Africa’s Woes Triggered By Power-Hungry Presidents
By Tapiwa Kapurura
This piece is meant to corroborate Professor George Ayittey’s recent contribution on the problems bedeviling Africa. My thesis excavates the point that Africa has everything to re-establish herself as a dignified and self-sustaining continent but has been run down by selfish Fathers who are busy chasing power and wealth as the continent bleeds and suffers. In the face of inevitable failure, blame has been embarassingly apportioned to the erstwhile 1884 Scramble For Africa.
Africa’s current problems are linked to historical imbalances caused by Europe. Slavery, resource exploitation, segregation and land apportionment legislation unduly sidelined overpowered Africans in their own home. With independence, every African was supposed to enjoy economic and political independence, freedom and peace. Sadly besides flag independence, the majority of Africans remain poor, diseased and disgruntled. The leaders have even pushed citizens into the scary abyss. Social injustice, corruption, greed, government arbitrariness and use of force have driven Africans into sunken dark holes and anyone who raises the head is bashed to lie down by the evil hand of security forces. Besides calls for economic independence, the benefits have mainly been felt by a few as the majority raises endless questions in the ditches of poverty. In frustration, many continue to jump onto the refugee train because the future remains bleak at home as other continents present jobs, better healthcare and enticing infrastructure.
While economic imbalances remain an urgent issue, there is still need for re-grouping and getting organized in Africa. A redress of economic imbalances does not per se demand that a handful prosper as the majority suffers, neither does it mean that national assets and resources be channeled to Western markets as profits are diverted to offshore accounts for the benefit of a handful government leaders. Such public fraud, mismanagement of resources and corruption makes Africa poorer than ever because as the majority gets trinkets, the minority scoops real stuff and forcefully defend their gains in face of criticism and opposition. Despite her being the global basket of unique rich minerals, wildlife and other lucrative resources like oil, the majority of Africans continue to suffer and their infrastructure is now worse than during colonial days. Resultantly many have been forced to try other promising nations for jobs and social security.
As the leadership continues to blame century-old colonialism, the challenge still remains to see where the current leadership is heading and what they have done to demonstrate a sense of responsibility in resource management, good governance and public benefits. It makes a mockery of an oil or diamond-producing nation to have its environment damaged by marauding western companies swooping in to extract and leave without any sense of community giving back as African environmental activists risk being persecuted. It also defeats the cause for the African resources to be entrusted to exploitative foreign companies that extract and leave locals suffering as a handful stands to gain through foreign banked profits shared between mining companies and African leaders.
It also does not make any sense for Africa’s rich nations to continue begging for foreign aid like food and elections money yet they stand amid historical deposits of minerals on demand. A mineral-rich country should stand firm, feed its people and cater for their welfare. All profits should be publicly accounted for through a prudent fiscal policy implemented for the public good. Skilled human capital must be entrusted with the management of funds for the benefit of the nation at large. A self-help approach on national resources and assets simply works to expose how challenged, disorganized or backward we are as a continent. A clandestine management of national resources and entrusting of some foreign partners without public approval has seen some leaders becoming defensive, arbitrary and reckless in the pursuit of wealth. In some cases, blood has been spilt. The end result has been a blame game of critics labeled western apologists.
The world views Africa with admiration based on natural resources on her lands. Africa’s main issues have been the failure to organize the local and possible technical assistance to harness the resources for public benefit. The issues of private jets landing and taking off with heavy packages of unknown valuables for foreign markets speaks volumes of where Africa stands on resource management. The very people blaming the West are the champions of private deals and nocturnal arrangements for self-gain. If Africa managed her resources well, there could be an impressive Gross Happiness Index to usher peace, comfort and trust from among the citizenry. Sadly many are disgruntled due to joblessness,
poverty and hunger underlined by wanton use of force to silence them during bread riots or questionable public policies.
Despite failure to lead well, many African leaders have the appetite to hang on to power for life. Whoever expresses disgruntlement with certain policies in government becomes an enemy of the state. A challenge on rule of law and democracy simply means one is starting to align with the West. The West never tells any African leader to rape, kill or maim. Instead of buying food, many African governments would rather invest
in guns and tear smoke. The West never drags anyone by the collar to imprison local human rights activists; neither does it force Africa to have dilapidated infrastructure, more disease and arbitrariness. The problem lies with the selfish African leader who has forgotten about those under his chin.
Africans have been perceived as war mongers mainly because of poverty, hunger and anger. Disgruntlement has driven many to start questioning the legitimacy of their own governments. If all African leaders were considerate of their people’s wishes and welfare, there could be peace in Africa. To date the history of modern Africa is mired by dictators suppressing any voices of disgruntlement and changing the laws to strengthen
their reign. In all that arbitrariness, many of the African leaders have been hypocrites in that they denounce the West before the world media yet they partner with individual Western parties to find markets for African resources so as to promote a self-enrichment agenda.
Such a wanton pursuit of selfish interests, corruption and greed has killed Africa. History has always been the trump card for screaming expletives against Western ideologies. Whenever democracy has been questioned, the West has been heavily criticized as interfering with African
affairs. Many overlook the countless refugees fleeing independent Africa into Europe and America by the day as if a killer disease is about to wipe the continent. The West becomes concerned on some of the government practices due to shifted burdens on leadership responsibility. That carefree stance by African heads has triggered the West to set some conditions for Africa to follow. In any case the Bretton-Woods, World Bank and IMF have been run through the Western block and for there to be some co-ordination; there must be control measures established to guard against public fund abuse and profligacy. When such malfeasance has been challenged, our African Marjodomos have been quick to
scream abuse and told the West to mind their own business, lest colonialism is planted into the conversation.
Most African leaders need help and advice even from the young African minds. The resource abuse, defiance of the rule of law, absence of democracy, creation of military states, despotism and corruption have been concerning to the world yet our African leaders have remained impervious to advice and quick to point fingers. Ultimately we have continued to be labeled the “Dark Continent” because some of the deeds of our leaders are jaw-dropping in this modern day as manifested by genocides, internecine wars and tribal purging.
Independence meant African leaders taking personal responsibility to re-define their people’s needs. It also meant the establishment of new democratic institutions premised on majority rule and vibrant economies. Resource management and utilization demanded prudence. Poverty, disease and illiteracy would have to be eliminated. Justice and rule of law would have to prevail. Unfortunately, among the African
leadership, such values are as useless as used lasagna. Once one tastes power, he forgets about all forms of a civilized order. It is worse in that despite the existence of organizations like the Africa Union, ECOWAS, SADC and various others, their impact in resolving African issues has been as good as non-existent. Their focus has been on theories, workshops and conferencing as they have not yielded much milestones. To date the world is yet to experience one solid achievement especially from the Africa Union agenda.
Resultantly, concerned, hopeless and frustrated African citizens have wound up as refugees in other nations in search of peace and greener pastures. Unless African leaders reform to comport with the civilized global order, the world will still perceive Africa as a cauldron
of corruption, poverty, dictatorships and chaos. In any case it is the poor workman blaming his own tools. A peaceful, well-fed, comfortable and happy nation will never disobey or question an accountable and transparent government.