Optimism about Africa needs to be taken in fairly small doses, for things are still exceedingly bleak in much of the continent…Food production per person has slumped since independence in the 1960s. The average lifespan in some countries is under 50. Drought and famine persist. The climate is worsening with deforestation and desertification is still on the march .
Although the theme of this conference has a ring of optimism in it, there is also a note of caution. Drawing from the drama of the story of blind Bartimaeus, we are reminded of what optimism, belief in oneself can do.
But as the story itself shows, we also require the solidarity and support of one another to realise God’s plans for us. The theme definitely offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the goals and ideals enunciated in both Caritas in Veritate and Africae Munus.
The 1994 Synod of Bishops on Africa was convoked at a time of momentous developments around the world in general and Africa in particular. The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 had signalled the so-called end of history, which saw the end of ideology and the birth of what was optimistically called the new world order.
These developments ushered in a new era known as globalisation with tremendous implications for Africa and the developing world. Many people feared that Africa’s capacity to accommodate the challenges of the new world order seemed suspect.
On the political plane, Africa began to see the back of civilian and military and civilian dictatorships, as pressure mounted for the return of democracy. The end of apartheid and the official swearing in of Mr. Nelson Mandela as the new democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994 was the climax of these historic developments.
Then the tragic Rwandan genocide struck, throwing the country into chaos and a war that left nearly one million people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. These high and low moments are what Cardinal Turkson rightfully referred to as lights and shadows on the African continent.
The democratic surge of the late 90s has today witnessed some troubling reversals because in most countries, democracy has not been able to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the ordinary citizens. Across the continent, many surviving dictators continue to cling on to power while routinely holding elections with little or no real contests taking place.
The situations in Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe, where dictators have decided to re-write the rules, are a cause for serious concern about the future of democracy in Africa. With no hope of a semblance of the Arab Spring in Africa on the horizon, it remains to be seen how these countries will avoid internal implosions. Happily, these countries and their dictators are in the minority.
Elsewhere on the continent, from countries like Ghana, Togo, Benin and South Africa,there is some cheering news. It remains to be seen whether the quest for the opening up of political space and the consolidation of the democratic ethos in Africa will ever reach a crescendo. However, as I will show at the end of this paper, I believe that democracy, in itself not a silver bullet, does provide the best condition for the actualisation of the ideals envisioned in the theme of this conference.
You have specifically asked me to speak on Integral Human Development, Protection of Life and Security Concerns in Africa. I note that my paper comes under the sub-theme of Peace and Reconciliation. I am aware of the wide range of issues that are being canvassed in this conference within the context of the two key documents, Caritas in Veritate and Africae Munus,and thus, as I also see from the programme, naturally many papers will overlap.
Although I will try to focus on the topic of my paper, I will find myself naturally moving across some of the sub-themes that will be addressed by other participants.
I have divided my paper into four sections. The first section will try to broadly define the terms that are implied in the paper. The second part will identify the major forces that act against the protection of life in Africa and will highlight the key areas of security concerns across the continent.
The third part of the paper will argue a case for democracy and a culture of human rights as a means of protecting life and ensuring security in Africa. The fourth section will identify what I call the Assets required for the building of wholistic and enduring integral human development. Finally, I will summarise the arguments and point the way forward in the light of the two documents which form the main platform for the conference.
1: Definitions and Some Conceptual Clarifications:
Integral human development can be defined as an aggregate, a totality of factors which are required to make the human person whole; those things, some of which Abraham Maslow refers to as a hierarchy of needs. In its dictionary form, development is defined as growth, maturation, expansion, enlargement, spread, progress, success.
In Populorum Progressio, the Holy Father, Pope Paul V1 argued that for it to be meaningful, development must be directed at promoting the good of each and every human person and of the human person, whole and entire .
Hence, meaningful development includes the presence of a sense of justice or fairness among citizens, a sense of communal solidarity, a safe environment around which people live and how they earn and sustain their livelihood, a sense of dignity.
The second key word of concern to us is Security. When I checked my dictionary, it gave me the following definitions for security: freedom from danger, protection, feeling of safety, stability, certainty, happiness, and confidence. It is difficult to think of what else there is to add to these words.
The security of the individual, family and community members is at the heart of the legitimacy of any government. Indeed, it is at the heart of the social contract and it is the reason why citizens allow government to monopolise the instruments of coercion as a means of restraining those who threaten the security of others.
It is clear from these definitions that protection of human life and security can be considered vital components and indices for measuring the degree of a society’s attainment of full integral human development. The question therefore is to find out what conditions inhibit or accelerate the attainment of the objectives implicit in the themes proposed in this paper. To this we shall now turn.
Forces Against the Attainment of Integral Development and Security in Africa
The story of what Africa is today is an account of the historical encounter between Europe and the different communities that inhabited the continent.
The mapping of the continent and the final emergence of nation states as we have them today was the result of this unwilling and highly contested encounter. Scholars have advanced different reasons for colonialism. We shall list only five here:
The search for sheer adventure and curiosity
The pursuit of diplomatic initiatives
Missionary efforts to present the message of Jesus Christ to Africans
The pursuit of commercial interests and markets
To offer light to a dark continent.
These reasons are obviously not adequate, but at least they offer us a basis for reviewing the history of the African condition. Since this is not the main focus of this paper, my intention will be to simply refer to the extent of the impact of these developments as they affect the crisis that Africa faces in trying to address the issues of integral human development.
The first obstacle to integral human development is tied to the history of colonialism and its impact on the continent. Although various communities had fought and established kingdoms and empires across the continent before colonial invasion and colonial rule presented the continent with, challenges of a different kind. Various colonial experiences opened the continent to different shades of civilisation and claims of modernity. In the process, colonialism left Africa with a lot of scars.
The cumulative effect of years of slavery, torture and conflict still manifest on the continent today. Various European countries ended their enslavement and exploitation of their various enclaves by granting independence to new nation states, whose boundaries were arbitrarily drawn across the continent.These decisions still account for unresolved border wars across Africa.
The story of post-colonial Africa has been told in tonnes of volumes of books. It is largely a tragic story of misrule, false starts, war, destruction and death. Most of the tragic history of Africa is a story of the poor imitation and misapplication of power by the first batch of those who took over power from the colonial governments.
The first set of African rulers was preoccupied with the preservation of colonial borders, the attempt at managing new political and bureaucratic systems that had been left behind by the colonial masters. Many of them were poorly prepared for their new roles.Sadly, in less than ten years, the continent experienced successive military coups, as a misguided bunch of impatient military officers claimed they had solutions to the problems of their governments.
These coups and counter-coups severely disrupted civil, political and economic life, leading to civil wars in such countries like Nigeria. Two books have summarised the dilemma of this period. The first book, The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation State, and the second, The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty Years Independence presented an update of the continents struggle after 50 years of independence. Taken together, they offer a perspective for understanding the reasons for the lights and shadows on the continent.
The second obstacle, which is closely related to the first, is the impact of the cold war on Africa. In keeping with the philosophy of colonialism, Africa found itself caught in a web woven by the ideological battles waged by the super powers.
Most of the energy for development was channelled to fighting off these ideological wars. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the wars of liberation in Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe took their toll on the continent. Resources that should have been used for development were directed to these wars. Human capital was lost, as many young men and women opted for a war of freedom rather than education.
African unity became severely compromised, because various countries could not break ranks with their superiors in Europe and the United States whom they served as proxies. African countries had limited room for economic choices as Communism and Capitalism were the dominant choices. Sadly, at the end of it all, African economies were neither truly Capitalist nor Socialist, since they had neither the political culture nor the markets to sustain these ideologies.
As with colonialism, the corrosive impact of the cold war led to the devaluation of human life. Family life was disrupted as families and communities lost their habitat, diseases spread among thousands of people, a new refugee world opened on the continent and human displacement took its toll.
The conscription of young men and women into wars denied the new nation the much-needed human capital badly needed for development. By the 80s, a culture of child-soldiers became a dominant part of conflict in such places like Liberia, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
The result of all these were the emergence of armed robbery, banditry, drugs, kidnapping and other anti-social and deviant behaviours that fractured entire communities and societies. The process of reconstruction of Africa’s ruination has been herculean for many a nation till date.
The third obstacle is the failure of sound economic policies, poor legislation and the corrosive impact of corruption. On the surface, it might be true to argue that many African countries have lapsed into poverty due to the lack of resources. Although this argument has been very much popularised, the truth is that poor leadership, greed and corruption have been at the heart of the depreciation of human life in Africa. Greed, cronyism, clientele and patronage have led to very high and unacceptable levels of corruption on the continent, even where there are huge resources.
The result is that leaders have tended to personalise power by gathering tiny groups based on ethnic allegiance, ideology or party loyalty. This leads to the exclusion of huge percentages of the population from power and from the benefits of even the few resources that are available. To sustain this leadership style, the government often resorts to intimidation and violence against its own people.
In many African countries, the cost of government is unacceptably high, as presidents, governors, and public officials are festooned with a huge retinue of personnel, cars and other appurtenances of power.
The fourth obstacle is the emergence of what the late Pope John Paul II referred to as a culture of death. Many factors account for the emergence of this culture of death. The attributes of the culture of death are an aggregate of all those things that come together to create the false illusion that it is possible to make your heaven here on earth.
This absence of a moral balance and of institutions of moral restraint leads societies back to a life that Hobbes referred to as being nasty, brutish and short.
Although commentators often speak eloquently about African culture being supportive of life, family and community, the truth is that there have always been aspects of African culture that were anti-life. The killing of twins, the view of disability as a curse, the privileged role and place of the male child over the female child, all these predisposed African societies to anti life activities such as abortion and the offering of particular persons as objects of sacrifice or ritual killing.
Despite the visible presence of Christianity, the culture of death persists, urged on by weak legislation, increasing secularism and materialism.
The fifth and final obstacle to the attainment of integral human development and security is globalisation. Although a very much-vilified concept, globalisation has often been presented as the carrier of some form of evil and of a new slavery for Africa.
It has come to be seen as a new form of colonialism, a conspiracy by the powerful nations to impose a Eurocentric worldview and culture on weaker nations. Focusing more on market economies, there have been anxieties among weaker nations over the fact that economic spinoffs of globalisation, such as the World Trade Organisation, are concerned with the free movement of goods but not of human beings, making the market a new god.
The fact is that although globalization is not value neutral, it is definitely not the demon it has been made out to be. Obviously, under globalisation, weak nations might not have the capacity to compete with stronger nations, but we at least have an opportunity to choose how to identify some areas of competitive advantage that could help Africa.
In a rather invidious way, the al-Qaeda movement and other merchants of terror were quick to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Internet to recruit members and train millions of its adherents in the art of evil and death. Similarly, there is a lot that we can learn in terms of what positive aspects of globalisation we might need to explore.
Democracy as a Condition for Integral Human Development and Security
In an amazing development in the late 90s, the Asian Human Charter made democracy a human right. The document offered some profound, groundbreaking insight relevant to our discussion when it stated that:
The state has become the source of corruption and the oppression of the people. The democratisation and humanisation of the state is a pre-condition for the respect for and the protection of rights. The state, which claims to have the primary responsibility for the development and well-being of the people, should be humane, open and accountable.
The corollary of the respect for human rights is a tolerant and pluralistic system, in which people are free to express their views and to seek to persuade others and in which the rights of minorities are respected. People must participate in public affairs through the electoral and other decision-making and implementing processes, free from racial, religious or gender discriminations .
Although Democracy has its imperfections, it has proved over the centuries to be the best platform for managing differences, providing a favourable climate for the just and fair allocation of resources, building of human capital, exercising freedom, measuring growth and ensuring justice. It is against this backdrop that I wish to appeal to it as a basis for dealing with how to manage the assets that ensure integral human development and security.