Africa breezed into the post-independence era with a swagger optimistic of emancipating the masses from the clutches of poverty, brutality, political and social marginalization. These hopes and visions were encapsulated in the rhetoric of the post-immediate independent African leadership such as Nkrumah’s “Ghana is free for ever” and Sekou Toure’s “Freedom in poverty over wealth in slavery.” The people swore that “never again” would they return to the detestable experiences of colonialism. Little did they know that this was an illusion.
Africa today is under the mercenaric siege of both foreign and “home-brewed African” neocolonialists. Neo-colonialism (as defined by Free Merriam Webster Dictionary) is the economic and political policies by which a great power indirectly maintains or extends its influence over other areas or people. Nkrumah in his book Neocolonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism in 1965 articulates how the machinations of foreign capitalists’ monopoly perpetuate the paradox of Africa – poverty in the midst of plenty. It examines the exploitative relationship between these major powers and Africa, especially the masses, increasing the poverty gap between the rich and poor states.
Tons of literature narrate great powers’ neocolonialism of Africa. This article focuses on the “home brewed African neocolonialists” who have robed the garb of the major power neocolonialists. Home brewed “African neocolonialists” are the corrupt political despots and public servants that economically rape, exploit, and deny the majority of the African populace their basic human rights. Their privileged positions are sustained by the blood and toil of the majority poor they exploit.
Almost all of them are self-proclaimed life time indispensable presidents with messianic missions to redeem their people. Liberation, in their own parochialism, hinges on centralized dictatorial power at the expense of the legitimate will and rights of their people. The political system is virtually ossified in almost African states: dissent is stifled, freedom of political expression suppressed and human rights denied. This negates the possibilities of peaceful democratic change of governments. As the rule of law fades with judicial corruption and official intrusion, people, especially the opposition, are denied their legitimate rights to due process of law and political participation. In the absence of rule of law coupled with draconian measures to suppress opposition, the agonized African populace is seized with fear, dismay, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness for the future.
Pervasive corruption and nepotism at all levels of government breeds cronyism that overrides meritocracy in awarding official positions and contracts. This adversely affects professional efficiency in our institutions. Public confidence in government is at its lowest ebb. African political history is awash with leadership corruption. Boginy’s wealth was estimated between 7-11 billion US dollar and Mobutu’s estimated wealth was $5 billion. Bernard Kouchner, a minister in the government of former France President Francois Mitterrand, referred to Mobutu as “a walking bank vault with a leopard-skin cap." On Nigeria’s Sani Abacha, Raymond Baker in a paper- Money Laundering and Flight Capital: The Impact on Private Banking, wrote “the biggest single thief in the world in the 1990s was almost certainly the late military dictator, Sani Abacha, with $12 to $16 billion passing out of Nigeria in corrupt and tax evading money during his murderous five year regime.” In the pursuit of his self-succession agenda, Abacha eliminated Pro-Democracy activists and other opponents such as Ken Saro Wiwa that shocked the conscience of the civilized world. Similarly, Idi Amin’s eight-year reign of terror in Uganda encompassed widespread killing, torture of farmers, students, clerks and shopkeepers by the dreaded Public Safety Unit and the State Research Bureau. The coronation of Bokassa as emperor of the Central African Republic allegedly cost $22 million in a country where the average annual wage was $122. The Extravagant ceremony included a two-ton throne and a $750,000 crown encrusted with 2,000 diamonds, and 450 pounds of rose petals to be strewn before the emperor and his empress. The Mubarak family is said to have approximately 70 billion dollars deposited in secret banks accounts in British and Swiss banks, (The Guardian)
Corrupt officials are sustained by the blood and toil of the majority poor they exploit. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the African societies. In Ghana, almost all institutions (political, judiciary, health, education, police, customs, and immigration) are corrupted. This mocks and raises doubt about our over-trumpeted democracy. The very poor whose blood and toil sustains our economic survival bear the brunt of corruption and are denied their rights to equal opportunities, education, health and other rights guaranteed in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In a system where justice can be bought through judicial corruption, only the rich can exercise their rights to due processes of law. The poor majority cannot afford to bribe their way through. Ghana is ranked 130 out of 169 countries in the 2010 Human Development Report
The Egyptian revolution is a clarion call to the people of Africa to wake up from their slumber to hound out leaders who toy with their destinies. The Iranian opposition leader, Mr Hossain Mousavi, said “If governments do not listen to the legitimate demands of their people, the people would have no option but to call for their downfall” (BBC Persian Service reported on January 28, 2011). The marginalized, agonized African populace can only change the status quo through the only weapon they wield- positive civil disobedience or nonviolent activism as acknowledged by President Obama in praising the tenacity and bravery of the Egyptian people. “Egyptians have inspired us” he said. “For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not mindless killing … that bent the arch of history toward justice once more.” The continent’s beleaguered and disempowered populace need to initiate a potent political platform to confront the corrupt authoritarian leaders and public officials whose diabolical actions have exploited, dehumanized the masses and led their countries to the tortuous path of economic, political, social failures that propel their states into senseless wars.
The corrupt elite must be made to understand that the tenets of the “old order” are no longer tenable and an historic epoch has been reached in African politics symbolized by the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions where the will and dignity of the ordinary people supersede the parochial desires of the corrupt officials and authoritarian leadership. This historic opportunity must be seized perpetually and diligently fuelled to institutionalize incorrigible social, economic and political institutions, freedom and justice, respect for human rights, probity and accountability and equal opportunities for all irrespective of our tribal, religious, gender and social differences. Truly the voice of the people rings louder than the forces of destruction and ours must be heard. I am confident we cannot afford the luxury of bequeathing to the next generation and those unborn the legacy of exploitation, second class citizenry, corruption, violation of human rights and injustices, nepotism, politics of marginalization and divisions along ethnic fault lines that are recipes for African civil wars. But if we fail and let this historic window of opportunity slip by without any conscientious efforts to restore our dignity, we shall surely be condemned deeper into the doldrums of poverty, injustices, political brutalities, human rights violations and the generations unborn will condemn us. I believe we shall not fail them and will bequeath to them a free, just and stable Africa void of tribulations.
By Kofi Nsia-Pepra Ph.D.
The author is Assistant Professor of Political Science (International Relations/Comparative politics, public policy, conflict analysis and resolution and American politics) at Ohio Northern University, USA.