SAVE AFRICA INITIATIVE – Amb. Imru Zelleke (Ret)
The recent peaceful revolution in Tunisia may have opened a Pandora’s Box for people around the world to rise against many regimes of terror and coercion that are dominating their lives and holding back their progress towards democracy and freedom. Although the principal factors that have imposed such authoritarian regimes are home grown, world powers and international institutions that provide them political support and the means of survival, must share the responsibility for these disastrous conditions.
In a speech he made during his visit to Kenya in 2009, President Obama stated that “Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions”, Secretary Hillary Clinton in her recent visit to the Middle East stated that unless democratic reforms are carried out many regimes “would sink in the sand”, nothing can be truer than these words. The question is whether these realistic assessments of the prevailing situation in Africa and elsewhere, are applied effectively on present policies. Although it is true that internal reforms cannot be done by outsiders, the US, Donor Countries, International Institutions and NGO’s possess a lot of clout to influence positively the regimes to change and clean up their governance. Anti-terrorist posture rigged up elections and statistical manipulations of development are always causes that ferment deep frustration and violent revolts. Neither should they be guide lines in the formulation of policies towards any totalitarian regime who survives by brute force, in spite of its unpopularity and inherent internal instability. The notion that only authoritarian regimes can fight effectively against terrorists is also untenable; popular democratic regimes would deny the ground where terrorism thrives from the general discontent of the population.
With regards to Africa, the continent is being re-colonized again in the guise of economic developments, in which the local people are marginalized for lack of means, and adequate measures to protect their interests. In Ethiopia and other African countries agricultural land, that is the main stay for about eighty five percent of the population, is being forfeited massively to foreign investors. Population are displaced without fair compensation, and forced in so called re-settlement project, that are at best extremely ill equipped and lack all amenities to sustain them. Hence, people are reduced to be cheap labor for investors or migrate to urban areas where unemployment prevails and living conditions are even worse. The disastrous consequences of these development policies, of dislocation and marginalization, on the social, cultural, economic and political future of the countries are immeasurable. A recent Financial Times article calls it “neo-colonialism by invitation”. It will fatally end into bitter revolts, mayhem and bloodshed, unless appropriate steps are taken, as of now, to prevent such tragic results.
Therefore, it is a moral and political imperative for the international community to establish a regimen that safeguards the people of Africa from being victims of such ruthless exploitation. To provide humanitarian assistance while those directly concerned are waging wars, vandalizing and ransacking their own people, is an unsustainable dichotomy that will worsen existing conditions and hatch further conflicts and crises. Particularly, it is a moral obligation for Black people all over the world to save the people of Africa from extinction by these barbarous political systems.
The natural disasters that are afflicting the continent are ominous enough without these manmade calamities. To reminisce over past misdeeds while the same conditions continue to subsist under different guises and different masters has no relevance nor is it conducive to solutions for present problems. African statesmen, politicians, intellectuals, businessmen and citizens, wherever they are, owe it to their own self-esteem and to past and future generations to save Africa from such a humiliating fate. Though it might sound incongruous to the chiaroscuro world of politics, an honest and frank appraisal of African conditions must be made. Africans must muster the political will and determination, themselves, to espouse and enforce rigorously measures conducive to the well-being of the people.
There will certainly be a lot of hue and cry about what I am suggesting as it touches particularly the sanctity of the “sacred cow” of “national sovereignty”. Because many facets of these sad conditions are the outcome of policies of expediency and neglect they have fostered in Africa, leading world powers and institutions would shy away from such an initiative lest, they are accused of fostering a new colonialism. Nevertheless, realities in Africa and the future survival of the people demands some radical changes from the policies practiced so far. The measures suggested hereunder are not new. The World Bank, some donor countries and international institutions have made them conditional to their aid programs. What is proposed here is that they be implemented and observed rigorously. Whether in Africa or other parts of the world, rulers must be made accountable for their acts. Governments are made of men and women who must obey the law like any other citizen. Belonging to a ruling body does not exonerate them from their duties and obligations to the national and global societies in which they exist
What makes the acceptability of these corrupt dictatorships, unlike the crude types like Idi Amin, Mobutu and the rest, is that the new autocrats are better educated, have lived abroad, they know the lingo and appearance needed, they hire high caliber lobbyists, they dispose of large funds given or ill gotten . They dine and wine and fraternize with world leaders on important functions, towering over officials responsible to design policies, while their methods of governance are no better than those of the thugs they have replaced. Therefore, it is incumbent to US, Donor countries, International Institutions and the World community at large to enforce appropriate measures and stop once and for all these abusive practices that have caused so much suffering on humanity past and present.
a. A main advantage the totalitarian regimes have over the people is that the latter do not know their rights, many are illiterate and others are too poor to exercise them, even if these were available. In many countries books, radios, magazine, printing paper is heavily taxed if, which inhibits their continued availability. Moreover, in most instances governments own all mass media, newsprint and information services and exert strict censorship. Thus, a public education program should be developed to sensitize and instruct the people about human rights, democracy, the rule of law, civil society, freedom of expression, free elections, economy, technology and so forth, such ideas and concepts that will benefit and better their lives. If people have a clear idea of their rights and obligations, it is unlikely that they will suffer passively the abuses and mismanagement of their affairs by inept and corrupt dictatorships. To avoid conflicts of interest and undue political pressures this program must be managed by an independent body composed of reputed personalities and professionals.
b. The program can be carried out via radio broadcasts (i.e. Radio Free Europe), the expansion of information technology and easy access to the Internet, the usage of satellite audio-visual broadcasts and worldwide television news services (i.e. BBC, CNN, etc.). While the benefits derived from such programs would be great and long lasting, the financial costs would be infinitesimal compared to the huge sums wasted on arms and white elephant projects prompted by greed, vanity and ignorance.
c. In spite of their abundant domestic resources and billions of dollars in foreign aid, African countries remain underdeveloped, the people impoverished and continually exposed to famine, malnutrition, disease, social disarray and hopelessness. Capital evasion out of Africa in the past thirty years is estimated to be $ 340 billion. This is outrageous, and must be stopped; the moneys found and returned to the rightful owners: the people of Africa. To put an end to this practice, financial and commercial transactions, out of Africa, should be strictly controlled and supervised in order to stop the transfer of illicit capital from Africa by corrupt government officials and their private accomplices.
d. Political asylum should not be granted to political leaders, party members and government officials allegedly guilty of crimes against humanity, corruption and warmongering. An international tribunal should clear these individuals before they are granted asylum by any country. Although, such rules may be difficult to enforce, their existence will at least compel would-be dictators to behave in accordance with acceptable standards. Foes of humanity such as Idi Amin, Mengistu Haile Mariam and others should not be exonerated of the horrible crimes they have committed against their own citizens. Countries that have given asylum to these criminals, should hand them over to an international tribunal for judgment and eventual punishment.
e. A special international organization empowered to exercise a rigorous control and monitoring of human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression should be created. Development aid and technical assistance, trade concessions and other facilities, with the exception of humanitarian aid, should be granted according to the observance and positive record of each regime to the code of conduct established by the international community as monitored and appraised by that organization. Treaties, agreements, accords and memorandums of understanding should stipulate clearly those basic conditions.
f. Diplomats and international staff assigned to African countries are, more than often, inclined to optimize the success of their mission, by ingratiating themselves with local authorities, rather than being concerned about the real benefits brought by their activities. Consequently, misleading reports and evaluations have resulted in adopting inadequate policies.
g. Unfortunately, the causes of these mistakes are usually realized too late, after those responsible have departed and damage has been done. Frequently, the same officials are later found in the employment of the same regimes they were accredited too. Strict standards and monitoring should be exercised on the activities and performance of officials.
h. Foreign government should abide by the same rules and cease to interfere in the domestic affairs of African nations and particularly in ethnic and tribal matters. Such interventions are most likely to aggravate dissensions and complicate further local attritions and conflicts. A source of many erroneous policies has been the notion that African territorial boundaries were arbitrarily imposed by colonial powers, and that they are the principal cause of many conflicts. Historically, whether in Africa, Europe or elsewhere borders are politically and militarily imposed. People that straddle the borders are generally of the same ethnic stock and are consanguine because of proximity and interaction; they share the same cultural values and common habits. An imaginary frontier line traced on some political map has little reality in their daily life, but for the bureaucratic stumbling blocks they create in the conduct of daily business. There are no natural boundaries, even in the case of many island states. To recreate or redesign African countries on the basis of tribal territorial claims would be unfeasible and disastrous for the people. The solution of these problems rests in the democratization of the political process in which all citizens have their rights equally protected in all countries.
i. An active people to people diplomacy must be developed. Emerging civic organizations in Africa should establish a network of sister-organization relationship with their counterparts in the West and other parts of the world. Thus gaining more resources, sharing experiences, and setting-up an effective voice for a more people-oriented foreign policy by the west. In case of crisis and conflicts a mechanism for a direct people to people dialogue should be established, instead of leaving negotiations solely to political regimes that might have instigated them for their own purposes.
j. The implementation of these measures could be entrusted to the United Nations, the OAU and local independent bodies. In addition a supervisory institution should be created in the form of Supreme Ombudsman for Africa. The members of this council would be led by senior statesmen of the world such as i.e.: President Mandela, Bishop Tutu, H.E Kofi Annan, Gen. Collin Powell, Dr. Wole Soyinka, The Secretary General of the UN, the presidents of the ICRC, WB, IMF, EU, renown African statesmen and other eminent personalities. The mission of the council would be to supervise the implementation of the above-mentioned measures and generally be instrumental in the establishment of peace, stability and progress in Africa.
Many aspects of the afore-noted atrocious conditions are the outcome of ill-designed policies of expediency and neglect that have been fostered in Africa by the leading world powers. Many western powers are likely to be reluctant and African regimes definitely unfavorable, to champion such initiative because of the political and economic inconveniences it might cause. Nevertheless, the future survival of Africa demands a new vision and radical changes from the existing policies. It is hoped that the western powers can muster the political will and the fortitude to bring about the necessary changes. Whether in Africa or other parts of the world, rulers must be made accountable for their acts. After all governments are made of men and women who must respect the law like any other citizen. Belonging to a ruling body does not exonerate them from their duties and their obligations to the national and global societies in which they exist.
Africans must feel outraged and humiliated by the state of affairs and should react to correct them, with all the moral and intellectual courage and determination the present state of affairs demands. Africa has an abundant wealth of human and material resources and the social and cultural traditions upon which it can build dynamic and prosperous societies. Unfortunately, it has been disrobed of all its potential by the violent and greedy totalitarian political systems that have dominated its governance. Africans must reassert and reassume the mastership of their destiny.
Amb. Imru Zelleke (Ret)