Africa's Politicians: New Slave Masters?

Published on 31st March 2009

They talk like sheep with humility but act like wolves and lions, devouring their victims without mercy. Such are Africa's politicians. When they crave for power, they will say anything to get elected but alas! Once they get the power, they forget about the electorate. Politicians in respective African countries do not know what poverty is.


Politicians have hijacked and exercise full control over  land, labour, and capital. Omar Bongo of Gabon and his circle of friends control all the oil money in Gabon. Obiang Nguema and his cronies exercise full control over hundreds of millions of dollars of oil money that flow into the country annually. Denis Sassou Nguessou of Congo does the same with his friends and so do Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Joseph Kabila of DRC.


Like the Slave Masters of old, the politicians, their cronies, the business elite and the well connected determine and control everything in Africa. They determine which roads to be constructed; which village or town to be connected to the national electricity grid; which region to receive funding for projects, which community to receive water infrastructure; which town or community gets access to hospitals and sanitation facilities; who should get a job and who should get sacked. Have you heard that 420 army recruits in Ghana have been asked to go home by the politicians who recently took over power? Politicians decide who gets a place to sell in the market, shopping malls and all the major markets in the continent; who should own and have a share in a business; who should get a contract and whose certificate as contractor should be revoked.


Contractors often do substandard work, collect hundreds of millions of dollars, give politicians their share and that is all. So, a road whose life- span is twenty years has to be resurfaced after two years. For the past fifteen years, Accra-Kumasi road in Ghana has been resurfaced more than five times after paying contractors hundreds of millions of dollars. This explains why school buildings collapse and children are killed. It also explains why communities are flooded anytime it rains as poor quality drainage networks are built. Costs of major public procurement contracts are inflated three or four times above the normal cost by the Slave Masters and the poor people are made to pay for it.


You cannot get a certificate to operate a business unless you grease the palm of a politician. You cannot get contract unless you know a politician in the ruling government. You are treated differently if you know the regional minister, the district commissioner, governor or the district chief executive (DCE). A French investigation into corruption at the former oil giant Elf Aquitaine revealed that Elf paid £40m a year to Bongo via Swiss bank accounts in exchange for permission to exploit his country’s reserves. Source: The Sunday Times, 2008.


As long as one knows a cabinet minister, he can do whatever he likes. Nobody dares question him. The poor and the have nots always get prosecuted and jailed while the politicians and their cronies who commit atrocious crimes live in their mansions to enjoy their booty and ill gotten wealth. If Mr. Bernard L. Madoff had come from any country in Africa, he would have been a free man by now as his political friends would have ensured he did not go to jail. The corruption case against Jacob Zuma is being dropped to allow him become president of South Africa.


Big loans are contracted to build presidential palaces but the poor are made to pay for it. Despite receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in loans and grants from Europe, Japan, US, IMF and World Bank, there is nothing to show for it as poverty continues to swallow the people. These loans and grants do not see the light; they are stolen the very day they are released but the poor people are paying for them. This explains why many countries have applied for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative. Corrupt Slave Masters and their associates are holding the people captive with their short sighted, ill-conceived, vote buying, and cosmetic economic policies and programmes thereby giving the people no chance to develop.


Politicians in Africa falsely adorn titles like Junior Jesus, Servants of the Poor, Friend of the Poor and King of Africa. None of them cares for the poor. That is why there is mass unemployment, no incomes, no savings and no shelter. That is why farmers continue to farm using hoes and cutlasses, rely on nature to plant their crops; and have no access to improved seeds, irrigation facilities and credit. That is why children go to school on an empty stomach and attend classes under trees while the politicians’ children receive education in Europe and America.


That is why Omar Bongo has at least 33 luxury properties in France alone and spends $100 million a year while majority of Gabonese live on a dollar a day. Dos Santos,Paul Biya, Obiang Nguema, Blaise Campore, Arap Moi, Jerry Rawlings, Joseph Kabila and most of the sitting and past presidents and their families live a lavish lifestyle while majority of the people live in abject poverty.


That is why people have no access to water, health care and education while Citibank, UBS, Barclays Bank, Crédit Lyonnais, BNP, Credit Suisse, are full of stolen money from the continent. That is why there are power blackouts in Accra, Dar es Salaam, Abidjan, Cape Town, Monrovia, Free Town, Lome, Lagos, Kampala, Cairo, Conakry and most of our cities and rural areas. But the lights in Aso Rock in Nigeria, Osu Castle in Ghana, El Mouradia in Algeria, Abdeen Palace in Egypt, Zimbabwe House in Zimbabwe, Futungo dos Belas in Angola, Mahlambandlovu of South Africa, State House in Kenya and Uganda, will not go off even if there is no water in the Kanji, Akosombo, the Aswam, Kariba, Seven Forks or the Mulunguzi dams.


That is why majority of the people live in deplorable conditions in the slums of Nairobi, Accra, Cairo, Lagos, Soweto and Kampala. That is why teachers, nurses, and other public workers are poorly paid, have few rights and have little or no entitlement when they go on retirement. But when the Slave Masters leave office, they are given several hundreds of thousands of dollars and properties as retirement packages(in spite of having looted). The Slave Masters have more and are given more. The poor have none and they are denied even the little.


Since they care only for their stomach, they allow mining and oil companies to destroy the environment and the livelihoods of the people. Shell, BP and other oil companies have polluted rivers, wells, streams, lakes, creeks and the soil in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, rendering millions of fishermen and farmers sick and jobless. The people of Arlit in Niger and Mounana in Gabon are still suffering after exposure to high radioactive contamination from uranium. The Slave Masters in Ghana, DRC, Liberia, and Zambia look on in agreement while mining companies like AngloAshanti and Mittal pollute the environment.


In the 50 years since oil was discovered in Nigeria, over $400 billion have been realised as revenue but the money has been stolen by the politicians and the corrupt civil servants leaving Nigerians to fend for themselves. Abacha and his family banked $4 billion in Switzerland, Jersey Island, New York, Australia, France and Britain. The story is no different in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, DRC, Guinea, Chad, Zambia, Sudan, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Gabon where oil, gas, gold, diamond, copper and other valuable minerals have fetched billions of dollars yet most of the people live in abject poverty. The people are poor because the Slave Masters have decided they should remain so. Monies meant for their development have been stolen and are sitting in UBS, Credit Suisse, Barclays bank, BNP, Crédit Lyonnais and Citibank.


In order to perpetuate their rule and enslavement of the people, they turn tribe against tribe and religion against religion as is seen in Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ghana, Niger, Mali, Algeria, Egypt, Togo, Liberia and Congo. They install their children as successors instead of allowing democracy to work. Faure Gnassingbe of Togo was installed as his father’s successor and so did Joseph Kabila of DR Congo. There are clear signs that Gamal Mubarak and Major Muhoozi Kainerugaba will respectively replace their fathers as presidents of Egypt and Uganda.


How is the following 2008 US Human Rights report on Gabon different from the treatment of slaves by their owners in the 18th Century?


“…limited ability of citizens to change their government; use of excessive force, including torture toward prisoners and detainees; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; an inefficient judiciary susceptible to government influence; restrictions on the right to privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, association, and movement; harassment of refugees; widespread government corruption; violence and societal discrimination against women, persons with HIV/AIDS, and noncitizen Africans; trafficking in persons, particularly children; and forced labour and child labour.” Source: US Human Rights Report on Gabon 2008. Similar abuses are found in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Egypt, Mauritania and Guinea.


Africans demanded independence from colonialism only to be recolonised and enslaved by African leaders. Africa is poor because of the incompetence of her leaders. The people are poor because they have been denied the opportunity to develop. There  is  no efficient transportation system; no major infrastructural development, no viable  manufacturing sector and no major breakthrough in the universities. What will you say when people have no access to food, water, electricity, education, health facilities; rent, fees for their kid, jobs, savings, sanitation facilities and ability to democratically change their leaders? If these corrupt, power hungry and heartless men and women are not slave masters, vampires, parasites, blood suckers and draculars then who are they?


By Lord Aikins Adusei

Ghanaian based Consultant, Writer, Political Activist and Anti Corruption Campaigner




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