Threats to democratic rule in Africa are growing, but time and demography are against the autocrats.
Election irregularities in Zambia follow the typical pattern used across Africa: muzzle the opposition, use state power to harass their supporters, use state institutions that ought to be independent to carry out the bidding of the incumbent political party.
This has been the order of democracy in Africa in the last 50 years leading to alternations between dictatorships and one-party democracies. The seeming reduction in the number of free or partly free countries as against a decade ago seems correlated to reduced commodity prices and stymying of free markets. At the turn of the millennium many African states adopted the free market ideology and this in turn led to new bases of wealth which eventually enabled more people push for changes in the political system.
This cycle of commodity booms and liberalisation going alongside the loosening of the hold that incumbents place on the political system has been a feature of Africa’s recent power dynamic.
What needs to be done to have more stable political systems is to empower state institutions to be independent of the ruling party. The army should be the guarantor of this independence. If there is a role for the international community, it is to hold the army leaders and other power brokers accountable for subverting state institutions.
Ultimately, Africa will only become truly free when it negotiates its ruling elites’ paranoia for unity and control of unjust entities they inherited from abusive colonial powers. Countries across Africa should devolve power to their ethnic nationalities and allow their people determine the path to the future they see independently of powerful and oppressive unitary centres.
This is what Africa’s young people should clamour for- a move away from abusive political systems that currently benefit the old elite who inherited privileges at a time when might was right.
Africa is not poor but it suffers from poverty. And this poverty is due to unbridled capitalism
Image credit: gps-connects.com
“Africans are fools. They allow themselves to be cheated by their leaders and by the rest of the world”
Without further context, this statement may be passed off as the seething outburst of a frustrated foreigner who cannot seem to understand why a continent so rich in natural resources and people does not seem to be able to lift its millions out of poverty. Yet this statement is the expressed frustration of many Africans and is representative of the deep anger that many feel about the current state of affairs on the continent and the complicity of the ruling elite in impoverishing their own communities.
The American police kills more because they are trained to do just that. They are trained to identify confrontational objects as the enemy and eliminate them. They are not a police force, they are military in police uniforms.
War is often waged overseas to protect citizens at home. If American civilians are citizens, why then is war being waged against them at home?
According to the Guardian’s Counted- a database of fatal police shootings, there has been a total of 932 fatalities caused by use of deadly force by police in the first 10 months of 2015. 25% of these were of unarmed civilians, 6% of whom were female. In Australia, police killed 94 people over the course of 19 years from 1992. In the United Kingdom over the last 24 years, police killed 55 people. German police killed 15 people from 2010 to 2011. Iceland’s police killed one person over the last 71 years!
Now listen to this, in 2013, the police force in Finland fired six bullets. In the February 2015 police shooting of Antonio Montes in Pasco, Washington, three police officers fired a whopping 17 bullets at a man who had his hands in the air!
If American civilians are citizens, why then is war being waged against them at home?
Messrs Femi Pedro and Ahmed Sule make sweeping generalizations as though the Nigerian youth were one monolithic block. This assumptive centrality gives their arguments a simplistic skew and is representative of how Nigerians as a whole fail to apply thoroughness in analyzing our national challenges
Young and old white rhino as representative of Nigeria’s two different generations
Image credit: Wikipedia
Nigeria’s socio-cultural structure is not one that offers young people a place or a platform through which they can be heard. This is why middle aged and older men will attempt to stand in positions of authority and attempt to speak to and on behalf of a generation to which they do not belong and of whom they do not understand. It is a culture that prides itself in applying whatever advantage one may have in getting ahead of others. Family wealth, traditional kingship titles and age- nothing is spared in forging forward in what is the scramble of Nigerian life. In our race for worldly success which we define primarily in the material, we commonly accept that poverty in our communities is the result of people’s ancestral sins, their own misfortune and the barriers placed in their way by enemies.
There is the existence of hidden and collective structures of power that surround and control official tenants of government across Africa.
Jean Bayart,The Criminalization of the State in Africa
Photo credit: nations online.org
Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano referred to these power structures as vested interests.
It is this group for whom the Africa rising narrative mostly holds true.
The political system in most of Africa’s 54 countries is inept with a tendency for kleptocracy and self aggrandizement. Given the peculiar nature of the cultural norms in some of its societies e.g. Nigeria, where sudden wealth is acceptable and there is a possibility that criminal networks pay rent to tenants of public offices, there is a high risk that many of its governments may soon be active participants in criminal activities such as the drug trade.
My argument is supported by how Max Brugger in the self shot movie The Ambassador, was able to easily work through European based diplomatic passport brokers to obtain a diplomat’s passport from one of the most senior public leaders in Liberia. It is informative that he paid up to $40,000 directly to the Minister of Foreign affairs- Sherman and was eventually approved by the President- a globally respected African leader.
Sherman fits the categorization of the gate keeper to the inner state- the shadow government that runs African states without the corresponding institutional visibility. At the time Brugger shot his movie in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) , the gatekeeper was Gaston Mackouzangba, Minister of Civil Service and the president’s son Francis Bozize.
Jean Bayart stated in his book entitled, The criminalization of the state in Africa, these men represented invisible power structures that often influenced the tenants of government office to pursue policies that preserved the privileges of different factional interests.
As the world globalizes and criminal non-state actors seek room across the world to distribute and ply their trade, countries with weak governments and elites who abuse state institutions and privatize public resources for self interest will increasingly prove vulnerable to the lure of the drug and other international criminal syndicates.
Criminality is a continuum and the elite of African countries are well steeped in the practice of its intermediate form which is the corruption of the stomach- kleptocracy. The interplay of the interventionism on international criminal syndicates by the West as well as the resources that China offers to African governments in exchange for commodities will both moderate and eventually dictate the extent to which African states actually become active operators in the global underworld.
We will dig more into this in the next post.
YALI Fellow- Adebayo Alonge has brought together Yale University, the Lagos Business School and Lagos State government to organize an infectious diseases management workshop for healthcare professionals.
Ebola killed mostly healthcare workers in Nigeria in 2014 and this workshop is targeted at improving infectious disease management capacity in Nigeria’s health institutions.
You can attend free, click link below for more information.
Infectious Diseases Management Workshop
Democracy does not redistribute wealth neither does it bring about rapid change. Its power is in delivering stability to country systems.
Prof. Ian Shapiro
Should social entrepreneurs have any interest in the nature of politics and governance in their countries? Should they just focus on their entrepreneurship work and isolate themselves from having a say in how governance is run in their countries?
Social entrepreneurs are very important in helping their communities choose good political leaders because of the credibility they enjoy within their societies. It is therefore imperative for social entrepreneurs to be politically engaged in helping their communities choose governments that support civil liberties, personal property rights and economic systems that aid entrepreneurship innovation.