the number of participants but it precludes dictatorship. It is incompatible with political systems that reach decisions by consensus. The larger polities were confederacies where power and decision-making were decentralized.
The most notable feature of traditional African governance was its inclusiveness. The indigenous political system was such that anybody even slaves could participate in the decisionmaking process. There was representation of slaves, the freeborn and the nobility at the royal court in most African states.
In Ashanti, Oyo and Bornu, slaves held important offices in the bureaucracy, serving as the Alafin’s Ilari in the subject towns of Oyo, as controller of the treasury in Asante, and as Waziri and army commanders in Bornu. AlHajj Umar made a slave emir of Nioro, one of the most important of the emirates of the Tokolor empire, and in the Niger Delta states slaves rose to become heads of Houses, positions next in rank to the king. Jaja, who had once been the lowest kind of slave, became the most respected king in the delta, and was no exception; one of the Alaketus of Ketu, and Rabeh of Bornu, rose from slave to king (Boahen and Webster, 1970; p.69).
There was even foreign representation. The kings and chiefs of Angola and Asante, for example, allowed European merchants to send their representatives to their courts. No one was “locked out” of the decision-making process, to use modern phraseology. “The Dutch dispatched an embassy to the Asantehene’s court as early as 1701″ (Boahen, 1986; p.58). In Angola, King Alfonso allowed the Portuguese merchants to send their spokesman, Dom Rodrigo, to his court. Europeans could even be selected chiefs. For example, in 1873, Zulu king Cetshwayo made an English hunter/trader, John Dunn, chief of an isifunda, or district. “Dunn, not content to hover on the periphery of Zulu society, became fully integrated into the social system. He married forty-eight Zulu women, accumulated a large following of clients, and even rose to the rank of isikhulu” (Ballard, 1988; p.55). There are still white chiefs in Ghana today. For example, the Englishman Jimmy Maxen, became the odikro of Anyaisi at Aburi in Ghana in 1968 http://bit.ly/TGmv67 . Africans should be proud of this heritage because it may be argued that it took the US for than two centuries to elect a black as president. Africa’s traditional system of government was open and inclusive.
From the above, it should be crystal clear that centralization of power, the monopolization of power and the practice of politics of exclusion are products of alien systems and cannot be defended or justified upon the basis of African political heritage. Politically, a large polity can be organized along three main lines:
• A unitary system of government, where decision-making is centralized in the capital city. This is the European model, where decisions are taken in London, Paris, Brussels, Madrid, etc.
• A federal system of government, where the constituent states retain some powers but the center is more powerful – as in the American and Canadian models.
• A confederate system of government is one where power is extremely decentralized. The center is weak and the constituent states have more power and can break away if they choose to.
During colonial rule, the Europeans imposed their version of state configuration (unitary state system) and democracy (decision-making by majority vote) on Africa. Historically, the unitary system probably emerged as the most suitable for Europeans because their nations consisted of citizens of single or homogenous ethnic stock. However, centralization of power and decision making process enhances the threat of despotism and thus unsuitable to nations of multiple ethnicity. Even in Europe, the unitary form of government is beginning to rupture. The Scots now have their own parliament. In the Netherlands the Walloons seek independence and the Basque in Spain are battling for separation. In Belgium, there are three linguistic groups – Dutch, Flemish and French-speaking Walloons – who seldom agree. They failed to form a government after parliamentary elections in June, 2010. Catalonia, Spain’s northeastern region, is set to be led by a government demanding greater fiscal autonomy from Madrid. There are many sub-cultures in Europe that are clamoring for autonomy. The European Union (EU) itself, built on a unitary concept and centralization of power in Brussels, appears to be floundering. Britain remains outside the EU; France wants EU powers to be more centralized, while Germany favors more decentralization.
After independence in the 1960s, the incoming nationalist leaders did not dismantle the unitary state system and the majoritarian form of democracy. They retained them and the results are what we continue to see today: The centralization of power, the competition to capture it, its monopolization and use by one buffoon, his family, tribe or race to advance their own interests to the exclusion of all other groups (the politics of exclusion or political apartheid). The cause of these are the alien political structures, first imposed by the European colonialists and then retained by Africa’s nationalist leaders after independence. Politically marginalized and excluded groups will always rise up and rebel against political apartheid, resulting in rebel insurgencies, civil wars, massive destruction, state collapse and economic devastation.
Recall that the development scenario in many African countries can be described like this: Bad driver, bad vehicle, bad roads and angry passengers fed up with lack of progress. Clutching the wheel is a megalomaniac fiend, who insists that the vehicle belongs to him and his family alone and must be the driver for life. So he grooms his sons, wives, cats, dogs and goats to succeed him. Meanwhile, the vehicle is kaput. The tires are flat and the battery is dead. Since the 1960s, we have been changing the driver without fixing the vehicle or the defective statecraft. The defects in that statecraft are centralization of power and the politics of exclusion. Framed this way makes the solution obvious: decentralization of power and the politics of inclusion in consonance with Africa’s own political tradition or a new political dispensation arrived at by consensus. Only a few African countries have sensibly made this effort.
Recall that when a crisis erupted in an African village, the chief and the elders would summon a village meeting. There the issue was debated by the people until a consensus was reached. During the debate, the chief usually made no effort to manipulate the outcome or sway public opinion. Nor were there bazooka-wielding rogues, intimidating or instructing people on what they should say. People expressed their ideas openly and freely without fear of arrest. Those who cared participated in the decision-making process. No one was locked out. Once a decision had been reached by consensus, it was binding on all, including the chief.
In recent years, this indigenous African tradition has been revived by pro-democracy forces in the form of “sovereign national conferences” to chart a new political future in Benin, Cape Verde Islands, Congo, Malawi, Mali, South Africa, and Zambia. Benin’s nine-day “national conference” began on 19 February 1990, with 488 delegates, representing various political, religious, trade union, and other groups encompassing the broad spectrum of Beninois society. The conference, whose chairman was Father Isidore de Souza, held “sovereign power” and its decisions were binding on all, including the government. It stripped President Matthieu Kerekou of power, scheduled multiparty elections that ended 17 years of autocratic Marxist rule.
Congo’s national conference had more delegates (1,500) and lasted longer three months. But when it was over in June 1991, the 12-year old government of General Denis Sassou-Nguesso had been dismantled. The constitution was rewritten and the nation’s first free elections were scheduled for June 1992. Before the conference, Congo was among Africa’s most avowedly Marxist-Leninist states. A Western business executive said, “The remarkable thing is that the revolution occurred without a single shot being fired . . . (and) if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere” (The New York Times, 25 June 1991, A8).
A similar national conference in Niger in 1991 denounced the military dictatorship of Colonel Ali Seibou and stripped him of his power, leaving him with one main task: To organize the transition to civilian rule. “For the first time since the independence of the country in 1960, free and fair elections were held and in March 1993, Mahamane Ousmane became the newcomer in the political arena” (West Africa, Dec 6-12, 1999).
In South Africa, the vehicle used to make that difficult but peaceful transition to a multiracial democratic society was the Convention for a Democratic South Africa . It began deliberations in July 1991, with 228 delegates drawn from about 25 political parties and various anti-apartheid groups. The de Klerk government made no effort to “control” the composition of CODESA. Political parties were not excluded; not even ultra right-wing political groups, although they chose to boycott its deliberations. CODESA strove to reach a “working consensus” on an interim constitution and set a date for the March 1994 elections. It established the composition of an interim or transitional government that would rule until the elections were held. More important, CODESA was “sovereign.” Its decisions were binding on the de Klerk government. De Klerk could not abrogate any decision made by CODESA — just as the African chief could not disregard any decision arrived at the village meeting.
Clearly, the vehicle exists — in Africa itself – to solve the “POWER EQUATION” and make way for peaceful transition to democratic rule or resolution of political crisis – that is, fix the broken statecraft. But the leaders in most African countries either are not interested or seek to control the outcome of such national/constitutional conferences. Ask them to reform their abominable political and economic systems and they will perform the “coconut boogie” – one step forward, three steps back, a jerk to the left and another to the right and then a tumble for a hard landing on a frozen Swiss bank account http://bit.ly/KyBMbu. But without reform, more African countries will implode. Ask Ben Ali of Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Muammar Khaddafi of Libya or Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast.
Again, those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it
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WHY AFRICAN COUNTRIES IMPLODE by Prof G.N @ayittey November 19, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, GNU, implode
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“He who does not understand the cause of the problem cannot solve it.”
- An African Proverb
We have not done well tackling the fundamental or root causes of Africa’s problems. We often apply band-aid solutions to their symptoms and then they flare up again. In 1991, Somalia imploded. Then Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Liberia and others followed. In 2011 – 20 years later – Libya imploded. Why?
To be sure, Western imperialism, colonialism, slave trade, etc. did great harm to Africa and left horrible scars and lingering legacies such as artificial borders. Whole ethnic groups were cut up and parceled off to different countries. The Somali, for example, found themselves in 5 countries: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. The Hausa fared the worst, finding themselves in 15 countries. Those factors, however, have little or nothing to do with why African countries have been imploding.
One word, “power,” offers a better explanation. In fact, the entire post colonial history of Africa can be written in terms of that one word. The centralization of power, the competition to capture it, its monopolization and use by one buffoon or group (tribal, racial, religious or professional) to advance their own interests by enriching themselves to the exclusion of all other groups (the politics of exclusion or political apartheid) have been the cause of conflicts in Africa and the bane of its development. The richest in Africa are heads of state and ministers and quite often the chief bandit is the head of state himself. It is no accident that the most powerful is often the richest. Power in Africa is used for only three things: To loot the treasury, perpetuate oneself in office and squash all dissent or opposition.
In the quest or struggle for power, over 50 wars have raged across Africa since independence in the 1960s. Year after year, one African country after another has imploded with deafening staccato, scattering refugees in all directions: Sudan (1972), Angola (1975), Mozambique (1975), Ethiopia (1985), Liberia (1992), Somalia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Zaire (1996), Sierra Leone (1997), Congo DRC (1998), Ethiopia/Eritrea (1998), Guinea (1999), Sudan (2003), Ivory Coast (2003), Kenya (2007), Zimbabwe (2008), Tunisia (2010), Egypt and Libya (2011), Mali (2012) with more countries on the brink. Some wars never end (Algeria, Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, Western Sahara) while others end and restart after brief lulls. At least 10 African nations are currently wracked by conflict and civil strife. Populations have been uprooted, decimated, infrastructure destroyed, and homes of people razed. The economic toll has been horrendous: devastated agriculture, deepening poverty, declining investment, increasing social misery, and a massive refugee population of mostly women and children.
The vast majority of Africa’s conflicts have been intrastate in origin; only 3 were inter-state: Tanzania-Uganda in 1979, Libya-Chad in 1987 and Ethiopia-Eritrea in 1998. All the rest were civil wars started by politically marginalized, excluded or persecuted groups. Secessionist bids for independence have been few: Biafra, 1967-1970 (Nigeria), Cabinda, on-going (Angola), Casamance, on-going (Senegal), Eritrea in 1991 and South Sudan in 2010. The rest were not about driving away colonial infidels, or redrawing colonial boundaries. They are about political POWER, pure and simple. All rebel leaders seek to wrestle power out of the hands of a despicable despot, so they head straight to the capital city because that’s where POWER lies. The wars invariably pit an autocratic “government” on one side against a rebel group, representing a politically excluded group, on the other.
A bitter lesson in the postcolonial era is that no African government has successfully put down a rebel insurgency, which is different from a secessionist bid. The former seeks to overthrow or replace an existing government while the latter is an attempt to break up and set up a separate, independent state — for example, Biafra, Cabinda, etc. Generally, rebel insurgencies start from the countryside, where government troops are thinly spread and virtually non-existent. Fighting is often sporadic and can drag on for years or even decades, leaving much destruction and death in its wake. Demoralized government troops (loyalists in the case of the Ivory Coast), abandon posts or join the rebels (Ethiopia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Zaire). Unemployed and restless youth join the rebels, in hopes of gaining positions or improving the economic livelihood. They use their guns to pillage and plunder. Such has been the life of child soldiers.
A tyrannical regime may succeed temporarily in suppressing a rebel insurgency — as in the Cameroon in the 1960s and Zimbabwe in the 1980s — but it does not crush it, only to erupt again. In most cases, the rebels and government forces fight to a stalemate, with both sides committing horrendous atrocities. Appalled by the gratuitous mayhem, wanton destruction and senseless civil war, the conscience of the international community is stirred to act. Maximum pressure is applied to combatants to reach a cease-fire or peace accord. But they are band-aid solutions.
Over 40 such peace accords have been signed in post colonial Africa since the 1960s and their success record has been abysmal — often shredded like confetti even before the ink on them was dry, amid mutual recriminations of cease-fire violations. In 2006, the UN juggled 9 separate peacekeeping operations across Africa: the Comoros, Congo DR, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Sudan (Darfur). The UN failed twice in Somalia and terribly in Rwanda. Its enduring success is Mozambique’s 1991 peace accord, while shaky pacts held in Angola, Chad, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone. The most spectacular failures were: Angola (1991 Bicesse Accord, 1994 Lusaka Accord), Burundi (1993 Arusha Accord), DR Congo (July 1999 Lusaka Accord), Rwanda (1993 Arusha Accord), Sierra Leone (1999 Lome Accord), Ivory Coast (2003 Accra Accord), Sudan (2005). Somalia, alone, has held more than 14 peace conferences to help restore peace and stability to country since it imploded in 1991.
Even when peace accords hold, the combatants – government and rebel/opposition forces – are urged to come together and form a “government of national unity” (GNU). Note that GNU is a temporary POWER-SHARING arrangement, which underscores the fact that the original cause of the conflict was monopolization of POWER. But the GNU concept itself is fatally flawed; it is another band-aid solution that does not address the root cause or the fundamental reason why power is monopolized in the first placed. As a result, it has failed miserably in post colonial Africa.
First, the notion of former mortal enemies, who in the past plotted to kill each other, can bury their intense mutual hatred, sit down and work amicably together to govern a country is nutty; it defies logic. Look, not all rebel leaders are “Nelson Mandelas.” Second, a GNU is essentially a formula for joint state-sanctioned plunder of the country. It seeks to bring rebels or opposition leaders into government. Ministerial or government posts are expected to be “shared” equitably. At the 1999 Lome Peace Accord to end the civil war in Sierra Leone, for example, rebel leader Foday Sankoh got Minister of Lands and Mines. At the peace accord struck in January 2003 in Paris to resolve the crisis in Ivory Coast envisioned a power-sharing deal between the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, which controlled the southern half of this country, and the rebel groups, who controlled the north and much of the west. But the formula seldom works.
Quite often, however, bitter squabbles erupt over the distribution of government posts as nobody is satisfied with the eventual distribution. A peace accord is an exercise in “give and take” but each side goes into negotiations believing it is “stronger” and should, therefore, be awarded more powerful ministerial positions. In the case of the Ivory Coast, a peace accord was signed in Ghana in March 2003 to establish a GNU that would include members of the ruling party of President Laurent Gbagbo, the main rebel group (the Côte d’Ivoire Patriotic Movement) and other political parties and rebel forces. But there were “disagreements over the distribution of cabinet posts and the January peace accord was greeted by a week of anti-French and anti-rebel demonstrations in parts of the country ” (Africa Recovery, Vol. 17, No. 1, May 2003; p.3).
Supporters of Laurent Gbagbo bitterly opposed the allocation of two key ministerial positions (interior and defense) to the rebel groups. At the March 7, 2003 peace conference in Ghana, the rebel groups said they will drop their claims to the two pivotal cabinet positions in exchange for “other concessions from Mr. Gbagbo’s government, including an assurance that it would guarantee the safety of their leaders and cede power to the man both sides have agreed would lead the unity government as prime minister, a veteran politician named Seydou Diarra” (The New York Times, March 8, 2003; p.A3). But Mr. Gbagbo was reluctant to spell out the powers he would hand over to Mr. Diarra until France exerted massive pressure. On Sept 23, 2003, the rebels, calling themselves the New Forces, pulled out of the “national reconciliation government” set up in March, claiming they had been denied real power. Indeed, out of the 42 ministries, only 11, all run by President Laurent Gbagbo, had budgets (The Economist, October 4, 2003; p.46). Fighting resumed on September 25 and re-ignited the civil war.
In most other cases, resentment inevitably builds over allocation of posts and the composition of the government of national unity or reconciliation. Squabbling over posts may lead to the resumption of hostilities and conflict again — Angola in 1992, Congo in 1999, Sierra Leone in 2000, and Ivory Coast in 2004. As The New York Times (March 9, 2003) reported, “The ink had not yet dried on another promise for peace in Ivory Coast as fighting broke out in its unruly west overnight, with civilians fleeing their ransacked villages and men firing at French soldiers who were there to enforce a cease-fire” (p.A10). The French had to send in more troops to enforce the cease-fire.
Third, even if a final agreement is reached on the distribution of posts, African despots never honor power-sharing agreements to which they append their signatures. Their promises and signatures are just for show as they lack sincerity or commitment. They may agree to the creation of a post of prime minister but deprive it of power or a budget to enable him to function. Or they may try to kill the prime minister. Such was the case with Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Guillaume Soro. On June 30, 2007, three rockets hit his plane as it was landing at Bouake, killing four people. Mr. Soro escaped death but John Garang, the prime minister in Sudan’s GNU, was not lucky.
For these reasons, a GNU seldom lasts. Angola’s GNU did not last for more than six months in 1992. In South Africa, former president de Klerk pulled out of the GNU after barely one year when apartheid was dismantled in 1994. Congo’s GNU in 2003 created 4 vice-presidents but did not bring peace to eastern Congo, especially the Bunia region. Burundi’s civil war flared up in August 2003 again, despite the establishment of a GNU, brokered by former president Nelson Mandela and Ivory Coast’s GNU established in January 2003 collapsed in less than a year.
Sudan’s GNU, brokered in Kenya in 2005 barely lasted a year. After battling the tyrannical regime of President Omar el Beshir of Sudan, the late Dr. John Garang of the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA), decided to join a GNU. The agreement was supposed to foster peace by melding SPLM with the ruling party, the National Congress Party, in a national unity government that would rule Sudan until multiparty elections in 2009. But within nine months, he had perished in a mysterious helicopter crash. Though the mystery was never solved, his widow blamed the Beshir regime. Six months later, the rebel movement – now called Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) abruptly pulled out of the national unity government on Oct 12, 2007. The former rebels said “the move was intended to press Sudan’s ruling party to live up to the multifaceted agreement, which has been hobbled by disputes over borders, troop movements and sharing Sudan’s oil profits” (The New York Times, Oct 12, 2007; p.A8). In 2010, South Sudan broke away completely to become an independent nation.
Following Kenya’s violent Dec 2007 elections in which 1,200 people perished, a peace deal was reached and GNU created in Feb 2008. But that deal has been floundering. Ominously, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been complaining bitterly that he has been sidelined and excluded from major decision-making. He said President Kibaki has the habit of “embarrassing” him publicly by failing to consult him on important decisions. They made an effort to reconcile in Kilaguni in April, 2009 but the fence mending never got off the ground because the parties couldn’t even agree on an agenda. The bloated government of 44 ministries and 53 assistant ministers achieved little. On April 6, 2009, Justice Minister, Martha Karua, one of Kibaki’s staunchest supporters, resigned, claiming that she could not institute reforms.
Ditto for Zimbabwe’s GNU, signed in 2008. It has been ditched;; in fact, it really never had a chance. For one thing, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF showed no interest in living to the letter of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) reached on Sept 15, 2008. For another, there was squabbling over the distribution of government positions. Article 20 of the GPA stipulated 31 ministers and 15 deputy ministers, with 15 coming from ZANU-PF, 13 MDC-T and 3 MDC-M for a total of 46. The most asinine GPA proposition was the joint control of the Home Affairs ministry by ZANU-PF and MDC-T.
However, Mugabe’s ZANU-PF set out to grab all the key and important ministries. It was originally allocated 15 but seized 22 anyway. A furor erupted and 15 additional ministries were created, bringing the total to 61. Still, Mugabe was still not satisfied and transferred major portfolio powers from Communications Minister Nelson Chamisa of MDC-T to Transport Minister Nicholas Goche of Mugabe’s own ZANU-PF party. A Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee or JOMIC was set up with the mandate to monitor the implementation of the Global Political Agreement and ensure that that Agreement was implemented to the fullest extent possible in letter and spirit. But JOMIC started off without any resources nor funding from the state. It did not even have an office or secretarial staff. Even then, JOMIC had no power of enforcement; only an authority of persuasion.
In short, GNU is a lazy band-aid solution that does not address the root causes of a problem. As long as POWER is centralized and monopolized by one buffoon, who adamantly refuses to relinquish or share it and uses it to enrich himself, his cronies and tribesmen to the exclusion of all others, there will be uprisings, rebellions, rebel insurgencies and more state collapse in Africa. The following African countries are heading nowhere but to an implosion: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Togo and Zimbabwe.
There are three reasons for the impending implosion, all related to POWER:
1. Monopolization of power by one person in power for more than 10 years; Angola, Cameroon, CAR, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe;
2. Military intervention and seizure of power: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Sudan;
3. Reluctance of the political elite to reform: Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo. In the case of Nigeria, the political elites are not serious about reform. They set up committees upon committees to window-dress or pretend they are solving problems.
The cause of conflict and state collapse in post colonial Africa has always been the monopolization of power, its use to advance personal or sectarian interests and the refusal to relinquish or share it. Politically excluded or persecuted groups will always rise up and rebel or secede. Those who do not learn from this history are bound to repeat.
George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
THE SMART WAY TO FIGHT CORRUPTION (II) by Prof @ayittey April 29, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, corruption, Nigeria
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George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
Despotic regimes, after protests from Western donors and rising public disgust, occasionally make feeble and scurrilous attempts to combat corruption. But most, incredibly, they enact more measures to “control” it. Asked to curtail corruption, Tanzania set up a Ministry of Transparency! It gets better. Asked to curb runaway government spending, Mali set up a “Ministry of Less Government Spending”! Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. But I would define lunacy as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. More control measures to fight corruption fits this definition.
Coconut Combat against Corruption
President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia, which drifted increasingly toward authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin, launched a “Forward Russia” campaign in October 2009 to fight corruption. But in July 2010, Medvedev admitted that it had achieved little results. He lamented that “government ministers do not carry out his orders – the direct consequence of a corrupt bureaucracy over which the external controls no longer hold sway . . . Nearly 80 percent of Russians say that corruption is a major problem and that it is much worse than it was 10 years ago . . . A majority say Medvedev is right about the problem of corruption and think he is sincere about it. But 71 percent in the most recent poll say any government efforts to fight corruption will amount in the end to window dressing. (The Washington Post, Oct 27, 2010; p.A12).
To fight corruption, prosecutors in Belarus are attempting a novel approach by trying to teach Belarusian officials not to take bribes by taking them on prison tours. For example, in March a group of officials from the Belarusian Ministry of Agriculture visited a detention facility on Volodarskogo St. in Minsk. “According to Belarusian General Prosecutor’s Office more than 26,000 people were convicted of corruption crimes in Belarus in 2009. It is quite a number for a country with a state apparatus of around 25,000 public officers, which equals one for every 427 common citizens” (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=belarus-finds-new-means-to-fight-corruption-2010-04-26). In other words, there were more convictions of corruption than the number of public officers! Perhaps, some were guilty of double or even triple dipping of hand into the public kitty.
China takes more harsh methods to stem corruption: It executes corrupt public officials almost every year:
July 14, 2010: Wen Qiang, former director of the Chongqing Justice Bureau, was convicted of corruption charges involving organized crime. He was sentenced to death by a lower court for accepting bribes, shielding criminal gangs, rape and failing to account for his cash and assets.
August 7, 2009: Li Peiying, a former senior aviation official who had been convicted for bribery, was executed, the Supreme People’s Court said. Li, former chairman and general manager of Capital Airports Holding Co (CAH), was sentenced at Jinan Feb 6 after allegedly taking bribes of 26.61 million yuan ($3.9 million) in 1995-2003 and allegedly misappropriating 82.5 million yuan in 2000-03.
July 10, 2007: Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of China’s State Food and Drug Administration, was executed for corruption. He was convicted of taking 6.5m yuan ($850,000; £425,400) in bribes and of dereliction of duty at a trial in May, 2007.
Though China is prosecuting and punishing corrupt public officials for all to see, its efforts are futile because the cause of the problem is the state interventionist and control behemoth itself. The execution of corrupt public officials only attacks the symptoms of the disease. Even then, the solution itself – execution – is creating an even more pernicious and unintended consequence – human and capital flight. Which corrupt official, after stealing billions of yuan will sit there and wait to be caught, prosecuted and executed?
In recent years, many Chinese officials and bankers have escaped prosecution by fleeing abroad with large sums of money, often to other parts of Asia or to North America. The Ministry of Commerce has estimated that 4,000 corrupt officials have fled the country with roughly $50 billion in the past two decades: (http://neweconomist.blogs.com/new_economist/2005/09/more_china_read_1.html). However, another source puts the figure much higher. “As many as 10,000 corrupt Chinese officials have fled the country over the past decade, taking as much as $100 billion of public funds with them, according to an estimate by Li Chengyan, head of Peking University’s Anticorruption Research Institute. (Christian Science Monitor, Oct 31, 2008).
In Africa, various measures have been taken to fight corruption, ranging from the window dressing to the harsh. One of the harshest occurred in Ghana when the military regime of Fte./Lte. Jerry Rawlings executed eight military officers in June 1979 on charges of corruption, and abuse of power and treason. Among them were three former military heads of state and Commodore Joy Amedume, who was shot for allegedly taking advantage of his office to acquire a bank loan equivalent to about $20,000. Ironically, these harsh measures did not solve the corruption problem in Ghana; it grew worse.
The Causes of Corruption
While corruption exists in the private sector, I will restrict this discussion to the more serious cases of corruption in the public or government sector as the victim is the public or the tax-payer. Corruption is mainly defined as theft, embezzlement, misappropriation of public money and the use of public office for private gain. Two main causes of corruption may be identified.
The first are situational factors. Anytime a weak link appears in the bureaucratic system – for example, unavailability or scarcity of a service or product, delays in securing a government service and excessive red-tapeism, etc. – opportunities for bribery and corruption emerge. A bribe may have to be paid to secure a passport or a controlled commodity or to “grease the palm of a bureaucrat.” The system of state controls and regulations – such as price and import controls – create shortages and black markets, where rent-seekers can extract a premium or a bribe for the supply of the scarce commodity. In this latter case, the solution is to remove the price control altogether. Nigerians cannot demand the retention of the petroleum subsidy, which creates shortages and breeds corruption, and complain about corruption at the same time. In many other cases, the removal of state controls may minimize the incidence of corruption.
The second stem from the nature of government itself: The concentration of economic and political power, the institution of one-party state systems which lack accountability, and the muzzling of the press to expose corruption and wrongdoing. Though corruption exists in all countries, in this peculiar system, public officials can use their office to amass wealth with impunity.
The typical African government approach to fight this type of corruption is to set up an officious mind-numbing Anti-Corruption Commission or Task Force with a twist of chicanery. It is a like a bunch of crooks asking another set of crooks to go catch a thief. A czar is appointed amid pomp and pageantry. But he is given no prosecutorial powers, nor sufficient budget. And when he sniffs too close to the “fat cats,” he is instantly slapped down, sacked or worse. Such was with John Githongo of Kenya. He had to flee the country in 2005 because of threats on his life. Nigeria’s anti-corruption czar was sent off to UK for “graduate studies” in 2007. Zambia’s was sacked in August 2009 and, in South Africa, the Scorpions – the country’s effective graft-busting unit, was dissolved in Feb 2008. Back in 1996 when four ministers were fingered for corruption by a commission set by the government itself, the despotic regime of Fte./Lte. Jerry Rawlings issued a Government White Paper to exonerate them! In Tanzania, the anti-corruption czar, Hosea Williams, was himself implicated in a corruption scandal!
The Smart Way
“He who does not understand the cause of a problem cannot solve it” says an African problem. Bribery and corruption are merely symptoms of some fundamental disease. Executing corrupt officials or setting up an anti-corruption commission addresses only the symptoms but not the root causes, which are generally due to institutional decay, break-down or mal-function.
There are 7 critical state institutions: parliament, civil service, judiciary, security forces, the media, electoral commission and the central bank. Each institution is supposed to police and cleanse itself. To do so, each has its own special “code.” For example, the civil service has the civil service code and then there are the military code, the police code, bar code and even academic code. The codes enjoin members of that particular institution to uphold certain professional and ethical standards. For example, the civil service and police codes debar civil servants and police officers from taking bribes. Thus, to deal with such cases of petty corruption, the codes need to be enforced. It is pointless to punish bribe takers without enforcing the codes.
The public can get involved. For example, in this day and age, mobile phones with cameras are everywhere. Snap pictures of police officers taking bribes and present them to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to punish the bribe takers for violating the Police Code. If the IGP repeatedly fails to do so, agitate continuously for his sacking. This approach is “focused”; it provides evidence and targets the IGP to solve a problem within his jurisdiction.
The same approach can be taken to deal with petty corruption in the civil service. Violators of the civil service code,, which forbids bribe taking, should be exposed and punished. At every ministry, there should be a “Suggestion/Petition Box.” Alongside it should evaluation forms which anyone can fill to describe the quality of service received. If a bribe was demanded before a passport was issued, a note to that effect should be dropped in the Box. To ensure that senior officials of that ministry do not read the complaints and “sit” on them, perhaps it may be recommended that only a police officer opens the Box, prepares a report and makes it available not only to the Minister but to the media as well.
A much better approach is to establish a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, where all cases of corruption – petty or grand – shall be reported. This Directorate must be independent of the Executive; that is, the director cannot be appointed by the president. It must have its own budget and must be relatively autonomous in order to do its work. It shall report to Parliament. Botswana has established one successfully: http://bit.ly/JrexdM
Just as each institution is required to police itself, the government as an entity is also required to do so through this process. The government has a Comptroller-Accountant-General, Auditor-General and Attorney-General. These are the 3 key officials to target in the war against corruption. Each year, the Comptroller-Accountant-General is required by law or the constitution to submit an accounting report of all government expenditures, both at home and abroad in the embassies. This report must be submitted to the Auditor-General within a specified period of time.
The Auditor-General goes through the expense account with a fine comb, noting suspicious payments, financial irregularities and malfeasance. For example, suppose he noticed that $40 million has been spent by the Ministry of Education to build three classroom blocks. He may query this in the Auditor-General’s Report. The Auditor-General’s Report must, within 90 days, be submitted to three key entities: the President, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Attorney-General. Upon receipt, the PAC may haul in the Minister of Education to explain how his ministry spent $40 million on three classroom blocks. If the Minister is unable to answer satisfactorily and PAC suspects embezzlement, it may refer the case to the Attorney-General for prosecution and recovery of the loot. Then the Attorney-General hands the case over to the State Prosecutor to seek conviction in court. In a federal system like Nigeria, exactly the same mechanism is replicated at the State level. There are the State Comptroller-Accountant-General, State Auditor-General, State Attorney-General and Public Accounts Committee in the State Legislature.
In general, this is how the government system is supposed to cleanse itself. Additional measures may be enacted to enhance the cleansing system. For example, “Report a Bribe-Taker for a Reward” program may be instituted, whereby a civil servant who takes a bribe can be reported to the Directorate. If found guilty, he can be sacked and made to refund the bribe. A “Whistle Blower” program may also be adopted, whereby anyone who reports an imminent fraudulent transaction which will cause say $50 million financial loss to the state, will be rewarded with 10 percent of the amount saved or $5 million.
Fortunately, the normal cleansing system is beginning to work in Ghana and Tanzania. In Ghana, the 2010 Auditor-General’s Report was duly produced and submitted. A sharp-eyed MP, Hon Ken Agyapong, noticed that a huge sum of GH¢58 million or $37 million had been paid to one individual, Alfred Woyome, a self-acclaimed financier of the ruling party, as judgment debt when he had no contract with the government. The MP began asking questions that ultimately led to the eruption of the “Woyome corruption scandal.” To make matters worse, the Auditor-General attempted to correct what he claimed were errors in his report: That only GH¢17 million, and not GH¢58 million was paid to Mr. Woyome in 2010. But Mr. Woyome himself said GH¢58 million was paid to him. So who was telling the truth? Could the Attorney-General, Betty Mould-Iddrisu help? It turned out that it was she who put pressure on the Finance Ministry to pay the judgment debt. At first, the President, John Atta-Mills, claimed he knew nothing about the payment to Mr. Woyome. Then, later, he said he tried to stop the payment on two occasions. Suddenly, cabinet was reshuffled and the embattled Attorney-General became the Minster of Education. But the heat was getting too hot and she resigned. There are calls for the Auditor-General too to resign. Presently, Woyome is on bail as his case winds through the courts. Hopefully, the loot will be recovered.
Tanzania is another country that is beginning to do things right. The Auditor-General Report was released on time and the media had a field day: http://bit.ly/HMEiWW The cost of bloated government bureaucracy and financial malfeasance were scandalous. Irate MPs on the Public Accounts Committee demanded action: http://bit.ly/IdDOu8. Hopefully, the public outcry will force the president to act by asking the Attorney-General to prosecute the corrupt, even those within his own party.
This is how the normal cleansing system is supposed to work. Forget about setting up an Anti-Corruption Commission like the EFCC in Nigeria. By the time the commission is set up, it is too late. The loot is already gone, un-retrievable. The normal cleansing system can be strengthened by:
Making the Accountant-General, Auditor-General and Attorney-General independent of the Executive by having them appointed by Parliament,
Setting up a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime that is independent of the Executive and reports to Parliament, as Botswana has done,
Implementing additional measures, such as “Report Bribe Takers for a Reward” and a “Whistle Blower” program.
To conclude, one needs the following tools and institutions to fight corruption effectively and smartly:
1. The Civil Service and Police Codes,
2. Annual Auditor-General’s Reports, which detail financial irregularities, over-spending and profligacy,
3. A vigilant Public Accounts Committee in Parliament to detect the irregularities and demand action.
4. A relatively free press to expose the corruption and mobilize public opinion to demand action.
5. An aggressive Attorney-General and State Prosecutor to prosecute the corrupt, and
6. An independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and punish the corrupt for all to see.
In most African countries, the normal cleansing system has broken down. The civil service and police codes are gathering dust on shelves. Auditor-General’s Reports are seldom seen under military dictatorships, one-party rule or de factor one-party states or when parliament is overwhelmingly dominated by one party. For much of the 32 years the military ruled in Nigeria, Auditor-General’s Reports were scarcely produced. The first Report, in decades, was released in 2006. After the 1994 military coup in Gambia, there was no Auditor-General’s Report until 2008. Tanzania was a one-party state until 1991, when multi-party democracy was introduced. Even then, CCM, the old party stalwarts were already entrenched in the bureaucracy, munching away like maggots and it was difficult to dislodge them. They frustrated every effort to cleanse the system. Though CCM re-invented itself to dominate parliament, opposition MPs are securing a foothold.
A free media is needed to expose corruption but does not exist in most of Africa – only in 10 out of 54 African countries. In most countries, the media is owned or controlled by the state, which is not likely to expose embarrassing corruption scandals.
Even if all five of the six requirements are met, the judiciary can still be a problem. In Nigeria, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prosecuted bandit governor, James Ibori, but the Judge, Justice Marcel Idowu Awokulehin exonerated and set him free on Dec 17, 2007. Evidently, the judiciary needs to be cleansed too. There is the Bar Code and the bar Association can do the job. Fortunately, Kenya is beginning to do this, sacking judges and disqualifying others as unfit to serve.
The fight against corruption can be won by, first, having each state institution police and cleanse itself by enforcing its own code and, second, by having these state officials – the Comptroller-Accountant General, Auditor-General and Attorney-General – as well as the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament do their jobs. The president should not get involved in this. The Anti-Corruption Commission he sets up is a farce because, quite often, he himself is the chief bandit.
The writer, a native of Ghana, is former Professor of Economics at American University and currently President of the Free Africa Foundation, both in Washington, DC, USA. His latest book is Defeating Dictators (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2011).
THE SMART WAY TO FIGHT CORRUPTION (Part I) by @ayittey April 27, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, Ayittey, corruption, Looting, Nigeria
George B.N. Ayittey, Ph.D.
There is serious looting going on in Africa. These are not the grand-daddy cases where a million here, a million there disappears. Rather, there are cases of kamikaze banditry, where entire treasuries are being carted away by unrepentant bandits with impunity.
Quite often, the chief bandit directing the operations is the head of state himself.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo once charged that corrupt African leaders have stolen at least $140 billion (£95 billion) from their people in the decades since independence (London Independent, June 14, 2002). The fortunes of African presidents were published by French Weekly (May, 1997) and reprinted in the Nigerian newspaper, The News (Aug 17, 1998):
General Sani Abacha of Nigeria 120 billion FF (or $20 billion)
President H. Boigny of Ivory Coast 35 billion FF (or $6 billion)
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria 30 billion FF (or $5 billion)
President Mobutu of Zaire 22 billion FF (or $4 billion)
President Mousa Traore of Mali 10.8 billion FF (or $ $2 billion)
In the decade since 1997, the problem has grown worse. The bandits have honed in the skills, resorting to new techniques and tricks to fleece their people. In August 2004, an African Union report claimed that corruption costs Africa an estimated $148 billion annually (Vanguard, Lagos, Aug 6, 2004. Web posted at http://www.allafrica.com). It has probably reached $200 billion today. When this is compared to the paltry $25-$30 billion Africa receives in foreign aid from all sources, it becomes apparent that Africa does not need foreign aid. Here are some of the big thieves:
The late Muammar Khaddafi’s fortune exceeded $60 billion.
Over his 23 years in power, “Mr. Ben Ali—who is being tried in absentia—and his relatives amassed a fortune in banks, telecommunications firms, real-estate companies and other businesses, giving them control over as much as one-third of Tunisia’s $44 billion economy, according to anticorruption group Transparency International. The family displayed its wealth by throwing extravagant parties and jet-setting among several mansions in Tunisia and overseas” (The Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2011).
Mubarak was said to have amassed a £25 billion (or $40 billion) fortune for his family since grabbing power in 1981 (The Sun, UK, Jan 31, 2011).
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir “has been accused of siphoning off up to $9 billion of his country’s funds and placing it in foreign accounts, according to leaked US diplomatic cables” (BBC News Africa, Dec 18, 2010).
To place this in perspective, the Atlantic Monthly (May 20, 2010) provided an analysis of the net worth of all 43 U.S. presidents – from Washington to Obama – and found the combined net worth to be $2.7 billion in 2010 dollars. Thus, Abacha, Babangida, al-Bashir, Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, Houphouet-Boigny, Khaddafi, and Mobutu each stole more than the net worth of all U.S. presidents combined! Said Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), former founder of the Black Panther Party, “[Modern] African leaders are so corrupt that we are certain if we put dogs in uniforms and put guns on their shoulders, we’d be hard put to distinguish between them” (The Washington Post, April 8, 1998; p.D12).
Of course, there were Robber Barons in America’s history too: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Astor, Jay Gould, James J. Hill. But they used the loot to build railroads, steel mills, banks, oil companies and their enterprise drove the American industrial age from 1861 to 1901. By contrast, Africa’s kleptocrats stash their loot overseas – a double whammy.
According to a March 26, 2010 report by Global Financial Integrity, Africa lost $854 billion in illicit financial outflows from 1970 through 2008 and the outflows from Africa may be as high as $1.8 trillion (http://www.gfip.org).
The worst cases of corruption have occurred in Angola, Cameroon, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, with Zimbabwe not far behind. Back in 1995, critics of the Moi government in Kenya claimed that “many of the people in government had the biggest accounts in foreign banks and that there was more money from Kenyans in foreign banks than the entire Kenyan foreign debt, which is about $8 billion” (The Washington Times, August 3, 1995; p.A18).
A 2011 report commissioned by the United Nations Development Fund estimated “that between 1990 and 2008, $34 billion disappeared from Angola’s public coffers” (The Wall Street Journal, Oct 15-16, 2011; p.A10). If that loot is divided by Angola’s 19 million people, each would get $1,789, which would make Angola a middle-income country – not the desperately poor where 70 percent live on less than $2 a day.
Nigeria is the classic African example of a vampire state. Between 1970 and 2004, more than $450 billion in oil revenue flowed into Nigerian government coffers. But much of it was looted by Nigeria’s kamikaze military bandits. According to David Blair of London Telegraph (June 25, 2005):
“Nigeria’s past rulers stole or misused £220 billion ($412 billion). That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa’s most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent. Former leader Gen Sani Abacha stole between £1bn and £3bn. The figures were compiled by Nigeria’s anti-corruption commission.
Nigeria’s rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country’s 130 million people – one in seven of the total African population – live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply. With more people and more natural resources than any other African country, Nigeria is the key to the continent’s success.”
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, set up in 2003, said that £220 billion ($412 billion) was “squandered” between independence from Britain in 1960 and the return of civilian rule in 1999. “We cannot be accurate down to the last figure but that is our projection,” Osita Nwajah, a commission spokesman (Telegraph, June 25, 2005).
The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the £220 billion of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan. If one divides that loot by Nigeria’s 162 million people, each would get $2,,543, which would also qualify as a middle-income country, not the poor one where 60 percent earn less than $2 a day.
And it gets better: President Obasanjo went after the loot the Abachas had stashed abroad. Much public fanfare was made of the sum of about $709 million and another 144 million pounds sterling recovered from the Abachas and his henchmen. But this recovered loot itself was quickly re-looted. The Senate Public Accounts Committee found only $6.8 million and 2.8 million pounds sterling of the recovered booty in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) (The Post Express (July 10, 2000).
Bribery, embezzlement and theft — sometimes on a grand scale — divert enormous resources from public coffers into private hands. Unchecked, it eventually blossoms into a “culture of corruption.” Corruption has several deleterious effects on the ruling regime, the economy and the country. It:
Seriously undermines the credibility of any despot and the effectiveness of his regime. His calls for “belt-tightening” are often greeted with cynicism or derision when he lives in opulent style. He rapidly loses popular appeal or support. In fact, it is often what triggers attempts to oust him from power as too many despots have been overthrown on charges of corruption.
Breeds inefficiency and waste. Contractors and suppliers fail to deliver because they have bribed some official. Infrastructure has crumbled in many African countries because contractors failed to perform. The educational system has sharply deteriorated. Roads are pot-holed. Hospitals lack basic supplies because they have been stolen or diverted, and patients are often asked to bring their own bandages and blankets.
Corruption tends to corrode popular confidence in public institutions. State institutions begin to decay and break-down. Nobody cares because tenure of office and promotions are based not on competence and merit but on personal loyalty to the president, ethnicity, and sycophancy. Institutions such as the civil service, the judiciary, parliament, and the police disintegrate and fail to function since they have all been perverted.
Corruption aggravates the budget deficit problem. Expenditure figures are padded. Ghost workers proliferate on government payrolls. Scores of ghost workers are added to the government payroll and their salaries collected by workers, defrauding the government of millions in funds. Revenue collectors are notoriously corrupt, pocketing part of tax proceeds, waiving taxes if they receive large enough bribes.
Corruption drives away foreign investors: “Government contracts in Nigeria, say international businessmen, are among the most expensive in the world `mainly because of excessive margins built into such contracts for personal interests.’ Those personal interests can be seen attending expensive schools in Britain, or parked outside plush government villas: a Maserati or Lamborghini is quite normal for an army chief” (The Economist, 21 August 1993; Survey, 5).
Corruption leads to economic contraction and collapse. Corruption and capital flight, which flourish under non-democratic systems, seriously stunt economic development. At an April 2000 press conference in London, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented that: “Billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders – even while roads are crumbling, health systems have failed, schoolchildren have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work” (The African-American Observer, April 25-May 1, 2000; p.10). While corruption and capital flight exist under all political systems, their incidence tends to be more pervasive when rulers are not held democratically accountable.
(The concluding part follows soon)
Follow the Author on twitter @ayittey
YOU LAZY (INTELLECTUAL) AFRICAN SCUM by Field Ruwe January 22, 2012Posted by seunfakze in CHANGE, POLITICS.
Tags: Africa, Arise, Field Ruwe, Intellectual, liberation
This piece is reportedly written by Mind of Malaka. I got it via an email sent to me. Please read!
They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.
“It’s amazing how you all sit there and watch yourselves die,” the man next to me said. “Get up and do something about it.”
Brawny, fully bald-headed, with intense, steely eyes, he was as cold as they come. When I first discovered I was going to spend my New Year’s Eve next to him on a non-stop JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston I was angst-ridden. I associate marble-shaven Caucasians with iconoclastic skin-heads, most of who are racist.
“My name is Walter,” he extended his hand as soon as I settled in my seat.
I told him mine with a precautious smile.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Zambia!” he exclaimed, “Kaunda’s country.”
“Yes,” I said, “Now Sata’s.”
“But of course,” he responded. “You just elected King Cobra as your president.”
My face lit up at the mention of Sata’s moniker. Walter smiled, and in those cold eyes I saw an amenable fellow, one of those American highbrows who shuttle between Africa and the U.S.
“I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”
“Are you still with the IMF?” I asked.
“I have since moved to yet another group with similar intentions. In the next few months my colleagues and I will be in Lusaka to hypnotize the cobra. I work for the broker that has acquired a chunk of your debt. Your government owes not the World Bank, but us millions of dollars. We’ll be in Lusaka to offer your president a couple of millions and fly back with a check twenty times greater.”
“No, you won’t,” I said. “King Cobra is incorruptible. He is …”
He was laughing. “Says who? Give me an African president, just one, who has not fallen for the carrot and stick.”
Quett Masire’s name popped up.
“Oh, him, well, we never got to him because he turned down the IMF and the World Bank. It was perhaps the smartest thing for him to do.”
At midnight we were airborne. The captain wished us a happy 2012 and urged us to watch the fireworks across Los Angeles.
“Isn’t that beautiful,” Walter said looking down.
From my middle seat, I took a glance and nodded admirably.
“That’s white man’s country,” he said. “We came here on Mayflower and turned Indian land into a paradise and now the most powerful nation on earth. We discovered the bulb, and built this aircraft to fly us to pleasure resorts like Lake Zambia.”
I grinned. “There is no Lake Zambia.”
He curled his lips into a smug smile. “That’s what we call your country. You guys are as stagnant as the water in the lake. We come in with our large boats and fish your minerals and your wildlife and leave morsels—crumbs. That’s your staple food, crumbs. That corn-meal you eat, that’s crumbs, the small Tilapia fish you call Kapenta is crumbs. We the Bwanas (whites) take the cat fish. I am the Bwana and you are the Muntu. I get what I want and you get what you deserve, crumbs. That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.”
The smile vanished from my face.
“I see you are getting pissed off,” Walter said and lowered his voice. “You are thinking this Bwana is a racist. That’s how most Zambians respond when I tell them the truth. They go ballistic. Okay. Let’s for a moment put our skin pigmentations, this black and white crap, aside. Tell me, my friend, what is the difference between you and me?”
“There’s no difference.”
“Absolutely none,” he exclaimed. “Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that. It took them thirteen years to determine the complete sequence of the three billion DNA subunits. After they
were all done it was clear that 99.9% nucleotide bases were exactly the same in you and me. We are the same people. All white, Asian, Latino, and black people on this aircraft are the same.”
I gladly nodded.
“And yet I feel superior,” he smiled fatalistically. “Every white person on this plane feels superior to a black person. The white guy who picks up garbage, the homeless white trash on drugs, feels superior to you no matter his status or education. I can pick up a nincompoop from the New York streets, clean him up, and take him to Lusaka and you all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff. Tell me why my angry friend.”
For a moment I was wordless.
“Please don’t blame it on slavery like the African Americans do, or colonialism, or some psychological impact or some kind of stigmatization. And don’t give me the brainwash poppycock. Give me a better answer.”
I was thinking.
He continued. “Excuse what I am about to say. Please do not take offense.”
I felt a slap of blood rush to my head and prepared for the worst.
“You my friend flying with me and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested.
He was implacable. “Oh yes it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”
I held my breath.
“Do you know where I found your intellectuals? They were in bars quaffing. They were at the Lusaka Golf Club, Lusaka Central Club, Lusaka Playhouse, and Lusaka Flying Club. I saw with my own eyes a bunch of alcoholic graduates. Zambian intellectuals work from eight to five and spend the evening drinking. We don’t. We reserve the evening for brainstorming.”
He looked me in the eye.
“And you flying to Boston and all of you Zambians in the Diaspora are just as lazy and apathetic to your country. You don’t care about your country and yet your very own parents, brothers and sisters are in Mtendere, Chawama, and in villages, all of them living in squalor. Many have died or are dying of neglect by you. They are dying of AIDS because you cannot come up with your own cure. You are here calling yourselves graduates, researchers and scientists and are fast at articulating your credentials once asked—oh, I have a PhD in this and that—PhD my foot!”
I was deflated.
“Wake up you all!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of nearby passengers. “You should be busy lifting ideas, formulae, recipes, and diagrams from American manufacturing factories and sending them to your own factories. All those research findings and dissertation papers you compile should be your country’s treasure. Why do you think the Asians are a force to reckon with? They stole our ideas and turned them into their own. Look at Japan, China, India, just look at them.”
He paused. “The Bwana has spoken,” he said and grinned. “As long as you are dependent on my plane, I shall feel superior and you my friend shall remain inferior, how about that? The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, even Latinos are a notch better. You Africans are at the bottom of the totem pole.”
He tempered his voice. “Get over this white skin syndrome and begin to feel confident. Become innovative and make your own stuff for god’s sake.”
At 8 a.m. the plane touched down at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Walter reached for my hand.
“I know I was too strong, but I don’t give it a damn. I have been to Zambia and have seen too much poverty.” He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled something. “Here, read this. It was written by a friend.”
He had written only the title: “Lords of Poverty.”
Thunderstruck, I had a sinking feeling. I watched Walter walk through the airport doors to a waiting car. He had left a huge dust devil twirling in my mind, stirring up sad memories of home. I could see Zambia’s literati—the cognoscente, intelligentsia, academics, highbrows, and scholars in the places he had mentioned guzzling and talking irrelevancies. I remembered some who have since passed—how they got the highest grades in mathematics and the sciences and attained the highest education on the planet. They had been to Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), only to leave us with not a single invention or discovery. I knew some by name and drunk with them at the Lusaka Playhouse and Central Sports.
Walter is right. It is true that since independence we have failed to nurture creativity and collective orientations. We as a nation lack a workhorse mentality and behave like 13 million civil servants dependent on a government pay cheque. We believe that development is generated 8-to-5 behind a desk wearing a tie with our degrees hanging on the wall. Such a working environment does not offer the opportunity for fellowship, the excitement of competition, and the spectacle of innovative rituals.
But the intelligentsia is not solely, or even mainly, to blame. The larger failure is due to political circumstances over which they have had little control. The past governments failed to create an environment of possibility that fosters camaraderie, rewards innovative ideas and encourages resilience. KK, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, and Banda embraced orthodox ideas and therefore failed to offer many opportunities for drawing outside the line.
I believe King Cobra’s reset has been cast in the same faculties as those of his predecessors. If today I told him that we can build our own car, he would throw me out.
“Naupena? Fuma apa.” (Are you mad? Get out of here)
Knowing well that King Cobra will not embody innovation at Walter’s level let’s begin to look for a technologically active-positive leader who can succeed him after a term or two. That way we can make our own stone crushers, water filters, water pumps, razor blades, and harvesters. Let’s dream big and make tractors, cars, and planes, or, like Walter said, forever remain inferior.
A fundamental transformation of our country from what is essentially non-innovative to a strategic superior African country requires a bold risk-taking educated leader with a triumphalist attitude and we have one in YOU. Don’t be highly strung and feel insulted by Walter. Take a moment and think about our country. Our journey from 1964 has been marked by tears. It has been an emotionally overwhelming experience. Each one of us has lost a loved one to poverty, hunger, and disease. The number of graves is catching up with the population. It’s time to change our political culture. It’s time for Zambian intellectuals to cultivate an active-positive progressive movement that will change our lives forever. Don’t be afraid or dispirited, rise to the challenge and salvage the remaining few of your beloved ones.
Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate with a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism, and an M.A. in History