Dissolve the African States – Part 1
|Which way for Africa?|
In the half a century that this colonial experiment has been going on, these states have failed to solidify. The minorities have been dominated to a point of extinction, the majorities have waged war on one another in a never-ending conflict that seems to have no objective, poverty and helplessness, diseases and drought have taken over the land.
The colonial experiment in the creation of the modern African countries has failed miserably. Half a century is long enough to take stock and rethink the ingredients of this experiment. It is time to rethink the colonial mishmash that Africa has been and dissolve these countries. A country can only be defined by the benefits it provides to its citizens. Depending on the system of government, the state provides security to its people and their property, creates ample environment for business, promotes justice through a fair judicial process and builds common infrastructure. The state also creates an international cooperation with other countries for mutual benefit.
African states have failed to provide security to their citizens. Africans are the number one refugee people in the world. Countries like Somalia have failed so miserably that more than half of their populations are refugees. Sudan, Congo, Ethiopia, Algeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda have not fared any better. War is the number one profit industry in Africa. It has created mercenaries, rogue merchants, warlords and pirates. It has become a perpetual spectre of fire flaring all over the forest each with more intensity than the other. The African governments have individually and collectively failed to prevent these wars and hence the murder of their citizens and pillaging the of continents wealth by menacing warlords financed by foreign companies.
Take Congo for example, the country has been at war for a decade now and every government put together by the United Nations faces the same problem of immediate conflagration of war. There has even been an election which led to the creation of a government in Kinshasa, but that government rules Kinshasa and its environments and has no power to protect people in Goma and other areas in the DRC. The DRC is so large; it is the size of the whole of Western Europe put together. The inhabitants of DRC live mainly on the borders of the country but the enormous forests at the heartland are yet to be discovered. In fact some Congolese say that there are no known roads from the Oriental region bordering Uganda and Sudan to Kinshasa. It is a security nightmare that no sane individual or groups of individuals can fathom.
The Congo was a colonial idea but the price of this colonial mistake is being paid by a generation who had nothing to do with the colonial experiments. Kenya is a relatively successful African state which has had no major war in its history. At face value, Kenya has a security apparatus that the Somalis and the Congolese will kill for. The people of Kenya know only too well that this a façade, a fake state of affairs, a deception that is put together to intentionally fool foreigners.
There is no security in Kenya; there is no peace, only the absence of war. War also visited Kenya briefly over a very unnecessary election fraud conducted right on TV. The police were used to announce an election result that the country did want and did not expect. In the ensuing melee, over 1200 people were killed, more than half a million displaced. The interesting thing to know is that at least half of those killed were shot on the back by the police. The police also raped women and children who sought refuge in their camps.
A few weeks ago, the military was deployed to quell and inter-clan feud in Mandera. Except under state of emergency, the military should not be employed to settle an internal feud between citizens. It is the job of the police to keep the peace in a country, the job of the military is to protect the country against anyone targeting the sovereignty of the state by force. It is the job of the military to forestall an invasion not to investigate murders or arrest robbers.
Typical to any African state, the Kenya government has a warped priority where individual whim rather than government policy dictate the reaction to any event. As expected the military used torture and rape to extract information and guns from the people of Mandera. For having no sense of division of labour, now Kenya has to contend with angry citizens. Kenya has wider failures on security grounds. The last forty years has seen massacres, political murders and extensive pillaging of the country’s wealth by a few bad men.
Many African countries are failing on the score of creating an enabling environment for business. In Madagascar, the country’s president owns everything including the distribution of essential products like cooking oil. Businessmen have been jailed for trying to break the monopoly of presidential companies over the county’s commerce. In Ethiopia, ownership of a cell phone is so bureaucratic that locals have virtually no access to this essential telecommunication tool. In Kenya, investment is scuttled by corruption and kickbacks. The political class owns everything and wants to own more. There is a spirited effort to protect the established businesses from competition and the City Council officials are on the rampage burning corner shops and strangling the livelihood of small business owners. The wisdom seems to be, between poverty and clean orderliness, the latter is preferred.
In Nigeria, a country that should have been the African superpower, business is conducted in the shadowy alleys of the cities at night. The environment is so constricting that even legitimate businesses have gone underground. Tanzania is unable to decide between free market economy and communism. South Africans have grown so envious of Somali refugees’ business acumen that they are beheading them and freezing the Somali heads as spoils. In this kind of environment, the African states have failed to create an environment that supports business growth and that is part of the failure of the colonial experiment that put together antagonistic cultures with dissimilar values and tastes.
It is the role of government to provide a decent level infrastructure to its population. The infrastructure includes roads, railways, airports, hospitals and schools. In many African countries cow paths masquerade as highways, railways are run on modified steam engines on a railway track left by the colonial governments, airports are only found in the capital cities and this has been specifically built for the president’s comfort.
The role of government encompasses the administration of justice. In Africa, justice is a strange concept. The word justice is such a threat that anybody who dares to utter it may land himself in jail. An entity that registers organizations may deny registering an NGO if it has a name that closely resembles justice. In places like Nigeria, the judicial system has not been defined yet. Justice may apply to hapless hungry muggers but those who steal the wealth of the state will never face a court of law. In a country like Kenya, criminals are elected to the highest office in the land. One NGO estimated that at least a third of parliamentarians are involved either in smuggling rackets, have corruption cases pending in court or have committed serious crimes in the past. This is a state of anarchy where those who make the law do not follow the law.
In Kenya, Court orders have no value higher than the paper they are written on. The wheels of the justice system never turn, even confessed murderers who have been sentenced to death are never executed. The judiciary is a calamity, a disease, a catastrophe that has befallen Kenya. Justice goes to the highest bidder and where there is no bidder, justice remains clogged in the wheels of the system waiting for a party to bid. In Ethiopia courts are the preserve of the political opposition. The only crime that merits the consideration of a judge is a political crime. In Uganda, the courts are brave enough to make decisions against the government but the decision is delayed to allow the government to tackle the problem. In Rwanda, traditional customary courts are preferred to the modern courts. In many African countries, the judiciary is spineless and corrupt like Kenya, Blatantly partisan like Ethiopia, brave and useless like Uganda, empty and ignored like Rwanda and non-existent like Congo. The countries have therefore failed to provide an independent judicial process that the citizens can trust.
In the preserve of international relations, African countries have been an avenue for others to exploit. Africa is still exporting raw materials and importing finished goods and junk. Africa has abundance of natural resources but Africans are not allowed to exploit theses resources. Africans send large delegations to international meetings which usually
are long on quantity and short on substance. Kenya sent 150 delegates to a habitat meeting in China. The delegation was so large that scuffles erupted at the airport for the small transport spaces provided by the Kenyan Embassy in Beijing. Bodyguards and hairdressers made up a third of the delegation. The required number of people at the Habitat meeting was just four, the Prime Minister and three relevant Ministry officials. Nothing much was achieved at this meeting to justify the expenditure on the delegation.
African delegates to International meetings primarily go on shopping sprees. They do not represent the interest of their country and do not negotiate on the sidelines of the meeting for business contracts with major organizations. As described by a former Prime Minister of Singapore, African leaders do not place themselves on the agenda. They just attend the
meetings in large numbers, consume voluminous amounts of food and drinks and return home rounder on the cheeks but with no treaty to their favour.
The failure of the African states has bred irredentism and rebellion on a major scale. Every African country has some disaffected people fighting the state. The violence is leading to death and destruction and is spreading to new countries every year. The consequence is the natural death of many African states and the shrinking of others as more and more regions are overran by insurgents. Sudan is about to break up into three major states which means the country will have fallen apart in few years from now. Congo is an untenable entity; its sheer size creates a logistical problem for a central government. Somalia is already a failed state and there is no central authority governing the country. There is likely to be no redemption for Somalia other than to divide it up into many tiny states that can form a federation. The Baganda of Uganda are asking their government to shift Kampala to somewhere else. They are demanding an autonomous federal kingdom ruled by a king.
In Ethiopia, the largest tribe, the Oromo feel excluded from the political system, they are asking for secession so that they can create a country called Oromia. The Ogaden region is also agitating for independence from Ethiopia. This country is a brink of break-up. In Nigeria, the Ogoni are up in arms in the Niger Delta. They abhor their poverty in the oil heartland. They are fighting the government and have successfully sabotaged the oil industry in Nigeria. The other tribes in Nigeria occasionally bicker and burn each other alive. These irredentist tendencies have spread to the Niger, Senegal, Ivory and lately Guinea Bissau.
The death of African states as they are constituted presently will come about either by successful rebellion or by referendum. Successful rebellion will claim many lives and lead to destruction. Referendum is the better option. It will be cheaper in terms of human life and property. It is a more civilized way of doing things, and where the referendum is defeated, there is a chance of redeeming the existing state.
By Salah Abdi Sheikh,
Director of Star FM & TV Limited and author of “Blood on the Runway.”