In the shadow of the baobab: Kagame blows cold and hot on a third mandate
March 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Kris Berwouts*
In October 1990, after Fred Rwigyema’s death on the third day the struggle to conquer Rwanda, Paul Kagame took over the command over the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and led it to victory in July 1994. He became Vice-President and Minister of Defense in the transitional government installed after the Rwandan genocide. In March 2000, President Pasteur Bizimungu felt that he could no longer contribute to a regime dominated by the RPF. He resigned and Kagame became the Head of State. He has subsequebtly won presidential elections in 2003 and 2010.
In 2017, when his second mandate as an elected President expires, he will have led the RPF for 27 years and will have been Rwanda’s most powerful individual for 23 years (for17 of which he has been the country’s President). The Constitution, adopted by referendum in May 2003, foresees a maximum of two consecutive mandates for the Head of State. This means that he cannot stand for a new term in 2017.
Very soon after his re-election in August 2010, speculation and rumour developed about the chances that Kagame, with or without a review of the Constitution, would seek a third mandate. On February 27th 2013 he gave a press conference on the issue stating that he is not interested in running again.
This press conference was a reply to earlier announcements by opposition parties such as Victoire Ingabire’s FDU-Inkingi and Frank Habineza’s Green Party that they would oppose changes to the Constitution allowing Kagame to continue. But at the end of the press conference, Kagame left all options open. He isn’t seeking a third mandate and doesn’t ‘need’ this job, but he doesn’t exclude the possibility of bowing to the will of the people if they want him to stay on. “At the end of the day, let’s remember that Rwandans have to decide,” he said.
2010: a landslide victory
On 9 August 2010, Kagame was re-elected with an overwhelming 93% of the vote. In the election itself he faced three candidates who were considered by the traditional opposition as “satellite candidates, phoney opposition players intended to maintain the illusion of pluralism”.
The months before the elections had been very tense when the more genuine opposition parties started to prepare their campaigns: the Social Party Imberakuri (PSI) led by Bernard Ntaganda, the Green Democratic Party (GDP) with a leadership that came mainly from the anglophone community and which, according to many, was a result of the discontent within the RPF; and lastly the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF-Inkingi), formed around presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire, who had returned to Rwanda in January after an absence of 17 years. The leaders of these parties confronted hostility and significant verbal aggression from the authorities and media. Victoire Ingabire in particular, with her clear message and direct, flambuoyant style received a lot of national and international attention. However, when the election actually arrived, none of these candidates were able to formally run for office.
In the end, all went well for Kagame. When you have almost complete control over the legislative, executive and judicial institutions, when an independent press has almost completely disappeared, when that section of opinion which has not openly sided with you has attained an extraordinary level of sophistication in the noble art of self-censorship, when for a large part of national and international opinion you represent the ending of genocide and the return to stability, you don’t lose elections.
The annus horibilis
In the months before the elections the focus of tensions changed. General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a long term companion of President Kagame and former Commander in chief of the Rwandese army, left Rwanda and its regime to join the dissident Colonel Patrick Karegeya in exile in Johannesburg. Karegeya is a former intelligence chief, but above all central to the running of the Congo Desk – created during the war in Congo to manage the exploitation of natural resources in the eastern DRC. In the months after Nyamwasa’s departure, others left too – influential and high profile people like Theodore Rudasingwa (Kagame’s former director of cabinet), Gerald Gahima (former Prosecutor General and Vice-President of the Supreme Court) and Kagame’s private secretary David Himbara. All of a sudden, Kagame wasn’t struggling with his traditional enemies but with his frustrated comrades-in-arms. The ruling inner circle was losing its coherence and had to fight against its own disintegration. When it looked at itself, it was confronted with the cracks in the mirror that belied the united and serene image which it wanted to show to the public in Rwanda as well as internationally.
Three weeks after Kagame’s re-election, the French newspaper Le Monde leaked the draft of the UN’s DRC Mapping Exercise Report which aimed to document the most serious violations of human rights in the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003. In paragraph 517, the report states: “The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide.”
This was nothing less than an earthquake for Rwanda. For a decade and a half the regime functioned as the incarnation of genocide victims over those who had perpetrated it. The report, published on October 1st 2010, suggested that this might only be one side of the story, that the reality of Rwanda’s traumatic recent history might be much more complex.
The report is nothing more than a very extensive inventory of the most important human rights violations in one decade, and as such it is not a basis for prosecution. Most of the facts reported by the UN researchers were known, but for the first time they were brought together in one comprehensive document and acknowledged at the level of an official UN document. Thirty months after the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published the report, there has been insufficient follow-up by governments in Africa’s Great Lakes region and by the UN itself.
The landscape of Rwanda’s political and military elite has changed a lot with Nyamwasa’s departure. There are many indications that Nyamwasa and Karegeya tried to organize an armed resistance on Congolese soil, bringing together people from backgrounds as different as the part of the CNDP that had stayed loyal to Nkunda, certain Mai Mai groups, the FRF, bits of the FARDC and FNL. Contact was even made with some people within the FDLR. All these forces had their reasons to be against Kagame and the ambition was to unite them in an ad hoc movement against the regime in Kigali. To do that, they had to reconcile water and fire. They tried but failed, this was because of several factors.
By the end of 2010 it became clear that they would not able to raise international support for an armed initiative. The main reason for this was that Kayumba Nyamwasa did not have a sufficiently high profile to incarnate the reconciliation of water and fire. He had always been considered a hardliner of the regime, whose conflict with Kagame was about the President’s attempt to dismantle the parallel economic structure that Nyamwasa and Karegeya had organized around the plundering of Congo’s minerals.
It has never been easy to distinguish between hawks and doves inside Rwanda’s regime, but Nyamwasa was definitely not to be considered a dove. He did not seem to have much added value to Kagame in terms of democracy, reconciliation nor good governance. For the same reasons, the political party he founded with Karegeya, Gahima and Rudasingwa isn’t much of a threat to the RPF: Kayumba Nyamwasa and his crew aren’t a credible alternative to Kagame. 2010 was his annus horibilis, but Kagame won back the full control over the regime.
Since 2011, a change of generation has taken place around Kagame. People who are or could be influenced by Nyamwasa lost space and made way for younger men and women with a different profile: born in the late seventies or early eighties, ambitious, well-trained technocrats rather than military, polyglot intellectuals rather than the leaders who grew up in the refugee camps, fought in the bush against Obote and Habyarimana, eventually getting rich through the plundering of Congo. The people who shaped Kagame’s Brave New World were replaced by the people who grew up in it (mostly receiving training and education abroad).
Not another Mugabe
Over the last few months, some Rwanda watchers have seen indications that Kagame is interested in a Buyoya-type of exit scenario: remain present and influential with a rather low profile on the national level, and play a role on the international scene as a mediator in conflicts. Other people believe he’s constructing a more Medvedev – Putin inspired leapfrog. Both sides believe that Kagame would like to avoid the political damage and loss of credibility if he continues. He is not looking forward to gaining a reputation as the new Mugabe or Museveni. His main concern will be to gain guarantees that he will not be persecuted by international justice.
Speculation has inevitably started on who could succeed him. At some point Richard Sezibera seemed in pole position. Born in 1964 and presently Secretary General of the EAC, Sezibera served as Minister of Health and as Ambassador to the US, Rwanda’s Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and as Kagame’s Senior Advisor. He is a medical doctor who practiced for many years in Uganda and Rwanda and has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.
Another person referred to internally as a potential successor is Donald Kaberaku (1951), currently President of the African Development Bank. He studied in Tanzania and the UK (obtaining a PhD in economics from the University of Glasgow). In October 1997 he was appointed minister of finance and economic planning in Rwanda and is considered as one of the masterminds behind the recovery of the Rwandan economy after the genocide.
Sometimes other names appear – they seem to come and go in waves. But Sezibera, in particular, is to be taken seriously.
The M23 misadventure
At the time of writing these lines, the latest offshoot of the RCD-CNDP tree ‘M23’ has been involved in several days of heavy internal fighting between the factions loyal to Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga. The draft of a peace agreement between M23 and the DRC government is circulating, but it remains to be seen if it will ever be signed. M23 started nearly one year ago as another rebellion led by Congolese Tutsi. A settlement might be found around an old school arrangement which integrates the rebels in to the army, giving them grades and control over men and mines. Things might calm down for a while until the next time someone believes that his community’s interests are best served by a new rebellion.
This episode has weakened everybody – including the Rwandan government. It seems they overplayed their hand. As soon as it became clear that Kigali was very actively supporting M23, its most loyal partners took extraordinary measures. Nations like the UK, USA, Sweden, Holland and Germany suspended at least a part of their aid. Rwanda received heavy criticism and now knows that any future moves and actions will be looked upon with great suspicion.
As usual, the events in Congo have divided the Tutsi and, more generally, the Rwandan community in Congo as well as in Rwanda. Unlike earlier Tutsi-led rebellions, M23 wasn’t able to mobilise a lot of support among Congolese Hutu and the Banyamulenge. The Tutsi of South Kivu declared from the very beginning that they had nothing to be gained from the M23 rebllion, with which they did not identify at all. The backbone of M23 were Tutsi from the North Kivutian territories of Rutshuru and Masisi, and since the Framework Agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, they are mainly fighting each other. What separates them (strategy, geography, clans, economic interests, political affinities) is felt within the inner circle of power in Rwanda and affects cohesion there.
Not really, Mr. Blair
I do truly believe that the Rwandan regime is working on a succession scenario. However, anybody who has traveled to Africa knows that nothing, apart from scrub and mushrooms, grows underneath a baobab tree. It is very difficult for new and younger leadership to emerge in the shadow of a strong leader. Kagame led the RPF for more than 22 years and turned the country into a virtual one party state. It is not easy to replace such a leader, even in the most serene conditions. And conditions aren’t serene in Rwanda after one year of the M23. The country has been weakened by the events, as has any other actor in Central Africa involved in it, with the possible exception of Museveni.
Kagame has, however, managed an effective policy of damage limitation. Important international partners threatened to leave, but some of them have come back already. On February 22th Tony Blair wrote a letter, together with Howard G. Buffet, Stand with Rwanda. According to Mr Blair “Slashing international support to Rwanda ignores the complexity of the problem within DRC’s own borders and the history and circumstances that have led to current regional dynamics. Cutting aid does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region, it only ensures that the Rwandan people will suffer — and risks further destabilizing an already troubled region… Cutting aid to Rwanda also risks undoing one of Africa’s great success stories.”
I do not belong to the group of people who believe that the alpha and the omega of Congo’s scourge, woe and disaster can be reduced to Rwanda’s role in it, but I do believe that a huge part of Rwanda’s success story is due to the surplus it extracts from Congo’s minerals, and that the Rwandan government is aware that it needs to consolidate this extraction if it wants to prevent the walls of its reign from tumbling down.
Congo’s complex problems are the fruit of its own colonial and post-colonial history, but the fall of Mobutu’s empire and the difficulties of reinventing and rebuilding the new Congo after the departure of le Président-Fondateur, have been complicated by the fact that Rwanda exported its problems on to Congolese soil.
Of course, “the international community should support the three regional governments — DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda — in their efforts to build a sustainable solution to the conflict”, as stated by Mr Blair, but I don’t really think this will happen without a delicate balance between support and pressure. Not only pressure on the DRC (as it seems is the case in the Framework Agreement signed last month in Addis Ababa), but on all partners involved, Rwanda included. Pressure which does not foresee measures or sanctions is no pressure at all.
*Source African Arguments. Kris Berwouts has, over the last 25 years, worked for a number of different Belgian and international NGOs focused on building peace, reconciliation, security and democratic processes. Until recently, he was the Director of EurAc, the network of European NGOs working for advocacy on Central Africa. He now works as an independent expert on Central Africa.
Multiple challenges for Kenya’s new leader
March 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Karen Allen*
“Uhuru [Kenyatta] has won the presidency. It’s done. Let’s move on.” The son of Kenya’s first independence leader may not have secured Francis Odera’s vote but, like so many other Kenyans, this middle-aged Nairobi resident is just relieved the election has concluded peacefully.
Now he and others believe it is time to return to work and do what Kenyans do best.
Kenya did not burn, in most places riot police remained idle for much of the day, revellers and those licking their wounds showed restraint and Mr Kenyatta and his challenger Raila Odinga drew praise from many Kenyans for statesmanship in their respective speeches.
Yet, as one Kenyan friend put it, there has been a “revolution in Kenyan’s political maturity but not a revolution in the leadership”.
Kenyans have pinned their hopes on a new constitution, which dilutes the power of the presidency and offers a degree of devolution. Most agree that it was a vital ingredient that helped to avoid a repetition of the violence of five years ago. Kenyans have a right to be proud.
Millions of Kenyans are excited at the prospect of having the youngest leader ever – Mr Kenyatta is just 51. He is a familiar figure, the son of the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, but as the country celebrates half a century of independence, Kenya now enters a period of uncertainty .
Mr Odinga is challenging what he calls another “tainted election” tinged with “rampant illegality” at the supreme court.
The detailed allegations will emerge over the coming weeks but it is far from clear whether this “evidence” would significantly sway the result. One has to ask how will Odinga supporters react to a defeat at Kenya’s top court?
Meanwhile, Mr Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are bound by a fragile ethnic alliance which some commentators doubt will last.
And both men are facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes allegedly committed the last time Kenya went to the polls.
Mr Kenyatta was delivered a solid mandate by the Kenyan people. The constitutional threshold he crossed to avoid a second round run-off was indeed “paper thin” but he still won outright.
The matter of the ICC is viewed as an inconvenience rather than an impediment by most of his supporters, who regard Mr Kenyatta as an innocent man, confident he will clear his name.
He also now wields tremendous power, influence and personal wealth. The unwritten narrative from the victorious Kenyatta camp is “Game On”.
The international community’s pre-election threats of “consequences” for Mr Kenyatta may well have backfired.
Their position softened in the days leading up to the election but it was no doubt one reason Kenyans supported Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee coalition.
The Kenyan newspapers bear this out in the post-election flurry, with Ahmednasir Abdullahi, a senior lawyer, writing in The Nation that the Kenyatta and Ruto victory “must be seen as a slap in the face of sponsors of ICC cases”.
Mr Kenyatta has promised to “honour international obligations” but warned foreigners to “respect the sovereignty” of his country.
Britain, which committed £16m ($24m; 18m euros) to the Kenyan election, is going to have to find an accommodation with the new leadership.
Not only does it rely on co-operation from Kenya to deliver its long-term security agenda but five of the top firms in Kenya are wholly or partly British-owned.
So look out for compromises and a more conciliatory tone. Lawyers are discussing the possibility of giving evidence at The Hague via video link and British businesses will be keen to keep Mr Kenyatta on side.
Price of peace
Which brings us to the issue of peace. Campaigners for justice have coined the phrase “peace coma”.
They argue that, blinded by the “haze of peace” which mercifully kept violence off the street, Kenyan voices of dissent risk being hushed for fear of being branded peace traitors.
Jebet, a member of Mr Ruto’s Kalenjin community in the Rift Valley, fears that “Kenya has gone back to the Moi era”.
President Daniel Arap Moi ruled with an iron fist until the advent of multi-party politics in the early 1990s.
As a Kalenjin, Jebet says: “We have gone back to an irrational system that says, let’s take care of our own… and looking after our own has not paid off for the majority of Kenyans.”
Jebet, like many other young Kenyans. worries that checks and balances on Kenya’s leadership will be muted for the sake of peace.
A prominent commentator from one of Kenya’s daily newspapers has spoken of a similar fear: “The peace industry has overwhelmed the media, it has basically become uncritical, losing its oversight role.”
These may be premature fears before the president has even been sworn in but they do speak to Kenya’s complex contradictions.
On the one hand, Kenya has embarked on a new kind of politics, ushering in a new constitution. The promise of more democratic rights for more people is considered by the majority to have helped deliver a calm and peaceful election.
But it is the same political elite that has secured the levers of power. Many believe the challenge now is for the new leadership to convince Kenyans that they will use that power for the benefit of all, to continue on that democratic path.
A first step would be to reach out to those who did not vote for them.
Africa’s rocky road to democracy
March 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
By John Mukum Mbaku*
It is now more than 20 years since pro-democracy grassroots organizations led struggles that eventually resulted in the overthrow of long-serving authoritarian regimes in many countries in Africa.
Since the 1990s, there have been significant improvements in the transition to democratic governance in Africa. However, there have also been some major reversals.
Unfortunately, some pre-1990 incumbent leaders (for example, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe) remain in power, despite efforts by the opposition to unseat them.
In addition, Mali, which had made significant progress toward deepening and institutionalizing democracy, suffered major regression, first, by the capture and subsequent occupation of the northern part of the country by a group of separatist rebels, and second, by a military coup that ousted its democratically elected government.
Soldiers also intervened in Guinea-Bissau, suspended government institutions and proceeded to engage in activities that seriously undermined the rule of law. Meanwhile, violent mobilization by ethnic and religious groups continue to negatively impact governance in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Kenya, Uganda, and Madagascar.
The failure of national institutions to grant adequate protection to individual liberties continues to plague countries such as The Gambia, where a U.N report says several prison inmates were executed last year without due process of law, and South Africa where the police last year used deadly force against miners who were exercising their rights to strike.
Despite these setbacks, there have been significant and spectacular achievements in the continent’s struggle to deepen and institutionalize democracy.
Ghana continues to lead the way. First, after the country’s president, John Atta Mills, died in office in July 2012, he was succeeded, as required by the constitution, by the country’s vice president, John Dramani Mahama. Second, in December 2012, the country held competitive, fair and peaceful elections, which were won by Mahama. He was subsequently sworn in as the country’s president.
Finally, Ghana has also shown significant leadership in openness and transparency in government. In 2003, Ghana committed to the extractive industries transparency initiative and has since emerged as a leading example of how governments can minimize corruption in the management of public revenues from the extractive sector.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, Guinea and Malawi have made some gains as they move steadily towards democratic governance.
Ivory Coast, after a violent and extremely bloody civil war, inaugurated a new president, followed by the development of new laws and institutions, especially those dealing with corruption and openness and transparency in government. In addition, the country now has a fully functioning legislative assembly, and the country’s security situation, previously worsened by sectarian strife, has improved significantly.
Sierra Leone, whose institutions were destroyed by a long and brutal civil war, has seen restoration of many national institutions and a return to the rule of law. This is exemplified by the fact that the country’s 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections were free, fair and peaceful and the results were accepted by the people. The winners went on to form a government which continues to rule the country in peace.
Senegal also held elections in 2012, which resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. Since taking office, the new president, Macky Sall, has made significant efforts to improve openness and transparency in government, as well as force public officials to be accountable to the constitution and the people.
Lesotho’s governance system was strengthened by successfully conducting fair and free elections, which resulted in the peaceful transfer of power. Both Malawi and Guinea saw some improvements in their governance systems — in Guinea, opportunities for civic dialogue improved significantly and in Malawi, the death of the sitting president was not followed by bloody chaos; instead, as required by the constitution, the vice president, Joyce Banda, was inaugurated the new president.
The Arab Spring brought significant improvements to governance structures in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The tragic death of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, by self-immolation, brought about a grassroots political movement among Tunisians that effectively overthrew the country’s authoritarian ruler, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
This movement, which was subsequently nicknamed the Arab Spring, spread to Egypt and Libya, resulting in the ouster of long-serving dictatorships in those countries as well. Elections, considered fair and free, have since been held in all three countries and each now has a democratically elected government.
Nevertheless, many groups within these countries, especially those which historically have suffered exploitation and persecution at the hands of their governments (e.g., ethnic and religious minorities, and women) have expressed the fear that although these new regimes came to power through democratic elections, they are likely to reject or abandon democracy once they have had a chance to consolidate their power bases.
Already, such fears appear to be coming true in Egypt, where the new president, Mohamed Morsy, has already engaged in extra-constitutional practices to grab more power for himself.
In addition, the elected parliament was dissolved by the anachronistic supreme constitutional court, and the new constitution was hurriedly drafted and done so through a top-down, elite-driven, non-participatory process.
As a consequence, what had started as a dynamic grassroots-led program to transform Egypt’s laws and institutions and produce a more effective and relevant governance architecture, has degenerated into a struggle by entrenched interests, led by Morsy and his Freedom and Justice party, to further entrench themselves politically and economically.
In Tunisia, the revolution, which since the ouster of Ben Ali had been progressing well, despite opposition from several Islamist groups, suffered significant regression following the brutal and cowardly assassination of Chokri Belaid, a secularist and staunch critic of the ruling Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.
Meanwhile, the brutal assassination of the U.S. ambassador and the wanton destruction of property in Benghazi, the cradle of the Libyan revolution, is indicative of a still-born transformation, one that had failed to create institutions capable of guaranteeing the rule of law in Libya.
The struggles of grassroots organizations in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are symptomatic of what needs to be done throughout Africa to deepen and institutionalize democracy.
The many individuals that participated in North Africa’s grassroots revolution to replace authoritarianism with democracy are frustrated because their revolutions did not achieve their critical goals — reconstruction and reconstitution of anachronistic and dysfunctional state systems inherited from the ancien régimes to provide legal and judicial systems that guarantee the just rule of law.
That is, laws and institutions that protect individuals’ rights, including protecting all citizens from violence directed at them either by state or non-state actors, and enhance people’s ability to engage in productive activities to create the wealth that they need to fight poverty and improve their living conditions.
Such laws are consistent with the provisions of the universal declaration of human rights and other international human rights instruments. These revolutions, as has been the case in other African countries, were hijacked by entrenched opportunists, whose main interest is in preserving the status quo, so that they can continue to use these anachronistic state structures to enrich themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens.
In order to advance the transition to democratic governance in Africa, as well as minimize the chances of regression, each African country must engage all its relevant stakeholder groups in state reconstruction through democratic (i.e., bottom-up, participatory, inclusive and people-driven) constitution making to produce institutional arrangements that adequately constrain civil servants and political elites, enhance the ability of each country’s diverse population groups to coexist peacefully, and create economic and political environments that maximize entrepreneurial activities and the creation of wealth.
*Source CNN .John Mukum Mbaku is presidential distinguished professor of economics and Willard L. Eccles professor of economics & John S. Hinckley research fellow at Weber State University. He is also a nonresident senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., and an attorney and counselor at law, State of Utah.
Africa investment boom sees beyond conflict-driven headlines
February 26, 2013 | 0 Comments
* Africa equity funds expand nearly fivefold in last 6 years
* Investors include local pension and sovereign wealth funds
* Nigeria banking stocks among top picks
* High returns, low correlations attract funds
By Carolyn Cohn*
Turmoil in Tunisia? Conflict in Mali? Fraught elections in Kenya? Investment in Africa is thriving regardless.
African investment funds have grown nearly five times in value in the past six years and are attracting new forms of capital, from local pension money to sovereign wealth funds.
Conflicts are still making the news and corruption remains a concern. Elections in Kenya next month and a probable vote in Zimbabwe in July are also stoking unease.
But investors have worked out that economies and markets vary widely in this large continent, and that businesses can carry on through difficult political times.
They are also looking beyond the region’s natural resources.
Favoured investment plays now include banking stocks, particularly in Nigeria, with demand seen for financial services from a growing middle class. Telecoms, pharmaceuticals and breweries are also in demand, while mining stocks remain attractive, though these are often listed outside Africa.
Investors have become more knowledgeable about Africa, and focus more on how, rather than whether, they will commit funds.
“When I was in Europe a few weeks ago, I noticed that people no longer ask so many questions about Africa but more about us,” said Sven Richter, head of frontier markets at Renaissance Asset Managers. “They have come to a realisation that Africa is not one country – if you heard there was a problem in Slovenia, would you worry about investments in France?”
Equity funds that badge themselves Africa or African held assets of less than $1 billion in 2006, according to Lipper data. That rose to over $3 billion by the end of 2011, and to nearly $5 billion by the end of last year.
That is small compared with over $38 billion in funds labelled Latin American at the end of 2012 but with a much stronger growth — a near five-fold increase in six years for Africa funds, versus less than 40 percent growth for Latin American ones.
African equity funds include major names like Templeton and Morgan Stanley as well as Africa specialists such as Investec and Renaissance.
The sum covers funds bunching north Africa and the Middle East or focused mainly on north or south, but excludes those invested mainly in better developed South Africa and the Africa component of many frontier funds.
The economies of Africa, the world’s poorest continent, are among the fastest-growing, though it’s from a low base, at only a few percent of the world’s GDP.
The change is driven by youthful populations coupled with improving mortality rates and an expanding middle class, as well as by exports to richer economies.
Analysts point to economic reforms in many countries, even when this does not go hand in hand with democratic reform.
“Countries are starting to enter into their second series of free and fair elections, but to paint all of Africa as a Switzerland is pushing it,” said Gus Macfarlane, director of political risk consultancy Maplecroft, who added that corruption has not lessened significantly in recent years.
Nevertheless, economic reforms have allowed local pension funds to set up, while intra-regional trade has also risen.
Sovereign wealth funds, particularly from the Middle East, are increasingly enamoured of the high returns in the riskier markets of Africa, compared with the developed world.
African stocks can be volatile, dropping 30 percent in 2011. But they have outperformed broader frontier and emerging market indices since, climbing 38 percent in 2012 and over 9 percent so far in 2013.
Some of the best-performing stocks in the past year have been Nigerian banks like Guaranty Trust and Zenith , as investors reckon financial services will catch up with ballooning demand for mobile phones and consumer brands.
Big Pharma is also attracted by opportunities to treat chronic diseases afflicting the new middle classes, rather than just fire-fighting infection.
Private equity deals in Africa have attracted mainstream houses like Carlyle, which last year set up offices in Johannesburg and Lagos, and invested in a cashew nut trader in Tanzania.
Standard Chartered invested in Zimbabwe last year and said this month it was looking for more deals there, while local bond markets across the continent are also in the radar, alongside several billion dollars of hard currency bonds.
African markets have avoided much of the lock-step trading that has characterised bigger markets during the global crises of the past few years, making them a useful diversification play.
They are neither closely correlated to the larger emerging markets like those of the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China, nor even to one another.
Kenyan stocks and Egyptian stocks have a 200-day correlation of only 0.1, for instance, where a reading of 1 would signal perfect correlation.
There have been flashpoints across the continent over the past few years, starting with the Arab Spring regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt two years ago.
But that failed to deter veteran emerging market investor Mark Mobius, who was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at a time of protests late last year and kept Egypt holdings in his $1 billion frontier fund, while local stock Orascom Construction has attracted the attention of Bill Gates.
In Mali, where French troops are among those trying to crush rebels in the north, investors point to the distances in this vast country, insulating southern-based mining companies.
Senegalese telecoms company Sonatel, which has 64 percent of the market share in Mali, beat 2012 profit forecasts.
But investors may grow more cautious ahead of the Kenyan elections, after a vote in 2007 set off unexpected post-election violence. And in Zimbabwe, a March 16 referendum on a proposed new constitution should pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in July in a country where violence overshadowed disputed polls in 2008.
Low volumes also make getting in and out of trades difficult and expensive, while governments may not always pay up – Ivory Coast restructured debt in 2010, only to default on it less than a year later, following civil war.
The continent is so complex that investors also complain the level of analyst research on various markets is not always sufficient, favouring specialist emerging market investors who are able to carry out their own on-the-ground checks.
Local Africa-watchers say investors may not take into account the fact that new-found wealth is not trickling across the populations – in Nigeria, the gap between rich and poor is rising, even though the country is expected to grow nearly 7 percent this year.
Investors may ignore these issues at their peril, as social unrest can hinder investment.
It’s a concern for Alquity Investment Management, which runs an Africa equity fund on a sustainable model, taking into account environmental, social and governance factors. Failing to take account of those risks can destroy long-term shareholder value, Alquity says.
David Mcilroy, chief investment officer of Alquity, says Africa investors also have to take a longer term view and not be afraid to ride out short-term turbulence.
“You have to roll with the punches,” he said. “We are long-term investors, we are not traders.”
A Salute To Big Boss: Keshi Rests The Case For African Coaches
February 13, 2013 | 1 Comments
A Salute To Big Boss: Keshi Rests The Case For African Coaches
“It’s not for me alone. I hope more African coaches will get to this position and make their country proud,” says the Nigerian Coach
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Nigeria may have won the just ended African Nations Cup in South Africa but if there is one individual who needs to be singled out as the man of the tournament, it is undoubtedly Stephen Keshi who coached the victorious side. Only the second individual to win the cup as a player and as a Coach, Keshi’s feat makes the case for more Africans to be trusted with responsibilities of managing National Teams across the continent.
As is often the case, the bulk of countries at the Nations cup came with foreign coaches. Few are those who gave Keshi’s Nigeria a chance to emerge victorious. After missing out at the 2010 tournament, the Nigerian football Federation gave Keshi fondly known as the “Big Boss” the responsibility of leading the Super Eagles. It was a daunting task, but he took to it with principles of his own and chief amongst them: banking on local talent. People could not understand why he deployed so much energy working with players who ply their trade in the domestic league in Nigeria when the country had top notch professionals playing in Europe. The truth is the professionals failed woefully at the world cup in South Africa and did not even make it to the 2011 nations cup hosted by Equatorial Guinea and South Africa.
Guided by his principles, Keshi went to South Africa for the Nations Cup with at least six home based players. His decision to leave behind some of the big professional players generated skepticism. The skepticism gained currency when Nigeria could only pick draws in its first two matches against Burkina Faso and Zambia. As is often the case in Africa, word started going round that Keshi will be sent packing after the tournament in preference of a foreign coach.
Against all odds, the Nigeria that fans saw in the knock out stages was completely transformed. First star studded hot favourites Ivory Coast were sent
packing and talk about a policy paying off, it was one of the home based players groomed by Keshi who scored the winning goal. It took a victory over Ivory Coast for people to start thinking that perhaps Keshi was right. At the end Nigeria were crowned champions and in vindication of his vision and philosophy, Sunday Mba who scored the lone goal that won cup is a home based played.
As Nigeria and the continent celebrate his victory, isn’t it time for the other countries to think about giving more African coaches the free hand and resources to manage football? At most of the press conferences Keshi held, the topic kept coming up. “I am never against a white coach in Africa, because I’ve always worked with white coaches,” Keshi said. “If you want to bring in a classic, an experienced coach from Europe, I am ready to learn from that coach, because he’s better than me, he has more knowledge than me,” Keshi who captained the Nigerian Team that won the 1994 nations cup went on. “We have quality African players, or ex-African players, who can do the same thing, but they’re not given the opportunity because they’re just black dudes. I don’t like it,” Keshi complained.
Keshi has a reason to complain and he is a perfect example of a Coach who sowed and someone else was brought it to reap. He qualified little fancied Togo for the 2006 World Cup in Germany only to be replaced by a foreigner who was not as competent as he was .The result, a promising Togolese side had a lousy outing in Germany. Even with his experiment working in South African, there were rumours flying around of plans by the Nigerian Football authorities to replace him. Such disrespect prompted him to consider resignation after his country was crowned as African champions.
There is nothing wrong in having a foreign coach but is it rationale to bring in substandard coaches when there are qualified Africans who can produce better results? How many sides in Europe or South America will consider having a foreigner to coach their national teams? How comes African countries bring in coaches who are considered incompetent to coach clubs that their professional players excel in?
So many reasons are advanced for not trusting African coaches, competence, tribalism, corruption, et al. The truth remains that give these guys the same treatment reserved for white coaches and there will be produce results. Give African coaches contracts, pay them the same salaries foreign coaches are paid, make their working conditions the same, give them a free hand to manage the teams, give them ample time to build a team and the odds are that the results will come.
When it is considered a favour to give an African the responsibility of serving as coach, with low wages, unbearable working conditions and no free hand to do the job, it is hard to expect positive results. Egypt won the nations cup thrice in succession with an Egyptian as a coach. For the numerous foreign coaches it continues to have today, the only time Ivory Coast won a nations cup was in 1992 when they had Yao Martial an Ivorian serving as coach. Keshi’s gamble in blending local talent and professionals and instilling a winning mentality into his side speaks to the genius of African coaches. Nigeria’s victory in South Africa was no accident, it was because of the talent assembled by the brilliance, conviction, and principles of Stephen Keshi. He deserves a big salute and Africa should learn to trust its own talents.
January 28, 2013 | 1 Comments
-Elections in Ghana, chaos in Francophone Africa, misguided praise for Rawlings, the African Union, Obama and Africa et al
-Ghanaian Professor George Ayittey shares perspectives on challenging times in the continent
By Ajong Mbapndah L
An interview with Professor George Ayittey is always exciting. He has a mastery of facts, broad knowledge of the continent and major events. A prolific writer, Prof Ayittey who heads the Free Africa Foundation is one of those uncompromising critics of poor leadership in Africa. Ayittey expresses regret that the Arab Spring did not extend to Sub Saharan Africa but remains optimistic with the emergence of a more critical and dynamic younger generation. Unlike the last couple of elections which have made Ghana a reference in the continent, results of the 2011 elections were contested by the opposition but Prof Ayittey believes that the elections were free and fair. Ayittey also cautions Africans to lower their expectations of President Obama in a broad interview which also discusses the African Union, crisis in Francophone Africa, controversies on the Rawlings legacy in Ghana and more.
Prof Ayittey, looking back at 2012, what worked and what did not, in what areas or sectors did you see encouraging developments for the continent?
The year 2012 provided a sobering reality check into the Arab Spring. The euphoria that greeted the initial ouster of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak had subsided somewhat and terms such as Arab Autumn were being used instead. The revolutions, started by the youth in Tunisia and Egypt had been hijacked by senile clerics – some in exile for decades. Rival militias occasionally battled each other in Libya. And Bashar al-Assad continues to slaughter his people with impunity. Over 60,000 so far have been killed. Was the euphoria and bubbling optimism justified?
Rather disappointingly, the Arab Spring did not spread down to Sub-Saharan Africa and dictators, such as Paul Biya of Cameroon and Isaiah Afewerki of Eritrea continue to hold sway. There were even set-backs in Mali, where a democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup in April, 2012 and another coup in Guinea-Bissau a month later. The coup in Mali sparked a rebellion by the Tuaregs and, in alliance with the terrorist group, Ansar Dine, declared the northern part of Mali as independent state of Azawad. This of course has created a major international crisis that has led the French to intervene in Mali.
2012 offers some poignant lessons to democracy activists. Topping a dictator is only the first step in establishing a free society. The next step is dismantling the dictatorship itself. It is analogous to having a bad driver with a defective vehicle. After sacking the driver, the vehicle itself must be fixed or else the new driver will quickly land in a ditch.
In far too many countries, the second step is either not attempted or botched, which leads to a reversal or hijacking of the revolution. This happens when a “crocodile liberator,” such as Charles Taylor of Liberia, turns out to be far worse than the dictator he claims to have overthrown. It can also occur when quack revolutionaries flaunting fake democratic credentials hijack revolutions to stay in power and serve their own megalomaniacal agendas. Recall that a reversal of Mali’s 1991 revolution occurred when mutinous soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government. As seemingly stable Mali revealed, hard-won democratic gains in Africa remain fragile.
In addition to the dictator’s willingness to accept change, three factors will determine the success or failure of revolutionary upheavals: the duration of the transition process; who manages the transition; and implementation of constitutional and institutional reforms.
A hasty transition process almost always leads to failure. After all, it took the United States 13 years to transition from independence in 1776 to democratic rule in 1789. South Africa took three. A short transition period — say, six months — does not allow new parties time to organize and gives old opposition parties an edge. This is what happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of Tunisia said in Germany, “We toppled the dictator but the whole system has not been overturned.”
After the transition, a whole battery of reforms must be implemented. For a revolution to be sustained, the constitution must be revamped and institutions cleansed of the “nomenklatura.” Sadly, in many countries, real reforms were not implemented, allowing the return of authoritarianism from Ethiopia to Uganda.
And it is clear that wherever the transition was managed by the military or a rebel group, the outcome has been disastrous. Military dictators simply manipulated the process, created their own parties, shooed in their favorite parties or “civilianized” themselves by shedding military uniforms and donning civilian clothes.
Nigeria’s transition by its military dictators was the most egregious. General Ibrahim Babangida began it in 1985. He created two parties for Nigeria and wrote their manifestoes, too. When the 1993 presidential elections produced a winner he didn’t like, he annulled the elections. Egypt’s transition today is similarly flawed; the Supreme Council of the Armed Forced botched it so badly that protesters are now demanding its resignation.
Hopefully in 2013, we will draw lessons from our mistakes.
Now to specifics and we start with the good ones, another election in Ghana with the success tainted by cries of foul play from the opposition, what happened and did the opposition have any case against the victory of Mr Mahama?
The elections where free and fair and there were few reports of voter intimidation, harassment or stuffed ballots. But it was in the counting of the votes and tallying the results that problems emerged. The main opposition party has mounted a challenge and have amassed what they claim to be “incontrovertible evidence of fraud.” They have filed a petition before Ghana Supreme Court. Since John Mahama has already been sworn in as president, it means the Supreme Court can invalidate his election and install a new president. This is the first time a case like this has come before the Supreme Curt, so everyone is waiting with baited breath.
For someone who hits so hard on leaders and flawed elections in the continent, what does the example of Ghana tell us about the complexities of more democracy with free and fair elections across the continent?
Holding elections should not be that complicated. There are 5 stages of the electoral process:
1. Registering and compiling a list of eligible voters (voter’s registry), identifying polling stations and setting a date for elections.
2. Transporting ballots, ballot boxes and other materials to the polling stations and allowing people to vote freely without any hindrance or intimidation.
3. Counting the votes in a transparent manner with representatives of all political parties present. There is a “collation sheet” at each polling station which they must sign to verify that the counting was accurate.
4. Transmitting the results from the polling stations to the strong room of the Electoral Commission and resolving any discrepancies in the numbers and any other disputes to the satisfaction of all parties.
5. Announcing the results.
Problems can occur at each of these stages:
1. Ineligible voters may be registered – for example, minors or citizens of neighboring countries; some eligible voters – say supporters of a particular party – purged from the voter rolls. Or the register may be inflated with fictitious or ghost names.
2. On election day, ballot materials may not arrive on time; ballot boxes may arrive already stuffed; voters may be prevented from casting their ballots through intimidation, beatings by hired thugs; indelible ink can easily be washed off, allowing some people to vote multiple times, though this is not possible with the current biometric system but the machines can break down, etc.
3. In vote counting, the media and election observers – both foreign and domestic – may be debarred from polling stations to witness the actual voting. Not all ballots may be properly marked and must be rejected. There may be a sudden black-out, forcing votes to be counted in the dark or by candles, flashlight and lanterns. A fake tally sheet may be substituted for the real one and polling agents may be bribed to sign off on it. Polling agents of some parties may not even be there.
4. Transmitting the results from the polling stations and resolving inconsistencies, discrepancies and disputes. This stage may be skipped altogether. The Electoral Commissioner may act arbitrarily, refuse to engage or consult with reps of the political parties, and rush to announce the results. Or he may engage them but intimidate, bludgeon or railroad them into accepting his final results.
5. The last stage is announcing the results. Obviously, the final results must be certified by all parties BEFORE they are announced. This is to ensure that all issues – inconsistencies, discrepancies, etc. – have been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties before the results are announced. What if voting in some polling station is not complete or votes are still being counted, or some ballot boxes are missing?
Certainly, there were problems during Ghana’s elections: Allegations that the voters’ register had been padded with over 5 million ghost names; ballot papers did not arrive on time, forcing the extension of voting to the next day, instances of voter intimidation, etc. The following incidents were reported on Twitter: #ghanaelections: https://twitter.com/ghanaelections
· Ayigya EC polling officer arrested for not stamping over 200 ballots cast!
· Snatching of #BallotBoxes here and there… Manhyia, Kentinkrono, Ablekuma,
· Chaos at Ablekuma North constituency. Voting has been halted.
· Voting in Mbrom polling centre to be deferred
· The DCE of Walewale has reportedly been arrested for allegedly snatching a ballot box but was later released.
· Unconfirmed report says there are still no materials at the Dome Kwabenya constituency
· The citizens of Nkwanta South in the Volta Region say they are not voting for lack of dev. in the area.
· Reports that an NDC supporter has just been beaten to death in the Ashanti region?
· A tear gas shot at the Ablekuma North Constituency to deter people from creating confusion
· Just heard of a guy who got lynched while running with a ballot box at Ayeduase, Kumasi.
· Verification machine not recognizing the thumb of Dr Wireko Brobbey
Considering the fact that there were over 26,000 polling stations, these incidents were minor. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), for example, reported incidents of intimidation and harassment at only 13 polling stations – less than 0.01 percent. http://bit.ly/STqAqe. Media access was also generally free. Here are the views of Rebecca, a first time voter on video http://bit.ly/TYtHMo
Stages 1, 2, and 3 appeared to have gone smoothly, earning the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, high praise from all quarters – from ECOWAS, AU, both foreign and domestic observers. However, it appears stages 4 and 5 were seriously compromised. I warned about this, referencing Josef Stalin, who once quipped: “It is not those who vote that count (matter) but rather those who count the votes.” Voting can occur smoothly – free and fair without intimidation or violence, as was observed on Dec 7 and 8. But that is not the full story. Counting of the votes and tabulation of the results can be falsified or doctored. Furthermore, fake results can be transmitted to the Electoral Commission. But such errors can be easily detected and rectified.
The main opposition party, the New Patriotic Pary (NPP) claimed that there were 1.5 million invalid votes, coming from three sources: over-voting, where more people voted than registered; people voting without biometric verification, which is illegal; and cases where the collation sheets were not signed by the Returning Officer of the Electoral Commission, thereby invalidating the results.
Ghana’s Constitution allows any citizen to file a petition before the Supreme Court to challenge the validity of a president election. Nana Akufo-Addo, the main opposition challenger, has filed such a petition before the Supreme Court and Ghanaians are anxiously awaiting it ruling.
So even though the elections in Ghana were ostensibly free and fair, it appears fraudulent results were announced and the Supreme Court will decide the issue. Still, Ghanaians must be commended for being patient and following through with the Constitutional challenge. They have refrained from going on to the streets to vent their anger, which could have resulted in violence.
Prior to those elections you penned a very interesting piece on why democracy seems to be working in Ghana, citing amongst others the role of the media, can you use the analysis to sum up a picture of how democracy could thrive more in the continent?
Yes I did but the price of democracy is eternal vigilance. Three factors are needed to make democracy work. The first is the existence of a free media; in particular, print and broadcast media. In Africa, radio is the life and death of information transmission and the proliferation of FM radio stations in Ghana provided an invaluable tool to expose problems, hold government accountable and ensure transparent elections. In the 2000 elections, for example, FM Radio stations sent their reporters to every polling station. Anything suspicious or unseemly was immediately reported on the air, leading electoral officers and observers to rush to the scene and fix the problem on the spot. They did not have to wait months for a voluminous report to expose the problem, by which time it would have been too late. Thus, the FM Radio stations ensured a level of transparency seldom seen in African elections. So impressed was New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman that he wrote: “Let’s stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let’s instead make all aid, all I.M.F.-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments’ permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest,” he wrote (“Low Tech Democracy,” The New York Times, May 1, 2001; p.A13).
The second is the existence of a vibrant and vigilant civil society groups and NGOs – all made possible by freedom of association, of expression and movement, as well as improvements in communication technology such as cell phones and text messaging. There are hordes of NGOs – promoting a diverse range of issues such as good governance combatting corruption, among others. Some have been formed specifically to oversee the Dec 7 elections. One with impressive credentials is the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which organized the presidential debates. The IEA also facilitated the crafting of a “Political Parties Code of Conduct” and the setting up of a National Enforcement Body to enforce the code. Eight parties have signed on. The code ensures that the political parties behave responsibly and can be held liable for any unlawful or unethical acts they commit. Nearly all civil society groups, including religious leaders have been preaching peaceful elections.
To this group may be added Ghanaians in the diaspora, who have a passionate interest in the affairs of their home country. Annually, they send some $2 billion in remittances to their country. They can shape and influence political opinion, as well as support various political candidates. With access to the foreign media, governments and institutions, they can raise a stink over electoral shenanigans in Ghana.
Third, and strong and well-prepared opposition is needed to make democracy work in Africa. In 2012, the opposition seemed better prepared this time around and had done its homework. It mapped out areas where fraud was possible and prepared documents, identifying these areas, as well as crafting procedures to counter fraud at polling stations. These documents were handed over to both domestic and foreign election observers. For example, fraud is likely to take place in the big cities like Tamale, Bolgatanga, Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast and Sekondi Takoradi.
Certainly, the media has a strong role to play but a strong civil society group is needed as well.
Ivory Coast, then Mali and now Central Africa Republic, what is happening to the Francophone Africa, are we seeing the end of the French empire or what?
The ex-French colonies have been imploding with deafening staccato. Recall that there was Rwanda, then Zaire (nor Congo DR), Tunisia and Libya before Ivory Coast, Mali and Central African Republic. My view is that we should look at French colonial policies. France never prepared its African colonies for real independence.
French colonial policies were highly centralized and authoritarian. The French adopted a policy of deliberate destruction of the great paramount chieftaincies. By 1937 only 50 of them remained, most of which had been deprived of their prestige. French colonial policy had two strands. One was assimilation, the approach taken by Louis Faidherbe in Senegal under which the colony became an integral part of the mother country rather than a separate but protected state. Further, the colonized were expected to assimilate French culture. The rationale for assimilation was based on the belief of French cultural superiority. In fact, French colonialists felt they had a “mission civilisatrice.”
The other strand in French colonial policy was association. This concept was developed and applied by Savorgnan de Brazza in Central Africa. Those advocating association believed that, though assimilation was desirable, it was impracticable because non‑Western people were racially inferior and would never be accepted, even if fully assimilated. Association, on the other hand, would permit the subject people to develop within their own cultures.
Association was akin to the British policy of indirect rule. The French version differed in some fundamental respects, however. The French colony was part of France rather than a separate political entity. The French also had no intention of using Africa’s traditional rulers as intermediaries. They allied themselves with African rulers in order to neutralize them until they could be eliminated or deposed at convenience. Those who remained were put in the position of serving as agents of the colonial state rather than rulers in their own right. For example, when the French conquered Dahomey in 1894, General Dodds dismembered the kingdom. Only the central province, the area around the capital of Abomey, remained; the rest of the provinces were placed under direct French rule or made into new kingdoms. Where there were no central authorities, as in stateless African societies such as the Fulani and Somali, the French created new canton chiefs.
INDEPENDENCE AND AFTERMATH
When Guinea voted “No” to association with France and proclaimed its independence on October 2, 1958, France was miffed. It was not supposed to happen that way, up-setting French scheme of things. Viewed as a defiance, Charles de Gaulle ordered the withdrawal of all French functionaries from Guinea. Two weeks later, only 15 of the 4,000 French officials remained. The French emptied their cash registers and shipped the weapons of the police, the library of the Ministry of Justice, and the furniture of the governor’s palace back to France. In a burst of vindictiveness, some Frenchmen went so far as to rip out telephone wires and electrical fixtures, cut fruit trees, uproot gardens, tear down walls, scrawl obscene curses on buildings, and reroute a ship carrying 5,000 tons of rice.
The harsh treatment of Guinea was meant to give the other French colonies a warning. They could be next if they contemplated any such moves. When the clamor for independence was becoming insistent in the 1960s,to appease it, token independence was granted the colonies while France controlled everything from behind the scenes.
The French never equated decolonization with retreat. Charles de Gaulle, assisted by a handful of competent and ruthless men, managed an incredible sleight of hand: not a termination of France’s control over its former African colonies, but a transformation of its control into something quite original — a community of nations, sharing one currency, that was tied to France economically, politically, culturally and, of course, militarily. African children were taught that their ancestors were Gaulles and that the deserving among them would gain French citizenship.
France left hundreds of officials in Africa as “advisers.” Behind the doors of many key ministries in the Ivory Coast and Senegal or Gabon, discreet but powerful French officials kept a close eye on policy. The French also sent teachers to Africa and brought African students and civil servants to France for training. France’s primacy as an external actor in central and western Africa thus continued largely unabated after colonialism. In fact, in 1993, there were more French citizens — about 100,000 — in post-colonial Africa than at independence.
A web of controls was also spun around the economies of its colonies in order to advance French economic interests. Special budgetary arrangements were made with France and the sister franc Communaute Financiere Africain (CFA) was created for the former French colonies in 1948 with its valued pegged at 50 CFA to 1 French franc (FF). France also set up a Department of Cooperation to provide French colonies with financial aid, tariff concessions, and support for their currencies. The department had an African aid budget five times greater than that of Britain. In 1988, for example, France spent $2,591 million in aid to Africa; Britain spent $516 million. More than half of French foreign aid went to Africa, making France the continent’s foremost patron. In 1993, for example, France’s budget for overseas aid was $7.9 billion (The Economist, Aug 12, 1995; p.35). And bailing out Francophone African governments by financing budget deficits was becoming expensive, costing the French treasury $2 to $3 billion annually. But much of that aid was nearly 100 percent tied; it was spent on French contractors, French goods and services. By tying aid to French suppliers, it denied Francophone countries the opportunity to shop around for cheaper bargains. Further, it denied Africans the opportunity to develop their skills as work on projects was contracted out to skilled French workers.
The common currency (CFA) and its link to the FF stabilized prices in Francophone Africa but at a tremendous geopolitical cost. By linking the CFA to the French franc and by insisting that Francophone African countries keep 30 to 35 percent of their deposits with the Bank of France, French banking connections were able to exercise “a far more effective system of control than any form of colonization.” Furthermore, the linkage of the monetary system accelerated flight of capital out of Francophone Africa: “Over $500 million worth of local CFA currency was being illegally shipped out every year, about one-third of all the notes in circulation.” On January 11, 1994, the CFA was devalued from 50 CFA to 100 CFA for a French franc, touching off a wave of demonstrations, labor disputes, prices increases and clashes across West Africa. The devaluation was deemed necessary in order for France to comply with entry requirements in the European Union (EU).
FRENCH INTERESTS PARAMOUNT
In dealing with its colonies, French interests were paramount; the people of the colonies were unimportant. The French did not hesitate to remove African despots who did not serve their interests or install those who would. After 1960, the French intervened on many occasions to prop up unpopular African regimes against internal dissatisfaction and disorders. The most notorious such occasion was in Gabon in 1964, when French troops were used to reinstate President Mba after a coup. Noting that the French did not intervene to save President Youlou in Brazzaville in 1963, critics charged that intervention was predicated on mineral wealth and the fact that Gabon is rich in oil.
When it came to defending its interests in Africa, the French were the most ferocious. In 2002, when Ivorian government planes accidentally dropped bombs on rebel positions, killing three French peacekeepers, France reacted swiftly and viciously. It sent in war planes to destroy Ivory Coast’s entire air force! Another instance was in May 1991, when 9 million rounds of ammunition arrived in Cameroon on a ship from France, destined for the authoritarian government of President Paul Biya. The ammunition helped Biya brutally suppress political opponents, enabling him to win the October 1992 presidential election in a vote that observers said was fraudulent. As The Economist (29 May, 1993) observed, As The Economist (29 May, 1993) observed,
“Two months later France gave Cameroon FF600 million [$110 million] in new loans. In May 1993, Mr. Biya was welcomed in Paris by both Mr. Mitterand and the new French prime minister, Edouard Balladur. In Rwanda soldiers loyal to President Juvenal Habyarimana have been responsible for atrocities against the Rwanda’s Tutsi minority. Yet Mr. Mitterrand continues to help the regime” (46).
The French would also aggressively defend their language and culture. They were singularly culpable in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Hutu-dominated government of Juvenal Habyarimana was French-speaking. Paul Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) trained in Uganda, an English-speaking country, and were closing in. Chafing under the prospect that Rwanda would become an English-speaking country, panicky French officials provided aid and ammunition to the Hutu government. In fact, it was claimed that Habyarimana’s plane was piloted by French officers. And after 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered, the French provided a “safe passage” to the genocidaires to escape to the then Zaire, another French-speaking country.
The late President Mitterrand was severely rebuked at a French-African summit at Biarritz on 8 November 1994: “Human rights groups said Mitterrand’s decision to invite Mobutu, along with other notorious, long-standing leaders, such as Togo’s Gnassingbe Eyadema, was a betrayal of his promises at the 1990 summit in La Baule, in northwestern France, to terminate the autocratic rule of `Africa’s dinosaurs'” (The Washington Post, 9 November 1994, A41).
During a visit to Yaounde, Paris mayor Jacques Chirac, then campaigning for the presidency of France, declared that “the continent was not yet mature enough for Western-style democracy, which he called a luxury that Africa cannot afford now” (The Washington Times, 20 April, 1995, A13). According to The Washington Times (16 July 1996),
“Paris has tolerated a high level of corruption and economic mismanagement among the pro-French governments in Africa. The French giant Elf-Aquitaine virtually operates Gabon’s oil industry. France is by far Gabon’s biggest trade partner, supplying 44 percent of its imports and 80 percent of its foreign aid. Three-quarters of all foreign investment in the country comes from France. Gabon and Elf’s subsidiary there have long been a source of funding for French political parties, especially Mr. Chirac’s Gaullists. (A11)
So the ex-French colonies were never prepared to serve the people; only France. The Arab Spring caught the French completely by surprise and they will continue to be caught off guard if they continue to cozy up with despicable despots and ignore African people’s demands for change.
“If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests, and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa,Those days are over,” that was the response of French President Francois Hollande to calls from President Bozize of Central Africa for help to fend off the rebellion, what reading should we make of this statement and how could it affect politics in the continent?
I would like to think that this reflects a new change of attitude of France. Though President Francois Holllande seems to be a new kind of French leader, his rhetoric does not match post-colonial history of Francophone Africa, as explained above. He has already sent French troops into Mali and there are already 500 of them in CAR. But let us give him the benefit of the doubt.
You also do not seem to agree with those who credit former President Rawlings of the turn around in Ghana, in neighboring Nigeria, former President Obasanjo has been at odds with several public criticisms of the current President, what role do you see for former leaders?
I have had several arguments with Nigerians who praise Rawlings to the sky. I can understand their adulation given what the military rulers did in Nigeria. But I tell them that they can’t denounce a military dictator in their country and praise another in a different country. A military coconut is a mili9tary coconut no matter where he serves. No military dictator has brought lasting prosperity to any African nation nation and no educated African with an iota of common sense would support, much less serve in a military dictatorship. If Rawlings was good for Ghana, then General Sani Abacha (“The Butcher of Abuja”) was good for Nigeria. After all, they were pals. But let’s get down to some specifics;
On the economy: When Rawlings seized power in 1981, Ghana’s income per capita was $410 and the cedi was exchanging at 2.45 to the dollar. When Rawling left office in 2000, income per capita was $395 and the cedi was 10,000 to the dollar.
On Human Rights: The Rawlings regime did not believe in freedom of expression and human rights. When his NDC government feared that the outcome of a coming event may not be in its favor, it resorted to sheer terror, brutal tactics and violent intimidation of law-abiding citizens. It also did not hesitate to unleash its savage thugs against perceived critics of the regime. Here is a pattern of brutalities that characterized the regime’s record since 1993. Note that the “Red Terror Days” of the PNDC era (1981-1992) have been excluded, during which more than 200 persons “disappeared,” according to Amnesty International.
On March 22, 1993, Legon university students began a boycott of classes to press their demands for an increase in student loans. They had persistently complained that the 90,000 cedis per head for the year (for books, food, medical expenses, transportation, etc.) was grossly inadequate. The police was called into action and beat the students mercilessly.
The same year, 1993, security agents splattered human excreta all over the offices of the Ghanaian Chronicle. On May 12, 1994, “persons believed to be agents of [ruling] P\NDC sneaked into the premises of The Free Press and littered the whole place with human excrement” (The Free Press, June 10-16, 1994; p.7).
Then on Dec 4, 1994, the police raided the premises of Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey and seized the transmission equipment of Radio Eye and arrested 5 persons, including two Britons (Brian Shone and Tim Freeman — note foreign investment implications). The operators of the “illegal” radio station, Dr. Wereko-Brobbey and Victor Newmann, decided to present a petition to parliament. They were joined by supporters numbering about 1,000. But the marchers were attacked by government-hired thugs.
On May 12, 1995, ACDR thugs opened fire on peaceful Kuma Preko demonstrations organized by the AFC, killing four of them. Did that kill the AFC or stop the demonstrations? NOOO! More people turned out in greater numbers for the subsequent demonstrations in Kumasi, Cape Coast, and other cities. They never learn, do they? Did the Police arrest any of the killers? Nope. If a white man had killed four blacks we would have opened our stinking mouths wide open and screamed “Racism!”
Then on Dec 28, 1995, they beat up Vice President Arkaah. That instantly transformed him into a popular hero easily winning the PCP presidential nomination. Recall that in 1988, they made an attempt on Professor Adu Boahene’s life. That too made Prof Adu Boahene a hero and became the NPP presidential candidate.
On June 1, 1996, the NDC regime unleashed thugs on peaceful university students demonstrators — AGAIN!! The vehicle that transported the thugs bore registration number ASA 4733 and was decked with NDC colours. Did the Police apprehend the driver and the vehicle? Nope.
It happened again on Tuesday, 25 August 1998 when unarmed university students marched peacefully to the Ministry of Education to protest exorbitant fees being heaped upon them. They were confronted by hundreds of riot policemen armed to the teeth, who charged with naked violence, simultaneously spraying hot water on the students, mercilessly beating them with truncheons and opening fire on them.
On the Media: Criminal libel suits became a weapon of choice of a brutal and increasingly discredited regime. When newspapers tried to expose corruption and wrongdoing by NDC government officials, they were slapped with criminal libel suits. By 1998, libel suits filed by government officials had reached 350.
In August 1998, Kwaku Baako Jnr., editor of The Guide newspaper, and Abdul Harruna Atta, editor of the Statesman, were jailed one month each for contempt by the Court of Appeal in criminal libel suits against them. The court also fined their publishers, Western Publications for the Guide and Kinesic Publications for the Statesman, 10 million cedis each for the same offence.
Immediately, a group of journalists, media practitioners, academicians, Members of Parliament and other media sympathizers bearing placards and singing staged a three‑hour march to the Supreme Court buildings in Accra to protest against what they said was growing threats to press freedom in the country. Some of the placards read “Prison or no prison we will write,” “we are not afraid of prison,” “we will not surrender,” and “How fair is press freedom in Ghana.”
Mr. Kwame Karikari, the Acting Director, of the School of Communications Studies, University of Ghana, leader of the demonstrators presented a 5‑page petition to the Deputy Judicial Secretary, Mr. George Afflah Aryeetey. In the petition, the Friends of Freedom of Expression said since the return of constitutional rule, there has been an emerging trend from the decisions and sentences, which show that the courts are using the law to cripple the media.
The petition said the spate of sentences and orders for arrest and detention of journalists increasingly serve to cow courageous journalists and a threat to others. It said the courts are now becoming an institution to subvert press freedom,” adding that the fines being slapped on journalists and publishers over the months point to a weakening of the media. The group said the overwhelming majority of the sentences, decisions, fines and damages are from cases involving high public officials or top functionaries of the ruling government or people very close to them. They pointed out that they are not against the courts performing their normal functions of interpreting the law and upholding justice nor do they intend to defend any act of irresponsibility by any journalist if and when that occur. The group said it is concerned with developments, which are tending to weaken the judicial system and the democratic process. The petition fell on deaf ears.
In June 1999, an Accra High Court ordered The Ghanaian Chronicle to pay an unprecedented fine of 42 million cedis ($16,540) for libel against Mr. Edward Salla, Minister of Roads and Transport. It followed an article in the Chronicle entitled “Vetting begins, Minister in a bribery scandal,” which alleged that Salia had requested $25,000 from Milicom Ghana, a cell phone operator ((Index on Censorship, July/August 1999; p.134).
During the early hours of October 2, 2000, unidentified persons smeared human exrement on the entrance of the officies of the Accra bi-weekly, Crusading Guide. The incident is the third time under the Rawlings regime that human waste has been used as weapon of intimidation against the private press. Other media houses to have suffered the same fate — known as “shit bombing” in the local press — are the Ghanaian Chronicle and the Free Press (Index on Censorship, Nov/Dec 2000; p.175).
If Nigeria admirers want Rawlings, Ghanaians would be more than happy to ship him to Nigeria pronto – together with his wife, cats, dogs and goats, plus the kitchen sink.
The African Union will also be having its first female Chairperson in Dlamini Zuma, do you expect the change to jolt the continental body out of its lethargy?
The comments she made that were posted at allafrica.com leads me to believe that she is unlikely to shake the AU out of its perennial lethargy but give us more of the same. http://allafrica.com/stories/201301030870.html
Perhaps this criticism is unfair to her because the AU itself needs some structural reform and I don’t think she can bring that about. The AU was hurriedly crafted in 2003 by the late Muammar Khaddafi of Libya – largely to nurse his own inflated ego. It was a copy-cat notion: Europe has the European Union, therefore Africa must have the African Union. Later, Khaddafi tried to change it to the United States of Africa.
Nonetheless, the AU’s record has been appalling. A den of unrepentant despots, it can’t even define “democracy” and there is no election in Africa the AU doesn’t like. It certified all as “free and fair.” In 2011, Teodoro Obiang, the long-serving dictator of Equatorial Guinea was the Chairman of the AU, sent to Libya to mediate the crisis there!
There is not a single conflict the AU has successfully resolved. Each time a conflict erupts in Africa, its instinctive reaction is to appeal, appeal and appeal to the international community for aid. For example, when the Darfur crisis erupted in Sudan, the AU sent troops there. But when the troops came under sustained rebel assault at their camp in Haskanita on Oct 11, 2007, ten were killed and “at least 40 fled into the bush” (The Economist, Oct 11, 2007)
Then the AU unveiled the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in 2004 amid much pomp and pageantry. Nobody has heard of NEPAD since. Even one of its architects, Abdoulaye Wade, the former president of Senegal, dismissed it as a failure.
As the new Chairwoman of the AU Commission, Dr. Zuma has a tall task before her to make the AU, not only relevant to the lives of ordinary Africans but also effective. To start, she must, at the minimum, ensure that members of the AU pay their bills and respect the AU’s own Charter of Human and People’s Rights. Article 9 of that Charter guarantees freedom of expression. Any member who does not respect that Charter should expel from the AU. Even in the European Union, there are eligibility requirements; it is not just any rogue state that can become a member of the EU. But in Africa, a free media exists in only 8 African countries; journalists are hounded, harassed, jailed and even assassinated. Yet, the countries that perpetrate such heinous acts are members of the AU!
Second, the AU must come up with a clear definition of democracy. Not just any rogue country can hold coconut elections and be certified by the AU as “democratic.” Democracy requires more than just holding elections. It also requires a constitution that is freely negotiated, checks and balances, an independent judiciary, an independent central bank, an independent electoral commission, a free and independent media, etc.
These are the tasks the new chairman must accomplish in order to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Africans. Otherwise, she will be dismissed as “all talk, no action.”
President Obama is equally taking up a second term and in the first we know he visited Africa just once, what is it he could do in the second term that will be of benefit to Africa?
I think we need to lower our expectations of what Obama can do for Africa. Africa’s problems are not for Obama to solve but ourselves. I coined the term, “African solutions for African problems” and have always preached that the solutions to the myriad of African problems can be found in Africa itself. They do not lie in the halls of US Congress, the White House, the corridors of the World Bank, the inner sanctum of the Chinese communist politburo or in the steamy sex antics of cockroaches on Jupiter. They lie in Africa itself.
Even then, I doubt if Obama can do much for Africa in his second term because he has become distracted by the events in Mali and Algeria. Focusing more on terrorism in Africa means shifting emphasis from democracy and good governance. Back in Sept 2001 when former president Bush announced the “war on terrorism,” all sorts of scrofulous African dictators also claimed they were fighting against terrorists when they themselves were the real state terrorists. They employed this ruse in order to secure more US aid. For example, Charles Taylor set up an “Anti-terrorism Unit” ran by his son. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe all claimed they too were fighting against terrorists when, in fact, they were standing on the necks of their people.
So, in my view, the best Obama can do for Africa is just suspend foreign aid to those African countries that do not have a free media. So impressed was New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, about the role of the media in Ghana’s elections in 2000 that he wrote: “Let’s stop sending Africa lectures on democracy. Let’s instead make all aid, all I.M.F.-World Bank loans, all debt relief conditional on African governments’ permitting free FM radio stations. Africans will do the rest,” he wrote (“Low Tech Democracy,” The New York Times, May 1, 2001; p.A13). Sadly, Africans have not been able to do the rest because, currently, only 8 of the 54 African countries have a free media. In Ethiopia, for example, there is only one government-controlled radio station for 83 million people.
The criticisms aside Prof, what is it that makes you hopeful for Africa in 2013 and beyond?
I am hopeful about the Cheetah Generation: The Force for Positive Change in Africa. Watch out for the 2013 Cheetahs. They are a new breed of young and angry Africans, engineering a revolution to take back Africa – one village at a time. They just don’t sit there and whine about Western colonialism, the slave trade and government dysfunction. Mentally agile and tech-savvy, they are taking the destiny of Africa into their own hands – setting up businesses, employing people and creating wealth with the abiding philosophy of poverty alleviation through entrepreneurship. We salute thee.
The list of 10:
1. Africa Straight Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qKUVfcXB14w
2. Camilla Barungi (Ugandan): http://tiny.cc/1e51f,
3. Emeka Okafor, Africa Unchained http://africaunchained.blogspot.com/, Timbuktu Chronicles http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com/
4. Kwame Marfo http://d-cap.org/
5. Nii Simmonds (Nubian Cheetah) http://nubiancheetah.blogspot.com/2007/08/it-is-now-time-for-meso-financing-for.html
6. Oluwaseun Fakuade http://seunfakze.wordpress.com/
7. Uganda Sings http://www.reverbnation.com/UgandaSings
8. Mugure Mugo, a lady entrpreneur based in Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.odesk.com/groups/cheetahs
9. Sam Kodo, Togolese Cheetah builds robots http://bit.ly/KDfC3y
10. The Team at African Liberty http://www.africanliberty.org/content/about
The Health of African Leaders: A Call for More Transparency
January 24, 2013 | 0 Comments
By: Vera Songwe and Mwangi S. Kimenyi*
On July 22, 2012, Ghana lost its 12th president, Dr. John Evans Atta Mills, to ill health. Reports after his death reveal that the late president had been unwell and unable to fully to execute his duties for some time before his death.
President Atta Mills will be fondly remembered by most Ghanaians, especially his former students and fellow faculty members, as a soft-spoken academic. He will also be remembered by many Africans as a pacifist who preferred dialogue to arms in a decade plagued by continuous regional instability and violent uprisings.
The late president will also be remembered for assuring a peaceful transition between his political party (the National Democratic Congress) and former President John Kufuor’s party (the New Patriotic Party), despite a close, and what could have easily been a disputed, election. In the dawn of 2009, Ghana gave hope to the continent by conducting a peaceful election and organizing a seamless transition. Similarly, following the president’s death, Mills’ vice-president was sworn into office without a hitch, solidifying the country’s position as a maturing democracy with clear constitutional processes.
Mills’ death has added Ghana to a growing list of countries that have lost a sitting president or head of state. So far, the list comprises 19 African countries. These countries include: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Zambia. Gabon, Guinea and Nigeria have each lost two sitting presidents, bringing the total number of leaders who have died in office to 22.
The average age of these leaders at their death was 63. Côte d’Ivoire’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny (88), Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta (84) and Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika (78) were among the oldest on the list and Algeria’s Boumedienne (45) was one of the youngest. Of the presidents who passed away in office, 13 were rumored ill and undergoing treatment while in power, fueling continuous suspicion about leadership transitions in those countries and undermining successful development. (Cameroon’s President Ahmadou Ahidjo is the only African president to have resigned from power due to ill health, in 1982, after ruling for 22 years.)
Many African governments adamantly conceal their ailing leader’s health status. In fact, in some African countries, discussions of a leader’s health are considered as criminal offenses punishable by death. But the phenomenon of concealing a leader’s health is not unique to Africa: U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and (Franklin) Roosevelt, as well as French President Francois Mitterand all concealed illnesses while in power. However, none of these men died in power as a result of ill-health.
As the number of ailing presidents increases, three major issues are emerging: First, the continent demands more transparency regarding it’s leaders’ health; second, democracies need clear term limits; and third, successful democratic transitions require transition processes outlined in the constitution, that are understood and familiar to all. With these safeguards in place, the risks of administrative paralysis, political tension, internal conflict and instability that characterize situations in many African countries could be mitigated. Unfortunately, in many African countries today there is a general lack of clarity around term limits and even less clarity and agreement on succession: Term limits are changed on a rolling basis, and constitutions are amended frequently.
Given these circumstances, the health of a country’s leaders cannot be left out of the political debate. Transparent information on the relevant health conditions of current leaders must be made public. If, as in the U.S. and France, presidents respected and adhered to clearly stated term limits, the demand for health disclosure may not be as important and leaders could keep this information private. While not all illnesses diminish a person’s ability to stay focused, lead and make important decisions on the future, the issue is serious enough that in the U.S. and other developed countries, presidential candidates are obliged to disclose their health reports before they are vetted. African presidential candidates should make similar information available. Today, as the number of African presidents who pass away in office due to ill health increases, so does the clamor for more transparency on this issue.
While the increase in the frequency of truly democratic elections in Africa is a cause for celebration, the increase in the number of presidents passing away in office could undermine these gains. Today there are seven African presidents (Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia) who are in power directly or indirectly as a result of a sitting president’s passing.
Health status disclosure, especially when it limits a leader’s ability to be effective in office, is an important facet of entrenching the democratic process. This type of disclosure demands constitutions and constitutional processes that are clear on transition mandates and expectations for new elections. Most importantly, this disclosure also requires an acceptance by the government to respect and implement the process. Thankfully, Ghana’s immediate swearing-in of President John Mahama as the fourth president under the Fourth Republic and Malawi’s transition to President Joyce Banda demonstrate that there is an increasing acceptance to follow the constitutional process. Nigeria, over a year ago, also managed a particularly difficult transition.
Thus, as Africa mourns his passing and celebrates a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power, Professor Mills leaves us with three important lessons: First, lack of transparency on leaders’ health issues creates a dangerous insecurity; second, term limits need to be clear and respected; and, third and most importantly, a clearly defined constitutional transition process helps provide certainty in uncertain times. The existence of two or all of these criteria in a country should be regarded as a positive step towards real democracy. To truly honor President Mills, African democracies can aim to move increasingly in this direction.
The development outlook for the continent looks bright
January 18, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma*
In 2012, we celebrated success in a number of fields as the continent sought to achieve its common vision of development, peace and integration. The development outlook for the continent looks bright as Africa is now considered the next growth pole. A number of countries inched closer to their development goals by registering impressive growth rates, some of which were in excess of 10%. Other countries discovered new sources of wealth in the form of minerals, oil and other deposits. Good governance became the norm in many countries. In Somalia, the country has entered a post conflict reconstruction and development phase. In September, African mediation resulted in the signing of a historic agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. Our athletes took to the track and field in the London Olympics and brought glory to the continent. Many other countless successes were realized.
2013 will mark a momentous occasion for the continent: the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, and 11 years of the launch of the African Union. As the Secretariat of the Union, the Commission will ensure that the marking of 50th anniversary is an important milestone in the history of the continent. It will be an opportunity to reflect on where we come from, appreciate where we are, and plan for where we are going in the next 50 years. In this regard, a long term African Union-wide strategic framework is under development. Similarly, the 4 year AU Commission Strategy (2013-2017) is being finalized.
In the New Year, the continent will host the African Cup of Nations in South Africa. The tournament will be an opportunity for Africa and its citizens to come together as players and spectators. It will also be an opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of fair play, courage, respect for diversity and determination. More importantly, soccer as a catalyst for change will bring together communities across borders, races, colour, religion and language.
But challenges await us as we enter the New Year. As a continent we are still dealing with conflict situations that derail the continent’s march towards development. The situations in Mali, the Central African Republic, and the DRC require our continued attention and resolution.
In 2013, the Union will continue to monitor elections in Africa. For the first time, the AUC will be sending a Long Term Observer (LTO) Expert Mission to the scheduled March 4th 2013 General Elections in the Republic of Kenya.
On the programmatic front, we are making progress in science, as scientific advancement will heavily influence tour development process. We are about to launch the Pan African University.
Efforts to harmonise infrastructure development are well under way under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). The Commission is working with Member States to realize the goals of intra African trade.
Agriculture remains the backbone of Africa’s economy. The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) continues to be the platform best placed to raise agricultural productivity. With this programme, Africa expects not only to have enough food supplies but also to have excess to export, thereby contributing to family incomes and raising standards of living for the majority of the continent’s one billion people.
Environmental and climate change are also major priorities for the Union as we seek to ensure that we leave a legacy of sound environmental management for our children.
In terms of health, the Union will focus particularly on maternal and child health, under the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA) and on fighting the scourges of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Women constitute more than 50% of the continent’s population and their engagement in all spheres of human endeavor is imperative. Thus the Commission will continue to aim to achieve 50-50 parity in its employment structures, ensure that women attain decision making positions and to advocate for women’s development across the continent on the platform of the African Women’s Decade.
As we enter the New Year, I would like to thank the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, Member States, and the African citizens for their support to our work. I would also like to thank the management and staff of the African Union Commission for their unparalleled commitment to our continent.
The Commission is aware of the challenges that lie ahead of us, as well as of the need to consolidate the gains that have been made thus far. The Commission will do everything in its power to advance the continental agenda, building on the achievements registered so far. Africa is on the right track. United we are strong.
On behalf of the African Union Commission, I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2013. Let us advance the ideals of Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance.
Addis Ababa, 31st December 2012
*Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is Chairperson of the Union and the statement was her new message.
Africa And The Succession Trap
January 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Tim Kelsall*
2012 was a tough year for African leaders: one resigned, one was sacked, two were overthrown in coups, two were defeated in elections, and three died in office. Even in states like Angola where incumbents remained in power, the question of leadership succession was rarely far from the agenda. In 2013 we can expect the topic also to be hot in Madagascar, Kenya and Zimbabwe, all scheduled to hold Presidential elections later this year.
Succession is an inevitability of political life, and there are several ways to accomplish it, from dynastic inheritance to assassination to a competition for votes. Some states do it better than others, however, and it’s fair to say that Africa has had more than its share of disorderly successions. Even where succession does not lead directly to violence or state breakdown, uncertainty surrounding the process can damage economic growth, as happened in fast-growing states like Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Malawi in the 1970s and 1980s.
Economic growth and leadership succession
Since African economies are now growing strongly again, it seems pertinent to ask whether growth will once more be undermined by problems of political succession. In many cases the answer unfortunately appears to be ‘Yes’. Part of the problem is personal, or ‘big-man’ rule, sometimes called ‘neo-patrimonialism’. As I show in a book published tomorrow, these forms of governance are not necessarily obstacles to economic growth; however, growth under the purer types of personal rule rarely lasts more than one or two decades. When pro-growth policies and property arrangements are closely associated with just one man (or woman), the demise of that individual is likely to induce damaging uncertainty in investors.
So how do states avoid the succession trap? In a new Working Paper and Policy Brief for the Developmental Regimes in Africa Project, I answer this question by comparing sub-Saharan Africa with Southeast Asia, a similar, but economically more successful region. I combine historical analysis with systematic comparison to tease out the factors uniting those countries that combined high growth with succession (Laos, Malaysia, Mozambique, Thailand and Vietnam), and distinguishing those that fell into a succession trap (Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi).1
I found that high growth was more likely to be sustained through succession if leaders handed over power before the age of 75, if the country had a fairly homogenous ethnic structure, if the state had its roots in an identifiable pre-colonial political formation, and if the external economic environment was favourable. However, there were exceptions across the board, making these contributing, not crucial, conditions.
In addition, I found a combination of three conditions present across all the regimes that combined succession with high growth, and absent from those that didn’t. First, leaders were motivated to search for growth to stave off perceived threats to their survival from external aggression, popular mobilization, and/or resource scarcity. Second, all had broadly pro-market and pro-foreign investment policy packages, although all retained substantial state involvement in the economy. And third, all the successful regimes embedded policy-making in strong institutions of one or other of two types:
a dominant party with a tradition of consensual decision-making and leadership succession, or
a strong, organic bureaucracy, effectively insulated from changes in political leadership.
Mozambique provides an example of the first type. Between 1997 and 2010, the country experienced growth of 7.83 percent, despite a change of leadership in the ruling Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO). FRELIMO was formed in opposition to Portuguese rule in 1962 by an elite group of assimilated Africans. A tradition of orderly succession was established in 1969, when Eduardo Mondlane, FRELIMO’s founding president, was killed by a parcel bomb. Although party vice-president Uria T. Simango was appointed successor at a meeting of the Executive Committee, this decision was overturned by FRELIMO’s more powerful Central Committee, with Samora Machel becoming President. When Machel died in a plane crash in 1986, the Central Committee nominated Joaquim Chissano as President. In 2002, Chissano announced that he would not contest the next Presidential election, and the party congress nominated Armando Guebuza to succeed him.
Like all political parties, FRELIMO has its tensions, but these are muted by an impressive sense of mutual loyalty and internal cohesion. Forged during the liberation war, unity has been maintained even though FRELIMO has abandoned its historic commitment to socialism and taken measures to encourage private enterprise. A stream of investments has followed.
Thailand is (the only) example of the second type. Between 1961 and 1998 growth there averaged more than 7 percent, notwithstanding more than 15 leadership changes, as power oscillated between military factions and weak civilian parties. Predictability was provided by an organic bureaucracy with roots in the 19th century, in which specialized pro-growth agencies were created in the 1950s. Continuity in the mission and personnel of these agencies gave domestic and international investors confidence, despite a bewildering number of political successions.
Growth and succession in contemporary Africa
Currently there are three countries in Africa that have maintained high growth for more than a decade but have yet to experience a political succession: Angola, Rwanda and Uganda. All are ruled by dominant ‘liberation struggle’ parties. More research is needed, but it seems probable that the RPF in Rwanda has some of the same unity of purpose as FRELIMO, despite the towering presence of Paul Kagame, and the prospects for succession with growth appear good. In Angola and Uganda, however, leaders are older, external threats are less severe, and despite their post-liberation history, power is more personalised. In states like this, the prospects for combining succession with growth are poor.
To avoid the succession trap, political and economic actors need to devise institutions that can supply credible commitments for investors in a context of transition. In 17th century England, this happened when the King acceded to a range of formal checks on his power, an experience echoed in currently fashionable development thinking like Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘golden thread’ or Acemoglu and Robinson’s ‘inclusive institutions’. Successful Asian and African countries have done things differently, however. Making strong but personalised ruling parties more collegial and consensual, or strengthening and insulating the bureaucracy where parties are weak, might be more realistic alternatives.
* Source African Arguments .Tim Kelsall has taught politics at the Universities of Oxford and Newcastle, and is a former editor of African Affairs. He is currently working freelance for the Developmental Regimes in Africa Project and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research. His latest book, Business, Politics and the State in Africa: Questioning the orthodoxies on growth and transformation, is published by Zed.
 I excluded countries with a population of under five million (eg Botswana) and also countries where a portion of the growth phase could be accounted for by a peace dividend (eg Ethiopia, Myanmar). I defined high growth as growth of at least 7% per annum.
Obasanjo: Nigerian leaders should reach out to Boko Haram
January 8, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Zain Verjee and Laura Smith-Spark*
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said more could be done to reach out to the militant Islamist group Boko Haram to find out what leads it to carry out acts of violence.
In an interview with CNN, Obasanjo suggested the current government should adopt a dual-track approach rather than just cracking down on the group.
“To deal with a group like that, you need a carrot and stick. The carrot is finding out how to reach out to them,” he said. “When you try to reach out to them and they are not amenable to being reached out to, you have to use the stick.”
Obasanjo said President Goodluck Jonathan was “just using the stick” in his efforts. “He’s doing one aspect of it well, but the other aspect must not be forgotten.”
The Islamist militants, who operate chiefly in Nigeria’s restive north, have carried out numerous deadly attacks on mosques, churches and businesses and are suspected of having links to al Qaeda.
Obasanjo said he had tried to reach out to Boko Haram about a year and a half ago through a lawyer who was acting as the group’s proxy, and had asked if they had external backing.
The lawyer told him that the group was receiving support from other Nigerians who have resources overseas or “other organizations from abroad,” Obasanjo said.
“If they had 25% support a year and a half ago, today that support has doubled,” the former president said.
Analysts suggest that reaching out to Boko Haram may be increasingly difficult because the group has split into different factions, some with a domestic focus and others with a more pan-jihadi approach.
Resolving the issue is key to Nigeria’s progress, according to Obasanjo, who now heads an eponymous foundation that is working to promote human security across Africa.
“Boko Haram undermines security, and anything that undermines security undermines development, undermines education, undermines health, undermines agriculture and food and nutrition security,” he said.
International rights group Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 2,800 people.
In a report published late last year, Amnesty International condemned the increasingly brutal attacks carried out by Boko Haram since 2009, but said Nigeria’s security forces “have perpetrated serious human rights violations” in response. A military spokesman rejected the allegations.
The militant group, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” is fighting to impose a strict version of Sharia law in the northern part of the country.
In the past, the group attacked other Muslims it felt were on an immoral path, but it has increasingly killed Christians.
The U.S. State Department has accused Boko Haram of attacking mosques and churches to incite tensions between the two religious groups, hoping to drive a wedge between them. It has condemned some of the group’s leaders for alleged ties to al Qaeda.
Nigeria has almost equal numbers of Christian and Muslims, with the south predominantly Christian. Boko Haram and other Muslim groups say the north has been starved of resources and marginalized by the government of Jonathan, a Christian.
However, despite the ongoing challenges the country faces, Obasanjo said he does not foresee Nigeria ever splitting in two, into north and south.
“We in Nigeria now know that it would cost us much more to break up than it will cost us to come together,” he said.
CNN’s Zain Verjee, Laura Smith-Spark and Clare Garnett reported from London, and David McKenzie
President Obama’s Shadow on Ghana’s Elections
January 3, 2013 | 0 Comments
George B.N. Ayittey*
Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country U.S. President Barak Obama visited in July 2009. He selected Ghana because it was a “model of good governance, democracy and strong civil society participation.” Kenyans were miffed that he did not visit his fatherland and the Nigerians smelled a rat: That his visit to Ghana was an insipid conspiracy to destabilize Nigeria. But Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka disagreed: A visit by Obama would have sanctified the putrid mess called Nigeria. He threatened to have Obama stoned if he stepped foot in the country. Mercifully, President Obama wasn’t stoned in Ghana.
President Obama gave a rousing speech in Parliament that was hailed across Africa to the discomfort of its aging autocrats: quack revolutionaries and crocodile liberators, who sit tight in office for 20, 30 and even 40 years. He ripped into them, condemning corruption, senseless wars, and the rule of tyranny. Some highlights of President Obama’s speech on July 11, 2009:
• Development depends upon good governance . . . That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.
• No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.
• History is on the side of these brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.
• In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges — (Applause); an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. (Applause.) Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people’s everyday lives.
• As we provide this support, I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights report.
The full speech can be read in its entirety here: http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/July/20090711110050abretnuh0.1079783.html
The part that grabbed my attention was his statement that: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” At present, the strength of Ghana’s institutions is being tested by the current dispute over the election results. So far, we have comported ourselves admirably by remaining calm and following the Constitution, allowing the petition process to wend its way through the courts. We all deserve a huge round of applause – a lesson we can teach other African countries.
An institution is simply an established and formal ways of doing certain things for a certain particular purpose. For example, we have the institution of marriage because society says if you want to have a child and raise a family, you don’t grab just any woman from the street, rape, impregnate and then abandon her. There are proper procedures to follow, collectively called the institution of marriage. Similarly, we have institutions of money, of democracy, of the media, etc. The state also has these key state institutions: the civil service, the judiciary, parliament, the military, the police, the electoral commission and the central bank. For example, if someone has stolen your goat, one does not take the law into one’s own hands. There are certain steps and procedures one must follow to retrieve the goat or obtain justice.
Institutions are to society what systems are to a vehicle. Regardless of horsepower, shape or color, a vehicle is an amalgamation of systems: ignition system, fuel system, electrical system, cooling system, suspension system, brake system, etc. Each system is designed for a specific purpose: the brake system to CHECK the speed of the vehicle and stop a run-away vehicle; the suspension system prevents the vehicle from bouncing along the road; anti-sway bars prevent the vehicle from rolling over; the muffler (exhaust system) prevents the vehicle from making too much noise; and cooling system prevents over-heating.
Each system is independent of the others and cannot be mismatched. For example, oil, a lubricant, cannot be used as coolant in the radiator. When a system breaks down, it must be repaired promptly. Parts designed for one system cannot be used to repair another. Periodic maintenance and repair are vital for optimal operating efficiency of each system. When all systems are operational, the vehicle is said to be in good or top working condition.
Similarly, for purpose of governance, a society has seven key institutions: The civil service, the judiciary, the media, the security forces (military, the police or law-enforcement), the electoral commission, Parliament and the Central Bank. Each institution has a specific function to play and should not be cross-matched with different functions. For example, the role of the military is to defend the territorial integrity of the nation and protect its citizens while that of the judiciary is to enforce the rule of law and dispense justice fairly. Having soldiers run the government is a mismatch because they are not trained as such; only to fight and kill an enemy. The other institutions – parliament, judiciary, police, central bank, etc. – have specific roles to play.
For these seven institutions to operate well, they must be independent and free of interferences from any quarter. They must also watch each other, thereby providing institutional checks and balances. While Parliament must watch over the executive to ensure that it is not spending recklessly, the President must also watch to see that judges are not on the take. When all these institutions are working well, good governance is said to prevail – akin to saying that a vehicle is in good working condition when all of its systems are working well. Thus, good governance requires, first, independent institutions and, second, each institution to be working well. It is not achieved by establishing a “Ministry of Good Governance” as Tanzania did.
None of these concepts should be new as they can be found in our own traditional system. The four institutions in a village government are the chief (executive), Council of Elders, the Village Court and the Village Assembly (parliament). They are all independent and separate. All, however, must obey customary law. It is the cord that keeps a tribe together.
Similarly, a Constitution is the yarn that weaves a modern society together. It is the supreme law of the land and ALL must obey it. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal that defends and protects it, ensuring that all laws enacted by parliament are in compliance with the Constitution. When ALL follow and obey the Constitution, constitutional rule or rule of law is said to prevail. Theoretically, the Supreme Court is more powerful than the Executive or the Legislature (Parliament). It can strike down a parliamentary law as “unconstitutional” and have the President “impeached” for acting “unconstitutionally.”
When an important issue – such as the current dispute over election results — is before the Supreme Court (SC), ALL must wait patiently for the justices to take their time and render a decision. It is the final court of appeal. Its role is to ensure that ALL obey the Constitution. The Justices did not write the Constitution; only to enforce it. It is like our traffic laws. The Police did not write those traffic laws; only to enforce them. You cannot have a situation where people overload their vehicles and drive as they like on whichever side of the road at whatever speed. There would be mayhem, chaos, deaths and destruction on our roads. ALL, regardless of their station in life, must obey the same traffic laws: Drive on the right, obey the speed limit, etc.
Similarly, you cannot have a situation where some people obey the Constitution whilst others don’t. There would be chaos, lawlessness and the fabric of society would be shredded. The role of the SC is to ensure that ALL follow the Constitution – just like in traditional Africa. ALL, including the chief, must obey customary law. An African proverb drives home this point that the survival of the tribe is far more important than the individual: “Individuals don’t live to be a hundred years old but the tribe can live for centuries.” Similarly in modern parlance, “Ghana is bigger than John Maham and Nana Akufo-Addo.” Ghana does not belong to the NDC nor the NPP. John Mahama garnered only 50.7 percent, meaning nearly half the people did not vote for him. And not all those who did not vote for him are NPP. This is not a NDC versus NPP issue. It is the future of Ghana as a nation, which is at stake. Therefore, whatever we do today must be done right for the sake of our country, its reputation, our children and future generations.
Rushing with the inauguration of President John Mahama on Jan 7 is NOT the proper way of doing things when a petition is before the Supreme Court (SC). This is not about the merits of the petition; it is the SC which must decide that. We must all wait for the SC to render that decision. Installing a new president BEFORE the SC makes a ruling has troubling implications and sets a dangerous precedent:
1. It shows utter disrespect and contempt for the Supreme Court. It is the government saying the SC can go to hell and it does not care about what the SC will say. It is going ahead anyway with its plans to inaugurate the new president. This is dangerous because if the government has such contempt for an institution, why should any other body respect it? ALL, including the President, must respect the Supreme Court and the Constitution.
2. Charging ahead with the inauguration when the issue is before the SC is extremely provocative. We have told the people to be patient and allow the court process to proceed. Why inflame the situation? Why should the people continue to be patient when the government is not prepared to be patient? We have a situation where some people are following the Constitution whilst others show no inclination to do so – like some people driving on the right while others drive on the right. Catastrophe is inevitable.
3. Such an action puts the Chief Justice in an awkward situation. She cannot swear in a new president while at the same time the SC is evaluating the validity of his election. That makes no sense. What if the SC rules that Nana Akufo-Addo indeed won the elections? Are we going to have Nana Akufo-Addo inaugurated and installed as the President too and end up with two presidents – just like Ivory Coast in Nov 2010 – and add more confusion? Why can’t we wait for the SC to make a final ruling? What difference would it make to Ghana as a nation if a new president is installed in June, instead of January?
Personally, I doubt if the SC would declare Nana Akufo-Addo the winner since that would mean the SC is usurping the functions of another institution — the Electoral Commission (EC). The SC won’t inject itself into vote recount, reviewing rejected ballots, etc. That’s not its function. Its function is to ensure that laws and procedures are followed. Most likely, the Supreme Court would send the case back to the EC and say, for example:
“We found credible evidence of mis-calculation. So RETABULATE the results together with reps of the opposition parties, using ONLY numbers on the Blue/Pink collation sheets everyone signed. We are appointing a 3-judge panel to oversee this re-tabulation to ensure that it is done fairly and transparently. Then tell us and the nation the new results. Come back to us if you any further difficulty.”
In effect, the Supreme Court would merely be reiterating what the Electoral Commission should have done in the first place – resolving the discrepancies BEFORE announcing the results. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court did in the Florida dispute in 2000. It sent the case back for a recount; it did not do the recounting itself. And while the recount was going on, everything – including the inauguration of President Bush – was placed on hold.
In my view, the Supreme Court should go further: If there are clear cases of “over-voting,” Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan should be arrested and prosecuted for breaking the law. If you have difficulty with this proposition, then ask why a tro-tro driver should be arrested for “over-loading.” Further, Returning Officers who did not sign the collation sheets, as well as those polling agents who allowed people to vote without biometric verification, should also be arrested and prosecuted.
This is how STRONG institutions are built. If those who run these institutions do not themselves obey the law, then how can the institutions enforce the law? And of what use are the institutions and how can they ensure good governance? More importantly, a STRONG judiciary is needed to ensure that all institutions and everybody obey the Constitution. It is that which shields us from tyranny. Such a judiciary should be able to make its decisions independently – without fear or intimidation and interference from any quarter. Unfortunately, that has been part of the ugly legacy bequeathed to us by the Rawlings revolution. It has shredded the moral fabric of Ghanaian society.
Newspapers critical of the policies of the Rawlings regime were shit-bombed in the 1990s. The Ghanaian Chronicle, Free Press and Crusading Guide suffered such indignities. Supreme Court Justices who made a ruling that displeased the regime were not only intimidated but also abducted and brutally killed. Such was the case on June 30, 1982 when three judges — Mr. Justice Fred Poku Sarkodee, Mrs. Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow and Mr. Justice Kwadwo Adjei Agyepong — together with a retired Army Officer, Major Sam K. Acquah, were abducted during curfew hours from their homes, murdered at the Bundase Military Range in the Accra Plains and their bodies doused with petrol and set ablaze.
More recently in 2010, when former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Betty Mould-Iddrisu lost a number of high-profile cases against former New Patriotic Party (NPP) officials.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Chairman, Dr Kwabena Adjei threatened the judiciary, saying “We will clean it (judiciary) if they don’t take steps to clean it. We will clean it and let everybody everywhere blame us for interfering in the judiciary and we will take them on … at the right time, you will see how we clean it. There are many ways to kill a cat.’’ The NDC had accused the Chief Justice, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood, and members of the bench of a “grand conspiracy” to ensure NDC lose cases in the courts.
That statement drew widespread condemnation, with some even calling for the arrest and prosecution of Dr. Adjei. A retired Supreme Court Justice, Professor Justice A. Paaku Kludze, warned that the threat should not be taken lightly as judges in the country may soon become targets of physical harm and killings, just as it happened in the revolutionary regime of Rawlings. “When a PNDC or an NDC man talks about cleaning the judiciary, you remember in 1982 that some of them were eliminated, physical elimination is one way of cleaning the judiciary,” he told Citi FM. Justice Kludze said “when you use that word, it can spread terror in the minds of some judges…I am afraid it is very frightening. It looks like we are going back to the days of Nkrumah or the PNDC.”
Our fate or prospects as a country depends upon allowing our institutions to work independently and doing what they are supposed to do. That’s what good governance is all about and “Development depends on good governance” said President Obama on July 11, 2009. We are doomed as a country if we allow the executive to interfere with our institutions and prevent them from doing what they are supposed to do. Political and democratic maturity dictates that we should allow the SC to make a ruling before rushing ahead to install a new president. It is not Jphn Mahama or Nana Akufo-Addo who will save Ghana but our collective responsibility to follow the Constitution. It is a duty we owe to our children and also a powerful message to send to the rest of Africa.
The inauguration ceremony is premature and should be postponed until the Supreme Court makes a ruling – for or against the petition.
*George B. N. Ayittey.The writer is a native of Ghana and president of the Free Africa Foundation based in Washington. He is the author of Indigenous African Institutions, Brill (2006).Culled from Ghana.com
The Decisive African Youth Vote
December 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
The Arab Spring underscored the pivotal role that youth can play in a country’s economic and political stability. This is even truer in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30.
A youth bulge may serve as an added concern for governments—a young, unemployed population is more susceptible to criminal and extremist elements—or as a demographic bonus. The just-released Global Trends 2030 report by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) noted that, “with other regions rapidly aging, increasingly a disproportionate number of Africans will make up the global working age population.” Indeed, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimated that by 2050 one in four workers in the world will originate from the continent. Furthermore, as mentioned in Envisioning 2030: US Strategy for a Post-Western World, the Atlantic Council’s companion to the NIC report, Africa’s youth bulge “reinforces the opportunity for economic growth that is gaining attention and foreign investment—a reality that other emerging regional and global powers, including China, India, Brazil, and Turkey have already begun to seize.”
However, Africa’s youth are not always in the best position to play a positive role. The 2012 African Economic Outlook reports that 60 percent of unemployed persons on the continent are between the ages of 15 to 24, and over half of them have quit their job search due to governments’ failure to produce a greater number of opportunities. While there are exceptions—Rwanda reported a 5 percent youth unemployment rate in 2010 and an average 8 percent GDP growth rate in the past five years, showing how an enabled younger population can lead to national economic prosperity—unemployment among young Africans is one of the continent’s most pressing issues.
There is great opportunity in the future for young Africans to make their mark on the global economy, but they are largely left out of the political and economic spheres in their countries, and have been increasingly disillusioned with the leadership from their older heads of state. Age does not determine an individual’s capability to lead a younger population, but given that African leaders are on average 42 years older than the median age of their constituents—compared to Europe’s 14 year age gap between the same actors—who can blame them for feeling disconnected with their public officials?
Fortunately, the sheer size of African youth population provides them with voting clout, something that African presidential candidates have noticed. With the exception of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s reelection at age 70 in early September, African voters have lately favored the candidate with a stronger grasp of youth issues, producing political agendas that more thoroughly incorporated their concerns.
Young Senegalese, who had boosted President Abdoulaye Wade (age 86) to power in previous elections, instead turned their support towards the younger Macky Sall (age 50) in March’s elections with a 66-to-34 vote in his favor. Throughout his campaign, Sall promised to develop a youth employment program that included providing young entrepreneurs with lines of credit and training university students with technical and professional skills that matches market demands. By contrast, Wade’s unconstitutional pursuit of a third presidential term spurred youth protests across the country.
Two weeks ago, incumbent president John Dramani Mahama (age 54) won reelection in Ghana. His challenger, Nana Akufo-Addo (age 68), chose to appeal to older voters by offering free secondary education for their children, whereas Mahama focused his platform on issues that directly concerned young voters. The president’s “Better Ghana Agenda” put Ghana’s voting age youth at the core of his economic plan, promising to build training centers, establish skills acquisition programs, and expand the oil and gas industries to create jobs.
Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma (age 59) also prioritized youth interests in his campaign. The first public remarks he made after taking oath were: “We will focus on creating jobs for the youths, and on training our youths to seize the immense employment opportunities we are creating in the construction, mining, agriculture and other sectors.” Although the leader of the opposition was younger, Koroma’s economic record and the prospect of job growth helped win him the support of young voters. The International Monetary Fund reported a projected 21.3 percent GDP growth rate for the country in 2012, largely due to the expansion of the mining sector, but also to agricultural output.
Africa’s two oldest leaders are looking to be replaced by younger candidates early next year. Zimbabwe, currently led by the 88-year old President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF, will hold presidential elections in March 2013. The opposing Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has proven it can stabilize Zimbabwe’s economy and create a more hospitable environment for the country’s job-seeking youth—the young MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti (age 46), who spoke at the Atlantic Council earlier this year, reduced the country’s inflation rate from 79.6 billion to 4 percent—but the tabloid scandals surrounding its likely presidential candidate, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (age 60), have distracted from the policy content of the race. Zimbabawe’s youth seem to be continually disillusioned with its leadership, demanding democratic reforms instead of throwing their support behind either candidate.
In the same month, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s (age 81) will step down from power, opening the space for Prime Minister Raila Odinga (age 67) or Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta (age 51) to take over his position. Earlier this month, Kenyatta added 47-year old former Presidential Candidate William Ruto to his bid in what is largely seen as an effort to consolidate the country’s youth vote on one ticket. Kenyatta says he believes in the youth’s “rightful role in defining the leadership and destiny of [the] country,” yet it was his and Ruto’s manipulation of youth groups to instigate the 2007 post-election violence that killed over 1,000 Kenyans. The two politicians have been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, highlighting some of the pitfalls that can come with appealing too much to the youth population.
African leaders need to do a bit of soul-searching in order to more effectively appeal to their changing country’s demographics, for both electoral purposes to also enable their countries to be stronger economic competitors on the global scale. The high rates of youth unemployment, coupled with the stresses of rapid urbanization facing the continent today is no doubt adding pressure to an already fragile situation. Still, Africa’s youth is its main hope, and there are leaders on the continent, such as Malawian President Joyce Banda, who has urged youth empowerment, noting “when we say the youth are the leaders of tomorrow, when will tomorrow come?” If the continent’s aging presidents learn to better accommodate the needs of their younger populations, they can transform a demographic concern into a demographic dividend. If they don’t, they may want to look into building a few luxurious retirement homes before the end of their next term.