In recent years, there has been a shift of narrative on the neck-breaking corruption in Africa. This has led to a renewed vigor by the African Union to counter the menace. But analysts have mocked the move as mere Charade, given that, most of these African leaders are law unto themselves in their various countries. Omonu Nelson writes
In the late 50’S and early 60’s, the fruits of African liberation struggles began to manifest, with countries like Ghana, gaining independence in 1957. This was followed in quick succession with other countries assuming self rule. This period was followed by torrent of promises of life more abundant, by the emerging leaders. The liberation heroes made their peoples to believe that the moment the oppressors (colonialists) are out of the way, their lives will take on a new meaning.
Alas, almost six decades after most African countries gained independence, instead of the abundant life promised by the emerging leaders, they became the new face of terror or task masters of their own people.
The Kenyan anti corruption guru, John Githongo, in appraising the performances of African leaders, since independence, opined that,
“Africans are better fed 40 years ago, than now. The political, social and economic systems is a far-cry from that, which it should be. The social infrastructures and amenities have collapsed on the continent. To the extent that, thousands young African, prefers to embark on the dreaded journey across the Sahara Desert to the Mediterranean Sea, where they know their chances of making it across to Europe is slim. Statistics from International Organization for Migrant (IOM), continues to reveal startling figures of young Africans perishing in an attempt to escape to Europe, where grasses seems greener.” All these malaise are attributable to the corrupt tendencies of the ruling elites, who for almost six decades after Independence, paid lip service to the call to tackle corruption.
To reverse this shame and contempt that have befallen Africa among the comity of nations, African states at the Addis Ababa meeting, pledged to redouble efforts to stamp out corruption on the continent.
To demonstrate commitment, the AU, at Kigali summit, appointed President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria to champion the continent’s fight against corruption. The continental theme for 2018.
This resulted from the realization that countries in Africa lose billions of dollars annually through corruption, which has contributed to the stunted development and impoverishment of many African States. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Chairperson made this observation at the 30th AU summit under the theme – “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”.
It was the consensus among speakers at the summit that, if Africa must fulfill the aspirations articulated in the Agenda 2063, particularly an Africa that is democratic and developed, prosperous and at peace, urgent steps must be taken by African leaders to win the fight against corruption in the continent.
Fighting corruption has been chosen to be the theme of 2018 because of its devastating effect on the continent’s economic development, social cohesion and political order, Faki added.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Mahamat referred to the Report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial flows from Africa in his speech.
The Chairperson however, noted with satisfaction, the progress made during the last period on the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), and the African Passport program.
Mahamat also noted that maximum efforts needs to be exerted to realize the AU’s structural reform to fulfill the various continental aspirations and vision. One of such reforms, according to him lies on financing the union as per the 27th AU Summit in Kigali, held in July 2016, that adopted the decision on financing of the Union by directing all member states to implement a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports.
“All effective mobilization in the area will allow us to own our development and our dignity respected instead of turning our hands to ask for foreign assistance, which are limited in terms of amount as well as accompanied by conditions that limit our independence” he stressed.
It could be recalled that at its 29th Session held from 29th to 30th July, 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Union Assembly decided that the 2018 theme of the Union would be dedicated to the fight against corruption. Further to this and in recognition of the giant strides made by the current administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Experts are picking holes in the new narrative by African leaders, given that many of them are law unto themselves in their various countries. They contended that, where leaders can’t draw a line between state funds and personal wealth, it will be practically impossible to deal with corruption.
In 1957, in his inaugural address to the newly independent state of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah cited corruption as a vice that risked gravely harming millions in Africa struggling for freedom and justice. Today, corruption is everywhere in Africa and it is the major cause of poverty and conflicts. Corruption in Africa takes place in many forms. Corruption in Africa has grown at an alarming rate due to poverty, which is rampant. Miserable salaries often cannot suffice to cater for a big and extended family force many people to opt for bribes to meet the needs.
Corruption has gone from a mere act of accepting bribes to a complete state of mind and way of life. It has progressed from the poor attempting to “make ends meet” to a sense of entitlement from anyone in a position of authority. Because of African social fabric, effective drives for changes need to start from the top and progress to the bottom. In this regard, African leaders have failed to set the example that all others must follow.
Most African leaders have used their political position to embezzle economic resources- a process that has often involved the mass pauperization of their ‘subjects’ and the deepening of their dependence on the patrimonial favours of the “ruler”t
In the constantly dynamic world of politics, challenges continue to evolve. It is important therefore for a leader to be equally dynamic and adaptable, laying out a series of goals, and recognising with relative precision when it is time to move from one goal to the other. Indeed, if such a re-definition of goals proves an illusive task, it might be an advisable and perceptive course of action for the leader to leave the arena, bowing out with dignity.
In the case of Nelson Mandela of South Africa, his goal over so many years had been to fight and end the apartheid rule in that country. Having achieved this and become that country’s first ever black president, Mandela ruled for one presidential term and retired. Some say that was because he was old and tired of politics. Others provide various other reasons. But it could equally be argued that Mandela had achieved what he set out to do, and having achieved it, there was no need to remain in the active political arena. To be sure, there were other challenges that the new South Africa was now facing, but why not let facing those particular challenges be the goal of other political players?
UQUOTE “All effective mobilization in the area will allow us to own our development and our dignity respected instead of turning our hands to ask for foreign assistance, which are limited in terms of amount as well as accompanied by conditions that limit our Independence.”
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