Africa today is a mishmash of successes, failures, and disappointments. Kenya, at this point is a cause for concern. Africa’s ruling elites have failed or refused to learn the lessons that history provides so often. This is not helped by the massaging of egos they receive from the international community led by the United nations.
It is sad that political transitions have become the arenas for deep contestations not of ideas by egos and the hope of personal aggrandisement. In other democracies, elections come and go peacefully. The elites accept the people’s verdict. Courts have no role in the process, and the electoral commissions do not make the news headlines.
Not so in Africa where during elections, every little politician has to make the headlines, coupled with endless shows of bravado to show that I love ‘my people’, most of whom live in the most abhorrent conditions. Talk about using people. No conscience, no consideration for the economic conditions of the country. Worse of all, what is missing is the contestation of ideas.
Two countries, Ghana and Kenya provides ample evidence of this. During the 2016 elections in Ghana it was the then opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) that seemed to offer some political and economic direction, and made promises about how if given power, they would manage the country. The ruling National Democratic Congress was defined by its lack of vision, ideas and promises to citizens. It was as if to say, we have won, no promises.
In Kenya, the 2017 elections will be remembered for one thing only. The standoff between His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta (the Jubilee coalition), and the leader of the opposition coalition called NASA. Unable to match its opponent Jubilee coalition, it resorted to democracy by endless matches by the poor promising power to their overlord.
In Liberia, an election ended peacefully, resulting in a run-off to take place soon. Here there are no threats from ‘war lords’ even though Liberia has seen a fair share of ‘war lords’ in its recent history. However, it is fair to say that Liberia has learned its lessons, and with President Sirleaf Johnson, is prepared to make a historical leap and build a viable society for its citizens.
In Somalia, we are mourning the loss of over 300 lives resulting from the activities of Al Shabab. If anyone gets to understand the mindset of such ill minded people capable of causing such mayhem against their kith and kin, let me know. What I know is that no explanation will suffice.
Somalia is about the make a transition from mindless violence to peace and democracy. Yet, at every stage, it has to face a test which no other nation in Africa has gone through. This is in spite of the millions of dollars spent on peace keeping operations by the Africa Union, millions spent on conferences and workshops whose outcomes are difficult to determine. The mindless violence continues.
It takes a great deal of patience and sometimes doses of optimism not to feel disappointed at the direction Africa has taken. At the height of Africa’s independence struggle, our founding fathers exuded hope and optimism about the direction of the continent. It would be protection of national sovereignty, peace, development, protection of each other’s; rights, and the march of a giant continent facing the rest of humanity and equalling them in every way possible.
As if by a carefully scripted text, each of these leaders were either subjected to regime change mentality or sabotage and subterfuge by imperialism. The list is too long to enumerate. The most recent example of this is that of the late Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
A thriving nation with a patriotic, Pan African leader, it was violently attacked by a coalition of the great powers on earth called NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), ostensibly because some ‘rebels’ called for support. Libya was besieged, and Colonel Gadhafi hunted like the way we hunted rats in the rural areas of Ghana. Africa’s response to these unwarranted attacks defines the direction in which we go from now onwards.
Independence has not prevented France, the United Kingdom, even weak and underdeveloped Portugal, and now the United States from treating Africa like a despised orphan in spite of all the hypocritical platitudes about solidarity and aid supported development.
African sovereignty is trampled upon. Our youth have resulted to the high seas to flee from poverty and find employment and dignity elsewhere in Europe, while the middle classes, through agreed corrupt methods and political chicanery siphon off the wealth for development through dubious means to banks in Europe and the United States.
Democracy was meant to help us overcome these trends. Even this one has been disfigured and corrupted to the extent that elections have become a ‘do or die’ affairs in which the ‘stakes are high’ to quote a friend of mine.
For some politicians with a ‘war lord’ mentality, it is either me or no one else. The Courts and Judicial systems have become complicit in this distortion as the politicians use them to keep their dreams and the aspirations alive. Kenya exemplifies this. Even civil society which is expected to take a sensible road and avoid extreme partisan positions have been caught in this game of mouse and cat.
In this game, the interest of citizens does not account for much. The interest of the unemployed, struggling mothers, rural farmers and urban working class do not matter and are insignificant to the interest of the new rapacious ruling elite in every African country.
In this situation, unelected quangos usually created by the Constitution for the good of the country have become part of the arsenal of the ruling elite. These quangos are deployed against progressive leaders working in the interest of the ordinary people. Some do not even support a government’s social interventions policies necessary to take people out of poverty. In Kenya, it is the well-funded western led and directed civil society organisations who play this role of opposition, poking fun at every government intervention with a view to making their western sponsors see them as defenders of some interest.
It has reached a point where civil society in Africa is anything but civil. Without a constituency because they no longer construct wells, build schools, defend the poor women and workers and look elsewhere in the face of child abuse. In Ghana, civil society has become silent in the face of child abuse, but are quick to present themselves as think tanks. They are wide eyed, their views obstructed by their individualistic, selfish approach to development and looking forward to the day, they will be invited to the high table of the African elite. Civil society is now being deployed to serve the interest of the ruling elite.
This is a snapshot of Africa today. Dominated by unelected quangos, ruled by people who have no interest in African led development, the continent is beginning to look like a rudderless ship. Someone recently asked with some quaint hint of disappointment, “where is the Africa Union and ECOWAS” (Economic Community of West African States) in reference to the developing political crisis in Togo. Around somewhere if I may try and answer.
There are many things we do not want, and we know cannot take this continent out of poverty. Yet, there are many things that should also make us proud about Africa. For every single youth who leaves through the deserts of Libya to the high seas, there are several million declaring their love for the continent.
Many women. Both rural and urban, are struggling to create ‘the Africa We Want’. Citizens are making individual and collective sacrifices even if their wealth s whittled away to foreign Banks. So, all is not lost. If only we can deal with the things that we do not want, starting with selfish visionless politicians rowing in the high seas of corruption and creating unnecessary tensions.
My appeal to the Africa Union and many international institutions is that they open up to all Africans both at home and in the Diaspora, to other nations with a genuine desire to support Africa. So far, all intervention by the Africa Union, ECOWAS, SADC are limited to their friends in civil society and the NGO sector they support.
Africa Union, the Africa We Want calls for an open engagement with the whole continent: youth, women, children, people with disabilities, and indeed citizens. There is no point screaming about the “Africa We Want” when the message is limited to the elites. After all, as we say in Ghana, we are All Africans.
By the Managing Editor of Public Agenda(Zaya Yeebo)