Sunday, 1 May 2011

HOW AFRICAN LEADERS UNDER-DEVELOP AFRICA


Accra (Ghanaian Chronicle, May 22, 2000) – The May 13 – 19 issue of the Economist, the influential London news magazine has Africa on the cover. The magazine also has a sketch of Africa on an inside page. It depicts Africa lying prostrate while a bloodied black hand drills a knife into her very heart: Africa’s problems are self inflicted! It used to be fashionable to blame the ills of Africa on others: Colonialism; Neo-colonialism; Imperialists; the CIA (never the KGB!), etc.

Political scientists describe this phenomenon of the blame game as Dependency Theory, a symptom of symbiotic relationship between the rich and the poor where the poor is dealt the weak hand, deliberately. The late Walter Rodney, the Guyanan historian wrote a book titled, “How Europe Under-Developed Africa.” This is no longer absolutely tenable. The reality of the matter is that the major culprits of the destruction of Africa today, are AFRICANS themselves, with our corrupt leaders and their bands of sycophant, president does-no-wrong minions. 

Major corruption in African officialdom continues to cause degenerative under-development on the continent, African countries have become personal estates of official criminal gangs avowed aim is not the development of their countries, but rather siphoning of the national resources into foreign banks. Officials in the tiny European principality of Luxembourg have just frozen eight bank accounts totaling 600 million U.S dollars, belonging to the late super corrupt Sani Abacha of Nigeria. This is one example of how our African leaders contribute to the under-development of Africa!

CORRUPTION
Official corruption siphons off money intended for the development of Africa. Apart from making a lot of profits on the interest on investments accruing from Africa’s stolen money, Europeans turn around and loan such money to Africa at exorbitant rates. Thus, in nearly all African countries today, we spend more money to pay the interest on such loans (not the debt itself) than we do on health and education! In effect the African countries are played like a football. Whoever has the ball kicks it until it is near deflation! It is then pumped up by some foreign loans, and the process continues. Such has been our lot since independence. Africa suffers from chronic intermittent growth, and perpetual deflation.

Another method where by our African leaders contribute to the under-development of Africa is the pursuit of wrong-headed policies that result in rampant and continuing wars in Africa. At his very manner, African leaders spend a lot of money buying various types of armaments and ammunition from Europe, America and elsewhere. In this manner, money intended for development projects, is spent on the project of war-making. Meanwhile the money we spend on the arms purchases, provides jobs and income for people in other continents. 

In the early 1990s, it was hoped that corrupt policies that contributed to the under-development of Africa would stop. In fact, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was infatuated with this notion of a new wind of leadership blowing across Africa. He described it as the “African Renaissance”. There was a rebirth in the air. Notably, new leaders in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda and Uganda, not to mention President Mbeki, were seen as the purveyors of accountability, good governance, and mature decision making. 

AFRICAN LEADERSHIP
When he visited Africa, President Clinton described these men as the “New Breed of African Leadership” who were going to set worthy examples to be followed by the leaders yet unborn. Alas, it was a harvest expected too soon. As you read this column, Uganda and Rwanda are close to war, unless cooler heads prevail. Ethiopia and Eritrea have just resumed into their tow year old senseless war after a short cease fire which lasted long enough for their combatants to catch their breath, it now appears. These are four countries whose leaders exude the appearance of “renaissance.” 

BEST OF FRIENDS
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Paul kagame of Rwanda were the best of friends. In fact, they were comrades-in Arms. When Museveni was a rebel in the Ugandan bush fighting to overthrow Milton Obote, he employed Kagame, a Rwandan Tusi exiled living in Uganda as his Chief of Staff. General Paul Kagame was an integral part of the rebel forces who helped General Yoweri Museveni to attain power n Kampala by defeating the Ugandan army and causing the flight from power of Presiden Milton Obote. 

Once in power, and no longer a rebel, President Museveni turned to assist Kagame who had formed his own rebel group to fight and overthrow the Rwanda Hutu Government. They were successful, and today General Paul Kagame is the President of Rwanda. But, Kagame and his Tutsi government in Kigali had a problem. The Hutus whom he overthrew had fled to Zaire and they posed an infinite danger to him. 

The late President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire was supportive of the Hutus. In fact, Mbutu kept the body of Rwandan Hutu President whom Kagame forces had shot down, in a fridge in one of estates in Zaire for future burial in Rwanda! If only a rebel would surface in Zaire; and behold, one did emerge in Zaire, sworn to overthrow Mobutu! Thus Kagame and Museveni again united to support Laurent Kabila who eventually caused Mobutu to flee in 1997 and eventual death in Morocco in 1997. Once in power, Kabila did not prove amenable to either the interests of either Museveni or Kagame. 

Meanwhile, Kagame and Museveni clashed over the spoils of the huge Congo natural resources. Hence, the two leaders are now supporting rival rebel groups aimed at overthrowing Laurent Kabila. It is this latter issue that is driving Uganda and Rwanda to war, unless diplomatic efforts succeed.

WE’RE READY
Both countries spend huge amounts of money to beef up their arsenal, thereby diverting funds that ought to be used in the development of their poor countries. A top Ugandan army official, Brig. Gen. James Kazini, remained in a fighting mood, saying Uganda was ready to fight if provoked. He told the monitor, a Ugandan Newspaper, “This time we’re ready for them…., we’re beginning to realize these people (Rwandans) may be real enemies.”

The other two men touted as “renaissance” leaders have actually drifted to war. Ethiopia and Eritrea have been at war since 1998, when Eitrea occupied Ethiopian “territory”. The causes of the war resist rational explication. It is ostensibly a border dispute, with both sides claiming sovereignty over a remote frontier that was never clearly delineated when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

INDEED BROTHERS
President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and President Meles Zewani of Ethiopia are indeed brothers. They belong to the same Tigrean ethnic group. Like Museveni and Kagame, President Isaias and President Meles were also comrades-in-arms as rebels fighting to overthrow Ethiopia’s Marxist dictatorship under Mengistu Haile Mariam. With the over throw of Mengistu, Isaias Afwerki became the president of a independent Eritra, and Meles Zewani assumed power in Addis Ababa.

Relations were cordial until Eritrea started to behave like a real independent state by adopting policies such as introducing its own currency. That and other policies angered Ethiopia. Eritrea though a small country, has proven quite belligerent. Since 1993, it has gone to war with Sudan, Yemen, and Ethiopia and also threatened its smaller neighbor, Djibouti. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea, also find time to support rival rebel groups in the country that used to be called Somalia. As a result, funds that could be spent on the development of these countries are diverted to arms purchases. The current war between Eritrea and Ethiopia coincides with the acute famine brought on by drought in both counties. Millions of people are thought to be in danger. 

DROUGHT AND CONFLICT
President Meles had defiantly deflected ay questions about the priority of fighting the nidst of a natural disaster that affects millions. He has this in response, according to a newspaper report: “In Ethiopia we do not wait for a full tummy to protect our sovereignty…, we resist the link between the drought and the conflict.”
President Isaias on his part has suggested that the current conflict has an advantage in showing the reality of independence struggle to a younger generation growing up without full realization of past efforts and sacrifices.

Africa indeed, has enormous resources to attack some of our myriad problems. Sadly, such resources are depleted by official corruption, and genuflected to wrong policies of our leaders. The so called “new breed” of African leaders is merely like old wines in new bottles. It seems the expectation of “African Renaissance”, to borrow some words from Bob Marley, is a dream to be pursued but never attained.

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