Home Africa GOVERNANCE & LEADERSHIP SERIES —- WHY AFRICA IS BACKWARD

GOVERNANCE & LEADERSHIP SERIES —- WHY AFRICA IS BACKWARD

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PROMOTING THE CULTURE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE IN AFRICA

“Power enslaves: absolute power enslaves absolutely. I have made a diligent search through history, and I have not come across a single instance where a regime, be it military or civilian, which has come to power at its own will and has wielded that power for many years, has found it easy to extricate itself from the sweet uses and shackles of power, and then hand it to others outside its own hierarchy. ‘’It is possible, quite possible, that my search is not exhaustive and so, I stand to be corrected.” – Obafemi Awolowo; In Voice of Courage 1981

 “Our people supported us in our fight for independence because they believed that African governments could cure the ills of the past in a way that could never be accomplished under colonial rule. ‘’If, therefore, now we are independent we allow the same conditions to exist that existed in the colonial days, all the resentment which overthrew colonialism will be mobilized against us”. –  Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana

 THE IDEAL — A deep examination of the history of leadership and governance in Africa is replete with instances of leaders who violate or change constitutional provisions fraudulently to perpetuate themselves in office. Some have succeeded, while others have been forced out by revolts.

  • Famed Nelson Mandela was in office for only five years. Mandela spent 27 years in prison fighting for democracy in South Africa. He chose to be president of the country for only one term of five years, after which he toed the path of honour by stepping down.
  • Elsewhere, a woman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Africa’s first elected female head of state, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, exited the stage with an ovation as president of  Liberia without being chased around. Apart from winning the coveted Nobel Peace Prize (2011) she is the fifth person to win the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017. The prize was instituted by British-Sudanese telecommunications magnate Dr. Mo Ibrahim. The prize has on several occasions not been awarded for lack of suitable candidates which confirms its tringent rules in order to truly promote good governance. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf governed Liberia and led the country’s first peaceful democratic transition in seven decades. In her acceptance speech, Sirleaf Johnson said: “The young people today are educated, skillful, demanding, and eventually we have to listen and I think that will happen to all those that are still lagging behind.”
  • WHY AFRICA IS BACKWARD:  Crises and conflicts in Africa are diverse and multidimensional. One of the major reasons why Africa is backward is the proliferation of needless and senseless conflicts in the continent occasioned by poor governance culture.  International relations experts have argued that inadequate socio-economic development, non-democratic consultations and consolidation, growing poverty, and economic inequality are some of the most prominent factors. Africa houses multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious societies that are constantly enmeshed in provoked tension and conflict. To address the perceived lapses, Africa requires good governance provided by honest and capable leaders, as well as genuine intentions to de-escalate ethnocultural and religious divides perpetrated especially by political leaders who wish to rule at all costs. Due regard must also be accorded violent extremism and terrorism.

 CASES OF THE EXTREMES: In Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore was ousted by protests in 2014 after he tried to amend the constitution to extend his decades-long rule, while Gambia’s ruler Yahya Jammeh fled after regional pressure ended his 22-year reign. In Zimbabwe, 94-year-old Robert Mugabe was pestered to vacate office as president. He ruled for four decades. And all these Heads of State were part of the 2013 African Union Resolution on the need for peace in Africa! Interestingly, both African leaders were part of the discussions leading to the adoption of AU Resolutions on ending conflicts and promoting good governance. They listened attentively and probably contributed to debates of issues that they went back to provoke, including electoral fraud; not minding the fate of millions of people that they ruled.

In its 12th April, 2019 edition, The Nigerian Guardian newspaper examined the issue of sit-tight leaders in Africa. It utilized Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir’s as an example and highlighted the following points:

Al-Bashir of Sudan – 75 years old: ‘’After a 30-year rule, marred by government repression,  human rights violations, restrictions of religious freedom and disregard for basic obligations to citizens,  was dismissed from office through a violent military take-over.

President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika:  Algeria’s former President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 82 years old was in his fourth term in office and was rarely seen in public for nearly six years as a result of an attack of stroke. In spite of his health condition, he had plans to seek a fifth term.  Bouteflika was removed by the military.

  • Libya’s Moammar Ghaddfi (assumed power in 1969) and was violently removed in 2011. He was reportedly worth US $200 billion
  • Tunisia’s Ben Ali (1987-2011) 24 years died in Saudi Arabia at the age of 83 years. He was said to have stashed a staggering 11 billion pounds in vaults of foreign countries
  • Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) was worth US$70 billion
  • Zimbabwe’s Robert Gabriel  Mugabe (1981-2017) 36 years. aA2001 US diplomatic cable, WikiLeaks, puts Mugabe’s worth at about £1billion
  • Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh (1994) — during his 23 year rule was reported to have pilfered public funds to the tune of at least $362m 
  • Togo’s Gnassingbe Eyadema – 1967-2005 — 38 years during which he reportedly survived several coup plots and no fewer than seven attempts on his life,  died at the age of 69 years.

ALLEGATIONS OF COMPLICITY OF THE WEST & THE FACTOR OF ”NOT HOW LONG: BUT HOW WELL”: Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema is quoted as saying that: ””Democracy in Africa moves on at its own pace and in its own way”  But all those amounts quoted above, with Africa’s democracy ”moving its own way” are gone forever to the peril of Africa. Where are those funds and how did they ”grow wings”? Some former African leaders have accused the Western world of complicity thus compounding the problems of Africa. We must plead for compassion for Africa. The Thabo Mbeki Report on illicit flows from Africa instituted by the African Union discovered  that “ Multinationals are depriving some of the world’s poorest countries of money vitally needed to pay for schools, hospitals and other essential services.” Some of the mechanisms used by multinationals to defraud countries of tax revenues, the report said, include trade or transfer mispricing, exploitation tax treaties to stash their profits in places offering very low tax rates or harmful tax incentives. International development agency, Action Aid, has discovered that ”Corporate evasion and avoidance was unfair” Action Aid estimates that about $138 billion is given away in corporate tax exemptions by African nations.

DEFICIENT TECHNOLOGY LOCALLY & ABROAD? Apart from manipulation of the economy of Africa, political exploitation has also impacted the fortunes of the continent negatively as world powers have really never been comfortable with a totally independent Africa.  With the type of technology in existence in countries that warehouse stolen wealth from Africa, it is doubtful if their financial systems stability alert would not give indications whenever huge sums hit the country. The Guardian of London, reporting the case of Tunisia states that: An initial request to Swiss banks turned up 60m Swiss francs (£41m) held in President Ben Ali’s name. The ATTF says that is a drop in the ocean. The Tunisian central bank warns that repatriating the Ben Ali wealth will take years. “Public opinion is extremely strong against those banks and those countries that have not been fully cooperating with the investigation,” said Sami Remadi, a Swiss-trained clinical pathologist who heads the ATTF. “It’s not just a question of money, it’s a question of dignity. I have told the British authorities [Tunisians] won’t be treated as second-class citizens. It is one of the big injustices of the world that in countries like Tunisia the population suffers from a lack of services, a lack of rights, and lack of democracy, but on top of that they have national wealth stolen from them.”

AFRICA’S FUNDS PERISH IN GLOBAL CAPITALS – LODGE COMPLAINTS WITH THE UNITED NATIONS: Recovery of stolen funds from the developed world is problematic Having assets repatriated is no simple task, and members of the former first family may put up fierce legal resistance. Always, recovery of stolen funds is problematic and complicated with requirements including the hiring of experienced international investigative teams and legal practitioners and financial experts. This has been the situation as Africa’s funds continue to be used to illegally develop Western nations. The Guardian of London comments in that: The expenses could be prohibitive for a country facing so many other calls on its resources. And that is even before the cost of hiring international lawyers for the inevitable hearings abroad. “If you don’t have international expertise, there is little chance you will succeed” It is even more confounding that some advanced countries in which stolen funds are warehoused after about 20 years of using such funds to develop their economies ask for part of the stolen funds as a penalty as condition-precedent for repatriation, when in fact they foreign nations must pay interests on such monies.  This appears to be a matter that Africa must throw to the court of global public opinion and lodge formal complaints through the Africa Group at the United Nations.

DEPORT AFRICA’S STOLEN FUNDS: Commendably,  Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the Ambassador of the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations held a meeting with the African Diaspora last week. As the coordinator of liaisons at an Ambassadorial level with other African Permanent Missions to the United Nations, she could be helpful with pushing Africa’s cases through the African Diaspora and African Diaspora’s lobby groups and not foreign lobby groups. The UN and AU signed the Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security and the Joint Framework for Implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in January 2018. Immediate repatriation of funds that belong to African nations like illegal migrants are deported is necessary as part of measures to enhance the growth of Africa. The West must ”deport” those funds without further delay. Those advanced economies should also watch closely the movement of funds from Africa and disallow these illegal outflows just like illegal migrants are closely monitored, prevented, and repatriated.

Good governance is about managing resources for the common good. It is about inclusiveness and the rule of law. But those who swear by the Constitution are the principal personalities that violate such constitutions with impunity. We acknowledge the ruggedness and patience of Africans who have tolerated leaders like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Iddi Amin of Uganda and Jean Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic who conducted governance like comical shows. It is reasonable to wonder if Africa is not jinxed.

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  • PIX: credit (Wikipedia) Emperor Haile Haile Selassie I (born Tafari Makonnen) was the emperor of Ethiopia ruled from 1930 to 1974,  Prior to being emperor, he served as regent from 1916 to 1930. Total — 54 years
  • President Nguema Mbasago of Equatorial Guinea (since 1979),
  • Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (since 1986),
  • Blaise Campore of Burkina Faso (since 1987),
  • Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea (since 1993)
  • Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia (since 1995)
  • Idrissu Deby of Chad (since 1990),
  • Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (since 1998),
  • Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti (since 1999),
  • Mohammed VI of Morocco (since 1999), Mswati III of Swaziland (since 1986),
  • Paul Biya of Cameroon (since 1982)
  • Paul Kagame (since 2000).

 THE GOOD INTENTIONED CAUGHT THE BUG: Even in instances where some of the leaders are elected through the democratic process, they manipulate vital democratic institutions/frameworks such as the judiciary and the legislature and the constitution to enable them to suppress opposition to their bids to hang on to power. The late President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana led his country to independence from Britain in 1957 and contributed immensely to the liberation of several African countries from colonial rulers. He was elected Ghana’s President in 1960. Unfortunately, when he caught the bug in 1964, he declared his party CPP as the only legal party to participate in elections. He was later overthrown in a military coup while on a visit to China in 1966 after ruling for nine years.

  • Felix Houphouet-Boigny, first president of Cote D’Ivoire was President for 33 years and died in office. At his death, he was the third longest-serving head-of-state in the world.
  • Laurent Gbagbo was president of Cote D’Ivoire for 11 years. He lost his re-election bid in a free and fair election was disgracefully removed.
  • Hosni Mubarak was in power in Egypt for 30 years and was removed by the Arab spring protests that hit North Africa
  • President Ben Ali of Tunisia ruled for over 20 years before his removal from office by the Arab Spring revolt.
  • Gnassingbe Eyadema was president of Togo for 38 years. He came in through a coup d’état and never relinquished power. Eyadema ran Togo as a personal estate and died in office.
  • Faure Gnassingbe, (Eyadema’s son) became the President of Togo in 2005 after his father’s death. In all, Togo’s presidency has been in the household of the Eyademas (father & son)  for 53 years, no break
  • José Eduardo dos Santos was Angola’s president from 1979-2017. He later changed the constitution to enable him stay in power until 2022 when he will be 80 years old. He has, however, voluntarily stepped down, ending his 38-year rule.
  • Ahmadu Ahidjo was president of Cameroon for 22 years, while Paul Biya has been president for more than 30 years. Biya assumed office in 1982, and in 2008 got the parliament to pass a controversial amendment to the constitution that enabled Biya, 87years old, to run for a third term. He won another election to remain in power.
  • Paul Kagame of Rwanda masterminded a constitutional amendment to remain in office for his third term till 2024.

INTROSPECTION: — Silencing the Guns in Africa & the UN Support — In 2013, the African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government pledged “not to bequeath the burden of conflict to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars by 2020.” Silencing the Guns in Africa is one of the flagship initiatives of the AU’s Agenda 2063  that aims to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena, an agenda which is strongly linked with the UN’s 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development.  The AU Summit, held on 9 and 10 February 2020, adopted “Silencing the Guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development” as this year’s AU theme. The United Nations, in the realization of the importance of the agenda through its Security Council Resolution 2457 (2019) adopted at its 8473rd meeting, on 27 February 2019; Reaffirmed its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security as well as its commitment to uphold the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations:The Security Council encourages the United Nations and the African Union to strengthen their efforts to coordinate their engagement in a mutually-supportive manner [and] expresses its readiness to support the implementation of the African Union Master Roadmap of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by year 2020.” Similarly, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General stating the common UN position in a February 9, 2020 statement expressed the view that: ‘’Africa’s challenges can only be solved by African leadership and ‘’commended the African Union for making Silencing the Guns such a prominent part of its work for 2020.”

 CONFLICTS IN AFRICA The statistics below were extracted from a lecture delivered by Dr. David Oyedepo, Chancellor, Covenant University, Otta, Nigeria. The first observation is that these crises occurred under the leadership of Africa’s leaders who might have contributed to the scope of the conflicts. When commitments are made, therefore, there must be a political will and means to achieve objectives. The conflicts identified below occurred before the current crises that are believed to have international dimensions, and, therefore, call for global actions.

  • Sudan: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and religious – Duration: 1955-1972; and 1983-2005 (almost 50 years of conflict) Casualties: About 500, 000 killed; over 2 million people displaced
  • Sudan/Darfur: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic (Darfur Genocide) Duration: 2003-Date (9 years of conflict) Casualties: Over 400, 000 killed; 3 million displaced
  • Somalia: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic – Duration: Ogaden War, 1977- 1978; CivilWar, 1991-2003; Islamic War, 2003- Date (22 years of conflict) Casualties: 550, 000 killed
  • Ethiopia: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, Duration: 1971-1984 (12 years of conflict) Casualties: 500, 000
  • Rwanda: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic – Duration: April-July 1994 (just within 100 days) Casualties: Over 800, 000 killed
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Nature of Conflict: Power tussle among political gladiators, and resource struggle. Duration: 1996-Date (6 years of conflict) Casualties: 800, 000 killed
  • Liberia: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and political (class, personal; ambitions of warlords) Duration: 1990-1995; 1999-2001 (7 years of conflict) Casualties: 220, 000
  • Sierra Leone: Nature of Conflict: Political, resource (diamond) struggle, ethnic. Duration: 1991-2000 (9 years of conflict) Casualties: 200, 000
  • Uganda: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, class and personal ambitions of Political leaders. Duration: 1969-1979; 1989 (11 years of conflict) Casualties: 300, 000; 30, 000
  • Nigeria: The Civil War, an ethnic induced conflict of only 30 months claimed over 800, 000 lives.
  • Uganda: Idi Amin Dada reportedly stole more than US$100 million, though it’s impossible to perfectly peg the amount of wealth he plundered during his decade reign of terror. According to Celebrity watch, Idi Amin was known as the tagged as: “Butcher of Uganda” even served as a chairman of the Organisation of African Unity!   Amin was ousted from power and went into exile in Libya and Saudi Arabia. It’s estimated between 100 thousand and 500 thousand people were killed under his regime. Idi Amin passed away on August 16, 2003, at 78 years old.
  • SOLUTIONS – ADDRESSING INEQUALITY & FOOD SECURITY: Pan-Africanist President Julius Nyerere in a 1998 lecture asserted that: Poverty is an enemy of good governance, for persistent poverty is a destabilizer, especially if such poverty is shared in a grossly unequal manner, or is widely regarded as being unfairly distributed as the few who are relatively rich indulge in conspicuous consumption. Known or suspected corruption among political leaders often makes the problem worse – and corruption throughout society more difficult to overcome. Good wages or salaries will not stop bad people from being corrupt, but miserable wages and salaries are not conducive to rectitude. Political instability, real or imagined, can be a source and is often used as an excuse, for bad governance. ‘’But to say this is very different from saying that because Africa is poor, Africans do not deserve good governance. This continent is not distinguished for its good governance of the peoples of Africa. But without good governance, we cannot eradicate poverty; for no corrupt government is interested in the eradication of poverty; on the contrary, and as we have seen in many parts of Africa and elsewhere, widespread corruption in high places breed poverty’’
  • ASSISTING AFRICA: The AU’s overarching objective is the emergence of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” However, the current magnitude of conflicts in Africa goes beyond what African nations alone could resolve. The world has witnessed fierce dislocations to peace this millennium than in any other period in human history. AU lacks the practical military capacity for humanitarian intervention.  AU has raised this issue with the UN, requesting support for its peacekeeping activities to the tune of 75 percent of the costs for Security Council-authorized interventions.  The AU would cover the remaining 25 percent. It is important for the regional body to adopt stern counter-terrorism initiatives whose effect goes far beyond Africa.

President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in some of his public speeches has campaigned vigorously for the development of the agriculture sub-sector as a means of combating hunger.  Adesina argues that: “There is tremendous suffering going on in the world. While progress is being made, we are not winning the war on global hunger. There cannot be peace in a world that is hungry. Hunger persists in regions and places going through conflicts, wars, and fragility. Those who suffer the most are women and children”  ‘’Nothing is more important than ensuring that we feed the world and eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Hunger is an indictment on the human race. Any economy that claims growth without feeding its people is a failed economy. Nobody has to go hungry. ‘’This sense of exclusion and lack of equity or fairness often drives conflicts. ‘’We have an opportunity to reverse the situation through sustainable agriculture as a business, and not as an aid program.”

NON-VIOLENCE & THE FEAR OF GOD:   Daily, we speak about the need for evolving a road map for engendering peaceful and harmonious coexistence among the citizenry to cope with the religious, political, ethnic and racial problems that are threatening the polity, and even humanity. It is most desirable for the populace to embrace peaceful solutions rather than bitterness, confrontation, and violence. Nobel Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu is quoted as asserting that ‘’Non-violence is one way of saying that there are other ways to solve problems, not only through weapons and war. ’’Nonviolence also means the recognition that the person on one side of the trench and the person on the other side of the trench are both human beings, with the same faculties. At some point, they have to begin to understand one another.

AFRICANS MUST TAKE THEIR REPRESENTATIVES IN GOVT TO TASK: It is also important for the appropriate agencies particularly Civil Society Organizations step up their campaigns on democracy, what to do, and what not to at this period when poverty seems to be a potent factor that could derail democracies. The masses currently lack awareness, and are afflicted by poverty and low level of education, and must be encouraged and schooled to know their rights and how to demand these. Regrettably, poverty has made it possible for the elites to weaken the morale of the civil populace who should ideally call their representatives in government to order. The opinion of a former UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari points to the fact that: ‘’Perpetrators of vices such as poor governance, corruption, impunity, and lack of transparency would not easily give up the privileges accruing to their practices. ‘’What needs to be done, therefore, is for innocent people of a poor governance culture to demand peaceful changes and the termination of politics of exclusion that lead to acute crises and conflicts’’

May the Good Lord Bless Africa!!