- Posted January 1, 2014 by
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Dilemma of Governance in Africa
As we lunch into 2014, countries around the world are reviewing the outgoing year in retrospect. From the advanced economies down to the developing countries (‘third world economies’) there have been positive and negative events that will continue to determine the future of generations to come. The global economic crisis that riddled economies had a blanket effect on both advanced and developing countries. News of marginal economic recoveries in the USA, UK, Canada and Japan gave respite to the crashing hopes of people. However, this contestable positive news was tampered by natural disasters in the Philippines, isolated acts of indiscrimate shootings in the USA, political cleansing in North Korea, uprisings in Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan. At the tail end, the world was humbled by the death of Nelson Mandela; A man of impeccable and outstanding legacy. Despite the ups and downs of the receding year, the gap between advanced and third world countries continued to widen. With a greater concentration of third world countries, in Africa and the Far Eastern countries, a common trend that has plagued these regions remains governance and leadership failures.
Africa; world’s cradle of civilization continued to trail behind in its own invention-‘civilization’. One cannot juxtapose the existence of a great leadership icon like Nelson Mandela in a continent that is constantly challenged by poor governance. African leaders with absolute powers have allowed themselves to be corrupted absolutely. From the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone which ended in 2002, down to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with a record breaking killing efficiency, Africa’s achievements has revolved around bloodbath, corruption, greed and poverty. Recently, our breakthroughs have been increased with the on-going tussle in the CAR and South Sudan. Death toll is rising and Africa continues to break grounds in the negative.
Located in the north central region of Africa, the CAR was a French colony and gained independence in 1960. The landlocked country shares border with Sudan (northeast), South Sudan (east), Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo (south), Chad (north) and Cameroun (west). With capital in Bangui, the Central African Republic has an estimated 4.6 million population. The country which is rich in uranium, crude oil, gold, diamond and lumber ranks amongst the world’s poorest. The country’s major GDP driver is agriculture and it also ranks amongst the ten poorest countries in Africa. Since independence in 1960, the Central African Republic has seen five coups, widespread corruption, abuse of power, underdevelopment and instability.
The country’s woes started with the St. Silvestre coup d’etat which saw Colonel Jean-Bedel Bokassa taking over power from President Dacko. In 1972, President Bokassa declared himself as life president and suspended the constitution. Violent suppression of opposition started in 1979 when around 100 students and teenagers were killed for protesting against a government Decree. This ignited widespread apathy against his government and President Dacko was reinstated in a French-led coup against Emperor Bokassa (as he was called then). Since then, the country has seen violent change in power and abuse of authority with most of its leaders either focused on remaining in power till death or systematic annihilation of other ethnic groups.
In March 2003, General Francoise Bozize overthrew President Pattasse and took over power. President Bozize was re-elected in the widely fraudulent election of 2011 and this led to emergence of rebel groups fighting to unseat the President. The pressure on President Bozize was overwhelming and in January 2013, a power sharing arrangement with the rebels was concluded. The rebel groups had control of some towns in the North while the President had control over the capital and other towns. However, the rebels backtracked on the arrangement in January 2013 and invaded the capital Bangui. President Bozize was ousted and Michel Djotodia took over power. Due to long-stayed violence in the country, rebel and militia activities went out of control. The Muslim led Seleka group came under reprisal attacks from the Christian militias. Although this appears as a religious uprising, there are political undertones to the recent skirmishes in the country which has seen more than 600 people killed and up to 400,000 displaced.
Officially the youngest country in the world, the Republic of South Sudan was granted independence from Sudan in 2011 and has its capital at Juba. Republic of South Sudan is led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit who serves as the first president of the country. The country is rich is crude oil reserves and on independence from Sudan, the country retained around 4 times the crude reserves of Sudan. An oil revenue sharing arrangement is currently operational between Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. The country relies on pipeline networks and refineries in Sudan for transporting and refining its crude oil. President Mayardit currently faces an uphill task in quelling uprisings from rebels and militia in the country. The armed groups cited government’s intention to stay in power indefinitely, unfair representation of ethnic groups as well as under development of the rural areas as their motivation for arming up.
In a recent turn of events, President Salva Kiir alleged a coup plot against his government by his deputy, Riek Machar. This situation fuelled deadly rivalry between President Mayardit’s Dinka group and Machar’s Nuer clan. Heavy fighting between government troops and Machar’s ‘White Army’ continued in Bor with more than 1000 people killed and lot more displaced. Although a mediatory talk has been initiated in Ethiopia, heavy fighting continues in the city of Bor.
The two scenarios discussed above show some similarities. Firstly, the Central African Republic and South Sudan have crude oil and other forms of natural resources. This leaves us with the ‘resource curse’ theory where nations with natural resources continue to wallow in abject poverty. Leadership in both countries are hewn on sycophancy, greed and insensitivities. How can one explain the level of abject poverty and paucity of infrastructure in both countries in the face of crude earnings. The answer is not farfetched; a few privileged men trying to enrich themselves whilst retaining power till death. African leaders may have gotten away with this motive in the past but given recent trends in the Arab world coupled with the impact of the electronic media, one can conclude that the end is near for corruption in Africa.
Secondly, the nature of the crimes committed by purported freedom fighters in Africa leaves one in awe. Arming underaged children to participate in real killings, a situation where children are forced to kill their own relatives is sickening; raping underaged girls, arming women to kill their own husbands, staged horrific killings and maiming as well as slaughtering pregnant women and newborns all under the guise of fighting for freedom are a common trends in Africa. After these crisis, the people live in perpetual shock and unable to carry on with their normal lives. This affects social and economic recoveries in such war torn zones.
A trip to Sierra Leone, Congo and Rwanda will confirm the aftershock of internal crisis. Leaders in Central African Republic and South Sudan need to reassess their motivations and consider the future they are forcing on the unborn generation.
Thirdly, the motivation of external factors in crisis ridden regions of Africa still leaves some questions unanswered. In most cases, rebels as well as government formations are usually armed by external countries with varied interests in the situation. For instance, how can a country like Russia continue to arm militias and rebels in Africa and still turn around to cry foul on humanitarian crimes or genocides. How can the