Fighting Graft in Kenya: The President’s War on Graft, Stepping Aside and Other Short Stories

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Corruption is one of the vice’s that has been affecting the Kenyan Economy. If you ask me, I would say the rains started beating us after the implementation of the Ndegwa Commission. This commission was tasked to investigate whether public servants ought to be allowed to engage in business while still public officers. The commission found it worthwhile to recommend that civil servants should be free to engage in business activities provided they did that during their free time. It is from this point that I can authoritatively say that corruption in the public service raised its ugly head and there has been no turning back henceforth.

Although during the Kibaki administration, there was the initiative which was assented in to law where Civil Servants are required to declare their wealth. In doing so, it was thought that officials can easily compare the declared income and sources of income – if the wealth of a public official does not correlate with the sources of income then chances would be that the said official is dealing with some underhand dealings. Also, the crafters of this legislation thought that such legislation would prevent public officials from engaging in underhand dealings.
However, the main shortcoming of this legislation is that the wealth declarations have not been made public and as such public scrutiny does not exist. This renders the whole exercise useless.

2015: The Year of Fighting Corruption?
At beginning of this year, the President in his New Year’s speech addressed the issue of corruption and his administrations resolve to fight this vice. In this speech the president said;

Corruption destroys public trust, undermines democracy and the rule of law, and creates space for organised crime and other threats to security. Tackling corruption will see private sector grow, attract investment, and ensure benefits of growth shared by all Kenyan citizens.

Corruption remains a major obstacle to our national development agenda. Government processes will become more transparent.
In addition to the menu of policy and institutional frameworks, my Government will digitise public service transactions to make them more transparent and thereby eradicate the opportunity for corruption.

The New Year’s address to the nation typically lists the agenda of the president. It was worthwhile to hear the president speaking out loud against corruption and making this one of his agenda’s for 2015.

Fast forward to March this year, in his State of the Nation Address, corruption was one of the Presidents talking points. On this occasion the president stated;

When I spoke to the Nation on the eve of the New Year, I assured Kenyans that in 2015, my administration will deal firmly with corruption.
I have continuously engaged with all institutions charged with the responsibility to deal with corruption, and firmly expressed my expectations, and the people’s desire, that their respective mandates are executed robustly, urgently and without fear or favour.

I pledged my administration’s full support, as well as my own personal support, to any actions that will reverse the course of this cancer eating at the soul of our motherland. Rather than unite against this common enemy of our people, these institutions have elected to be mired in personal and institutional conflicts that have chipped away at their legitimacy and brought disrepute to the State.

From the commission charged with the responsibility in the fight against corruption, Parliament’s premier oversight committee, the corridors of justice, and the security organs charged with the safety of this nation, Kenyans are witness to the betrayal of their trust.

When our Treasury was processing our first sovereign bond, this country was forced to settle a foreign court judgement to pay shadowy entities 1.4 billion Kenya shillings. When I addressed the nation on this matter, I pledged that my government would do everything in its power to ensure that we recover all that was due to the Republic. From that moment, I took a personal interest and asked to be briefed on a regular basis of the progress on Anglo Leasing related investigations. My administration also supported the investigating authorities in obtaining support from a number of friendly foreign governments.

These investigations bore fruit. However, obstacles have appeared threatening the prosecution of the perpetrators. The Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission is now embroiled in infighting and finger-pointing, a state of affairs likely to cripple the investigative capacity of the institution with the likely outcome of subverting the course of justice. From reports I have received, I strongly believe that this is a further attempt to subvert the successful prosecution of the Anglo Leasing cases.
As I have indicated, constitutional officer holders, State Officers and every public servant, are bound by the values enshrined in our Constitution. They are required to uphold the highest standards of personal integrity in the discharge of their official functions.

In view of the oath of office that I took as the President of this republic, let it be known that today I draw the line. No one will stand between Kenyans and what is right in the fight against corruption and other monstrous economic crimes.
I have asked the Attorney General to liaise with the Council on Administration of Justice to focus on coordination within the Justice, Law and Order sector. The Council must ensure the efficient and speedy processing of corruption-related cases, including hearing such cases on a daily basis.

I direct the Attorney General to review the legislative and policy framework to ensure the effective discharge of Constitutional imperatives related to integrity.

The highlight on this occasion was the below directive to EACC;

Three weeks ago, I issued Executive Order Number Six (6) on Ethics and Integrity in the Public Service. In it, I directed any civil servants to get in touch with my Office should they receive any pressure to engage in unethical or illegal conduct regardless of the status of person pressuring them to do so. I want to reiterate this personal commitment, which is also provided for in the Constitution.

The latest report I have received from the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission contains a catalogue of allegations of high-level corruption touching on all arms and levels of Government. It is the view of the CEO of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission that the institution and especially its Secretariat are under siege because of the nature of the cases they are currently investigating. I know that Parliament is seized of this matter and urge them to deal with it expeditiously.

(a) Today, I take the extra-ordinary step of attaching the afore-mentioned confidential report from the CEO of the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission as an annex to my annual report on Values to Parliament.

(b) Consequently, I hereby direct that all Officials of the National and County governments that are adversely mentioned in this report, whether you are a Cabinet Secretary, Principal Secretary, or Chief Executive of a state institution, to immediately step aside pending conclusion of the investigations of the allegations against them. I expect the other arms of Government, namely the Legislature and the Judiciary, to do the same.

(c) The investigating authority must ensure that the Director of Public Prosecutions has received the subject files without delay.

(d) I also want to caution that this should not be an open-ended process, justice must be expeditious, as justice delayed is justice denied. Therefore, this exercise should be concluded within the next 60 days.

(e) Let me reiterate that it is not my place to determine the guilt or otherwise of any of the people mentioned in the said report or any other. However, the time has come to send a strong signal to the country that my administration will accept nothing less than the highest standard of integrity from those that hold high office.

After this speech the talk of town was to know the contents of the list of shame as it was referred thereafter. This list was made public shortly after when it was tabled in parliament. The names in this list included Cabinet Secretaries, Governors, Public Secretaries and even Ambassadors. The President gave a directive that those featured in this list ought to step aside to give way for investigations by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.

This was a big one by any standards and I could compare this to the corruption purge in the Judiciary undertaken in the first years of President Mwai Kibaki administration. This was led by Justice Aaron Ringera and mainly focused on removing the Moi era judges who were corrupt by all circumstances, since that was the entrenched culture by then. However, this purge had a political dimension as well, which were also getting rid of judges who were anti-NARC (then the ruling coalition).
Stepping Aside and Intrigues at the EACC.

As directed most of the high ranking government personalities featuring in the list of shame stepped aside following the President’s directive. However, most analysts felt that the said stepping aside was not enough – the listed individuals needed to resign. However, not in Kenya!

The other interesting phenomenon was the intrigues at the body responsible with investigating the corruption allegations and forwarding them to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The CEO and his deputy engaged in a public spat which was widely reported in the dailies. This was the public face of the body leading the war on corruption. There were feuds reported as well inside the commission. These fights took an ugly turn when parliament recommended to the president the investigations of the CEO and his Deputy. A tribunal was thereafter appointed by the President as enshrined in the constitution however the CEO and Deputy resigned and never faced the tribunal.

The 60 days given to the EACC lapsed May 24, 2015 and the EACC has forwarded some files to the DPP for his considerations as to whether to pursue charges against the said high ranking individuals.

So far no one has been arraigned in court yet but names of those to be arraigned in court are in public domain.

My Reading of this Whole Exercise – Fighting Corruption
The President seems to be genuinely interested in fighting graft. This is further emphasized by the joint communique issued by the President, British High Commission and Embassy of Switzerland. This communique was issued after the envoys of Britain and Switzerland visited the President at State House to show their support to the war on graft.

However there seems to be some complications even at the presidency level. The Deputy President’s name has been floated in a number of corruption allegations. Unlike the President, the DP has a history which traces back from his days as a youth winger in KANU during the Youth for KANU (Y2K) days. The President on the other hand is what you would call a Prince (being the son of the founding father). The two were joined in the hip by the ICC cases something that is no more for the president whose case was terminated for lack of evidence (in what CSO would consider hazy circumstances). The DP’s case is still ongoing.

An interesting distinction was in the way the Presidency acted once the list was made public. This list contained name of a PS based in the office of the Presidency based at State House and an aide to the DP. The President relieved the PS based at State House his duties while the aide to the DP stepped aside and has not been fired as of today. This speaks volumes that inside the administration there might be differences of opinion on how to fight graft. However, the President has stood by his DP on claims of corruption leveled against him. This would possibly long game on his part – most of the Kenyan’s believe that DP’s case at the Hague might result into a conviction which would relieve the President of his alliance but at the same time allow him to keep the empire both of them built.

In the coming weeks we can expect either a reshuffle of the cabinet or a filling in of the positions left by Cabinet Secretaries that are formally charged in court. The Public Service Commission on the other hand has been conducting interviews for possible replacements in PS’s dockets.

As to whether corruption will be brought to a grinding halt especially on the senior most levels, as far as I am concerned the jury is not yet out on this matter. But it will be interesting to see how this purge on corruption will end. Given the fact that the country is pursuing a number of big projects most of the replacements to these high offices will in a matter of fact be taking poisoned chalices.

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Burundi: The Arithmetic’s (mostly the lack of it) of Two Terms in Bujumbura

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Two years ago, the celebrated columnist Charles Onyango-Obbo penned down an opinion piece in the East African titled, Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed. As expected this piece did not go down well in Burundi though it did ask an quintessential question;

What can Burundi do to get East Africa’s attention?

It seems the President of Burundi unwittingly and all for the wrong reasons decided to put Burundi squarely on the world map!

In the last couple weeks we have heard and seen disturbing news emanating from Burundi which has been precipitated by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s attempt to run for a third term. Though I am not an expert in the affairs of the great lakes region I have tried to keep myself a breast with the events leading to this situation, as most of us have been. This has been made much easier by my friends and YLF alumnae who are living this horrendous ordeal. We can only hope this situation ends soon so that they can go back to their usual life.

What is more baffling has been the response (mostly the lack of it) to this crisis from the neighboring countries and Africa at large. The current crisis in Burundi did not ‘just happen’ as one would put it, the writing has been on the wall for a considerable amount of time. The regional and continental bodies in which Burundi is a member have been passive to say the least in trying to address the unfolding crisis. Which makes one question the role and need of such institutions – the AU has an early warning mechanism yet its hands seem to be tied in proactively addressing situations such as this when they are unfolding.

Initially, when the issue came to the fore the African Union through its president announced on Twitter that it preferred the issue of the third term to be addressed through the constitutional court (the Senate had taken this matter to the court for interpretation). The African Union had come under considerable criticism especially on its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa and this time it tried to show where it stood on this matter. However, as would have been expected, and the African Union should have known better! The administration in Bujumbura exerted pressure on the court and as such a ruling (unanimous for that matter) was struck in favor of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

As this was happening people have been fleeing the country, mostly relocating to Rwanda and Tanzania. It is only after reeling to the unfolding humanitarian crisis have the two countries come to the fore on this crisis. One might not be privy but perhaps the East African countries were trying to reach out to President Pierre Nkurunziza through diplomatic channels.
However, the quintessential question which begs is when does the sovereignty of a country end and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle set in? Although Nkurunziza administration has cut down access to social networks, the citizens of Burundi like in any other country in the world have found means of by passing these restrictions.

Now one might ask why a president who has already served two terms would be interested in extending presidential term limits (through dubious interpretation of the constitution) so that he can serve another term. Aren’t there qualified people in his party who are a position to take the reins? If not why did he not mentor a successor?

Equally baffling has been the international community response to the crisis, case in point was the recent request by the United Nation’s Secretary General. The UN Sec. Gen. requested Uganda’s President Museveni to intervene in the ongoing crisis. In my concerted opinion, the UN Sec. Gen should have requested the Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete to mediate the crisis since the presidency of the East African Community currently rests with him. We have also seen the foreign affairs ministers of EAC going to Burundi and currently COMESA seems to have sent elder’s to access and possibly intervene.
The problem with this is, if there are many focal points trying to mediate then chances of success are minimal since the president might be bidding his time till it is too late. This concept is well laid down in Back from the Brink – the 2008 mediation process and reforms in Kenya.

This week the EAC heads of state will meet in Arusha to deliberate on the crisis in Burundi. One can only hope that the EAC leaders will come up with a road map to the current crisis in Burindi and that they are able to appoint one focal point to handle the crisis. If the EAC leaders are not in a position to convince President Pierre Nkurunziza to rethink on his candidacy the one can expert more volatile times in the great lakes region.

Recommended readings
1. An idiot’s guide to the Burundi crisis by Daniel K Kalinaki – The East African
2. Raila wants East Africa Community, world leaders to act on Burundi by Moses Njagih – The Standard

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

One Party’s Quest to Solve the Unemployment Question in Kenya

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Employ Me Now! launch poster

The Social Democratic Party in Kenya has a campaign dubbed ‘Employ Me Now!’ which was launched in February this year. This is probably the first grassroots led campaign by a party (and young people) not in power. This is new and welcomed approach the employment question in Kenya. This campaign is basically a petition by young people to the government requesting the state to employ them. Though not the best solution there could be on unemployment, it does show the worsening conditions on the ground in regards to lack of employment opportunities. It is also an indication of the increasing audacity of the Kenyan youths who are now petitioning the state to offer employment opportunities to them.

To fully understand this campaign one needs to read the speech given by Benedict Wachira, the Secretary General of the Social Democratic Party given on February 1 2015 at the launch of this campaign at the San Valencia (a restaurant based in Nairobi – ironically situated next to the University of Nairobi).
Benedict Wachira was a colleague in the University, he is one of the young people who are putting their heads in matters of party administration in Kenya with the hope of changing the narrative. I hope he succeeds and I wish him the best of luck. This speech, which I mostly agree with apart from some sections which I will highlight below paints a picture of what is happening on the ground – especially what job seekers go through in search of employment opportunities here in Kenya. In my consented opinion this is also a reflection of what is happening in the region.

Also, to fully understand the campaign, one needs to know that there was a freeze in government recruitment in Kenya at some point. I am not fully aware if this was lifted but this freeze was put in place as a result of the government wage bill reaching unsustainable levels. However, also one has to note that appointments to parastatals and ambassadorial positions have largely gone to the ‘old gizzards’. This has left most of the youths – the majority of the population who voted for this administration disenfranchised.

Going back to the launch speech, I disagree with the notion that formal employment ought to be the default option as is advanced by the SDP secretary general. I think I understand where he is coming from, party ideological point of view nonetheless that should not stop him from appreciating the role of markets.

I think one of the biggest failures in Kenya has been the education system which pins everything to formal white collar jobs while overlooking other channels such as vocational training. This clearly highlighted by the government’s push to turn technical colleges to universities. At the end of the day what you have is degree conveyor belts! However, if vocational training can be taken up as an official policy where making of livelihoods becomes the centre piece of learning, then perhaps things would change.

The Secretary General has put the blame of unemployment squarely on the doors of capitalism! That as it may be I do not think that is entirely correct because even under socialism you have some form of unemployment. I think instead of blaming ideology, the right thing to do would to seek a balance perhaps been the two such that in areas where blunt capitalism is a danger to the welfare of citizen then it is tamed. Capitalism can be checked with a strong trade union and enacting policies that protect the weak in society.

One of the things we have been observing in Kenya and other countries in Africa has been the rise of tenderpreneurs. Basically middlemen who are well connected in government or working in cahoots with government. The tenderpreneurs seems to be the new face of capitalism in Africa and unless we divorce public service from business and business from public service that shall we get our act right. Many of the so called scandals which result to siphoning of public resources are as a result of collusion of the two. The leakage of taxpayer’s funds subsequently results less resources in public coffers which could be used to employ new workers.

The other thing I don’t agree with is obviously the socialist ideology advocated by the SG in the latter parts of his speech. However, I wholeheartedly support the petition by the party since this will give traction to this conversation and the more people talk of this – the more people will try to look for solutions for this unemployment endemic.

i) This petition by SDP can be found on this link: https://www.change.org/p/this-is-a-petition-to-the-president-of-kenya-his-excellency-uhuru-kenyatta-to-come-up-with-solutions-to-the-high-unemployment-rate-in-kenya-the-petition-is-sponsored-by-the-social-democratic-party-of-kenya-sdp
ii) Speech: http://sdpkenya.org/87-recent-news/145-speech-by-benedict-wachira-at-the-launch-of-the-national-campaign-against-unemployment

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Building Inclusive Economies Report

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This is Africa has a report which critically looks at the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. This report, Building inclusive Economies – Can Africa bridge the development divide? Offers a different perspective to the Africa Rising narrative. Some of the questions which are addressed in this report which are worth looking at are;

• Is the high GDP growth which African states are experiencing evenly distributed among its population? [If not, what can be done to make sure that this growth is evenly distributed?]
• Will the growth rates we are witnessing today continue for the foreseeable future without structural transformation of the African Economies?
• Is Africa investing in new and most importantly clean energy sources?
• Is the infrastructure development which Africa states we are currently undertaking partly financed by China contributing to household incomes?
• Are African states free to come up with their own development policies free from the western centric development models?
• Is a developmental state better than a democratic state or can a democratic state be a developmental state?

The report addresses these among other pertinent questions. Apart from these policy questions there are success stories as well. Rockefeller Foundation the supporters of this publication have highlighted about their initiative, Digital Jobs for Africa. This initiative which operates in urban centres gives jobs to young people who in turn are able to pay their way to college at the same time acquiring valuable on the job training.

However some of the most incisive components of the report are from Dr. Carlos Lopes – Executive Secretary for the UN Commission for Africa, Elsie Kanza – senior Director for Africa at World Economic Forum, Kanayo F. Nwanze – President of IFAD and Adrienne Klasa – from This is Africa.

Dr. Carlos argues for seizing the missed opportunities for industrialization and in doing so Africa must find the missing link between production of agricultural commodities and value addition. According to him, the continent will be addressing the persistent unemployment currently being experienced. However, to do this the continent also has to get its energy supplies right. In the EAC region we have seen a number of infrastructural and energy supplies projects. Perhaps the leaders of the region are reading from the same script as Dr. Carlos.

What I like about Elsie’s segment is the paradigm shift that she calls upon, that governments need to focus on household level as opposed to the whole economy. It is about time the economist in the both government and private sector addressed the household level gains as opposed to whole economy in terms of measuring growth. In doing so, governments will be able to measure the real transformation that is taking place on the ground. Currently, there are a number of grandiose projects taking place in my country – Kenya and in the region. The benefits of these projects do not come immediately and therefore there is a need for the governments to go for the two throng approach where they seek to transform the economy as a whole and also improve the livelihoods of households.

The President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze as is to be expected writes about the power of Agriculture. Many young people rush to the allure of ICT and forget about Agriculture but in Kenya we have seen young people who are merging the two and are really successful. My opinion is the land tenure system is one of main problem for the youths taking up agriculture. In many circumstances, young people do not own land and therefore they cannot invest in sustainable agricultural practices. However, on the grand scale we have seen the government of Kenya doing more irrigation projects in Arid and Semi-Arid areas. This shows that governments are putting their money where their mouth is.

Lastly, Adrienne Klasa writes about the need to redefine policy boundaries and goes ahead to quote Meles Zenawi the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the Africa and in the world and their model is somewhat similar to that of China. Many Economists are in agreement that in some areas Ethiopia seems to be getting some things right and as such it is time perhaps Africa decides what policy decisions to take and not necessarily take the Western development models.

I would encourage everyone to have a look at this report. This report can be accessed here
http://inclusiveeconomies.thisisafricaonline.com/?utm_source=microsite&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=IE

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Conferences Professionals – But Where are the Results?

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By Robert Mugabe

In this new era where everything needs to be debated upon, has come with it, a new trend of a generation addicted to conferences who I call them “conference professionals”. Of course driven by the quest for knowledge and exposure but little by little the politics of conferences becomes catchy.

Yes, you heard me; they’re conference professionals-experts whose main arena is conference presentation. They want to make sure they attend all conferences.

“It might only take approximately three-four conferences in five star hotels until conference attendance becomes an ideology, which ends with good food and treats that woe those attending even to forget about their original stands on issues” – one political science lecturer who is an occasion trainer told me.

These conference professionals, move from one conference to another with beautiful designed PowerPoint. They have many titles, reading from their budges; ‘Human rights activists, youth empowerment expert, women emancipation advocates…” These peoples know the calendar of every conference, national, regional and international a like. Maybe call them conference tourists.

Heard some of you asking what’s wrong with them? But these are not productive individuals. They’re invited in a conference in Johannesburg simply because one of the conference organizers heard him or her speak in a conference in Nairobi. My friend back in Bujumbura told me that she knows one guy who met her date in Nairobi after three various conferences meeting the same girl, they’re now married. I wonder the name of their kid? Late me say; “Justice in Africa, Human rights status in EAC, you can add more…. that should be the names of their children.

These dudes are connected; they know their equals, the next conference on schedule… Back in their respective countries, they are not productive. Ask them what they have done; they will give a huge list. But just visit them; you will be shocked-that nobody knows them.

Most of these people when you hear them speaking, they will come up with good polished speech than Barrack Obama running for white house. They master the politics of the conferences.

Wait; when you see a young person gets this conference virus, it will be their end. They start boosting about the places they have traveled, nice hotels and good airlines. Bragging about style, PowerPoint design, that’s all what they do. Listening to one of them speak in the gathering, you might think you’re talking to Bill Gates with global investments… or you are talking to US secretary of state or Ban Ki-moon.

You want an example of these folks, don’t waste your time looking in their passports, only listen to them when they’re talking, they will tell you all the places they have gone. Guess to do what? Oooh! You got it, attend conferences.

You think am being aggressive in my writing? Maybe, but its because I imagine how conferences have developed a generation made of a bunch of talkers… indeed also these conference organizers most of them don’t some how care about implementation of the resolutions, simply most of them are sham NGO’s. They have no M&E for these conferences, they just make sure the people are there from region, the banner is up, with few presentation and some diplomats who fund these talking forums and that’s it.

They will take picture and mobilize media for visibility.  The next thing is to pay hotel bills and air ticket with $100 per diem and that’s all. That’s their game of the day; they enjoy the game well meeting with conference professionals. They don’t mind. These chaps don’t want any assignment; they’re tourists in the conference.

Next time I will come for you guys with these sham NGO’s, my other collaborator calls them briefcase NGO’s. Hello! Yes am coming for you. See you next time.

 

ROBERT MUGABE-is A Jurist specialized in Media Law. He’s also the editor of Great Lakes Voice. www.greatlakesvoice.com He’s based in Kigali-Rwanda.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

A Brief Review of ‘The State of Africa’ – Martin Meredith

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A BRIEF REVIEW OF ‘THE STATE OF AFRICA’ – Martin Meredith by Chris Nkwatsibwe

Africa stands at cross roads in the quest for good governance and social economic development. the increased deterioration of the standards of living in majority of the countries coupled with devastating social economic status of the people affirm that while Africa may have succeeded in acquiring political independence from her former colonial masters, it has not translated this independence to tangible benefits to its inhabitants.

The ‘state of Africa’ – a book by Martin Meredith, explores the multitude of problems that Africa has faced in the past half-century, focusing on key figures and events that have defined its independence and post- independence era. The book notes that despite the fact that in many cases African independence was a bloody and a lengthy process, the withdrawal of colonial powers from Africa was met with jubilation and hope. African leaders stepped into their new positions with much enthusiasm and visions of development and nation-building. Africa looked set to flourish since this era also coincided with a global economic boom. It is further noted however that this was not the case, the question therefore is what went wrong and why did hopes and ambitions fade? This is the question that Meredith tries to answer in this book.

The book poses the vampire like politicians as being the answer to these rather intriguing questions. It leaves little doubt as to the fact that the primary cause of Africa’s pain is its corrupt, tyrannical, incompetent, thieving, “vampire-like” leaders. The book charts the history of African states in the half-century since the colonial powers either left or were kicked out of their former colonies. It documents, country by country, decade by decade, a depressing litany of wars, revolutions, dictatorships, famines, genocide, coups and economic collapse to justify the assertion.

This narrative begins on Feb. 9, 1951, a pivotal date in the history of what was then Britain’s Gold Coast and now Ghana. On that day the political prisoner Kwame Nkrumah was elected to political office as Britain began fulfilling its promises for the country’s self-determination. Four days later, Nkrumah was designated the new prime minister. And the cycle is described from the shadow of colonialism to the bloom of self-government, onward to tyranny that ensued thereafter.
For example, In the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa acquired an impressive portfolio of French property from fortunes he made in private diamond and ivory deals, and also housed a host of wives and mistresses, including “the German, the Swede, the Cameroonian, the Chinese, the Gabonese, the Tunisienne, and the Ivorienne”.

While Uganda’s Idi Amin, so insecure in his new-found power, authorized mass killing sprees of suspected opposition, whose bodies were dumped in rivers to be eaten by crocodiles. In a similar fashion, Francisco Macías Nguema of Equatorial Guinea gave his security forces unlimited powers to arrest, torture, rape and murder.

Mr. Meredith points out that not a single African head of state in three decades had allowed himself to be voted out of office, instead, these dictators strutted the stage, tolerating neither opposition nor dissent, rigging elections, emasculating the courts, cowing the press, stifling the universities, demanding abject servility and making themselves exceedingly rich.
It is highly imperative to note however that even though the ‘State of Africa’ presents “governments and vampire-like politicians” as being the major and primary cause of Africa’s problems, , it does not ignore the other factors that have contributed to the poor outcome of most of these African countries, insightfully, the artificial borders imposed by colonial powers, indebtedness, civil war and conflict, Western protectionism, the frequency of droughts, the high levels of diseases such as malaria and river blindness and the dreadful scourge of Aids plus rapid population growth are some of the other factors Meredith highlights.

It is however argued that these factors could have been overcome, or at least alleviated, had it not been for the greed and incompetence of the independence-era leaders, whose regimes deteriorated relatively quickly into systems of dysfunctional, corrupt and authoritarian rule.

Interestingly, Even though Meredith does attribute many of Africa’s problems to poor leadership, he also points out the fact that most of these leaders enjoyed considerable Western support. Mobutu, for example, adopted a pro-Western, anti-Soviet stance that gained him considerable support from the West, particularly in Washington. When George Bush became president in 1989, he stated that Zaire was among America’s oldest friends, and its president – President Mobutu – one of their most valued friends. In the Central African Republic, the French provided Bokassa’s regime with both financial and military support in order to suppress prospects of Anglophone influence. This in my opinion can be translated as a contribution the west could have made to Africa’s present day challenges.

The book also captures the key events such as the Ethiopian famine and the Rwandan genocide, and exhaustively discusses the key leaders such as Charles Taylor, one of the continent’s most prominent warlords, and Zimbabwe’s infamous Robert Mugabe.
While exploring the Tanzanian example which was referred to as a “beacon of hope” amidst rapidly fading hopes for the rest of Africa, Meredith also indicates that although most post-independence leaders opted for “African socialism” as a basis of economic and political governance, their strategies and ideologies tended to be a haphazard mixture of vague and incoherent ideas, and thus often involved implementing grandiose development projects, the majority of which failed due to the lack of necessary infrastructural and institutional frameworks.

On a rather lighter note, In the last chapters of the book Meredith offers a little hope: the political and economic successes of Botswana, South Africa’s Mandela years, noble characters -the poet-president Léopold Senghor in Senegal and worthwhile leadership of Vice President John Garang and the emergence of a “new generation” of African leaders committed to democracy, economic development and civil rights are also comprehensively discussed.

Lastly, this book is epic. Meredith works with the colossal spatial and temporal span of this subject with ease, weaving chapters together in a loose chronological order to present the narrative as a patchwork quilt of Africa, rather than as a rigid country-by-country timeline. The early chapters see the rise of African independence and post-independence leaders and the later chapters indicate an account of their actions while in their tenure in their respective offices.

Just like Meredith writes, “African governments and the vampire like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet another burden they have to bear in the struggle for survival.” It is saddening to note that Africans have taken a more passive that active role in resolving the democratic deficiencies encountered by their countries. There’s an increasing state of apathy amongst Africans which has delayed and frustrated the efforts towards dismantling of these deficiencies and consolidating the gains already made.

CHRIS NKWATSIBWE – Uganda
Human Rights activist

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

The Greatest Virtue of Leadership That Should Be Nurtured Amongst the Youth Is Integrity

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In the past decade, there has been a push all over East Africa to see that all holders of public offices are experts and specialists with relevant work experiences regarding the various responsibilities and duties delegated to them. This move came as a result of massive failure experienced in various public offices due to lack of ethics and professionalism.

In the past, senior positions in public offices were viewed as a political reward to the loyalist. These resulted into a culture where no one cared about service delivery to the public but rather balancing the political equation that awarded him with the position.

The consequences of this undertaking, had a major negative impact to our economy. Just to list but a few; poor service delivery, massive looting of public resources, nepotism and tribalism cropping up, citizen despair due to the unbearable cost of living and in extreme case mushrooming of slums and massive unemployment.

But contrary to the expectation, professionalism has not been the absolute solution to misuse of public funds and offices, even though it has reduced the crime to a certain degree. Still, in most countries within East Africa we have experienced worst financial scandals that entail millions of dollars being looted from the public coffers by individuals who were thought to be the most suited professionals and hence a quest for an ultimate solution that will terminate this menace is still being sought for.

In regard to this, I suggest that the best leadership virtue that should be cultivated amongst the youth as they quest to capture public offices is integrity.

Integrity entails self-cultivation; the constant struggle against identity, personality, nature, character, person, ego or any vices like tradition that are as a result of our socialization whether acquired consciously or unconsciously with a quest of being upright and stand by the values of the nation and humanity .

But self-cultivation is not a one day activity, it is a life time process that one continuously evaluates the importance and impact of his actions and contributions to the society and strives to better them. This can only be efficient is cultivated at a tender age.

Professionals equipped with integrity will stand a better chance to stir the desire of East Africans by bring them closers to their dreams of prosperity. This is because they will enhance the spirit of accountability and efficiency in the public offices by prioritizing the citizen’s aspirations above their personal greed.

Author: Javan Owala – Kenya

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES

Youth Population- “A blessing or a curse?”

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Time to hide our head in the sand like the proverbial Ostrich is over. The fire of crime is burning our continent. The fire of terrorism is burning our continent. The fire of violence is burning our continent. Its time we ask ourselves the hard questions: Is the growing youth population a blessing or curse for Africa?

Various sources confirm that the youth population is increasingly growing in Africa. The UN put Africa as the continent with the youngest population in the world due to the fact that over 200 million people in Africa are aged between 15 and 24 years.  The Africa Union Commission agrees with this fact by stating that 65% of the total population in Africa are aged below 35 years and 35% are between 15 and 35 years. These statistics could be indicators of a ticking time bomb or an opportunity for the continent to rise higher.

The youth population is a blessing that does not require a rocket- scientist to see and understand it. A bigger youth population means a bigger work force which is promising for our economy. A bigger youth population translates to more innovation which increases Africa’s capability to compete in the world market. A bigger youth population means a strong police force and a stronger military force. A bigger youth population guarantees Africa a better future.

A bigger youth population becomes a ticking -time bomb when: there are no employment opportunities; when tribalism and nepotism replaces meritocracy; when democracy is replaced by dictatorship; when violence is the road to power; when the few rich continue getting richer while the majority poor get poorer; when good education is for the few rich and the majority poor are given average education. This situation has to stop in Africa or else we as a continent are courting serious trouble.

This article does not require research it simply calls for common sense! Ask your self about the level of youth unemployment in your countries. Ask about access to quality education. Ask about corruption level. Ask! Ask! Ask! Ask!

The youth question is a question of governance!

Author: John Wesonga – Kenya

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES.