Afghanistan's Lesson for Africa

Published on 8th January 2010

Afghan parliament in session        Photo courtesy
Many African countries have unnecessary bigger governments made of cronies of their nugatory rulers. Aloof personal greedy and  carbuncular constitutions, many parliaments are but rubber stamps when it comes to keep rulers on tenterhooks. This coupled with inducements (like being appointed in boards of various government firms) makes it difficult to connect the dots as far as mega corruption is concerned.

Afghanistan, a war-torn country, has made an indelible mark on democracy.  Its parliament unanimously turned down 17 out of President Hamid Karzai’s 24 nominees for his cabinet. Instead of seeing a conga-line of MPs supporting the president’s choice, the world witnessed the rejection of Afghanistan president’s sacred cows! What a precedent for Africa to ape!

This reminds me of what happened in Britain in 1642 when the parliament under Oliver Cromwell toppled King Charles whom they later hanged after he tried to usurp power as opposed to Magna Carta. This is a breakthrough for struggling Afghanistan compared to Africa that is hijacked by dictators, thieves and their stooges. Parliaments in Niger, Senegal and Uganda were used to amend the constitutions in order to let their dictators remain in power. In Zimbabwe, the tyrant is still in power thanks to the support by parliament.

In the Gambia, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and other countries the  situation is the same. Parliaments are used as napkins by rulers to clean their mess at the peril of hoi polloi.

"I think, unfortunately, that the criterion used was either ethnicity or bribery or money," MP Fawzia Kufi said, in remarks quoted by AP news agency.

To the contrary, in Tanzania’s cabinet, there are five ministers and many MPs alleged to have forged their degrees not to mention many more that are alleged to be nominated just because they are closer to the president. Other countless are alleged to have big hand in various thievish privatization scandals dogging this country. Being the cronies or ‘sacred cows’ of the president, the alleged forgers are still in office though illegally. The Tanzania parliament has nothing it can do to show them the door thanks to the ruse propaganda instigated against it after it heroically ousted Edward Lowassa, a former corrupt prime minister. This move has verily cost the speaker of the house who narrowly survived being expelled from the ruling Party- Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

Many African rulers appoint their ministers not by merit but by connection. Some are appointed just because they contributed generously in enhancing the big men to bribe voters and police to ascend to power. Some helped them to rig elections especially those manning internal and security dockets. Some share ethnicity with the big men. Some know their dirty linens so as to act as consgliori. Some bribe them. Refer to how Amin appointed former Ugandan minister for foreign affairs Princess Elizabeth Christobel Edith Bagaaya Akiiki. This lady however declined to obey Amin’s  evil advances.

Another source of bad and huge governments is party solidarity. Ruling parties use their mandate to form a bad government thanks to being able to control the houses full of their members and cronies they sponsored in the elections. Also in many African countries, the relatives of rulers are propelled to the parliaments in order to man and convince others to back them. In Tanzania, the president has the power to appoint ten MPs. What are these for if not to back the strong man?

This is why, for example, in Kenya, many post-election warlords are still in the cabinet not to mention thieves and those that plundered DRC in neighbouring Uganda. This is why names of the first families and their cronies feature high in government and political circles in Africa.

The killer bait that turns MPs into fish, sheep even sycophants is the provision in many African constitutions that empowers president to appoint his ministers from the MPs. This, if anything, has enabled African presidents to hijack and enslave MPs despite representing the citizenry directly.

Division of power is clear that nobody should serve two organs of the state at a go.But in Africa this is not espoused to. Instead, the presidents are like Kings even demigods with more discretion to abuse the country as pleased.

In some countries, ruling parties have even introduced party gangs in women, youths,  elders and parents they use to hoodwink and mobilize the citizenry to back the same. These gangs are allocated some illegal positions in government and party ranks as a tip to remain loyal to the leaders of their parties. In Tanzania, the ruling CCM party has turned youths into zombies that can swallow any nonsensical stuff from politburo and politicos at any time and manner. Sheepish and bullish as they’re, they fully participate in rigging elections and brainwashing rural dwellers whose know-how is next to never thanks to be starved in all spheres of life.

This coupled by MPs looking for employment from the chief executive has ruined democracy in Africa. Instead of representing the voters the said MPs represents the president so as to entice him to appoint them ministers of members of the boards of parastatals.

This is why many bad and sabotaging laws are enacted thanks to the support from MPs. This is why it is difficult to impeach African rulers even to question some of their bad decisions. They have all cards in their hands. To make things smoother, African governments give MPs big salaries and many emoluments so as to make them easily forget the people they say they represent.

Going back to Afghanistan, is it the love of afghan MPs to their country or their constitution that made it possible for them to squarely reject president’s choice? We need to dig deeper so that we can use the same formula to tame our Thieves-in-Chief.

Indeed, though perceived as a failed as it seems, Afghanistan still has something to teach Africa. Can African MPs ape Afghan MPs?

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