The ineptitude of African governments and regimes to provide their citizens basic and essential services i.e. public safety, control corruption and state-sponsored criminality, mitigate violation of human rights and bridge the ever widening gap between the African haves and have-nots is due to an inherent moral bankruptcy. The bankruptcy fuels leaders to instead plunder and pillage their countries for personal gain.
Contrary to this reality, the current narrative about the continent is of a continent on the rise. It’s a story of “economic growth, renaissance and transformation” but the narratives always underplay and overlook the structural corruption, the crushing debts and the fatal addiction of African states to Western aid and loans.
Corruption and moral decay of the political class
“Corruption is the single biggest threat to Africa’s growth. The solution lies in good, ethical leadership, strong and enforceable laws against corruption, severe sanctions for corruption crimes underpinned by a national culture of promoting ethics from family to national level” says Ali Mufuruki, CEO of Tanzania’s Infotech Investment Group and member of the International Monetary Fund’s Group on sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately “ethical leadership” is an idealistic notion that may never be realized and most of our public office bearers struggle with this ideal. Many of the post-independence African elite – both in the political and economic empowerment class – took the colonial elite’s conspicuous consumption standard as the standard of “success” thus leading to an enduring system of corruption that can afford the elite this standard.
Read: Report yourself: the citizen v. corruption
For many politicians and other public office bearers who grew up in average income homes with firm family ethics and all the makings of a decent human being you would still be susceptible to the status quo maintained through decades of ill-gotten excess. The obsession with materialism, compulsion for a shortcut to affluence, glorification and approbation (of ill-gotten wealth) by the general public, are the main reasons for the persistence of corruption among the political class.
“Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation,” said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, in a statement
Transparency International conducted a survey with Afrobarometer; an organization which publishes surveys on African governance; which polled over 43,000 people in 28 Sub-Saharan countries showing some disturbing results.
- In Liberia Seven out of 10 people in the country say they have had to pay bribes to access basic services like healthcare and schooling. This is the percentage on the continent.
- Estimates that around 75 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have paid a bribe in the past year. The police and courts; institutions which exist to safeguard citizen’s rights; are seen as the most corrupt, with over a quarter of those who had dealings with them saying that they had paid a bribe
- Nearly one in five Africans paid bribes to obtain official documents sometimes negotiated through an unofficial fee, gift or favor
Sexual deviance and gender disparity
The scandals that surround politicians towards civilians and staff members are numerous and of varying severity. However even female members of parliament are not immune to the atrocities of unchecked sexual assault or gender bias. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Acting Chairperson Mandisa Mashego accused an ANC member of the legislature, Mbongeni Radebe, of sexually harassing her in parliament. She laid a charge of sexual harassment against him in 2015 at the Johannesburg central police station going on to accuse other ANC colleagues of threatening their female counterparts with physical violence or sexual harassment when they failed at debating political issues. In an interview with Destiny Magazine, she said that it’s not uncommon for women to be treated in this way in political circles.
According to a survey released by UN Women in 2015, South Africa has the second-highest number of female ministers, with 41.7%, or 15 female ministers out of 36. But the rate of sexual violence in the country, which has not left our elected officials untainted, shows that representation of women alone will not have an impact without structural change.
The first, Rwanda which the highest number of female lawmakers in the world, isn’t faring well either. In the recent elections Diane Rwigara was the only female challenger to the incumbent President Paul Kagame before nude photos of her were posted online completely discrediting her campaign.
“They are fake nudes, altered in Photoshop, and it is one of many tactics that has been used to silence me,” she told CNN, also claiming her supporters were harassed and detained, while she faced trolling and abuse online.
In 2003, a different candidate Alvera Mukabaramba made a bid for the presidency but later withdrew to joined forces with Kagame. The ran again in 2010 alongside another woman, Victoire Ingabire, a Netherlands-based Hutu lawyer who ran into trouble over comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for treason and “denying genocide.”
Disdain for the law
This year the African Union has called for the mass withdrawal of member states from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The resolution is however non-binding, with Nigeria and Senegal opposing a withdrawal but South Africa and Burundi deciding to withdraw. The countries that are withdrawing are accusing the ICC of undermining their sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans which the ICC denies, insisting it is pursuing justice for victims of war crimes in Africa. A total of 34 African states are signatories to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC.
South Africa and Kenya, which have pushed the AU to withdraw, will be disappointed that the discussions about completely severing ties with the ICC will have to wait for the next summit.
For South Africa the tipping point was is the case of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the court on charges of genocide in Darfur. In 2015, a South African court criticized President Jacob Zuma’s government for failing to arrest Mr. Bashir when he attended an AU meeting in the main city, Johannesburg. The government later announced that it was withdrawing from the ICC because it did not want to execute arrest warrants which would lead to “regime change”.
As for the Kenyans is it evident why the would prefer to withdraw from the court. The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution has expressed its regrets on the Kenyan cases that collapsed before full trial. Steynberg, who faced both President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto in the ICC courtroom towards the end of their cases was however clear that the cases were weakened the most by “direct attack” on prosecution witnesses and the failure of the Kenyan State to genuinely cooperate with the prosecution.
Aside from the cases raised against premiers William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta other corruption cases linked to this have arisen. In the arrest warrant the ICC issued against Gicheru and Bett, they are alleged to have bribed or attempted to bribe six prosecution witnesses, offering each between 500,000 shillings (about US $4,800 at current exchange rates) and five million shillings (about US $48,000) to withdraw as witnesses. These bribery allegations are offenses under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. In the arrest warrant the ICC issued against Gicheru and Bett, they are alleged to have bribed or attempted to bribe six prosecution witnesses, offering each between 500,000 shillings (about US $4,800 at current exchange rates) and five million shillings (about US $48,000) to withdraw as witnesses. These bribery allegations are offenses under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.
Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Victor Mule told the court “Neither the Attorney General nor the Director of Public Prosecutions nor the Cabinet Secretary has taken up the prosecution of the respondents (Gicheru and Bett),” Mule then said that in such a situation Article 17 of the Rome Statute applies.
Unfortunately all of the above is proof of the extent to which the political class is tearing down the continent and hindering the transformation that has been bubbling under for decades on the backs on the continents dynamic youth. Are our systems of government archaic and retrogressive? Why hasn’t the world amended a system that leaves the citizenry open to oppression?