Stem tide of cor­rup­tion in Africa

Con­ti­nent dogged by poor lead­er­ship, poli­cies of the belly, greed, pa­tron­age and self­ish­ness, China Dodovu writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

AS THE coun­tries of Africa and the Africans in the di­as­pora cel­e­brate 54 years of the birth of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity (OAU), it is per­haps nec­es­sary to ask a philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion that is both sig­nif­i­cant and deep: What is Africa cel­e­brat­ing?

Are we cel­e­brat­ing that Africa is in­de­pen­dent to­day? Are we cel­e­brat­ing the con­ti­nent’s agenda 2063? Are we cel­e­brat­ing that we re­placed the OAU with the African Union (AU)? Are we cel­e­brat­ing the adop­tion of the New Part­ner­ship for Africa’s Devel­op­ment (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mech­a­nism (APRM) and that we launched the Pan-African Par­lia­ment (Pap) and the Peace and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil?

When lead­ers of 32 African na­tions con­verged in Ethiopia‘s cap­i­tal Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963 to form the OAU, they spoke at length on the need for global con­ti­nen­tal unity and ex­pressed sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity with coun­tries which were yearn­ing to shake off the shack­les of colo­nial rule.

The de­coloni­sa­tion of Africa took place un­der the back­drop of the At­lantic Char­ter signed on Au­gust 14, 1941 be­tween the US and Great Bri­tain, which set out a post­war re­con­struc­tion pro­gramme and the right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion for the peo­ple of the world. There­fore, af­ter World War II, the process of de­coloni­sa­tion gath­ered mo­men­tum as Africans in­creas­ingly ag­i­tated for more po­lit­i­cal rights and in­de­pen­dence.

At the time of the in­au­gu­ral OAU as­sem­bly, 20 coun­tries had ob­tained their in­de­pen­dence be­tween 1958 and 1963, and in some parts of the African con­ti­nent colo­nial pow­ers were re­luc­tantly and grudg­ingly re­lin­quish­ing power, while in other parts African peo­ple were launch­ing pro­tracted strug­gles against the re­cal­ci­trant colo­nial gov­ern­ments.

Then, what is fore­most that Africa’s peo­ple re­mem­ber since their in­de­pen­dence? As we mark Africa Day, un­doubt­edly they re­mem­ber the strug­gles they waged to free them­selves of colo­nial rule.

They re­mem­ber how, in 1957, the Gold Coast be­came in­de­pen­dent Ghana, the first in­de­pen­dent black state in Africa un­der Kwame Nkrumah. They re­mem­ber how, in 1958, Sékou Touré in a his­tor­i­cal con­fronta­tion with France’s Gen­eral Charles de Gaulle de­manded the out­right in­de­pen­dence for Guinea. They re­mem­ber how, in 1960, Bel­gium con­ceded and agreed to free the Congo where Pa­trice Lu­mumba took over.

They re­mem­ber how, in 1961, Julius Ny­erere be­came pres­i­dent of Tan­ganyika; how, in 1963, Jomo Keny­atta be­came prime min­is­ter of Kenya af­ter its in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain and how, in 1964, North­ern Rhode­sia be­came Zam­bia, un­der Ken­neth Kaunda.

They re­mem­ber how, in 1975, An­gola, Guinea Bis­sau and Mozam­bique gained in­de­pen­dence from Por­tu­gal and Agostinho Neto, Luis Cabral and Samora Machel be­came pres­i­dents re­spec­tively and how, in 1980, Rhode­sia be­came Zim­babwe un­der Robert Mu­gabe.

But equally, they re­mem­ber how, in 1989, Sam Nu­joma led Namibia to its in­de­pen­dence and how Nel­son Man­dela, af­ter spend­ing 27 years in prison, dis­lodged – Pre­to­ria – a ci­tadel of set­tler ob­du­racy to be­come the first pres­i­dent of a demo­cratic South Africa.

Other than all these his­tor­i­cal events, 54 years on, what else do the peo­ple re­mem­ber? It is not far-fetched to say they mostly re­mem­ber theft, pil­lage, pa­tron­age, genocide, ram­pant poverty, diseases, wide­spread cor­rup­tion, pre­cip­i­tous eco­nomic de­cline and very sadly, the be­trayal of their post-in­de­pen­dence as­pi­ra­tions.

De­spite sys­tems and struc­tures that African lead­ers have put in place in the post-in­de­pen­dent era, why is the state of Africa still ap­palling to­day? Why has the in­de­pen­dence of African states not ush­ered in peace and pros­per­ity that many had an­tic­i­pated? And why is Africa still poor?

In a gen­uine ef­fort to an­swer the ques­tion, Robert Ka­plan in his spir­ited, rous­ing and provoca­tive book The Com­ing An­ar­chy, of­fers us scrupu­lous, far-rang­ing in­sights on the state of cur­rent world af­fairs in the post-Cold War era.

In char­ac­ter­is­ing the ap­palling state of the con­ti­nent and what is to come if the rot is not ar­rested, Ka­plan pre­dicts that in the com­ing years scarcity, crime, over­pop­u­la­tion, trib­al­ism and dis­ease will rapidly de­stroy the so­cial fab­ric of Africa.

Given the dire sit­u­a­tion con­fronting the na­tions of Africa, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively, in his sem­i­nal book Why Africa is Poor, Greg Mills as­serts that the main rea­son why Africa’s peo­ple are poor is be­cause their lead­ers have made this choice. Africa’s prob­lems are ex­ac­er­bated by the scourge of cor­rup­tion, which is de­rail­ing progress and vic­to­ries scored in the post-in­de­pen­dent era. Some of the causes of cor­rup­tion are: colo­nial legacy, poor lead­er­ship, pol­i­tics of the belly, om­nipo­tent states, greed and self­ish­ness. The sit­u­a­tion is wors­ened by the fact that mostly the per­pe­tra­tors of cor­rup­tion are the top African ech­e­lons who among oth­ers use pa­tron­age net­works, nepo­tism, weaken in­sti­tu­tions of gov­er­nance, lack of ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency, lack of po­lit­i­cal will, weak eth­i­cal val­ues, con­cen­tra­tion of state power, weak ju­di­cial sys­tems and con­flicts.

Tom Bur­gis, in his book The Loot­ing Ma­chine, notes that the loot­ing of Africa’s re­sources has been mod­ernised and loot­ers no longer use guns to dis­pos­sess in­hab­i­tants of their land, gold and di­a­monds, but to­day they use pha­lanxes of lawyers and other un­der­hand means to bleed des­ti­tute na­tions of their re­sources.

In or­der for Africa to progress, all coun­tries must carry the vi­sion to cre­ate a bet­ter Africa through the African Re­nais­sance – un­der­pinned by poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, job creation and rapid eco­nomic growth.

The vi­sion must also fo­cus on democratis­ing African coun­tries; sta­bil­is­ing their po­lit­i­cal sys­tems; mak­ing joint ef­forts to pre­vent and re­solve con­flicts; creat­ing de­vel­op­men­tal states; in­tra-con­ti­nen­tal trade; and de­vel­op­ing the abil­ity of African gov­ern­ments to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the devel­op­ment of their so­ci­eties.

Africans will only truly and gen­uinely cel­e­brate Africa Day when its lead­ers con­front a men­ace of cor­rup­tion head-on. They must ac­cept that cor­rup­tion poses a threat to hu­man devel­op­ment and se­cu­rity, and eco­nom­i­cally it has dis­as­trous ef­fects on their pros­per­ity.

Un­less they do so, the dreams and as­pi­ra­tions of its founders will be crushed.

Worst per­pe­tra­tors of graft in Africa’s up­per ech­e­lons

China Dodovu is an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Aim27 Foun­da­tion

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