“Southern Sudanese Did Not Count On The Emergence of An Indigenous Oppressor When Opting For Secession”
August 22, 2013 | 15 Comments
-Mabior Garang on Political Developments in Southern Sudan.
By Ajong Mbapndah L
In the midst of a political crisis between President Salva Kiir and some senior members of his government and the ruling Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, there is every indication that all is not well in Southern Sudan. Africa’s newest nation seems to have learned little from the experiences that other African countries had at independence and the result is that Southern Sudan has so far failed to live up to the aspirations of its people. This is a view shared by Mabior Garang the son of the historic liberation hero the lated Dr John Garang. Southern Sudanese “did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation,” says Mabior in his take on the current crisis and how the country has been managed since independence in 2011.In an interview which revisits the liberation struggles of the Southern Sudanese, Mabior lashes out at corruption, and the SPLM government for deviating from its founding mission and principles. Politics has serious challenges but in the face of human suffering empathy dictates that something should be done says Mabior in justification of what he is doing at his level to help.
Mr. Garang, thanks so much for accepting to grant us this interview, South Sudan has been in the news and it appears for the wrong reasons, a power struggle between President Salvir Kiir and his Team, what is going on and how serious is this struggle to peace and unity in your country?
It is always an honor to have dialogue with Pan African Visions; I appreciate the opportunity to reach Comrades that want to know what’s happening in our corner of Africa.
Indeed South Sudan has been in the news and for the wrong reasons; it would appear that there is a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his team. However, the problem goes deeper than this; in my humble analysis it is a crisis of ideology (as I have mentioned in my previous interview with Pan African Visions), it is a loss of direction that is not only a South Sudanese tragedy but an African one.
In brief the movement is in crisis because it has not addressed several questions that have divided it since its inception. One of these had to do with organizational structure; while the other had to do with the unity of our people. There was the dominant camp in the movement that contended that a political movement (representative of the people) could not be formed in Ethiopia in 1983, because the basis for forming democratic institutions did not exist. They suggested that the military element should take primacy over the political, and through the course of the struggle the armed element would create the necessary conditions for the coming into being of the political element. They argued that the relationship was a dialectical one.
These cadres believed that the military element would provide discipline as the movement was trying to bring together people from various walks of life to work together. There was amongst those that found themselves as refugees in Ethiopia (in 1983) engineers, doctors, peasants (farmers and cattle keepers) even former criminals; how do you unite such a mass of people with different interest and make them work towards the same objective? The solution was a politico military organization that would stress military discipline. They argued that if the political element took precedence too early then they would be transferring the parliament to the bush, and it would be a never ending argument. They would end up like the Lumumbaist in Zaire, with the leadership in hotels in Tanzania and China, while the combatants suffer in the bush (this problem is explained better by Che in his “Diary of the Revolutionary War in the Congo”).
The other divisive issue was the question of the unity of our people vs. the secession of Southern Sudan.; the two ideas where taken by some to be mutually exclusive. The question of unity was expounded through the vision of the new Sudan; according to this philosophy the problem in the country (Sudan) was not an issue of the South seceding but one of the imposition of one culture to define the Sudan (a nation rich in diversity). This; they explained, was the fundamental problem in the country. This imposition of one culture to the exclusion of the others is what has caused marginalization and this in turn causes rebellion, the secession of the South would not address the problem concretely (it would be a temporary solution and this is today apparent).
In order to understand the vision of the new Sudan, it is essential to understand the history the inception of the liberation movements in Africa. The quest for a new society!
The founding fathers and mothers of the African liberation struggle realized that the old African society had been destroyed by the Arab and European slave trade and the colonization that followed. In addition, the nascent society that was being evolved was not one that could possibly serve the interests of the masses of the African people. The junior staff of the colonist where being trained to serve the interest of the respective European powers and not the interest of the masses of African people; therefore, the logical solution was a new society that would take the good from the old (pre-colonial Africa) and the contemporary (colonial Africa) and leave the bad to form a new society. A modern and new African society, one that best serves the interests of the masses of the African people; and makes them take their rightful place in the world.
The idea of the new society lost out over the new colonial society and over the years it has become entrenched in the process of classical neo colonialism. It is deplorable that today the economic indicators in most African countries are far worse than the period immediately following African independence (in the 1960), as if to suggest that the African masses where better off under the yoke of foreign oppressors. The failure across Africa to implement the vision of a new society has left the masses of African people trapped in humiliating poverty.
It is only once in a while that a leader comes along like the late John Garang (a selfless leader dedicated to the historical struggle of the people), and we are reminded of the need for a new society. And when they do, the leaders of the liberation movement have throughout time (consistently) been slandered, de-campaigned and outright murdered by those that are more concerned with independence and not necessarily social change. So the struggle rages on with the idea of liberation as the primary objective on one side and the achievement of flag independence as the objective on the other, the confrontation has at times been violent.
In the pre independence period the two camps had a common enemy so they worked together; however, when independence is achieved their interests rapidly deviated. The interest of those in the independence movement became maintaining political power at all costs (to save their privileged positions), while those in the liberation movement continue to have the same objective of social change, the restoration of the greatness of our people and the modernization of our societies (George Orwell described it best in his 1945 book – Animal Farm).
The truth is there need not be a contradiction between the vision of a new Society and African independence, not unless we are condemning our people to abject poverty forever. To get back to the question, what seems like a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and the cadres of the movement is how this struggle (Independence vs. Liberation) is being played out in our corner of Africa. Those that are only concerned with flag independence feel threatened by this vision (of liberating the masses). In an attempt to maintain their privileged positions in Juba, they have set out to misinform the citizens of our Republic that unity and the vision of new Sudan are mutually exclusive, a threat to the territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan and that we should abandon the idea because as they like to put it: “…we are now South Sudan…new Sudan is a dead ideology…”
They fear the vision of the new Sudan because it would result in the restructuring of power in Juba, the people would take control and not an oligarchy of oafs and stooges that are loyal to the head of state and who are all loyal to their own greed. This is why there has been no constitutional conference, the constitutional process has been compromised giving the head of state absolute power and “absolute power corrupts absolutely” as the saying goes. The vision of the new Sudan is also not in the interests of the Khartoum regime and so ironically the interests of Juba and Khartoum at the moment coincide.
This is where we are today as a movement!
How has President Kiir managed the country in his first term and why is he nervous about a challenge from his camp?
I say with all due respect to President Salva Kiir that he has completely mismanaged the country in his first term and during the interim period of the CPA. The SPLA – SPLM had clearly defined objectives that where abandoned in 2005 at the moment of victory and labeled as Garang ideas and those that would elucidate these ideas as “Garang boys”. When these are not Garang ideas but correct ideas behind which we have lost very many comrades over the course of the struggle. It is a betrayal to the spirit of these comrades for the objectives to be abandoned in such a whimsical manner. The SPLM had a document “The SPLM Strategic Framework for War to Peace Transition” that spelled out the program of the SPLM in the post war period. The document was abandoned.
It is now common knowledge that over the past eight years $ 4 billion has been embezzled in donor money while over $ 10 billion has been embezzled in oil revenues. There is an ever growing humanitarian crisis in Jong’lei State that if left unchecked could engulf the whole country. There are communities that are still living with (literally) Stone Age technologies in a country with billions ($) in oil revenues, a population of 8 million within an area that is 619,745 km². There are no basic services for the majority of our population, no decent healthcare, no food security, no clean water, no roads, no trade, no security of movement or property it is nothing short of a betrayal of the aspirations of our people.
The people of South Sudan opted for secession because they thought that the reason they were in abject poverty was Arab domination and the independence of the South would automatically solve all their problems. They did not count on the emergence of an indigenous oppressor that would continue the program of marginalization and exploitation. The imposition of one culture to define the nation is still being practiced in South Sudan, with some trying to define a diverse South Sudan through the lens of Nilotic speakers (excluding the other diversities in the Country).
The President has been given absolute power by a transitional constitution that was tailor made to suit his every whim. The President has absolute power as he can dismiss elected Governors and appoint new ones according Article 101 (r) and 101 (s); and if the parliament checks his powers he can adjourn or prorogue the National Legislature according to Article 101 (g). Anyone that criticizes the President also faces dismissal as we have recently seen with the recent sacking of two cabinet ministers, the Secretary General of the SPLM and the Vice President of the Republic. There are also journalist that have been tortured and murdered by unknown assailants after having criticized the president and/or government.
I don’t understand why the President is nervous? I believe that is a question best addressed to him. Perhaps he is nervous because as I have mentioned in previous interviews, and I repeat: “a posthumous coup has taken place…and has been made to appear like succession” the coup was carried out on the marginalized people of the old Sudan by the Northern and Southern elite. These elites came to the realization that the Sudanese Revolution was about to triumph and power would be restructured in Khartoum to the advantage of the marginalized communities. The elites would lose their privileged positions they have maintained since independence. It was not to the advantage of the Southern nor the Northern elite, and so they conspired to betray the Sudanese people.
The Southern elite took the aspirations of the people of South Sudan to have their own country where they would not be second class citizens and betrayed those aspirations. Those that have usurped power from the people in Juba are nervous because they know what they have done, and their intimidation tactics are not working; their propaganda tactics are also not working. They sense that the people are about to take back their movement and so they are desperate. The President has stopped working with the SPLM cadres and is now considering working with the opposition as is reflected by the recent appointment of several leaders of the opposition to the new cabinet (while true members are being dismissed).
What are the options that opponents of President Kiir dismissed from the government or suspended from the party have at their disposal?
The majority of those that were dismissed are still Members of Parliament, and others are respectable people in their communities, and so can still have an impact on the political process in the country. Those that feel victimized can follow the legal processes; they can challenge the decision of the President through the courts (as has been done by the SG of the SPLM through the Supreme Court). They could also opt to engage in national development through other means, as government is not the only institution through which one can contribute to national development.
Given the youthfulness of Southern Sudan, considering that the country is emerging from decades of fighting with Sudan prior to gaining independence, were expectations too high from President Kiir, are people not expecting results a little too soon considering where Southern Sudan came from?
I don’t believe that we are expecting too much too soon, because the struggle was not carried out in a vacuum, the struggle has a history. The SPLA had vast areas under its administration during the bush war (larger than the current area under our administration), these were known as liberated territories, and displaced camps. The services to the people in these areas were much better than the conditions today, the leadership was with the people in the rural areas, and so could quickly address their needs. This is not so today, the leadership has become amputated from the people and so thy make uninformed decisions knowing that they don’t have to live with the consequences.
The experience of the bush war could have been transferred to the new political reality, and we could have learned lessons from other African countries that suffered similar challenges during their independence. The independence of South Sudan is coming at a time of great leaps in technological advancement and so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are very many countries that gave us a helping hand during the struggle that could advise our young government. Instead the President is isolating potential allies in the region (to the extent of telling the SG of the UN: “…I am not under your command”).
There was tremendous outpouring of support from the world to the new nation, but all these opportunities have been squandered, and I believe it was done deliberately. I don’t believe it is due to where South Sudan came from that we are in the mess that we are in, our problems are self-inflicted. It is true that there is the legacy of the Arab and European Slave Trade, Colonialism and neo Colonialism; however, our liberation is our own responsibility. The SPLA guerillas forced the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Government to the negotiating table where SPLM defeated the NIF/NCP Government at the negotiating table. This great victory could not have been achieved except through exceptional organization of the masses of the Sudanese people. That we have failed to organize during peace time is an indication to me of a system overthrow, and a reversal of the victory of our people.
With regards to the security challenges, in addition to the issues that Southern Sudan has with Sudan, it is also disturbing to hear about violence between Southern Sudanese groups, what is the problem?
The problem (as I have mentioned above) is simple, the imposition of one culture to define the new state. The resulting marginalization is what fuels rebellions of those that feel disenfranchised. The current elites in South Sudan have shelved the CPA and the vision of new Sudan, within which are resolutions to problems of ‘wealth sharing’ and ‘power sharing’, ‘security arrangements’ and so on. The problems that plagued us in the old Sudan are still with us in the Republic of South Sudan, a new oppressor is emerging out of the ashes of the old (like an evil phoenix).
Overall how well would you say the SPLM has lived up to its founding principles and how well is it coping in keeping the legacy of its founding father the late Dr. John Garang?
The SPLM has abandoned its founding principles the corner stone of which was the vision of the new Sudan; we have failed to articulate the vision within the context of the new geopolitical reality. It is true that during the course of the armed struggle the new Sudan vision was articulated within the context of a united, democratic and secular Sudan. However, the failure of the two parties to agree on the nature of the state (secular vs. theocratic state) has led to a two state solution through the Southern Sudanese exercise of their right to self-determination. The vision of the new Sudan and the independence of the South are not mutually exclusive; the vision of the new Sudan can still be pursued within the territorial boundaries of what is now the Republic of South Sudan. The new Sudan is not a place on the map; it is a vision and political philosophy comparable to the millennium goals, the Magna Carta, or the Declaration on the rights of Man.
In addition the SPLM was fighting against forced Arabisation and forced Islamisation, the struggle was successful because of the overwhelming support of African nations. The movement in its (pre-independence) foreign policy convinced African governments of the danger posed by the threat of Islamic Jihad. The SPLM – North today and other revolutionary forces in North Sudan are still fighting this noble struggle, and it seems Africa has abandoned them. The SPLM in the South should be championing the cause of the SPLM – North not only as a matter of principle, but even as a matter of national security. The SPLM in South Sudan should be supporting the SPLM – North and justifying it to the AU and UN. The independence of South Sudan will be insignificant if the people of Abyei, Southern Khordofan, Southern Blue Nile, Darfur and all other Africans are still threatened by forced Arabisation and Islamisation (in fact no one is safe in Africa as we have seen recently in Mali).
The late Dr. John Garang was a product of the African liberation struggle; he lived in Tanzania and the USA during the 1960’s when he was a university student. Tanzania was supporting the African liberation movements at the time, while the USA was at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. This is the background from which he drew his inspiration, he was an Agricultural Economist and the leader of a Liberation Movement like Amilcar Cabral was. The SPLM history is not that dissimilar to the history of the PAIGC in Guinea Bissau or that of FRELIMO in Mozambique, and so I would not call it the legacy of the late Dr. John Garang. It is the legacy of the historical struggle of the African people, and it has manifested itself at different times and places in Africa. The struggle continues!
A word on the opposition, the press and the civil society, how effective are there as a tool in checking potential excesses from the President and the SPLM government?
There is no credible opposition that has evolved as of yet, perhaps the unease that we are currently experiencing are the birth pangs of the birth of the opposition. The traditional opposition parties inherited from the old Sudan are subservient to the SPLM; they exist by the good will of the SPLM and so can’t be effective. The press and the civil society face intimidation, arbitrary arrest and extra judicial killing by the security forces if they are critical of the President or his administration. The killing and intimidation of journalist has been widely reported in the media so I will not bore you with a list of names.
There is certainly much to criticize but there should also be reasons to remain optimistic and positive about Sudan, can you tell us some of those developments or things that should make Southern Sudanese remain optimistic about the future?
The People of South Sudan are the greatest hope of South Sudan, our people are a very resolute people that have lived through centuries of foreign domination and are still here (since pharaonic times). It was the people of South Sudan that mobilized all the resources available to them for their liberation and who achieved the current victory that is being hijacked by an unscrupulous bourgeoisified elite that have no interest in the liberation of our people. They would rather thrive on the ignorance of the masses.
The South Sudan Legislative Assembly, the representatives of the people of South Sudan are also a great hope for our people. They are the ones mandated by the constitution to check any excesses by the executive that may arise; and though they have been silent in the past, recent events show that they may be a force to reckon with. There are also the SPLM delegates of the National Convention, the highest body in the SPLM. There are a lot of challenges, but where there are challenges there are also opportunities.
On a personal note do you have plans to become more actively involved in politics, maybe run for office at the local level or for a parliamentary seat?
It is a catch 22, because who in their rightful mind would want to become actively involved in politics? I would rather get married raise children and take care of my family. There is a bad culture in South Sudan and Africa of entering politics to embezzle public funds. I am; however, not lacking anything and can find work and business anywhere. The problem is when one sees human suffering empathy dictates that I must do something. This is what I am doing within the constraints of the reality of my current situation.
Meeting with the Masters: Ray Lema shares secrets of his Amazing Musical Career
July 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Talk about musicians who have with great consistency flown the African flag high through music and Ray Lema will rank among the top. Born in Zaire which is today the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ray Lema has toured the globe with his brand of music which in his own words channels a link between traditional African Music and his modern pianist training. Despite the success and fame that he enjoys, Ray Lema has shunned the trappings of stardom as he seeks to be a better musician every day. Lema, who has collaborated with some of the biggest names in African music across generations says music is a function of one’s education and for a culture as rich as Africa, the focus should not remain on the showbiz element of music. Despite the challenges, Ray Lema says he is optimistic about the future of Africa especially with the younger generation which has more tools at their disposal to help is seeking solutions.
Ray Lema, we understand in your younger years, your aspiration was to be a Catholic Priest and you actually went to a seminary, what made you change your mind and when did you realize that music was your true calling?
I found my calling at the seminary when I went to be a priest and then I left because I was not quite comfortable with some concepts of the catholic religion.
How challenging was it for you to forge a name for yourself in music and may we know some highlights of your career?
I wasn’t in the challenge of “getting known” I was more in the challenge of being a better musician and I still am. I started as a classical pianist and then I became a rock guitar player, then I became the musical director of the National Ballet of Congo (DRC) and after I left Congo I’ve been on the roads, and if you go check my website, you can read about my biography.
Much of your music is different from the traditional Congolese and African Music, you have made it big with that, but what made you go for a different brand of music other than what most other than what most Africans of your time went for?
I think a matter of training I’ve been trained first as a classical musician and then being the director of a national ballet I had to listen and play with so many traditional musicians that the Congolese rumba didn’t really appeal to me. Today I try to make a direct link between African traditional music and my modern pianist training.
How many albums does Ray Lema have as of this moment and which of them registered the greatest success?
I’ve never been into the “star system” so it’s not a priority for me to go check which album is the most successful. But as I said before, I just feel I’m getting better as a musician. As for the number of albums same, just check on the website.
What is your appraisal of African music today and its younger generation, some have complained that there is too much vulgarity and it is lacking in message, your take on that sir.
Music is a reflection of one’s education and if we invest in educating our people we shouldn’t have that complain. The problem is actually that in modern African music we have only the show business side, and it’s not enough for cultures as rich as African cultures to be represented only by showbiz.
There are others who think too that music from earlier stars like Franco,Tabu Ley, Manu Dibango,Miriam Makeba,Franklin Boukaka , Le Grand Kalle,Fela etc had a patriotic zest and helped in promoting a strong African identity and promoting unity, do you agree?
All the musicians that you named didn’t have to sell an image through musical video clip. They were busy selling just their music, and their music was very close to the people, so it’s true that they had a stronger identity that what I hear today, because when I watch today’s video clips, they don’t really reflect musical careers, they just reflect an obedience to marketing rules.
May we know the relationship you have with some of those artists cited and may also know some of the younger generation of musicians you appreciate and frequently interact with?
I met personally and played with most of the musicians you cited. Most of them are gone, except for Manu Dibango with whom I have played extensively.
Among the younger, I play mostly with instrumentalist like Etienne Mbappe, Pépé Feli, Lokua Kanza, Bil Aka Kora, Fredy Massamba, Ballou Canta, les Tambours de Brazza with Emile Biayenda, Francky Moulet … there are a lot …
In terms of money, in terms of income, would you say music pays more today than it was a few decades back? This question is asked with issues of piracy and its negative effects in mind, how do we fight piracy so the artist can enjoy the fruits of his work?
Talking about money first, I should say Yes and no! Some “stars” today make the amount of money that could not have been dreamt of years before. And that’s where you have to make a difference between “stars” and musicians especially in Africa. Those who make money with music are the singers. The instrumentalist playing behind already have a hard time just surviving!
Talking about piracy, the first problem, talking about Africa is the weakness of the distribution system, then still in some countries the copyright is non existent or inefficient.
Piracy, with internet is a worldwide problem. Different solutions are being studied to reward the composers, but still I have to say that no satisfying solution has been found.
The continent recently celebrated fifty years of the African Union, considering that great names like you excelled in the earlier years of independence, what is your view on how the continent is evolving?
You’re misinformed! because in the 60’s I was still a teenager !!! I’m not that old !!!
In spite of all the problems we are facing in Africa, I deeply believe in my continent and more especially in the new generations coming who have more tools for analyzing our situation.
You are originally from the Congo and that country with its amazing resourcing and wonderful culture has not known peace for a long time now, how do you feel about that and in what way can music and famous musicians like you help in making things better?
Those amazing resources are the main Congolese problem because some big corporations from all over the world make their profit by keeping this situation unchanged and as a musician , I still feel very small in front of those corporations who will never give up peacefully their lucrative business. What has been happening for years in Congo is intimately linked to the global economic system, which is now totally out of control and you can see that the crisis is worldwide, so I can only hope that there will be a global change before it’s too late.
Any special projects that you are working on right now?
Yes ! my jazz quintet , with Etienne Mbappe on bass with whom I have a long time complicity.
I’m also working on new compositions to play with a string quartet , a new piano solo … tons of projects !!!
What do you consider as the legacy of Ray Lema, what would you want Africa and the world to always remember you for?
Being a universal musician deeply rooted in his African tradition !
Mr Ray Lema, thanks very much for your availability and for granting this interview, sometimes it is very difficult to get access to stars of your caliber.
Anytime. Now you know the way !Thank you,
Game Changing Mission? African Americans Could Invest $230 Billion In Africa By 2017
July 12, 2013 | 30 Comments
-Jerome Almon shares his vision of getting African-Americans to Bank on Africa
By Ajong Mbapndah L
U.S Businessman Jerome Almon says it is time for African-Americans to bank more on Africa and matching words with actions, he is launching a venture that will attract hundreds of billions of new investments in the continent. Almon, a veteran who also runs a successful entertainment company says investing in the continent will create wealth and opportunities for Africans and will also be economically beneficial to Africans in the U.S. Countries like India and China have made great progress in part because of strong ties and it is time for African Americans to have the same level of engagement with Africa said Almon in an interview to discuss his initiative with Ajong Mbapndah L
Mr Almon, you have been in the news recently with an ambitious plan to get African Americans invest about $230 billion by 2017, can you break down the vision in very simple terms for us?
It is a simple plan that ask a simple question, “Why should we have to ask others for help when we can help ourselves as Africans. African Americans spend well over a trillion dollars annually, and it does us no good, however investing in Africa through tourism, business ventures, and so on makes Africa financially independent while increasing the wealth and opportunities of Africans on the Continent and in America and it creates a cycle of economic growth for every country and its people in Africa and it makes all Africans everywhere more financially wealthy. It’s just common sense that we do it. We have complete power and control to do as we want with our money and resources-let’s do what’s best for us.
How did you conceive the idea and from the initial reactions you have got, how receptive is the public to your vision?
I looked around and saw nothing but opportunity for the African diaspora to help-especially African Americans with the huge amount of hard currency we spend every year and said to myself it’s time for us to do our share. Africans in every other region of the world were and are doing more than their share. Bottom line it works. The reaction to the plan at first was shock, but when the information was reviewed the people saw how reasonable and workable the plan was and really liked it. The amount of money is less than 8% of African American’s consumer spending. We were once on top of the world economically from Zimbabwe to Timbuktu to Egypt, let’s get back where we belong.
Definitely much could change in Africa with that kind of money, how do you think the money can be raised especially with the economic challenges that many African Americans are facing now?
It is very important that Africans in America not accept whatever they hear in the corporate media. African Americans are constantly told they are poor even though we spend more money than the GDP of all the countries on Earth with the exception of 15 (out of 229 ranked). We are as poor as Bill Gates is-which is not at all. If we spent our money among ourselves as Africans the way the Chinese, Europeans, and Indians, we would create more jobs than there are Africans in America. Equally we are not experiencing an economic downturn in the African American community, we are experiencing the lack of basic economic literacy and the lack of maximizing our potential in this area. For example, my hometown Detroit is bankrupt, but it is not bankrupt due to the lack of money as my website www.detroit1st.com shows. Africans in Detroit spend $30 billion a year, which would make Detroiter’s wealthier than over half the countries on Earth. If you convince someone that they are poor, they will behave as if they are poor. That is why the economic relationship with Africa is so important, think of what would happen if we as Africans followed such a common sense system with all of Africa’s natural resources?! The huge population of young people that can be the next innovators that produce the next Apple or Google, the large amount mineral wealth and natural resources that Africa has puts us as a people in a unique position. It is a matter of just seeing what is right in front of our eyes. The money is there, that cannot be disputed, it is a matter of consolidating it for African advancement. Through a basic media education program with 10 simple facts will allow us all to have a blue print to work from. The biggest issue is not that people don’t have the money and don’t want to help, they don’t know how to help and where to send the money. African Americans give away $12 billion annually to charities that don’t help Africans-American or otherwise. I say let’s spend and invest that $12 billion amongst Africa and Africans. Once you get the truth it compels you to act, it is impossible not to. Look at the fact that Africans from the Continent send more money back to Africa than all the foreign aid combined! There is endless potential if the North American, Caribbean, European, Australian, and South American Africans join in. Actually, it is normal for a society to invest 10% of its GDP into the economy, so we can do it-it happens every day. Any economic distress African Americans have is caused by our lack of doing business with Africans and Africa period. If Africans in America invested in Africa, there would be no poor African Americans-economically this is indisputable.
We have seen a few celebrities with projects in Africa like Oprah Winfrey and a school in South Africa, Isaiah Washington with a foundation in Sierra Leone etc, but many will agree there is still a strong disconnect between African Americans and Africa, why is it that the bonds are not as strong as those between Indian Americans and India or Latinos and South America?
The answer to that question is simple-we haven’t tried. A simple PR and marketing campaign from the African Union and its 54 members directed to African Americans saying “come back home-see what we can do as a people for ourselves, let’s talk, let’s do some things that benefit us all. African Americans should initiate a similar program of gaining membership in the African Union, adopting an African country to visit and work with, and most importantly right now reaching out to the 54 African embassies in America and finding out what Africa needs from us. We will find out that we can do so much together- we have to think big not small. African Americans should also learn an African language, this is a bond that the Chinese, Indians, and Latinos have-a common language. It is natural that we do this, so let’s do it. Our fate in America is the same as Africans everywhere else. It’s a matter of leadership, we need new leadership to compliment current leadership and move Africa and Africans to the next level.
We understand this idea is new, so what is the road map, the plan of action, beyond the first step to get word out there when do we see the first concrete steps towards the realization of the vision?
We must control our own message, currently most news on Africa is filtered through the non African media. We have enough money and the human talent to have an African Al Jazeera with branches in Africa and America. This also allows us to educate and end misconceptions we have of Africa and other Africans, which also provides great business opportunities in advertising and business ownership globally. Next we need to set time tables and specific goals in regards to the funds and projects. This can be easily done with a diaspora conference in Africa and in America and making maximum use of the internet and social media. The most important thing in this area is SHOW the people what great results come from the cooperation. We need to set a top 10 list of priorities such as education, economic literacy, infrastructure projects, GDP goals, and so on. We have to look at this as a grand project with grand results which requires a grand executable plan. These simple steps are 90% of the solution. African Americans are spending the money anyway, why not in Africa, why not on African goods and services? We can all be wealthy together or poor together, I say let’s be wealthy as a people. Let’s help fund projects such as The Great Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. The dam cost around $5 billion dollars
Are there partners you have identified besides African Americans especially in the continent?
I have been contacted by the office of the President of Sierra Leone, the South African government, African Canadian groups, Ugandan, Kenyan, the office of the President of Rwanda through a journalist in East Africa, the government of Tanzania, Nigerian, Angolan, and Namibian businessmen and dozens of other Africans from as far away as Hong Kong. The key is working with the leadership and people in Africa to partner them with Africans in the West and getting lines of communication open and resources to the needed area as efficiently as possible.
As much as things are changing in the continent, there are still leaders in power for over thirty years and counting, corruption is still too rife for comfort and there are countries where democratic values are not respected, how can such realities affect your project?
Democracy is a powerful thing-it automatically changes a lot of things. And one of things it does is create a middle class by its very nature, and that ends the chance of such prolonged rule. At a certain stage in development it is not viable, nor acceptable. Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go, but the country and the people still need power plants, roads, bridges, and technology. The concentration has to be on improving the average African’s life, and the rest will take care of itself. The West, China, India all faced the same issue and concentrated on the economic and infrastructure issues at hand and the democracy came along with the progress in these areas. All of my research and experience in this area shows that poverty creates dictators, and prosperity creates transparency and freedom.
Personally are there any countries that you have visited or some you consider as the kind of models of development and progress you will like to see across the continent?
Ironically, it is Germany, Canada, and China. Germany is a very efficient country. It was the world’s largest exporter up until 5 years ago. When you consider that the country has less than a third of the population of the US and 7% of China’s population, it is amazing. I always saw this as a model for Africa-especially South Africa. With Canada you have nearly as much efficiency and you have a very modern country in terms of infrastructure and human rights. Also with Canada you have a country the size of the US with 1 tenth of the population, which is very similar to most African countries. Canada is also a great model to borrow from in terms of its modern infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals. The country also mirrors African American economically, with our consumer spending being almost identical to Canada’s GDP. This allows for us to see what we SHOULD have with the amount of money we spend. Finally, there are more Africans in America than there are Canadians on Earth, look what they do with their resources and look what we Africans in America do with ours. We should have everything Canada has in America, but also each African country. We can easily do this. With China we see where we should be as a whole. China and the Chinese diaspora are moving as one economically and have been really seriously since the 1980’s-look at the result. If we adopt such a philosophy for Africa with its unmatched mineral and natural wealth we can be where China is in a relatively short period of time. China went from and agrarian society in the 1950’s to dominating the world economically today through its 5 year plan economic system. In these countries we see our potential and future, the keys are having the right vision, efficient execution of a workable plan, and constant monitoring of the feedback data and progress to make the plan more efficient.
With such a great vision, people will love to know who Jerome Almon, we see there is information about music labels you are, involvement in show biz etc, can you tell us who Jerome Almon is and the kind of experiences he has that should make people believe that this is a serious vision and this is something he can provide the right leadership for?
My background is in economics and political science, I have worked on the UN Delphi Project out of Belgium, I have attended America’s best Universities, and I have the real world experience-which is most important. I have managed one of the busiest retailers in the world. I speak working Zulu, German, Arabic, and English. I am a paratrooper and own a successful entertainment company that produces events that have 1.5-2.5 million fans per event. But what I am most proud of is my studying the history, geography, and culture of Africa. I have spent countless hours talking to Africans from university, African military officers, and African academics about Africa. My heroes were and are mostly continental Africans such as Jerry Rawlings, Haile Selassie, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jose Dos Santos, Kenneth Kaunda, Anwar Sadat and on and on. I have studied Africa since I was 8 years old. It is Africa FIRST for me always.
After reading this interview if people got interested what should there do, how can they get involved, support or find out more information?
I’m not too old to be President -Buhari
June 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Mannir Dan Ali, Mahmud Jega & Ismail Mudashir, Kaduna*
Media Trust editors had a rare encounter with former Head of State and leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at his Kaduna office. He bares his mind on several issues such as the recent attack in his home town, Daura; Asari Dokubo’s threats; Boko Haram; his calls for President Jonathan’s resignation; his secret deal with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and why he hasn’t groomed a successor, among others. Excerpts:
Some gunmen recently attacked your home town, Daura. Did the attack affect you personally?
Well, it affected me personally because the way I see it as a former military man, the attack was very efficiently planned and executed. It was the phase one of the agenda to destroy Nigeria. They attacked the security; the police stations in the town were destroyed, and I suspected they must have used incendiary bombs because you cannot repair the police stations. You have to demolish, bulldoze them and rebuild them.
They stationed what in the military we call cut off group; they stationed their men on all roads leading to Daura. People approaching Daura were attacked and the soldiers that were coming from Katsina town to give a helping hand to the police were ambushed and shot. I visited the soldiers that survived the ambush at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina.
The group of the gunmen who broke into the banks, certainly they were very well trained and they brought enough explosives to blow the banks and remove whatever they wanted. There was another group of them that went around terrorising the people by just throwing bombs all over the place. They did not alienate themselves to the people they came into contact with in the course of their operation; their objectives were to attack the police, rob the banks and scare the people away. They were extremely successful in their operation.
About the same time as the Daura incident, there was an attack on security personnel Nasarawa State where over 60 security personnel lost their lives. The Director General of the SSS recently said they have forgiven the killers but a former director of NSO General Abdullahi Mohammed gave a contrary position. What do you make of this?
Firstly, we have to see the difference between Daura and the Nasarawa attack. The Daura attack has to do with security and economy because right now you cannot send money to Daura. The people there cannot send to you too because the entire senatorial district comprising about 11 local government areas has been financially paralysed.
Workers that normally take their money from these banks have to travel out of the area to get their salaries. However, the Nasarawa attack is a cult that infiltrated the police itself. The latest I learnt from you the press is that the number of security personnel killed is 56. The cult group slaughtered 56 security men. The SSS boss or whoever that said he has left everything to God has no right to do that.
Constitutionally, Nigerians can practice any religion they want or they can be atheists or anything they want to be, that is constitutional. But nobody should hurt a citizen of Nigeria and then get away with it, not to talk of slaughtering 56 law enforcement agents and then somebody coming out from the system to say such a thing. It is either that person doesn’t know what he was talking about or he shouldn’t even be there.
Maybe he is being cautious because of what happened at Baga, because the way security agencies were blamed…
This one is different from Baga and Daura. Nasarawa case is a cult case; they are part of the community that have got their religion. I’m even against the people that are suggesting that the cult’s ritual places should be destroyed. According to the constitution, you must allow them to go about with their activities as long as they don’t go against the constitution. But those that killed the 56 security men must be hunted and prosecuted no matter how long it will take because this is the bottom line about law and order and security in the country. They can’t be forgiven; they can’t override the constitution; Nigerians are being hurt and killed in their duties and those that killed them must be brought before the law.
Not long after you came back from Daura, you said President Goodluck Jonathan should resign. Why should he resign just because of an isolated insecurity episode?
No, I think I explained myself as briefly as I could. For the last 14 years there have been extreme security challenges in the country but in the last two years it was even worse. There are two fundamental things that make a nation state viable— its security and its economy. The two years under this person, the security and the economy of the country have been compromised and this was why I said he should resign.
Unless you are telling me that you don’t know the things that went wrong in the last two years from bombing of 1st October, 2010 to now. MEND said they were the ones that did it and he came out as President and said that MEND members were not the ones. Subsequent investigation and prosecution of those who did it in South Africa proved that they did it. How can a president do that? Then look at Baga, Bama and other cases that are happening daily from Kano to Maiduguri. So what is he still doing there?
This insecurity problem, the President has tried the stick approach and he has also tried the carrot approach. If you are to be in charge, what else will you do differently?
Well, I will really go by what happened which you and I know. Firstly, how did the militancy start? How did Boko Haram start? What actions did the respective administrations at state level where those things started took? The militants, based on reports in the newspapers, were trained and armed by some party heavyweights to get rid of their opponents.
When they succeeded and won the elections, they asked those boys to return the weapons, the boys said no way. The politicians withheld their allowances, and then kidnapping started. So you will get a secondary school dropout with an AK-47 getting about 50,000 dollars per day. If the same person goes to school, he can only earn N100,000 monthly after putting 20 years in his education, so how do you expect him to forget it? It doesn’t make sense to him. This was how militancy started.
And when late Umaru Musa Yar’adua was very generous, he pardoned them, he discussed with them, he gave them money and he arranged training and re-absorption programme for them, the thing went slightly down. Abduction has been institutionalised in the South-South and the South -East and it is coming up all over the country.
How did the Boko Haram crisis start? The military arrested their leader, Mohammed Yusuf and handed him over to the police. The police killed him and his in-law and levelled their houses. They became mad and the situation deteriorated from then up to now.
You see how the challenges started and how they were initially handled but now look at what happened in Baga and Bama. I tried to draw a parallel with what happened with Margret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister and insisted on having her convention at Brighton. The British security tried to stop her from holding it there, but she insisted. The hotel she put up in was blown up and some people died. Did the British law enforcement agents cordon off the area and shoot everything that moved? So there is a big question mark about the competence of our law enforcement agents.
You cited a foreign example but we can also cite a local example. Early in your tenure as military head of state, there was a major Maitatsine uprising in Yola and you applied a purely military solution. Or did you think of negotiating with Maitatsine’s men at that time?
You have to frame the question properly, I’m sorry to say. The Maitatsine started from Kano, then it went to Maiduguri and Bulunkutu and then to Yola. Since you limited yourself to Yola, I’m going to limit myself to it too. My number two man, Tunde was not in the country so as the Head of State I flew to Yola and I went to the area where the operation was being carried out by the military. And that was the end of Maitatsine. But go and find out, before the President [Jonathan] was persuaded to go to Maiduguri and when he went, the whole life of Borno State was tensed he couldn’t feel secure until when he left there. I went there of course bearing in mind that I was in the military and it was a military operation, but he is a civilian and the military were conducting the operation. So this is the difference.
When we knew who was Maitatsine, wasn’t he arrested, killed and his corpse shown to everybody? But this Boko Haram, if you could recall somebody recommended me to represent Boko Haram. I told them the honest truth that I didn’t know who their leadership was and I still don’t know who their leaders are. I don’t know their philosophy because no religion advocates hurting the innocent. So all those people giving it a religious meaning are wrong. You can’t kill a person and say Allahu Akbar (God is great). It is either you don’t know what you are saying or you don’t believe in it. It is one of the two.
It appears that many people around the president seem to think that is because you politicians in the opposition want to spoil the president’s show, that’s why there is this problem of Boko Haram.
You can effectively check this yourself. People are still being abducted and killed in the South-South and South-East. Are they doing it to spite their son of the soil whom they say if he is not voted in 2015, there will be no Nigeria?
Looking at that statement by former militant leader Asari Dokubo, what will happen in 2015?
When was he born? Did he know how many Nigerians died to keep Nigeria one? Maybe he was born after those events. But those who saw the 15th January 1966 murder of political and military leadership of some parts of the country and saw the counter coup of 29th July 1966 and those who participated in the 30 months civil war wouldn’t talk like that. He is just a spoilt child. He didn’t know what he was talking about. We wish God will bring us to 2015 and we wish to defeat Jonathan and we’ll see who can divide this country.
Talking of 2015, is it clear in your mind whether you will contest or not?
I’ve always been a very clear person. I’ve never been a confused man. I made a statement in tears when I saw how insensitive Nigerians are and they didn’t realise it until when my tears were dry. It is now their turn to cry now when there is no security and the economy is comatose. Is now their time to cry.
So will you comfort Nigerians now that they are crying?
I put it back to my party. I believe in multiparty democratic system. I sincerely believe in it and this is why I’m in it for the past 10 years. If my party which by God willing is going to APC, in approach to the processes of 2015 general elections give me the ticket, I will favourably consider it.
You were fairly clear in 2011 that you were through with running for elections. Given what you have been saying recently and which you just repeated now, could it be said that you have now become a normal Nigerian politician who says something and later changes his mind?
I expect people to say that but every situation is unique in itself. I have never denied the fact that I said I’ll not present myself but I was also very clear that I’ll remain in partisan politics to the end of my life. I did not say I will not participate again. People came with different convincing reasons that I should reconsider it and I told them that I’m prepared to reconsider it.
Now that ACN, CPC and ANPP held their conventions and have approved their dissolving into APC, where do we go from here?
I think you go back to the Electoral Act of 2010. That is where the answer is. The conventions of the parties you have mentioned is one of the criteria necessary for the formal application of the three parties, having met and agreed to merge and form one party. They have to take to INEC the resolutions of the conventions. Two, their parties headquarters’ must be at the nation’s capital in Abuja. Three, the names of the executives of the party as prescribed by the Electoral Act. So, the next move is for us to send the formal application to INEC according to the Electoral Act.
Those are the technicalities but what about the politics? Have you agreed for example on how you are going to merge the various state chapters?
You will not hear this from me now because we have a system. The resolutions of the three merging parties at the end of the conventions is that in the interim, the highest ruling body of the party—in our own case the CPC Board of Trustees—will continue to be the chief executives of respective parties until we formerly receive our certificate as APC. So no vacuum because nature hates vacuum. So we will continue according to the resolutions that we have passed which will entitle us to submit application and become APC. We will continue to work with this until we are registered as APC. We are APC from the date INEC gives us the certificate.
Have you agreed on who the national officers of APC will be?
That too I won’t tell you.
The public wants to know because 2015 is not far away.
This one too I won’t tell you. So, there are two things I won’t tell you.
What about this third one; we hear that the ACN leaders have conceded the presidency to the North while the party chairman will come from the South.
Well, I feel that for the stability of the party, at my own level I wouldn’t encourage rumour and I wouldn’t encourage incitement to make unprepared releases of our confidential discussions within the parties.
Several newspapers reported that there was an agreement between Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and yourself for both of you to renounce your personal aspirations in the interest of the new party.
I’ll resist all temptations to get me roped into making fundamental statements about this merger. When we formally submit our applications then I will answer such questions because then the documents are with INEC and I feel it is safe enough. Now it is not safe for me to confirm or reject your suggestions.
Is it true that when this merger process started personally you wanted it to be between ACN and CPC and you were not keen on allowing ANPP people to come in?
It is incorrect.
You don’t seem to be very comfortable with ANPP people.
You are still incorrect.
What is your current relationship with the ANPP chieftain Senator Ahmed Sani Yariman Bakura? In 2007 when at one time he was the chairman of your campaign organisation a problem developed at some stage.
Well, he remained in ANPP and we went and floated CPC and we are in it. So we are in different political parties.
But now you are coming to the same party, APC. Given what happened between you and him six years ago, are you comfortable now that you will be in the same party again?
Yes, I feel comfortable because we have just discussed the legal terms of coming together and we have all accepted it. The three parties that are coming together. We are working towards the final stages of submitting our formal application to the INEC for registration. So, what else do you really want?
What about Ali Modu Sherrif?
He is the chairman of ANPP’s Board of Trustees and I’m the chairman of CPC’s Board of Trustees. Check the constitution of their party and see how much power their BOT has and check our own to see how much power our BOT has. We are trying to be very legal because this is the safest way to arrive at the merger. The legal documents involved are, firstly, the Electoral Act 2010. This is fundamental because it is the constitutional one so to speak. And then followed by the constitutions of respective parties and their manifestos. So we came and arrived at the top of the pyramid.
Are you sticking to the rules like this because you fear that people outside may try to scuttle the merger?
I think I have a different perception of the merger. There is Electoral Act on how to merge or form a new party and we are following the laws. I’m not too legalistic; I’m just trying to follow the laws.
This merger business is more politics than the law. Are you satisfied with the kind of people that are coming into APC because there are allegations that some of them are PDP moles.
You see, when we get the registration the next thing legally is for us to do our convention whereby the party will choose its political leadership at all levels, from ward upward. Moles or no moles, whoever wants to participate will be given the opportunity. So let all the moles be coming, let them go and register with APC in their ward, get their cards and then let them start, if they want to be councillors or president. This is what we are going to do.
You are coming together trying to displace the ruling party that is used to the spoils of office for so many years and obviously they won’t sit on their laps and wait for that to happen. Is that why you’re being careful about whole thing?
We are being careful because that is the right thing to do. You can’t ride shoddily on laws. You just interrogated me on what happened in Nasarawa State and I told you what I think is the lawful way to do address it. We came together to stabilise the system because PDP has compromised the security and the economy of the country. We realised that the only way to stabilise the system is for the opposition parties that have representation in the legislative arm of government at both national and state levels to come together and face PDP. This is the only way to stabilise the system otherwise they will keep on doing what they like.
Are you willing to make some sacrifices because I hear people saying that in the event it is not Buhari, will he back someone else, or must it be you?
I have answered that question. You know when you tell the truth you don’t forget it. It is lies that you forget. Somebody asked me the same question in Minna and I told him that after consummating the merger under APC, if somebody wants to become a presidential candidate and I agree myself to participate, we can go to the primaries together with that person. Let the party choose who becomes its presidential candidate for the 2015 election. I have answered that question, so please be fair to me.
You recently turned 70 and by 2015 you will about 72. Is it appropriate to run for office at that age?
Why not? I’m not a lawyer but I try to go by the rules. I think participating in voting and looking for political office by our constitution is from the age of 18 and they didn’t say when you reach the age of 100 you shouldn’t participate. So I’m even relatively young to seek for election. So it is up to firstly my party to give me the opportunity to participate and then secondly is for Nigerians to vote me or reject me because of old age.
Given the kind of political estate you built within short period of time with millions of followers, we haven’t seen a conscious effort on your part to groom a successor.
When you are running a system unless you are so primitive, I’m sorry to use that word, you don’t have to choose a leader for your supporters. You should allow the system to identify and pick its leadership. This is the beauty of the system.
Many observers say that CPC was a highly personalised arrangement with only one real political asset, that is you. That is why people say that if some accident were to happen, there won’t be CPC again.
No, no! We have got infrastructure on the ground and in spite of coming into the field relatively late, look at what we did. CPC was registered in December 2009 and look at what it achieved. CPC has done extremely well. We did our registration, congresses, convention and then the elections all between 2009 and 2011.
People say you mismanaged a golden opportunity to capture many states in 2011 election.
Golden opportunity to go outside the law? You don’t know what happened. You don’t know the way the elections were rigged especially in Kaduna. There was curfew imposed with the military on the streets during elections. Our candidates and our agents in polling units couldn’t move under the curfew but PDP agents and INEC officials can move.
Can that happen again?
But now when we have all the opposition parties together and we go back to our constituencies, empower and train our people, rigging will be extremely difficult. Rigging will be extremely difficult in 2015 with APC around.
You were able to win 12 states the presidential election only to come down to one state in the gubernatorial election a week later. Though the rigging you talked about could be a factor, there were also signs that perhaps you were interested only in the presidency and that you didn’t worry too much about winning governorships.
There was internal party squabble at state level. I will give you an example with my state, Katsina. There was so much infighting among the executives of the party [CPC] from ward upward. Everybody wants to be the governor or anoint the governor and because of the infighting, it was resolved by the state executive that they should all forget about positions but that they should go and campaign for the party.
CPC won all the senatorial seats in the state; it won 12 out of the 16 House of Representatives seats. How then can CPC fail to win the governorship? You see it doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is that greed divided the officials of the party in the state.
Some of those problem festered for a long time, like that of Kano State. How come it wasn’t resolved?
I have given you the breakdown of the time.
What is your take on the current crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF)?
It annoys me in the sense that we have more serious things for the chief executives of states to occupy themselves with rather than the NGF which is unconstitutional.
Could it be a dress rehearsal for 2015 probably because the Rivers State governor is seen not to be with President Jonathan?
Well, they are from the same political party, the same geo-political zone, so I don’t have the inner intelligence as to why they don’t want Amaechi to continue.
CPC’s governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State appeared to have voted for Amaechi.
Yes, why not? He knows as a person he cannot make much difference. Perhaps PDP is extorting him so much that he better shows them that he is not with them. He supports anybody that will give them a good fight.
This week we marked the 14th anniversary of Nigeria’s return to civilian rule. Do we have anything to celebrate?
I congratulate Nigerians. They have the patience to tolerate misgovernance. The government has failed in its fundamental duties of protecting lives and properties. They have woefully failed in providing jobs and in getting the infrastructure that will make the economy to pick up and to bring back manufacturing, employment and goods and services. I cannot congratulate failure. To me, our democracy is a total failure. Go to your local government and do some exercise.
Get the amount that accrued to it from 1999 to date and then check what was the state and number of schools; health centres; roads and water supply before 1999 and now. At any level, from local government upward to states and Federal Government, the money gotten from 1999 to date does not correspond with what is on the ground.
What you just said now about the record of 14 years of civilian rule sounds like your speech of December 31, 1983 when you overthrew a civilian government.
No, what I’m saying is that at any level from the local government upward to states and Federal level check what was the situation of infrastructure an before 1999 and now. Let me give you example, which is based on facts and not hearsay. There was hearing at the National Assembly on them.
The money spent on National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) from 1999 to date was between 11 to 16 billion dollars, not naira because they have turned our naira into paper. Look at the state of power now, after 16 billion dollars. In my town Daura about two weeks ago, there was no power for three consecutive weeks. If you go to parts of Abuja, sometime for a week there wouldn’t be light. This is after 16 billion dollars was invested in the sector.
They are now privatising the sector. Do you support that?
Who am I to support or reject it? It doesn’t make any difference.
It is good to know where you stand on major economic or social issues as major contender for the presidency.
But that’s just a stand. It was said that we have 8000 megawatts then, what do we have now and what have they put in infrastructure with the 16 billion dollars? You have to know where you are and where you are heading to.
What else will you do apart from probing?
I didn’t say I’m going to probe because if you say so the country will be at a standstill. We have to find out what happened between the periods; the amount that was actually realised; what is the level of infrastructure; where are the agreements and with which companies? Have they brought the equipment they promised in the agreement? Have they used technically competent people or firms to do the transmission or generation of power? All these vital questions must be answered by those who are responsible for keeping the country where it is.
Will you continue with the privatisation program if you eventually become the president?
You see, governance is not a question of whims and caprices of individuals, it is a system. You don’t sell a country’s asset by saying just go and take it. There is a process. Does the firm or individual have the capacity to run the firm? This question must be answered, not just because somebody is a former Head of State, therefore he is infallible. He went and floated companies and then he lobbied for the business and afterwards he will go and keep the money in Switzerland or invest in a developing country and allow his country to be going down. There is a system.
That sounds like you are going to stop the power sector privatisation.
How can I stop it when I haven’t even studied how it came about? I’m not an impulsive person. You can tell me that I’m rigid and this and that but I personally believe that I’m not an impulsive person. I’m a systematic person and a law abiding Nigerian.
People say that in your career you tend to over trust some people and they abuse power in your name. When you were Head of State, you over trusted Idiagbon; when you were in PTF you over trusted the consultants and now in politics you over trusted TBO.
I did not go to the university to study management or whatever. I learnt management of people in the field, especially people under fear, in war and in the battlefield. This is where you understand the strength and weakness of individuals. But when it comes to the management of people and materials you look for the clever ones, the armchair professor of everything. How can you have a structure without trusting people? No matter how greedy you are as a leader at every level you have to delegate to people. Even in your house, you have to assign some responsibilities to your wife. You can’t say you‘re going to the market, buy vegetables, cook the soup and count the meat. From the management of your house to wherever you find yourself, you have to trust people. There are things you can’t put in writing or talk about when you trust people because you’re not perfect and you don’t expect perfection from anybody. Only God is perfect.
I’m happy that the people I mentored, the people I’ve been accused of trusting have kept the trust. Nobody can blame Idiagbon of laziness; of lack of courage or of incompetence. Nobody can blame Afri-projects for short-changing PTF and the government. There is no type of inquiry that Obasanjo’s government didn’t put in place to get something against PTF. Not a kobo was found against us. Nobody can say Idiagbon has floated a company and gave himself licenses, so Alhamdulillah.
In politics, I have attempted and I was given presidential ticket by ANPP twice and by CPC. Yes, I have a team that is supposed to run the party but we were not successful. In each case we went to court, in 2003, 2007 and in 2011.
The Supreme Court judgement favoured PDP. Get the judgement, you can buy it, it is now a public document and study it in detail. You will find out that my team of lawyers and those around me did all that is humanly possible. Under our political development, they have done their best and I’m very proud that we have not been caught or disgraced in the system for dishonesty.
Do you have any regrets for something you didn’t do or you could have done differently as military Head of State?
It was a long time when I was Head of State and under the circumstance that I came in, I think we tried to do our best. When we came in, we did four things. One, we refused to devalue the naira. Secondly we refused to remove petroleum subsidy.
Thirdly, there were states that owed their workers up to nine months salaries; we got money from the federation account and paid them all. And subsequently we removed it from their allocations and we returned same to the federation account. Fourthly, we refused to remove subsidy on flour. I couldn’t regret doing any of these four things and making sure they all worked.
We also refused to take loans and we were servicing effectively both medium and long term debts according to the agreement entered into by previous governments. We were not a perfect regime but these are what we did in 20 months.
You don’t regret that you didn’t shoot some politicians Rawlings style?
No, we didn’t shoot anyone! It was deliberate; all those we arrested we said they should be kept in detention—president, vice president, ministers and some governors. We said they should be treated with respect until various tribunals successfully prosecuted them with documents presented against them and not by hearsay. There were people that were released because nothing was found against them. People like Adamu Ciroma, late Biliyaminu Usman who was junior minister of education and some were from the south. They were released and allowed to go because nothing was found against them. Of course they were embarrassed that they were detained.
Did you say sorry to them?
Yes, we said sorry officially.
How do you remember your daughter who died recently?
Zulaiha was my first daughter; she was to be 40 a week to the time she died. She had three children including the [one she got by] Caesarean section. She was a sickler but she was an extremely hardworking person. She went to the university and she was working with a Federal Ministry until she died.
Apart from politicking, what do you do in the form of exercise?
I think prayer is a good exercise especially when you are getting old, if you do it properly. I complement it with walking within my compound. I’m a lucky person and I thank God I’m a healthy person.
What is your favourite meal?
I think because of my military training and during the war, I virtually eat everything but I like kunu da kosai in the morning. In the afternoon I eat tuwon alkama da miyan kuka. I hardly eat rice and I eat a lot of vegetables.
*Source Sunday Trust
Pan-Africanism is more important than ever – Dlamini-Zuma
May 20, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Elissa Jobson and Parselelo Kantai in addis ababa*
The continent cannot wait until the African standby force becomes operational in 2015 to be able to resolve conflicts like Mali, says the AU Commission chair. Inequality – at the root of these crises – must also be addressed.
The three issues – pan-Africanism, sustainable development and the empowerment of women – loom the largest in Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma plans for the African Union.
Like many South African activists, Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s attachment to pan-Africanism is more practical than ideological.
It was the African National Congress’s ability to mobilize diplomatic and military support across the continent that enabled it to pressure the nationalist government in south Africa.
The pan-African spirit, says Dlamini-Zuma, started as a means to define Africa’s identity and fight against racial oppression.
It then assumed a vital organisational function. It got Africans to speak with one voice during the anti-colonial struggle and in subsequent diplomatic and economic negotiations.
“Now pan-Africanism is even more important, we’ve got a huge population, over a billion.
But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant,” Dlamini-Zuma argues. “You can’t ignore a billion plus people, but you can ignore five million people.”
For her, the founding vision of a borderless Africa with a single market, freedom of movement for labour and capital must underpin the continent’s development strategy.
The struggle has now moved on, she says, to organising the ports, the continental highways and power plants that will change people’s lives but require unprecedented cooperation.
In all this, it is Dlamini-Zuma’s determination that women should play a leading role in the African Union’s development, diplomacy and security work.
It was the women’s rights activists that pressured the authors of the AU’s constitutive act to include “the effective participation of women in decision-making” as one of the central objectives of the AU.
Now at least 50 percent of the AU commissioners must be women.
Those provisions helped women’s organisations such as Binta Diop’s Femmes Africa Solidarité to lobby more effectively for Dlamini-Zuma’s election as chair of the AU Commission last July.
The Africa Report: Is pan-Africanism relevant in the 21st century?
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma: Pan-Africanism is still very relevant and even more important in a way. We have reserves of arable land. We have natural resources that – if we are able to turn them into wealth – can make a very prosperous continent. But if you divide us into individual countries, we are not significant. So it’s very important that we integrate, and integration is an expression of pan-Africanism.
Will Africa have abolished all national borders within 50 years?
I am quite sure that by 2063 there should be free movement of people within our continent. The free movement of people plus goods and capital is critical.
We should be able to drive from Cape to Cairo, go by train from Djibouti to Dakar. Even if you’re borderless, if you can’t drive from one place to another it means nothing.
How can the African union (AU) help make the current economic upturn into sustained development?
I think the AU should be a catalyst. The AU should work with member states, finding partnerships within the continent and externally.
We should be able to mobilise resources within the continent and diversify our partnerships. We’ve had partnerships with Europe and that should continue, but there are other partners in the Americas and Asia.
With the African Development Bank and with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa we should look at an audit of the continent to see which skills are critical to implement the priorities.
We should look at [African renaissance] as a process not as an event. It had to start with liberation because you can’t have a renaissance of people who are repressed. Now it has to be liberation in terms of human development, sustainable development and modernisation.
What about liberation from aid dependency?
This is very important. If you look at the important documents like the Lagos Plan of Action, part of the reason we’ve not been able to implement all these great initiatives was because we thought we could implement them through aid.
No country can have donor aid as the mainstay of its development. Donor aid is welcome, but it should be contributing to what we are already doing. We cannot wait for the first dollar to come from outside. Our mindset needs to change.
How can Africa tackle its own security crises without the need for foreign interventions in places such as mali and libya?
We should first be looking at why are these crises taking place. If we were to address truly the issue of inclusive development and participative democracy, we will get fewer of these crises. The equitable distribution of wealth, participative democracy and inclusive economic development are going to be key to sustaining peace and stability.
We also have to look at what can we do in the short term as Africans to be able to have a rapid response to these crises.
If you recall in my opening [statement] at the [January] summit, I did say that we need to look at that because this issue of the standby force – which is going to be operationalised in 2015 – does not help [in the] problems [we are having] now.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary [of the Organisation of African Unity/AU], we should be reflecting on that●
*Source African Report.Follow Africa Report @theafricareport on Twitter | theafricareport on Facebook
Wole Soyinka on Chinua Achebe:
May 20, 2013 | 1 Comments
-Achebe A Celebrated Storyteller, But No Father Of African Literature, Says Soyinka
-Also: Why He Wished Achebe Had Not Written His Last Book; What He Told Ojukwu Before The War; Genocide, And Other Issues
.Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has described Africa’s most well known novelist, Chinua Achebe, as a storyteller who earned global celebration, adding, however, that those describing Achebe as “the father of African literature” were ignorant.
In a wide-ranging interview with SaharaReporters, Soyinka paid tribute to the late novelist who died on March 21, 2013 at 82. Soyinka, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for literature, also spoke on his personal relationship with Achebe and other Nigerian writers; his regrets about Achebe’s last book, There Was A Country: A Personal History of Biafra; and his attempt to talk the late Biafran leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, out of fighting a war. Soyinka also answered questions about Heinemann’s African Writers Series and scolded “clannish” and “opportunistic hagiographers” fixated on the fact that Achebe never won the Nobel Prize.
Below is the full text of the interview.
Question: Do you recall where or how you first learned about the death of Professor Chinua Achebe? And what was your first reaction?
Soyinka: Where I heard the news? I was on the road between Abeokuta and Lagos. Who called first – BBC or a Nigerian journalist? Can’t recall now, since other calls followed fast and furious, while I was still trying to digest the news. My first reaction? Well, you know the boa constrictor – when it has just swallowed an abnormal morsel, it goes comatose, takes time off to digest. Today’s global media appears indifferent to such a natural entitlement. You are expected to supply that instant response. So, if – as was the case – my first response was to be stunned, that swiftly changed to anger.
Now, why was I stunned? I suspect, mostly because I was to have been present at his last Chinua Achebe symposium just a few months earlier – together with Governor Fashola of Lagos. Something intervened and I was marooned in New York. When your last contact with someone, quite recent, is an event that centrally involves that person, you don’t expect him to embark on a permanent absence. Also, Chinua and I had been collaborating lately on one or two home crises. So, it was all supposed to be ‘business as usual’. Most irrational expectations at one’s age but, that’s human presumptuousness for you. So, stunned I was, primarily, then media enraged!
Question: Achebe was both a writer as well as editor for Heinemann’s African Writers Series. How would you evaluate his role in the popularization of African literature?
Soyinka: I must tell you that, at the beginning, I was very skeptical of the Heinemann’s African Series. As a literary practitioner, my instinct tends towards a suspicion of “ghetto” classifications – which I did feel this was bound to be. When you run a regional venture, it becomes a junior relation to what exists. Sri Lankan literature should evolve and be recognized as literature of Sri Lanka, release after release, not entered as a series. You place the books on the market and let them take off from there. Otherwise there is the danger that you start hedging on standards. You feel compelled to bring out quantity, which might compromise on quality.
I refused to permit my works to appear in the series – to begin with. My debut took place while I was Gowon’s guest in Kaduna prisons and permission to publish The Interpreters was granted in my absence. Exposure itself is not a bad thing, mind you. Accessibility. Making works available – that’s not altogether negative. Today, several scholars write their PhD theses on Onitsha Market literature. Both Chinua and Cyprian Ekwensi – not forgetting Henshaw and others – published with those enterprising houses. It was outside interests that classified them Onitsha Market Literature, not the publishers. They simply published.
All in all, the odds come down in favour of the series – which, by the way, did go through the primary phase of sloppy inclusiveness, then became more discriminating. Aig Higo – who presided some time after Chinua – himself admitted it.
Question: For any major writer, there’s the inevitable question of influence. In your view, what’s the nature of Achebe’s enduring influence and impact in African literature? And what do you foresee as his place in the canon of world literature?
Soyinka: Chinua’s place in the canon of world literature? Wherever the art of the story-teller is celebrated, definitely assured.
Question: In interviews as well as in writing, Achebe brushed off the title of “father of African literature.” Yet, on his death, numerous media accounts, in Nigeria as well as elsewhere, described him as the father – even grandfather – of African literature. What do you think of that tag?
Soyinka: As you yourself have observed, Chinua himself repudiated such a tag – he did study literature after all, bagged a degree in the subject. So, it is a tag of either literary ignorance or “momentary exuberance” – ala [Nadine] Gordimer – to which we are all sometimes prone. Those who seriously believe or promote this must be asked: have you the sheerest acquaintance with the literatures of other African nations, in both indigenous and adopted colonial languages? What must the francophone, lusophone, Zulu, Xhosa, Ewe etc. etc. literary scholars and consumers think of those who persist in such a historic absurdity? It’s as ridiculous as calling WS father of contemporary African drama! Or Mazisi Kunene father of African epic poetry. Or Kofi Awoonor father of African poetry. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate.
As a short cut to such corrective, I recommend Tunde Okanlawon’s scholarly tribute to Chinua in The Sun (Nigeria) of May 4th. After that, I hope those of us in the serious business of literature will be spared further embarrassment.
Let me just add that a number of foreign “African experts” have seized on this silliness with glee. It legitimizes their ignorance, their parlous knowledge, enables them to circumscribe, then adopt a patronizing approach to African literatures and creativity. Backed by centuries of their own recorded literary history, they assume the condescending posture of midwiving an infant entity. It is all rather depressing.
Question: Following Achebe’s death, you and J.P. Clarke released a joint statement. In it, you both wrote: “Of the ‘pioneer quartet’ of contemporary Nigerian literature, two voices have been silenced – one, of the poet Christopher Okigbo, and now, the novelist Chinua Achebe.” In your younger days as writers, would you say there was a sense among your circle of contemporaries – say, Okigbo, Achebe, Clarke, Flora Nwapa – of being engaged in a healthy rivalry for literary dominance? By the way, on the Internet, your joint statement was criticized for neglecting to mention any female writers – say, Flora Nwapa – as part of that pioneering group. Was that an oversight?
Soyinka: This question – the omission of Flora Nwapa, Mabel Segun (nee Imoukhuede) – and do include D.O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, Cyprian Ekwensi, so it is not just a gender affair – is related to the foregoing, and is basically legitimate. JP and I were however paying a tribute to a colleague within a rather closed circle of interaction, of which these others were not members. Finally, and most relevantly, we are language users – this means we routinely apply its techniques. We knew what we were communicating when we placed “pioneer quartet” in – yes! – inverted commas. Some of the media may have removed them; others understood their significance and left them where they belonged.
Question: Did you and Achebe have the opportunity to discuss his last book, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, and its critical reception? What’s your own assessment of There Was a Country? Some critics charged that the book was unduly divisive and diminished Achebe’s image as a nationally beloved writer and intellectual. Should a writer suborn his witness to considerations of fame?
Soyinka: No, Chinua and I never discussed There was a Country. Matter of fact, that aborted visit I mentioned earlier would have been my opportunity to take him on with some friendly fire at that open forum, continuing at his home over a bottle or two, aided and abetted by Christie’s [editor’s note: Achebe’s wife, Professor Christie Achebe] cooking. A stupendous life companion by the way – Christie – deserves a statue erected to her for fortitude and care – on behalf of us all. More of that will emerge, I am sure, as the tributes pour in.
Unfortunately, that chance of a last encounter was missed, so I don’t really wish to comment on the work at this point. It is however a book I wish he had never written – that is, not in the way it was. There are statements in that work that I wish he had never made.
The saddest part for me was that this work was bound to give joy to sterile literary aspirants like Adewale Maja-Pearce, whose self-published book – self-respecting publishers having rejected his trash – sought to create a “tragedy” out of the relationships among the earlier named “pioneer quartet” and, with meanness aforethought, rubbish them all – WS especially. Chinua got off the lightest. A compendium of outright impudent lies, fish market gossip, unanchored attributions, trendy drivel and name dropping, this is a ghetto tract that tries to pass itself up as a product of research, and has actually succeeded in fooling at least one respectable scholar. For this reason alone, there will be more said, in another place, on that hatchet mission of an inept hustler.
Question: One of the specific issues raised constantly in recent Nigerian public “debate” has to do with whether the Igbo were indeed victims of genocide. What are your thoughts on the question?
Soyinka: The reading of most Igbo over what happened before the Civil War was indeed accurate – yes, there was only one word for it – genocide. Once the war began however, atrocities were committed by both sides, and the records are clear on that. The Igbo got the worst of it, however. That fact is indisputable. The Asaba massacre is well documented, name by victim name, and General Gowon visited personally to apologize to the leaders. The Igbo must remember, however, that they were not militarily prepared for that war. I told Ojukwu this, point blank, when I visited Biafra. Sam Aluko also revealed that he did. A number of leaders outside Biafra warned the leadership of this plain fact. Bluff is no substitute for bullets.
Question: Your joint statement with Clarke balances the “sense of depletion” you felt over Achebe’s death with “consolation in the young generation of writers to whom the baton has been passed, those who have already creatively ensured that there is no break in the continuum of the literary vocation.” How much of the young Nigerian and African writers do you find the time to read?
Soyinka: Yes, I do read much of Nigerian/African literature – as much as my time permits. My motor vehicle in Nigeria is a mobile library of Nigerian publications – you know those horrendous traffic holdups – that’s where I go through some of the latest. The temptation to toss some out of the car window after the first few pages or chapter is sometimes overwhelming. That sour note conceded – and as I have repeatedly crowed – that nation of ours can boast of that one virtue – it’s bursting with literary talent! And the women seem to be at the forefront.
Question: In the joint statement issued by J. P. Clarke and you following Achebe’s death, you stated: “For us, the loss of Chinua Achebe is, above all else, intensely personal. We have lost a brother, a colleague, a trailblazer and a doughty fighter.” There’s the impression in some quarters that Achebe, Clarke and you were virtual personal enemies. In the specific case of Achebe and you, there’s the misperception that your 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned your personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe. How would you describe your relationship with Achebe from the early days when you were both young writers in a world that was becoming aware of the fecund, protean phenomenon called African literature?
Soyinka: Now – all right – I feel a need to return to that question of yours – I have a feeling that I won’t be at ease with myself for having dodged it earlier – which was deliberate. If I don’t answer it, we shall all continue to be drenched in misdirected spittle. I’m referring to your question on the relationship between myself and other members of the “pioneer quartet” – JP Clark and Chinua specifically. At this stage in our lives, the surviving have a duty to smash the mouths of liars to begin with, then move to explain to those who have genuinely misread, who have failed to place incidents in their true perspective, or who simply forget that life is sometimes strange – rich but strange, and inundated with flux.
My first comment is that outsiders to literary life should be more humble and modest. They should begin by accepting that they were strangers to the ferment of the earlier sixties and seventies. It would be stupid to claim that it was all constantly harmonious, but outsiders should at least learn some humility and learn to deal with facts. Where, in any corner of the globe, do you find perfect models of creative harmony, completely devoid of friction? We all have our individual artistic temperaments as well as partisanships in creative directions. And we have strong opinions on the merits of the products of our occupation. But – “rivalry for domination,” to quote you – healthy or unhealthy? Now that is something that has been cooked up, ironically, by camp followers, the most recent of which is that ignoble character I’ve just mentioned, who was so desperate to prove the existence of such a thing that he even tried to rope JP’s wife into it, citing her as source for something I never uttered in my entire existence. I cannot think of a more unprincipled, despicable conduct.
These empty, notoriety-hungry hangers-on and upstarts need to find relevance, so they concoct. No, I believe we were all too busy and self-centred – that is, focused on our individual creative grooves – to think ‘dominance’!
Writers are human. I shudder to think how I must sometimes appear to others. JP remains as irrepressible, contumacious and irascible as he was during that creative ferment of the early sixties. Christopher was ebullient. Chinua mostly hid himself away in Lagos, intervening robustly in MBARI affairs with deceptive disinclination. Perception of Chinua, JP and I as ‘personal enemies’? The word “enemy” is strong and wrong. The Civil War split up a close-knit literary coterie, of which “the quartet” formed a self-conscious core. That war engendered a number of misapprehensions. Choices were made, some regrettable, and even thus admitted by those who made them. Look, I never considered General Gowon who put me in detention my enemy, even though at the time, I was undeniably bitter at the experience, the circumstances, at the man who authorized it, and contributing individuals – including Chief Tony Enahoro who read out a fabricated confession to a gathering of national and international media.
But the war did end. New wars (some undeclared) commenced. Chief Enahoro and I would later collaborate in a political initiative – though I never warmed up to him personally, I must confess. Gowon and I, by contrast, became good friends. He attended my birthday celebrations, presided at my most recent Nigerian award – the Obafemi Awolowo Leadership Prize. JP was present, with his wife, Ebun.
What does that tell you? Before that, I had hosted them in my Abeokuta den on a near full-day visit. Would Achebe, if he had been able, and was in Nigeria, have joined us? Perhaps. But he certainly wouldn’t have been present at the Awolowo Award event. That is a different kettle of fish, a matter between him and Awolowo – which, however, Chinua did let degenerate into tribal charges.
Well then, this prospect that “my 1986 Nobel Prize in literature poisoned my personal relationship with a supposedly resentful Achebe” – I think I shouldn’t dodge that either. Even if that was true – which I do not accept – it surely has dissipated over time. For heaven’s sake, over twenty-five people have taken the prize since then! The problem remains with those vicarious laureates who feel personally deprived, and thus refuse to let go. Chinua’s death was an opportunity to prise open that scab all over again. But they’ve now gone too far with certain posturings and should be firmly called to order, and silenced – in the name of decency.
I refer to that incorrigible sect – no other word for it – some leaders of which threatened Buchi Emecheta early in her career – that she had no business engaging in the novel, since this was Chinua’s special preserve! Incredible? Buchi virtually flew to me for protection – read her own account of that traumatizing experience. It is a Nigerian disease. Nigerians need to be purged of a certain kind of arrogance of expectations, of demand, of self-attribution, of a spurious sense and assertion of entitlement. It goes beyond art and literature. It covers all aspects of interaction with others. Wherever you witness a case of ‘It’s MINE, and no other’s’, ‘it’s OURS, not theirs’, at various levels of vicarious ownership, such aggressive voices, ninety percent of the time, are bound to be Nigerians. This is a syndrome I have had cause to confront defensively with hundreds of Africans and non-Africans. It is what plagues Nigeria at the moment – it’s MY/OUR turn to rule, and if I/WE cannot, we shall lay waste the terrain. Truth is, predictably, part of the collateral damage on that terrain.
Yes, these are the ones who, to co-opt your phrasing, “diminished (and still diminish) Chinua’s image”. In the main, they are, ironically, his assiduous – but basically opportunistic – hagiographers – especially of a clannish, cabalistic temperament. Chinua – we have to be frank here – also did not help matters. He did make one rather unfortunate statement that brought down the hornet’s nest on his head, something like: “The fact that Wole Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize does not make him the Asiwaju (Leader) of African literature”. I forget now what provoked that statement. Certainly it could not be traced to any such pretensions on my part. I only recollect that it was in the heat of some controversy – on a national issue, I think.
But let us place this in context. Spats between writers, artists, musicians, scientists, even architects and scientific innovators etc. are notorious. They are usually short-lived – though some have been known to last a life-time. This particular episode was at least twenty years ago. Unfortunately some of Chinua’s cohorts decided that they had a mission to prosecute a matter regarding which they lacked any vestige of understanding or competence or indeed any real interest. It is however a life crutch for them and they cannot let go.
What they are doing now – and I urge them to end it shame-facedly – is to confine Chinua’s achievement space into a bunker over which hangs an unlit lamp labeled “Nobel”. Is this what the literary enterprise is about? Was it the Nobel that spurred a young writer, stung by Eurocentric portrayal of African reality, to put pen to paper and produce Things Fall Apart? This conduct is gross disservice to Chinua Achebe and disrespectful of the life-engrossing occupation known as literature. How did creative valuation descend to such banality? Do these people know what they’re doing – they are inscribing Chinua’s epitaph in the negative mode of thwarted expectations. I find that disgusting.
China, with her vast population, history, culture – arts and literature – celebrated her first Nobel Prize in Literature only last year. Yet I have been teaching Chinese literature on and off – within Comparative literary studies – for over forty years. Am I being instructed now that those writers needed recognition by the Nobel for me to open such literary windows to my students? Do these strident, cacophonous Nigerians know how much literature – and of durable quality – radiates the world?
Let me add this teacher complaint: far too many Nigerians – students of literature most perniciously – are being programmed to have no other comparative literary structure lodged in their mental scope than WS vs. CA. Such crass limitation is being pitted against the knowledgeable who, often wearily, but obedient to sheer intellectual doggedness, feel that they owe a duty to stop the march of confident ignorance. For me personally, it is galling to have everything reduced to the Nigerian enclave where, to make matters even more acute, there are supposedly only those two. It makes me squirm. I teach the damned subject – literature – after all. I do know something about it.
So let me now speak as a teacher. It is high time these illiterates were openly instructed that Achebe and Soyinka inhabit different literary planets, each in its own orbit. If you really seek to encounter – and dialogue with – Chinua Achebe in his rightful orbit, then move out of the Nigerian entrapment and explore those circuits coursed by the likes of Hemingway. Or Maryse Conde. Or Salman Rushdie. Think Edouard Glissant. Think Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Think Earl Lovelace. Think Jose Saramago. Think Bessie Head. Think Syl Cheney-Coker, Yambo Ouologuem, Nadine Gordimer. Think Patrick Chamoiseau. Think Toni Morrison. Think Hamidou Kane. Think Shahrnush Parsipur. Think Tahar Ben Jelloun. Think Naguib Mahfouz – and so on and on along those orbits in the galaxy of fiction writers. In the meantime, let us quit this indecent exercise of fatuous plaints, including raising hopes, even now, with talk of “posthumous” conferment, when you know damned well that the Nobel committee does not indulge in such tradition. It has gone beyond ‘sickening’. It is obscene and irreverent. It desecrates memory. The nation can do without these hyper-active jingoists. Can you believe the kind of letters I receive? Here is one beauty – let me quote:
“I told these people, leave it to Wole Soyinka – he will do what is right. We hear Ben Okri, Nuruddin Farah, even Chimamanda Adichie are being nominated. This is mind-boggling. Who are they? Chinua can still be awarded the prize, even posthumously. We know you will intervene to put those upstarts in their place. I’ve assured people you will do what is right.”
Alfred Nobel regretted that his invention, dynamite, was converted to degrading use, hence his creation of the Nobel Prize, as the humanist counter to the destructive power of his genius. If he thought that dynamite was eviscerating in its effects, he should try some of the gut-wrenching concoctions of Nigerian pontificators. Please, let these people know that I am not even a member of Alfred’s Academy that decides such matters. As a ‘club member,’ however, I can nominate, and it is no business of literary ignoramuses whom, if any, I do nominate. My literary tastes are eclectic, sustainable, and unapologetic. Fortunately, thousands of such nominations – from simply partisan to impeccably informed – pour in annually from all corners of the globe to that cold corner of the world called Sweden.
Humiliating as this must be for many who carry that disfiguring hunch, the national ego, on their backs, Nigeria is not the centre of the Swedish electors’ world, nor of the African continent, nor of the black world, nor of the rest of the world for that matter. In fact, right now, Nigeria is not the centre of anything but global chagrin.
Chinua is entitled to better than being escorted to his grave with that monotonous, hypocritical aria of deprivation’s lament, orchestrated by those who, as we say in my part of the world, “dye their mourning weeds a deeper indigo than those of the bereaved”. He deserves his peace. Me too! And right now, not posthumously.
It is not all bleakness and aggravation however – I have probably given that impression, but the stridency of cluelessness, sometimes willful, has reached the heights of impiety. Vicarious appropriation is undignified, and it runs counter to the national pride it ostensibly promotes. Other voices are being drowned, or placed in a false position, who value and express the sensibilities between, respect the subtle threads that sustain, writers, even in their different orbits. My parting tribute to Chinua will therefore take the form of the long poem I wrote to him when he turned seventy, after my participation in the celebrations at Bard College. I plan for it to be published on the day of his funeral – my way of taunting death, by pursuing that cultural, creative, even political communion that unites all writers with a decided vision of the possible – and even beyond the grave.
*Source Sahara Reports
‘Appoint all 100 Senators Now and Save State Coffers’– Chris Fomunyoh to Biya
March 27, 2013 | 0 Comments
By Innocent Chia*
Other than the silly rumor of the improbable escape of First Lady Chantal Biya, allegedly and uncharacteristically disappearing from the national spotlight for a jiffy last year, little else has in recent times, sparked as much conversation as Biya’s precipitated Senatorial Elections in April. Without any rhyme or rhythm for such a short calendar, the President Decreed an election less than 60 days from his announcement. Whilst most observers are still scratching their heads over this decision, there are those who see no value in the exercise and are making calls for any legitimate opposition to refrain from it.
But there are those who say not-participating is not an option because the Biya regime has never lacked takers (fake “Opposition” that it creates) to fill up seats in the Parliament when the “real” opposition seats out. The problem for proponents of participating is that the record of achievements for the “real” opposition over the last two decades has been abysmal. Their greatest failure was strategic foresight because they underestimated the resilience of the CPDM; did not factor the capacity of their own leadership to withstand corruption; and overestimated the tenacity of the general population. In this exclusive interview with The Chia Report, Chris Fomunyoh, Ph.D – Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) in Washington DC and Cameroonian – delves into the why’s and why not’s of this charade.
Chia Report (CR) – Dr. Chris Fomunyoh – For those that have little familiarity with Cameroon’s political landscape, President Paul Biya recently announced on February 27th that there will be Senatorial Elections this coming April 14th, 2013. You care to contextualize the decision?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Article 14 of the constitution of our country as adopted in 1996 provides that Cameroon shall have a bi-cameral legislature or parliament made up of the National Assembly and the Senate. Article 20 stipulates that that second body or upper chamber will have 100 Senators, 10 from each region of the country, seven of whom would be elected and three others appointed by the Head of State. The same constitution and subsequent laws stipulate that the seven Senators shall be elected by indirect balloting through regional electoral colleges constituted of local councilors and regional councilors. These instruments also lay out that regional councilors derive from divisional councilors who are designated to represent administrative divisions (or prefectures) in their respective regional councils.
The outcry that you hear today across the country arises from questions about the legality of today’s electoral college and the fact that the legitimacy of Senators elected under these circumstances may be tarnished beyond repair: regional councils have not yet been created, and current local councilors are serving on bonus time as their fixed five year term mandates expired last year. Moreover, the electorate of 2013 is definitely different from that which participated in the local elections of 2007, and there are legitimate reasons to question the representative mandate of the councilors that will cast ballots on April 14.
CR: Presidential Decree N° 2013/056 is some 17 odd years late in application of the 1996 Constitutional provision that created an Upper House Chamber in Cameroon. From the date of his announcement to the date of elections there are 45- 46 days. Is there an urgency, you think, that has caused the convening of the Electoral College and almost immediate application of Decree?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: It is a shame that in our country, the population is ambushed at every election, including that for the Senate which under normal circumstances should be a very easy exercise given the small size of those called upon to vote. First, ELECAM (the lection administration body) was conducting voter registration outside of the January to August period stipulated in the election law, and Cameroonians were told that this was in anticipation of the election of local councilors and members of the National Assembly whose extended mandate would be ending soon.
Then comes the decree on Senatorial elections which forces political parties to scramble to meet deadlines for identification of candidates and submission of lists. This limited time frame does not allow any of the political parties, including the CPDM, enough time to organize public and transparent candidate selection activities with grassroots input, which means that this decree, like many others signed by President Biya, inflicts collateral damage on internal democracy within Cameroonian political parties. I do not see the urgency that a tainted Senate would address in the immediate term.
CR: Biya supporters are praising this initiative as another example of his stewardship and leadership as far as strengthening democracy in Cameroon. You care to say why they may be wrong or right?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Unfortunately, over the past 30 years we have seen and heard the most unimaginable declarations from supporters of this regime. Cameroonians have become accustomed to such praise singers by day and critics by night. To extrapolate somewhat, the emperor could be standing naked in the street and his supporters would sing his praises for his new dress code, even as the rest of the world sees clearly that the emperor has no clothes.
Lest we forget, in the early 1990s, as other African countries were opening up their political systems and Cameroonian democrats were advocating for more freedoms and liberty, some of these same individuals marched in the streets of the capital saying “no to democracy and political pluralism.” The Cameroonian people will remember.
CR: Talk to the concerns that about 90 percent of the Electoral College of Municipal Councilors – 9032 of 10636 – are from Paul Biya’s ruling CPDM. Will this have an impact on the quality and quantity of representation in the Senate and how?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The concerns are more serious than just a number’s game. The issue is that the demographics of the country and the electorate have shifted between 2007 and 2013, so much so that one couldn’t tell in advance whether credible local elections in 2013 would give the CPDM more or less local councilors. What about new political parties that have emerged or gained strength and increased membership since 2007? The main question is: if the country is this close to holding new local elections, why not hold those elections first in order to have councilors of irrefutable legitimacy and more equitable representation who would then be called upon to participate in the election of Senators?
CR: According to the same Decree of application, President Biya will be appointing 30 of the 100 Senators. What effect does this have on the national polity?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The provision that allows the president to appoint 30 Senators is in the constitution, although many Cameroonians disagree with the concept of the head of the executive branch hand picking members of the legislative branch that are supposed to exercise oversight over his performance, as in every democratic society. With already so much power centralized in the hands of one individual in the Cameroonian context, giving that individual even more powers entrenches patronage and cronyism, and simply makes a mockery of the institutions and systems of checks and balances that every democratic society has, and that we as Cameroonians deserve.
CR: It has been said that the idea of a Senate was to mimic the US system. Why is this not a moment when the US is flattered that it is getting copied by Cameroon?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: Well, the United States can speak for itself, but for me as a Cameroonian who loves his country and cares about the future we need to build for our youth and future generations, this whole exercise about a Senate is a very bad joke at many levels. The United States has 100 Senators for a population of 300 million inhabitants and a GDP (gros domestic product) 600 times that of Cameroon; so our leaders hand pick their own 100 Senators for 20 million people, and we call that mimicking the US?
Perhaps some of our leaders think that by creating a Senate, they can brag about the democracy they practice just as they say unashamedly these days that Cameroon has more than 200 registered political parties, and therefore is freer and more democratic than countries such as the United States, France, Great Britain, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal that have less.
Many Cameroonians even question why have a Senate when the current National Assembly is understaffed and under-resourced to carry out fully its legislative and representative functions, and when we have other institutions such as the Economic and Social Council in existence for decades with no visible impact on governance and, worse still, no accountability for the annual budgets allocated to such institutions.
There is reason to be anxious about the future of our beloved country. We still have a long way to go and greater commitment needed to attain the appropriate democratic institutions and processes that many Africans now take for granted.
CR: The Law and Decree of Application both address Regional Representation. But they are both silent about demographic representation, including youth and women.
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: To be honest with you, my feeling is that the current regime uses the words ‘women and youth’ as mere slogans. Besides getting women to wear party uniforms and dance at public events glorifying ‘the great leader’, I am still to identify specific government policies and actions that benefit the Cameroonian woman. Look at the placards carried by some women during the last March 8 ceremonies marking international women’s day.
We deny many young Cameroonians even the right to vote by crafting an artificial voting age at 20 years old whereas the age of maturity is 18 years; we create artificial statistics to hock wink young people into believing the government has their interest at heart: in 2011, Cameroonian youth were promised 25,000 jobs and for a long time it was unclear whether or how those jobs were all filled; then at year end 2012, youth were promised 300,000 jobs without stating clearly how that would be done in an economy that is stagnating and for which the regime itself promises economic emergence only in 2035, more than 22 years from now.
CR: Let’s talk some about the opposition in this process. What are the chances that the opposition stuns Biya and his cohorts and wins a majority?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: No chances for opposition parties at all! Zip! Zero! Left to its own devises, the regime that governs our country today seems intent on driving us back into the dark days of one party rule.
CR: Why do Fru Ndi and his nominal opposition not bear the credibility of yesteryears to pull it off?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: The deck is stacked against opposition parties in our country. The playing field is so tilted in many areas. Even then, and as I said during a public conference in Yaounde in November 2012, the opposition also needs to take stock of itself, recognize its strengths and weaknesses, size up its assets and liabilities, review its accomplishments and failures, in order to redefine the role its wants to play in shaping the country’s future.
The population has become disenchanted, apathetic and disrespectful of some of the opposition leaders and parties for good reason. In fact the frequent inconsistencies of some leaders deprive the people of the right to hope for change and a different and better tomorrow.
CR: Is it an accurate assessment that this Senatorial Body, if Cameroonians let the charade continue, is nothing but another rubber stamp masquerade for the Executive Branch, without a mandate to change the course of history for the development and prosperity of Cameroonians, and another foundation for the thriving plague of corruption?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: You captured it very well. I have even said, in dismay and disbelieve at the frivolous manner in which democratic institution building is handled in our country, that if the regime already has its list of 100 Senators, it should name them now and save us all the unnecessary expenditure from state coffers and further embarrassment before other Africans and the rest of the world. Thank goodness there’s precedence that in a country such as Senegal, President Macky Sall upon getting into office saw the futility of a Senate created under similar circumstances and scrapped it completely. Senegal’s democracy hasn’t lost a dent of its credibility.
CR: At the last Presidential Elections in 2011 there are many Cameroonians who strongly believed that your town hall meetings across North America were to explore the chances of running against Paul Biya. You care to explain why it was a no-go at the end?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: As I stated during a press conference in Douala on September 13, 2011, the town hall meetings across North America and Europe and the extensive consultations across the country were aimed at hearing from my fellow compatriots about their hopes and aspirations with regards to the political leadership of our country and the role we could play in bringing these expectations to fruition going forward. While some felt that one needed to take the bull by the hones, many others worried about being compromised by a flawed process that seemed pre-arranged for a predetermined outcome.
We therefore determined that we could not, in good conscience, become accomplices in the charade of an electoral process. Developments since then continue to prove us right; and when President Biya stated in Paris recently that his legitimacy could not be questioned because he won a competitive presidential election against more than 20 other candidates, whom by the way he treated with disdain as if they were stooges, many of our fellow compatriots were relieved that I was not one of them.
CR: Can you tell the disillusioned Cameroonian youth what, if anything, they can and should be doing to fend off this onslaught by the current generation of leaders?
Dr. Chris Fomunyoh: My piece of advice to the Cameroonian youth is ‘do not despair’! Leaders come and go, but countries leave on. So, the opportunity will come for our country to bounce back and regain its rightful place among the community of truly democratic nations. The clock turns in only one direction and, despite the challenges of the moment, that one direction keeps me hopeful for our youth and optimistic for the future of our resource-rich country. So, working with the youth, we must keep expanding and strengthening the networks of like-minded, committed and patriotic Cameroonians, so that once the opportunity arises and the stars align themselves, the youth will rise up and make their voices heard loud and clear, once and for all.
*Source Chia Report
January 28, 2013 | 0 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 Limits of Jonathan As Nigeria’s Good luck.
January 18, 2013 | 3 Comments
“Confidence Given To President Jonathan Was Misplaced.”
-Journalist Chido Onumah
By Ajong Mbapndah L
Its size, abundant natural and human resources, its huge population and more should make Nigeria the envy of everyone but what the world sees now seems the contrary. Attacks from Boko Haram with surprising ease, corruption that does not seem to be receding and a President who has so far failed to live up to expectations. Offering a lucid appraisal of the situation in Nigeria, Journalist Chido Onumah Coordinator of the African Centre for Media & Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), in Abuja, says the confidence placed on President Jonathan two years ago was misplaced. Onumah, a former Director of Africa programmes at the Panos Institute in Washington, DC, says using the military to fight Boko Haram is not a lasting solution and quotes public officials who see the destructive politics of the ruling PDP as part of the security problem facing the country.
Nigerians need to rise up and take destiny into their own hands says Onumah who has won several Journalism awards and worked in several parts of the world. It is unfortunate that at this age, the North/South cleavage should trump more important criteria like competence and moral rectitude in the discourse among politicians on who leads Nigeria. Onumah who was also the pioneer coordinator of the crime prevention unit (Fix Nigeria Initiative) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, has harsh words for President Jonathan who has failed to lead by example in the fight against corruption. “He should not because he has done absolutely nothing to develop the country and improve the quality of lives of its people since he became president,” Onumah says of President Jonathan in response to a question on whether or not he should run for office in 2015.
It has been a year of security challenges with the Boko Haram causing unbridled chaos with what sometimes looks like surprising ease, is that group holding the country hostage?
Of course Boko Haram is holding the country hostage. The Nigerian security forces have not been able to neutralise their capacity to launch attacks at will. As we speak, the man who claims to be the leader, Mallam Abubakar Shekau, who many believe still lives in the country, has not been found and arrested. So, it’s a very very worrying phenomenon especially as the economy of Northern Nigeria has been totally destroyed and Nigeria as a whole is considered a risky destination for business as a result of rising insecurity of lives and property which has been made worse by the activities of the religious group.
The largest country in Africa in terms of population ,with one of the largest armies, if Nigeria is unable to handle its security challenges how can it address those of other countries in the region or beef up its case for a permanent seat on the UN Security council should Africa ever get one?
The Nigerian army is large for nothing. There is nothing to show in terms of military hardware, capacity, training and discipline. The military is extremely corrupted. A Nigerian Army General once described the Nigerian Army as “an army of anything goes”. That captures the Nigerian military. They may be large in terms of numbers but the fighting capacity is not something to cheer about. Eighty percent or more of the equipment is obsolete. A military whose aircrafts fall from the skies very often cannot be trusted to provide meaningful security for Nigerians or the West African sub-region. To that extent, it’s safe to conclude that Nigeria’s request for a permanent seat in the security council of the UN is nothing but laughable.
Still on the security challenges does the fact that President Jonathan is from the Southern part of the country a factor in the onslaught of the Boko Haram?
Oh yes. The circumstances of Mr. Jonathan’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and how he won the 2011 presidential election is a contributory factor to the security challenge facing Nigeria today. Many groups in the North, and even some individuals in the South are of the view that Jonathan should not have contested the election.
Some Northerners, based on an internal PDP arrangement which advocates for rotation of the presidency between the North and the South, believe it was their turn to produce the country’s president in 2011 after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, a Northerner, three years into his four-year tenure in 2010. Therefore, they felt betrayed when Jonathan insisted he had a right to be in the race. For them, the only way to register a strong objection to the perceived betrayal is to use the demons created by some Northern governors for the purpose of winning elections to make the country uncomfortable for Jonathan.
Having said that, it is important to emphasize that the Nigerian constitution does not recognize the rotation arrangement. To that extent, it is not justifiable for anybody or group to promote violence based on the fact that the president is from a particular section of the country.
Is using the military to fight the Boko Haram a winning option as opposed to dialogue?
Using the military to fight Boko Haram is definitely not a lasting option. The problem is harder to solve because the military is dealing with people who are in the main “faceless” and ready to die. Therefore, as you apply the stick, you have to find a way to bring them to the table. Boko Haram has divided the country not just along ethnic lines, but also along religious lines. All this is because the country has a president who is not tactful in the way he manages the country’s complex problems. Recall that the late former National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi, once said that the insecurity facing Nigeria today was partly as a result of the destructive politics played by the ruling PDP. Many Nigerians agreed with him when he made that statement.
Elections are not due till 2015 and there seems to be debate as to whether President Goodluck Jonathan should run or not, is the debate worth the trouble with so many pressing problems begging for attention now?
Well, this is typical of the style of the ruling party. The party is not about providing direction and development for Nigeria. It’s about grabbing power. The PDP is now thinking about 2015 in terms of how to rig itself into office again. It is not interested in how to provide quality leadership.
As for the opposition parties, they are justified if they begin now to plan to take over in 2015, given the fact that nothing is happening in terms of governance and the incumbent president is giving out different signals suggesting he would run in 2015.
I think the most pressing problem in Nigeria now is how to get credible people elected into leadership positions. Once we do that, every other thing will fall in place. So, to answer your question, the debate is certainly worth it.
How would you size up the Jonathan Presidency two years to the expiration of his term, what have been some achievements and what would you consider big failures?
There is no doubt that Jonathan is a failure. There is nothing any honest Nigeria or observer of Nigerian political scene will consider as an achievement. For me, it’s not even about the Jonathan administration. It’s about the failure of the ruling PDP, a collection of strange bedfellows, since it took over the reins of governance in 1999. The country has been going down, steadily, since then.
You may not be a politician but in your opinion, should he run for elections in 2015?
No. He should not run. He should not because he has done absolutely nothing to develop the country and improve the quality of lives of its people since he became president. For goodness sake, in a country where corruption is seen by many people, including foreigners, as the major problem, this president says he does not “give a damn” about publicly declaring his assets. So, why should such a man run for election again in this country?
President Jonathan has not justified the confidence Nigerians placed in him. A lot of people gave him the benefit of the doubt two years ago because of his education. He holds a Ph.D. in zoology. It is clear that confidence was misplaced.
Is it just mind boggling to external observers or it bothers Nigerians too that in the 21st century rather than dwelling on competence, patriotism, moral probity and other positive traits, in the choice of a leader, the focus is whether you hail from the North or the South.
This is the tragedy of the Nigerian condition. There are a good number of Nigerians who worry that the thinking in some circles is that the person who leads the country should be Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba or someone from any of the over 200 ethnic groups in the country. This is unfortunate. It is high time we focused on the quality leadership, not which part of the country or ethnic group the leader comes from.
This is what corruption and many years of bad leadership have reduced us to. Until we imbibe and make competence, patriotism and moral probity a permanent feature of our national life, we would not make any headway as a nation.
The press is full of reports about corruption, is the government of President Jonathan consistent in its fight against this canker worm especially when there are reports that those who have profited from scams in the petroleum sector are either high profile Nigerians or influential members of his party?
I just mentioned earlier that the man says he does not “give a damn” about publicly declaring his assets. What President Jonathan is saying in effect is that he is not ready to lead by example in fighting corruption. And he has further demonstrated this by the lukewarm manner this government is prosecuting the big oil thieves, many of whom are his supporters and friends of politicians in government.
You can see that corruption is part and parcel of this government and President Jonathan only pays lip service to checking it. His appointments, pronouncements, and actions do not show someone interested in fighting corruption. There is a history to this, of course. We shouldn’t forget that in 2006 when he was governor of Bayelsa State in south-south Nigeria, he was indicted for false declaration of assets and for acquiring expensive cars and extensive real estate outside his legitimate income. He was subsequently recommended for prosecution by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). A year later, he became vice-president. That is Nigeria for you!
There was this big fight in the course of 2012 about deregulation and the government caved, is that the kind of pressure needed to force through reforms and policies that will make Nigeria live up to its potential and expectations?
I believe so. I think that all kinds of activism have to be energised to fight the injustices in the system. Nigerians must rise and take their destiny in their own hands.
We saw the examples of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and so on. Nigerians must be ready to toe similar lines for them to experience real transformation.
You are the Coordinator, African Centre for Media & Information, may we know more about the Centre and what is the state of the media in Nigeria today?
The African Centre for Media and Information Literacy was set up based on the conviction that Africa’s children and youth could benefit from a global phenomenon that is creating opportunities for active engagement and participation of children and youth in voicing their views on matters of concern to them. The Centre leads the effort to introduce media and information literacy into the school curriculum across the continent.
With the support of organizations like UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations and their partners, the Centre works with media and information literacy experts, teachers and researchers to engage students and youth using a “hands on” approach to teaching media, information, and advocacy skills in an engaging way.
Much of this is of course depends on the state of the media in the country. Nigeria has been described as having one of the most robust media in Africa. Since the return of the country to democracy in 1999, quite a lot has changed in terms of freedom for journalists. In the last decade, with the expansion of ICT, the Nigerian media has blossomed. But in terms of safety of journalists, there hasn’t really been any marked departure from the past. The only difference being that journalists are now more prone to die in crisis/conflict zone or killed by what I would describe as “freelance assassins” unlike during the military era when they were directly targeted by the state.
Of course, you can’t talk about the media in Nigeria without talking about corruption. Unfortunately, the media that ought to be in the forefront of the campaign against corruption is mired in corruption. This can be attributed to many reason, ownership and the general climate of corruption in Nigeria. A lot of the media outfits in Nigeria are owned by politicians or those close to them. It is difficult for journalists not to pander to the whims of their employers.
Pan African Visions is very grateful for the time taken to answer these questions, Sir.
You are most welcome. And congratulations on the great job you are doing.
Not The Messiah: Ivory Coast Is Not Making Much Progress Under Ouattara
January 18, 2013 | 3 Comments
-Prof Mamadou Koulibaly
By Ajong Mbapndah L
He fought tooth and nail to be President of Ivory Coast. Created a party, fought with three Presidents, allied himself with an armed rebellion and for two years now he is in power with a score card which impresses neither his opponents, nor some in the international community who were among his ardent supporters. Ivory Coast under President Alassane Ouattara has not made much progress says Former National Assembly President and head of the Lider Political party Prof Mamadou Koulibaly. With his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo facing trial at the ICC, Prof Mamadou Koulibaly has emerged as the most acerbic critic of Ouattara and spares no efforts in painting him as a leader who is incapable of resolving the complex problems facing Ivory Coast. The security problems are acute, the reconciliation process is stalled, unemployment is high, former elements of the rebellion are holding Ouattara hostage and the human rights situation is not good, says Koulibaly in his assessment of President Ouattara. Koulibaly who was victim of an accident under questionable circumstances in the course of last year, lashes out at Ouattara for double standards with a justice system that turns a blind eye to excesses of his partisans. Coming out of a crisis, the foundation of the Ivorian state is weak and if President Ouattara continues to act as a leader who lives in fear and unable to control his armed militias, the country runs the risk of degenerating into more chaos says Prof Koulibaly.
Prof. Koulibaly, It is two years now with Alassane Ouattara as president of the country, may we have an idea about how Côte d’Ivoire is doing politically, socially and economically?
Almost two years in fact since Ouattara came to power. Confidence is still not restored between him and the opposition, between him and the people who did not vote for him, between him and the army, the gendarmerie, between him and all the components of the FRCI (military) he has put in place and who have not stopped attacking his regime and harassing him to the point of forcing him to be defense minister. There is also a disappointment in him from the international community which has not seen any improvement in the democracy his leadership was expected to bring. So far, he has not yet established reconciliation, which has been shifted to the back burner as he pursues the utopia of the emergent Ivory Coast in 2020.
Economically, the crisis is only getting worse. Direct foreign investment has reduced and promises of development assistance that were made while he was still secluded at the Golf Hotel have not been met with the arrival of fresh funds. Domestic and foreign private investors are skeptical because of insecurity and corruption in the upper levels of government. The jobs he promised are nowhere. In the face of rising unemployment, Ouattara has resorted to catering more and more to the needs of his ethnic base. It is true that there are a few public projects on infrastructure, but these are at outrageous costs and in scandalous conditions.
Socially, numerous professional bodies are waiting for Ouattara to fulfill his promise of higher wages. Students, who saw the rehabilitation of their universities at exorbitant and outrageous costs, are waiting to see the libraries open and equipped, as well as restaurants and laboratories of science and technology. In the meantime, they just look at the cafeterias and bars mounted by Ouattara’s friends on campus, where sandwiches and lunches are sold at unaffordable prices, which brought about strikes by students, preceded by that of teachers who are still waiting for the payment of their entire overtime. The social atmosphere is especially marked by insecurity brought about by the FRCI, the high cost of living, racketeering and criminalization of the state.
Security remains a big challenge and there are reports of human rights violations, where is the violence coming from and what is the purpose?
Violence today is essentially caused by the FRCI. They are the only ones who carry weapons and occupy the national territory, but normally are in control of the areas of influence. Factions are fighting against each other for control of sinecures, because the state does not pay them salaries. Left to themselves, these fighters must survive by extortion, theft, assault and violence. In order to have them with him during his ascension to power against Gbagbo’s troops, Ouattara promised them jobs in the army, the gendarmerie and the police. However these troops from the same ethnic groups have not been successful, and lest they turn their arms against him, Ouattara asked them, as well as supplementary Dozos (traditional hunters), to redeploy across the country, in all the cities and villages, to ensure security. But instead, we note that with their presence, theft and insecurity are rather on the rise. These militias demand support from the people and are violent when people do not respond favorably to their grievances. Côte d’Ivoire is living in fear.
What about efforts towards reconciliation, there is supposed to be a reconciliation committee headed by Charles Konan Banny, has it served any purpose?
The CDVR of Charles Konan Banny is run by people of good faith, but who alas work under the authority of Ouattara himself. He does not give the financial and political means to the commission to make it effective. He gives the commission a two-year agenda for a reconciliation, which a year and a half after, has not yet begun its work seriously. The CDVR speaks of reconciliation while Ouattara promotes injustice, impunity and the violence by FRCI continues unabated. The reconciliation process is not credible and is thwarted by Ouattara himself who does not seem in any hurry to get there.
We have also heard you decry the corruption that is taking place under the present government, what facts do you have to back your accusations?
Corruption is rampant under Ouattara although it has always existed in the various regimes that preceded his in Côte d’Ivoire. First of all the justice system is totally corrupt while Ouattara has changed all the main leaders of the judiciary and he himself is chairman of the Judiciary. He can in this way pursue his main opponents of yesterday for economic crimes or murder, but condones the crimes committed by his own men and the FAFN which has since become the FRCI.
Ouattara undertakes numerous infrastructure projects, but has never made public tenders for the award of contracts. Projects are announced at an initial cost and then, month after month, we see the costs increase without explanations. The most obvious is the rehabilitation of universities, whose initial cost was about forty billion francs CFA, which then increased to sixty and a hundred billion. At
this stage of a hundred billion, and with his council of ministers, Ouattara discovered that the project had been over priced by at least forty billion. As punishment, he dismissed the Director of Financial Affairs of the Ministry of Higher Education, without touching the minister himself who did not resign either. A few weeks later, the same minister informs us that the actual cost of the project is rather one hundred and seventy-five billion francs CFA and nothing was done to him. There is the case of this other Minister, who is suspected of embezzling more than four billion francs CFA destined to the victims of the toxic waste dumped in Abidjan by the Probo Koala ship Trafigura a few years ago. The minister was ousted from government, but no action taken against him, justice having found nothing to reproach him. They are both members of parliament and want to become mayors of different cities in Côte d’Ivoire. Cases of this kind exist in abundance.
Despite your strong criticisms against President Ouattara, just to be fair to him, are there things you think he has done right to move Côte d’Ivoire forward?
Yes, you are right. Abidjan became a little cleaner than under the previous regime. It is true that the proposed third bridge in Abidjan, which was dragging from the time of Houphouët-Boigny, saw its construction undertaken by Ouattara. It is also true that in the city of Abidjan, holes in the roads were clogged, especially in the upscale neighborhood of Cocody. It is also noteworthy that Ouattara, after having started his reign with forty government ministers, now scaled it down to 28 ministers. You see, he has worked and we do not forget it. But remember anyway, in short, that the contract for the third bridge was concluded in totally obscurity. Nobody knows what the exact cost is, or what financial and economic guarantees the state is committed to for the next forty years. Neither the public nor parliament was informed of these public contracts. In addition, the roads in Abidjan are not the only roads in Côte d’Ivoire. There is the interior of the country, for example the cocoa producing areas that have no roads and yet strongly finance the state budget.
You now head your own party, LIDER which did not do so well in the last elections, how is the party doing and what role do you expect to play in shaping a better future for Côte d’Ivoire?
LIDER went to the parliamentary elections in difficult conditions on which we will not dwell. We left these elections without a single elected candidate, even though we presented twelve candidates and we had just arrived on the political scene for just four months. We saw and warned Ouattara against the violation of Additional Protocol No. 2 of the ECOWAS Treaty prohibiting all member governments of the organization from changing the rules of the electoral process less than 6 months before the election date, no matter the type of election, without a broad consensus with the entire political class. Ouattara has shamelessly violated with impunity this provision of ECOWAS.
LIDER, in a responsible way, continues its ascent through the installation of party bases around the country and without great means for the moment. We aim to build a real opposition to challenge the power of Ouattara. We believe that people must understand that democracy is not multipartism and elections. Democracy is first of all a state of law, not in the sense of a government emerging from elections, a legal government, but a state, a situation in which the law applies to everyone, starting with the state itself and its leaders. We explain to people that multipartism does not mean having parties that act as unions for ethnic groups. We explain to politicians and our activists that democracy is first of all to recognize the inalienable rights of the private ownership of land in their country, and the freedom to exchange these lands. We believe that if LIDER succeeds in being heard on these issues, then we will have achieved our goal of education about democracy, social harmony and peace.
In the course of last year you were a victim of several accidents etc. Were these just routine accidents or you read something behind this since you are a strong opponent of the regime?
I still cannot explain the cause of this accident, but I find it curious that the government of Ouattara, which divided the country into official military zones controlled by the informal com-zones and com-sectors, goes to attack my family, my farm and my workers under the pretext that there was a training camp of anti-Ouattara militias in my village. I find it curious that there has been no serious investigation after these events and that the police and the Chief of General Staff of the armed forces have refused to receive complaints from my parents against the warriors of the pro- Ouattara militia called the FRCI. I find it disturbing that at the same time, the government is trying to portray me as a criminal, when I am the victim.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo is due for trial at the ICC but we have not heard about warrants for those who were in the rebellion, what is your take on this as well as the continuous detention of many high profile activists and government officials?
Ouattara applies a justice of variable geometry. A justice system which imprisons criminals of the defeated side and demands accounts and one that promotes criminals in his own camp and condones their wrongdoing. It is difficult in these conditions to build a nation, to reconcile and to build confidence in Côte d’Ivoire. By this attitude, Ouattara ensures the criminalization of the state. And our eyes are turned towards the ICC, to know whether it will be an accomplice or not in this local justice which is more of revenge than justice.
You have written in the past about defense accords between African countries and the French, can you talk about this briefly especially in light of the crisis in Mali, and most recently Central Africa? How relevant are these accords?
In modern economies, when states engage in this type of international agreements, people are informed of the content of these treaties and conventions. Civil society and parliamentarians discuss about them, so that people know what their government is engaged in. Sometimes we proceed by referendum to ratify such an agreement. This is the procedure in place in developed societies. But in African societies, only the President of the Republic and sometimes some members of the government are contacted and informed about the content of these agreements. The public remains in ignorance, parliament also, as well as the press. These are societies of distrust, patrimonial societies. And when a shock happens and the agreements must be implemented, the people do not understand it. Mali, like most African states is not viable individually. Our countries would be stronger and more viable if they were integrated into a federal structure. Each country would have a head of state elected according to the parliamentary system, and all states would be subject to a federal government which is also a product of a parliamentary system, following parliamentary elections after a one round majority vote, according to the Westminster model in Great Britain. Without this reform, there is no happy and harmonious future for African countries. Mali is a case study which shows that, despite all our elections, our governments, our armies, our narrow nationalism, all our countries and their institutions can collapse overnight without any internal forces capable of remedying the situation. We also see the same scenario in Côte d’Ivoire, where there is no more a state. It is a potential risk for all African countries. You saw what happened with President Bozizé’s call for help to Paris, and the response of President Hollande. We must become free men and regain confidence in ourselves and our neighbors and proceed with the construction of this African federalism. It is in the interest of our collective security, development, prosperity and peace. These defense agreements are nothing but loosely tied trade agreements. They serve as something else other than the defense of countries and their populations. We can do without them, if we reduce the risk of conflict in our countries. And for that, we have great untapped potentials.
We know it is still very challenging for Côte d’Ivoire, what are some of the reasons that should give people a reason to hope and what is your prediction for the future?
I have no crystal ball to predict the future of Côte d’Ivoire, but if the criminalization of the state remains the trend that we see right now, I fear that the year 2013 is going to be more difficult than 2012. If reconciliation does not make progress, if justice is not restored, if Ouattara continues to take people hostage with his armed tribal factions deployed throughout the country, I fear that economic activity will remain stifled and unemployment and difficulties of all kinds will increase. If the regime’s corruption continues to grow, and if impunity continues to be the norm, I fear that the foundations of our nation which are still fragile will cave to violence and chaos. But at the beginning of 2013, I wish that Ouattara would become aware of his responsibilities and fully assume them ,without presenting himself to us as someone who is unable to control his armed militia and who lives in perpetual fear, even though he is the President of the Republic.
**Translated by Cyprian Chongwain, Msc in Translation, New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. email@example.com
Kenya: Understanding The Dynamics of a High Stakes election
January 18, 2013 | 1 Comments
“Kenyans aware that country must not return to anywhere near 2007 elections aftermath.”
By Ajong Mbapndah L
As Kenyans brace up for another high stakes elections, the challenge will be to avoid the violence that erupted in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. “There is a general sense among everyone, especially those in a position to create havoc that we cannot and must not return to anywhere near where we ended up after the 2007 elections,” says Samuel Omwenga an Attorney and Consultant. Barred for constitutional reasons, President Mwai Kibaki is not in the race. His 2007 challenger Raila Odinga widely believed by many to have won the elections is a front runner so too is Uhuru Kenyatta son of the country’s first President.
Omwenga who is well versed in Kenyan politics and was in the field for the 2007 elections says with free ,fair and transparent elections, Kenyans will elect the right leader who will fully implement the constitution and lead the country to greater prosperity. Approached by PAV for perspectives on what will be a keenly watched elections across the continent, Mr Omwenga also addresses the looming indictment of one of the leading candidates Uhuru Kenyatta, the legacy of President Kibaki, the chances of Raila Odinga and the ethnic equation in the elections amongst others.
Sir, could you sum up the upcoming elections in Kenya for us, the stakes and some of the key actors?
The elections of 2013 in Kenya will be unlike any in the past for several reasons.
First, this is the first election we’ll have after we nearly plunged into a civil war following the last elections held in 2007.
Second, President Kibaki is serving his final weeks in office but the man he faced off with in 2007 and who still believes he won those elections, Prime Minister Raila Odinga is vying in a field of no less than 5 serious contenders.
Third, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of our first president and presidential candidate in 2002 (but not 2007) is vying again even though facing serious crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Uhuru’s running mate, William Ruto, also faces serious crimes against humanity charges at the same time and the fact that both are ICC suspects but still vying has been condemned by many, including former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, who was very instrumental in brokering a deal between Kibaki and Raila during the crisis of 2008.
Other than Uhuru, the other serious presidential contenders are Musalia Mudavadi, who is our other Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Martha Karua and Hon. Peter Kenneth.
There are several others who claim they are contending by they are either not serious or they cannot be taken seriously.
With the potential that Kenya has and the challenges it faces going forward, can you paint the ideal profile of the leader the country needs at the moment?
The ideal candidate must first be someone who has the ability, skill and desire to unite the country.
He or she must also be reform minded and must have a demonstrable commitment to complete full implementation of our constitution.
It, of course, goes without saying the leader must not only have a vision for moving our country forward economically, but he or she must have a specific plan to tackle the outrageously high unemployment in the country that is hovering near 50%.
How prepared is the country for the elections and does the fact that President Kibaki is not running brighten prospects for a successful election?
You can say we should have been preparing for this elections since the last one but, in reality, we have only had since promulgation of the new Constitution in August 2010 to do so.
Under ordinary circumstances, the time we have had since then is sufficient to have been prepared and ready by now to hold the elections but, we are not quite there yet.
True, significant progress has been made but there still remains loose ends that must be tightened in order to be confident to say we are ready.
One of the outstanding issues that has yet to be resolved is whether or not Uhuru and Ruto, the two ICC suspects, can be allowed to vie.
There is a court case pending challenging their eligibility to vie and a decision is expected any time.
How the court rules may not directly impact election preparation but could have peripheral impact such as delay in ballot ordering and printing.
We have actually already lost time for preparation due to other delays and even the much needed voter verification may not happen now as the body charged with the responsibility to run the elections scrambles to meet the various other deadlines.
The last elections ended in violence that almost degenerated to a civil war, has the country turned a page, have sufficient measures been taken to avert a similar calamity?
One can cautiously say yes we have done just that.
There is a general sense among everyone, especially those in a position to create havoc that we cannot and must not return to anywhere near where we ended up after the 2007 elections.
The police force that was accused of being at best complacent or at worst active participants in the mass killing of innocent Kenyans has been reconstituted with new leadership at the top and ditto for the electoral commission that started it all.
More and more Kenyans are also more informed and are vigilant such that those with ideas to cause electoral problems must think twice before embarking on such ill-advised shenanigans.
The result of the chaos from the last elections was shared government, as a keen political observer how did this work out, would you consider the experiment a success or a failure?
However, in terms of actual accomplishments, the coalition government fell short and what progress or development that came about was directly as a result of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s ability to leverage his less than half a loaf he got from the deal to do more for the country in terms of initiation and implementation of various development projects.
That is not to say the country would have automatically fared better if either only Kibaki or Raila came to power without the other following the elections.
So, for these reasons and more, the conclusion has to be the results are mixed relative to the success or failure of the coalition government.
It looks like the tribal factor is still very influential in Kenyan politics, the Kikuyus, Luos, Kalanjins etc how decisive is the ethnic factor going to be in deciding who leads Kenya next?
There are two schools of thought on this:
First, there are those who believe tribalism is here to stay and must be exploited to the maximum to deliver votes.
The Jubilee alliance led by the ICC suspects Uhuru and Ruto ascribes to this school of thought and has its entire campaign against Raila based on it.
The second school of thought maintains: yes, tribalism continues to rear its ugly head in Kenya but must be defeated or significantly crushed by reorienting and urging Kenyans to pick their leaders based on leadership ability and qualifications, not tribal affiliation.
The Cord alliance led by Raila Odinga and his running mate Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka ascribes to this school of thought and its campaign is largely predicated on it.
Raila Odinga perceived to have won the contentious 2008 elections is again a front runner, is 2013 finally going to be his moment?
This is what the polling done to date shows and many expect to be the case.
There is no question his opponents are doing everything they can to stop him from being elected but the fundamentals and current circumstances are such that they are unlikely to succeed.
Some of the actors in the race like William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have been indicted by the ICC and waiting trial, how does this specter factor in the elections?
Well, it depends on who you ask; if you ask them, meaning Uhuru and Ruto, or their ardent followers, they will tell you ICC doesn’t matter and that they will be elected notwithstanding the fact they face these serious charges of having been the most responsible for the commission of crimes against humanity in Kenya back in 2007-2008.
If you ask Raila and members of his Cord coalition or followers, they will tell you ICC does matter and the fact that these two, Uhuru and Ruto, face these serious charges should be reason enough for them to be barred from vying for any public office.
The reality is, assuming the court does not bar the two from vying, they will be on the ballot and Kenyans will have to make a choice whether they will have someone like Raila who has for decades fought and sacrificed for the sake of bringing reforms in the country be their president or would they prefer to have these two ICC suspects trying to absentee lead the country while defending their respective cases at the Hague.
That’s the choice Kenyans must make come Election Day.
It remains a milestone in Kenyan and African politics that another leader in President Kibaki is stepping down in respect of constitutional term limits, what you think will be his legacy besides this, what did he achieve for Kenya in his two terms?
On the positive side, Kibaki will be remembered for having teamed with Raila to have our new constitution passed.
He will also be remembered for having presided over a more improved economy than his predecessor Moi who basically drove the country deep under the ground from which we are still trying to emerge.
Kibaki will also be remembered for having helped restore some of the glimmer the country lost following the elections.
On the negative side, Kibaki will be remembered as the worst tribal presidents we have had in that he took the practice of nepotism and tribal appointments to key positions to a level much higher and worse than his two predecessors combined.
A quick prediction on the elections, you think the world will see an image of Kenya different from what we saw after the December 2008 elections?
I am confident we shall have an open, transparent and peaceful election and Kenyans will be wise enough to elect a president who will fully implement our constitution and lead our country in a new direction of greater peace and prosperity.
*To read more of Mr Omwenga’s perspectives on Kenyan politics visit his blog at omwenga.com
Africa: Q&A – A Portrait of the Superstars of Celebrity Activism
November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments
United Nations — Start a global debate about the underlying reasons why poverty exists – and do it through cinema.
The ambitious new initiative “Why Poverty” brings together eight award-winning filmmakers and 30 emerging cinema talents to create documentaries touching on different aspects of poverty, such as gender and inequality, residential segregation, aid and trade.
From Nov. 25 to 30, the films will be aired across the globe via 62 national broadcasters, reaching 500 million people. An online conversation about the topic will follow.
Why Poverty was launched at the United Nations on Sep. 27, and is being run by the organisation Steps, based in Denmark and South Africa. The agenda is not to raise money or push for a single solution to global poverty – it is to ignite discussions about as many aspects of poverty as possible.
The Swedish filmmaker Bosse Lindquist takes on the angle of charity in his contribution, a documentary titled “Give Us The Money”. He spoke to IPS correspondent Becky Bergdahl about the film, and its focus on the multimillionaire artists Bob Geldof and Bono, who have spent years advocating on behalf of the world’s poorest.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
How did you come up with the idea for the film?
I was invited by BBC, SVT and the other commissioning editors to have a look at charity and development. After having scouted the world of glitterati, I realised that Bob Geldof, who in many ways started celebrity involvement with the fight against poverty, was one of the few consistent long-term players.
He has been an activist ever since ’84, at first raising money for victims of starvation, then later working for system change. It soon also became clear that Bono joined him in this fight already in the 90s, and that these guys, cooperating with numerous other individuals and organisations, have achieved quite remarkable gains. And still are.
Have the concerts and campaigns initiated by artists like Bono and Geldof managed to help poor people?
Yes. Having said this, it is also important to mention that there are no scientific studies showing exactly what impact they have had. The same goes, unfortunately, for the general impact of development aid on economic development in Africa. These are very complicated issues, depending on a multitude of factors.
Still, it is clear to me that Bono and Geldof played an important part in getting Africa’s outstanding debt to the rich world cancelled in 2005. Also, Bono and Geldof have helped President (George W.) Bush along to set up PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), and getting the rich world to fund GAVI (the Global AIDS Vaccine Initiative), two projects that together have funded a big part of the life-saving drugs that today reaches eight million HIV-infected Africans.
Can a wealthy, white superstar really become a spokesperson for Africa’s poor?
Bono and Geldof have become adept advocates and lobbyists working for increased resources for the extremely poor in Africa, as well as for system change globally, to achieve important legislation regarding aid transparency. But spokespersons – no! This job must be done by Africans.
How much of the artist-activists’ work is done for personal branding, and how much is done to help?
Quite a few celebrities engage in charity to enhance their own brands. I have found no proof of Bono or Bob Geldof doing this. But of course, their genuine advocacy surely is of no harm to their brands and record sales.
The richest 20 percent of the world’s states consume 80 percent of the natural resources. Some people live in absolute luxury, others go hungry. Is it possible to achieve global equality – with or without the help of superstars?
We simply must work for a more equal and just world. Anything else would not be fair. Also, this is the only way if we want to make the world more peaceful and safe. I believe this is also is a prerequisite for making everyone team up and fight environmental hazards and global warming.
And how can we achieve this?
The fight has to be carried out on numerous platforms. One very important fight is about enacting legislation that will counteract corruption and theft in transactions between countries with mineral or agricultural resources and buyers in the rich world.
Another huge fight is about giving every child on earth access to education. A third fight obviously is about ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men globally.
What is your opinion on the concept of the “aid trap”, the theory that says that poor countries become dependent on foreign aid?
It is not so much the poorest countries getting dependent, it is more their government officials getting dependent. There is a corruptive element to all big cash transfers, and there is a constant danger that people will get seduced by this.
But the fact that such an “aid trap” certainly exists is no reason to stop all aid. Though it is a very strong reason to demand transparency regarding how aid is given and distributed, with inbuilt means for the recipients themselves to monitor how the money given to a country is disbursed.
*Source .ipsnews.net. Picture illustration PAV