January 2008


. . . a serious study of the history of traditional governance on the continent confirms that democratic ideas are not new to Africa, and that the majority of precolonial systems of traditional governance in Africa had, and in many cases still have, strong democratic elements. The pre-colonial contact with Europeans and the colonial period itself rather disrupted the old systems in many ways, and have left behind situations which are the root causes of many of today’s problems.

. . .
. . . for the purposes of this presentation and in the interest of brevity, let me place the challenges into the following general groups:

  • Political challenges
  • The challenges of African Political Leadership, and
  • Economic and social challenges.
Political Challenges

Most of our peoples have already noticed that the new system of governance is being severely tested by the lack of good faith in certain leaders and administrations. What is more, it is clear that some of those very politicians who gained leadership positions as a result of the strict adherence to the norms of democracy are now, and at the end of their tenures, the very people trying to corrupt the democratic system of governance because of a selfish lust for power and money.
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A second political challenge is how to avoid the politics of exclusion and the creation of a society of unequals. The ‘winner takes all’ mentality that we have inherited from the Westminster and other systems of western democracy . . .

This form of challenge has manifested itself in a number of countries, mine included, when an in-coming leader and his ministers have resorted to the vilification of the previous leader and his government and the purging of the military and civil services in the bid to garner support and loyalty for their style of governance. This conduct is particularly deleterious and contributes to political tension that eventually polarises the country because it needlessly excludes important actors and sows the seed of division or polarisation in society.
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A third form of challenge to democracy in Africa is the refusal of governments to adhere to the ‘Good Governance’ Agenda. We are all aware that for democracy to succeed, there must necessarily be a role for the opposition, decentralization must also be equitable, the media must be assisted to be free, pluralistic and independent, civil society organisations must have the unfettered freedom to operate and lastly, there must be a strong commitment to anti-corruption. In all these areas, we have seen leaders fail badly as the opposition is openly hounded and denied any significant role in governance, as leaders have themselves become absolutely steeped in corruption and opulent life-styles, as the powers that be refuse to prosecute corrupt Ministers especially, as the purchase of the loyalty and bias of a large section of the press erodes the rights of opponents and as the use of radio stations to attack opponents is sanctioned in the hope of making opponents unpopular over time, and as decentralisation is destroyed by targeting districts and ethnic areas for discrimination. . . . African women still hang precariously on the lower rungs of the political ladder, in spite of many constitutions and United Nations resolutions urging all countries to pay attention to their status and roles. The youth continue to be largely illiterate, unemployed and disillusioned, and ethnic minorities continue to live in fear and obvious disadvantage.

These are political challenges that we ignore to our own detriment.

Challenges of Political Leadership

The lapses in the practice of democracy in Africa can be attributed to many factors, both internal and external to our respective countries, but there is the unquestionable evidence that the lapses are mainly as a result of bad political leadership. At the top of this failure of leadership is the scant respect that many of our leaders have for constitution and constitutionalism. The ease with which extra terms of office are pursued by certain leaders and the ruthless manner in which the illegal or unconstitutional objective is pursued has made this failing particularly objectionable and attributable to failed leadership.

A second challenge to African leadership is the tendency of leadership to foster ethnic or tribal ascendancy in political parties, the military and security situations. And so we are beginning to witness the creation of ethnic crimes and civil services. This deplorable tendency is one of the bagagges of our colonial period, when our peoples were not only identified in ethnic or tribal groups but also when in a number of colonial territories but certain tribes were preferred to others.
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Perhaps the most current of leadership failures on the African continent is the manipulation of election results, described variously as ‘rigged election’ or ‘sham elections’ or ‘stolen verdict’. . . . Democracy is not only the observance of certain norms and traditions; its first requirement is the upholding of the integrity of the electoral process itself. An inseparable collateral to the respect of the electoral process is the assurance of a peaceful and constitutional transition from one government to another. As a leader whose political party has tasted defeat at the polls before, I can say that there should be nothing to fear in losing an election and therefore there should also be no need to tamper with the rotational principle in good governance.
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I would be remiss in my responsibility toward our continent and its people if I fail to also draw attention to the unpalatable truth that more often than not, such deviant political behaviour is prompted and encouraged by certain outside powers who, for their own selfish national interest, prefer one African leader to another. It is a more daunting challenge as this patronising attitude of outside powers is more often than not predicated on the conscious corruption of leaders and the playing upon the abject poverty and ignorance of our people. . . . We must, Ladies and Gentlemen, strengthen our resolve to do away with such plain criminality in order to strengthen good governance in all parts of Africa.

Economic and Social Challenges

. . . democracy will not survive for long unless the mass of our people are introduced to significant economic prosperity. The failure of a large number of African economies in the first three decades of their independence showed all of us that the economy is also doomed to failure if such internal and external mismanagement of the economy is not brought to an end and reform, based on certain demonstrable capacities of leadership, is immediately substituted. The first challenge of that economic goal is therefore the achievement of economic self reliance and independence.
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The second economic and social challenge to democracy on our continent is the lack of efficient attention to our non-existent or poor economic and social infrastructure. The building of roads, railways, harbours, and communication as well as the rehabilitation of dams, electricity plants, water systems etc continue to be of top priority for all of us. The reason why only a few are able to emerge out of this particular difficulty is the pervasive and debilitating nature of corruption which make those involved see this need only in terms of what is in it for themselves. The erstwhile 10 percent syndrome of corrupt countries has now turned into an evil partnership between African administrations and representatives of developed country donors to short-change an already poor people. While it is also true that the all-too-evident shortfall in human capacity is also part of the challenge, I have come to the painful conclusion that corruption and political apathy are the main culprits in the slow progress at the provision of the infrastructure necessary for the development of African countries.__ . . .

Another critical challenge at this point in time is the absence of economic cohesion among African states when it comes to confronting the developed economic organisations, cartels and the chief controllers of the changing patterns of world trade.__ . . .

The challenge facing the continent here is to develop the economic and technical skills and the adequate human resource for negotiating with the developed world at the World Trade and other fora. Unless we show a collective resolve in negotiations, our future will continue to be decided by those who are in the race for the fast dwindling resources of our planet.

The last economic challenge to the survival of democracy in Africa which I wish to draw attention to in this presentation is the lack of resolve to empower certain important economic actors in the various countries.__ . . . There is no alternative to the economic empowerment of the masses through an investment directly in their collective abilities to produce and market. African governments must ensure the survival of their citizens by appropriate administrative, medical and economic policy interventions. Our peoples must of course live and enjoy good health in order to produce. They must be paid living wages and not wage that will put more money in the pockets of those who are already comparatively well- off. What is more, leaders must adopt economic policies that will teach the lesson that work pays as opposed to glorifying corruption.


In trying to find out why democratic governance is not working as well as intended, I have proffered certain reasons which I deem important, even critical, in our endeavour to succeed. The reasons are by no means exhaustive but have been advanced to assist the dialogue that is on-going on the matter. But, perhaps more importantly, let me advance a few ideas that I feel will assist in meeting the political, economic and social challenges. In so doing, it is not my intention to pontificate but rather to instigate discussions among our own peoples as to how to overcome the difficulties challenging us all.

In the first place, I believe that we must persevere and even fast-track the building of those institutions that will promote democracy and economic betterment on our continent. Our laws and institutions such as Parliament, the Judiciary and the Civil Service must be so reformed and strengthened as to make them extremely difficult to be subverted by politicians and political leaders. We must strengthen the judiciary and anti-corruption units in our countries so as to enable them join meaningfully in the anti-corruption war. Secondly, African countries need to develop the systems that will hold their leadership to accountability without fear or favour. This comes from strengthening institutions such as the opposition, parliament, auditing bodies and the general public to be able to ask questions and demand answers.

. . . Thirdly, it is also important that Africans undergo an attitudinal change towards leadership that does not meet their expectations. Unless the citizens learn to boldly reject fraud and criminality in leaders, wrong-doing will persist.

. . .
Fourthly, we need to co-operate among states in confronting corruption and waging war on other lapses. The continued existence and prospering of many of these challenges in one another’s country gives support and nourishment to the lapses themselves. In this regard, the example of the holding of today’s dialogue is a fitting lesson on how to begin the exchange of ideas and the subsequent determination of how African countries should find strength in cooperation against such the challenges as posed by outside powers. But above all, we must respect ourselves, for without this self esteem and respect for one another, we cannot teach any lessons to those who suffer from tyrants, incompetent leaders and economic exploiters. I hope we are successful in achieving these aims.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Read the entire speech here.

Over at the African Loft I have a new article up on The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM. The Bush administration has created a huge industry of military and intelligence contractors. They are already operating in Africa, and looking to Africa for their next contracts. Drop by and give it a read.

There were two stories about African oil in the Financial Times today.

The new scramble for Africa’s resources:

The rise of Africa as an energy region is not a short-term trend
. . .
Yet the effect of increased corporate interest has not always translated to economic well-being for African countries. (an almost comic understatement)

Soaring oil prices have threatened to wipe out recent economic gains on what is both the world’s poorest continent and its fastest-growing oil and gas exploration zone of the past decade. According to the International Energy Agency, the increase in the cost of oil in 13 non-producing countries, including stable economies such as South Africa, Senegal and Ghana has since 2004 been equivalent to 3 per cent of their combined gross domestic product. This is more than the debt relief and foreign aid received during the same period.
. . .

The contrast between the multi-billion dollar international oil industry and the grinding realities of Africa is nowhere more apparent than in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, the most prolific zone in the Atlantic basin, from where the US expects to source up to a quarter of its oil imports in the next decade. There, armed militants using an anti-poverty rhetoric have cut a quarter of Nigeria’s production in pre-dawn raids on oil facilities and kidnapped scores of oil workers in the past two years, a potent symbol of the kind of disorder that can occur on the doorstep of huge investments.

Much of the capacity being added on the continent may be too far offshore to be affected by the kind of militancy seen in the delta. But US policymakers nevertheless remain deeply concerned about stability in oil-producing zones. In response to this concern, President Bush last year ordered the creation of Africom, a dedicated US military command centre for Africa which is expected to be situated in a yet-to-be chosen country on the continent.

The US military has recently started focusing on West Africa, with a $500m plan to help Saharan states eradicate Islamist cells linked to al-Qaeda that could otherwise threaten stability in oil-producing countries in the region, particularly Nigeria. The co-operation has drawn criticism from human rights groups which say the US is repeating its Middle East mistakes by cosying up to despotic and corrupt regimes on the continent.

Indeed, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, typified US confusion on Africa policy when she described Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea where US supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil have interests as a “good friend”, despite widespread concern over human rights abuses and corruption.. . .

Where Africa’s resources are becoming hot property, big energy producing countries are beginning to push for greater control of their own oil and gas industries, much to the chagrin of the traditional oil majors.

As you see above, the Financial Times flatly states that African oil is the reason Bush created AFRICOM, and the reason for the US military focus.

Energy producing countries should push for greater control of their resources and industries. Of course they also need to push for a more equitable distribution of the profits. How, and how much, will AFRICOM be used to push back and maintain US control?

The second article, Plenty of room for minnows discusses the proliferation and role of small oil companies in Africa.

With many of the oil majors in the past few years focused on the multibillion dollar deepwater investments in the Gulf of Guinea, and oil prices so high, the past few years have seen plenty of incentives for smaller companies to try to make it big in Africa.
. . .
If they develop their assets cleverly, or even discover significant oil finds, the rewards may be a lucrative takeover bid from a big company.
. . .
. . . “Essentially, the creation of a secondary market is just beginning to happen on the continent.”

Companies that are interested in Africa range from small start-ups that have snapped up speculative oil licences, to the likes of Tullow Oil, which has booked a relatively large discovery in Ghana and which today has a market capitalisation of more than £3.7bn. Medium- sized companies from the Arab world have also started expressing an interest in holding African oil and gas assets.

Some of the more successful companies have built up their reputations by leveraging their insider contacts in government circles.

Indeed, Afren’s founding board members include Rilwanu Lukman, the former president of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Nigerian presidential adviser, which probably goes some way towards explaining why Afren was able to secure a $200m non-recourse facility from BNP Paribas, the largest loan the bank has ever made to a company with no cashflow.
. . .
But the share price volatility of such companies remain high because their assets are often concentrated in a small number of countries. Indeed half of small oil companies trading on Aim are now below their issue price.
. . .
But the share price volatility of such companies remain high because their assets are often concentrated in a small number of countries. Indeed half of small oil companies trading on Aim are now below their issue price.
. . .
In the meantime, some companies, detecting wider investor scepticism, are busy looking to tie themselves more closely with African investors who may also have clout in government circles.

This is not the kind of situation that makes fighting corruption easy.

In the 19th century Europe claimed to be bringing the 3 Cs to Africa, commerce, christianity, and civilization. That certainly did not work out as promised.
The Bush administration claims AFRICOM will bring Africa 3 Ds, development, defense and diplomacy.
3 Fs look more likely, Foolery, Falacy, and Failure

A VOA article, New US Commander Prepares for Africa Assignment, announced:

Admiral Greene will head the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti, providing training for African military forces and conducting humanitarian missions in 13 nearby countries. He told reporters in a conference call the goal is to help improve security and governance, and end poverty, in order to indirectly fight terrorism.

Among Admiral Greene’s remarks:

I see our role as to enable African solutions to African problems

(The objective of the mission) the three Ds,” development, defense and diplomacy

The 3 Ds?. I thought they had dropped speaking about the 3 Ds. To anyone who knows enough history to have heard of the 3 Cs, 3 Ds sound like a joke, or some weird form of mockery or parody. When I mentioned them to Omotaylor in the comments on a post at African Loft, she made me laugh and nailed it with her comment:

I see the 3 Fs in their endeavour, – Foolery, Fallacy and Failure (as the end result from any unholy liason posed by anyone on Africa).

In addition;

General Holman (current deputy commander of the U.S.-led Horn of Africa Task Force, Brigadier General Sanford Holman) says the Djbouti base facilitates some other military activities he won’t talk about. There have been reports of U.S. special operations forces working from the base on counter-terrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere. But the general says those activities are not the base’s main purpose.

The activities he won’t talk about are probably ones he also characterizes as facilitating “African solutions to African problems”, such as the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, accompanied by massive bombing of civilians by US forces coordinated out by CJTF-HOA. That “African solution” destroyed the “African problem” of the only working government Somalia had in 15 years, replacing it with the hated warlords, Ethiopians, violence and death, more people killed and displaced than in Darfur.

Mercenaries in New Orleans – “nation building” at home

In Private military industry continues to grow, Rafael Enrique Valero describes the growth industry of people who fight and spy for private gain, mercenaries.

The mercenary corporations have a trade association and lobbying arm, with the Orwellian name of International Peace Operations Association. They held their annual convention in October 2007, attended by among others, Army Lt. Col. James Boozell.

. . . Army Lt. Col. James Boozell, a branch chief of the Stability Operations/Irregular Warfare Division at the Pentagon, said that the U.S. military was in fact experiencing a “watershed” moment in its 200-plus-year history — nation building was now a core military mission to be led by the Army.

. . . his presence at the association’s trade meeting sent a clear message — boom times for nation building are here to stay . . .

The Army understands this. Globalization has weakened borders and ratcheted up commerce even as it breaks down a country’s physical and psychological security. Transnational actors such as Al Qaeda are seeking bases in failed and feeble states worldwide. Africa is particularly vulnerable.

Of course there are a variety of transnational actors, including the oil companies. In Africa these actors are trying to co-opt African resources. That is why Africa is particularly vulnerable.

“Peace operations” and “nation building” are what the military and the mercenaries call their activities. But just like Bush’s “healthy forests” and “clear skies” initiatives, the names mean the opposite of what they do.

While African states are trying to put the culture of military rule behind them, the United States appears determined to demonstrate that most civilian activities in Africa should be undertaken by armed forces.Samuel Makinda

Right now, the debate is about private security contractors — in particular, Blackwater’s shooting of civilians in Iraq — and how to control these corporate warriors in a theater of conflict. Maybe that’s the least of our worries.

. . . as stability operations become the norm worldwide, it is certainly possible that civilian and military interests could blur into a self-perpetuating, symbiotic relationship. Experts wonder if it could lead the United States into a period of “liberal imperialism” that oddly mirrors the British, French, and Dutch East India companies of the 1600s and 1700s — private entities sanctioned by governments to do their bidding.
. . .
MPRI advertises that it works only on international projects endorsed by the U.S. government, and that claim is true as far as it goes. But the company’s well-connected executives, most of them former military brass, know how to lobby Congress to get the contracts they want. Indeed, DynCorp, MPRI, and other private security contractors are heavily staffed and run by former officers who maintain close ties to the men they once led.

. . . after MPRI requested a license to evaluate Equatorial Guinea’s defense department in 1998, the State Department denied the permit because of the West African country’s poor human-rights record. MPRI ex-generals then lobbied Congress and the State Department, arguing that engaging the country “rather than punishing it” would, Avant writes, “foster better behavior in the future and enhance U.S. oil interests.” The application was then approved but was quickly flagged by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. MPRI executives again pressed their case to the right people; in 2000, although Equatorial Guinea’s human-rights record had not changed, State approved the contract.

“I think that the thing you’re pointing out with MPRI’s contract is the degree to which a company with a commercial interest can have influence on policy,” Avant said in an interview. “Now, of course, that happens all the time. But I think it nonetheless opens the question of whether U.S. foreign policy is in the pursuit of ‘U.S. interests’ by some objective definition, or whether it’s in pursuit of interests of a smaller number of people.
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President Bush, . . . has directed the Pentagon to create the U.S. Africa Command by late 2008 to “help coordinate the work of other U.S. government agencies, particularly the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development” to assist African governments and their young rapid-reaction African Standby Force, meant “to provide security and respond in times of need” to troubled nations.

— private relief and development groups and other organizations might not want to work with the U.S. military. Relief groups are steadfast about their neutrality when they are working in war zones in unstable countries; they don’t want one side accusing them of helping the other. In an essay, Carolyn Bryan of USAID writes that contractors and NGOs may not want to compromise their neutrality, because “it increases their risk of being targeted by insurgents.” This separation between the military and the NGOs is called “humanitarian space,” Bryan says, “and is not always understood by the military, who would prefer to join forces with the NGOs and their activities.”
. . .
The private contractors “contradict the military culture’s foundation of sacrifice for the collective good,”
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. . . in the blurry asymmetrical wars of the future, how long will it be before a president decides to “go off the books” and hire a small private army to fight a war. It wouldn’t be hard to do.

“The big risk is not what the companies are going to do in and of themselves,” Avant said. “The big risks are what the consumers are going to ask them to do.”

Of course presidents have already gone “off the books” to fight their wars. That is what Reagan’s Iran Contra was about. A lot of Bush’s Iraq war is off the books, look for the missing billions. It looks like this pattern could become a lot worse.

That is one reason why:

AFRICOM is not about large forces, or large military bases. “It’s not about troops. Its really about headquarter staff, military and civilians; people who oversee programs, they do planning and coordinate security assistance programs.”

AFRICOM can be the pass through vehicle for covert actions and “off the books” operations, “security assistance programs”. That is the reason Bush/Cheney want a huge and thriving mercenary industry. And when they are gone, the industry will still be thriving.

2/2008 – You can read my article on mercenaries in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.

from the Daily Nation

At Moon of Alabama b real has Coup In Kenya: Part II – Exploring U.S. influence in the Kenyan Elections posted. I recommend you read it. It is not a pretty picture. I saw Fareed Zakaria on a Daily Show last week, and he saidwe (the US) like democracy in strategically irrelevant countries, anywhere important, we don’t like it.” US behavior in Kenya is a glowing example of this. Coup In Kenya: Part II went up today, and if it follows the pattern of Coup in Kenya – Part I, it will be worth checking back from time to time over the next week or so to read the comments.

You may also wish to read Countdown to Deception: 30 Hours That Destroyed Kenya by Kenyans for Peace and Justice, also available here. And you might want to read Anatomy of a Rigging by Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, KPTJ.
This last is an hour by hour account –

drawn from the statements of four of the five domestic election observers1 allowed into the verification process the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) . . .

The account illustrates the list of anomalies, malpractices and illegalities that lay behind those results, raising questions as to the ethics, non-partisanship and professionalism of the ECK Commissioners and staff as well as to the validity of the supposed results.

In The Great Divide, authors Holman and Mills write about the political process in contemporary African countries, and say:

the best role that external actors can assume is to be honest in their deliberations about and with these countries, and not attempt to pick and back winners.

People from all walks of life outside the Ohene Djan Stadium

Supporters and street performers outside the stadium

Ghana supporters dancing outside the stadium

Flags of participating nations displayed at a traffic round-about

Ghana supporters dancing outside the stadium

Accra, Jan. 20, GNAMidfielder Sulley Ali Muntari set Ghana’s campaign for a fifth continental glory on a smooth path when he delivered a “super strike” in the 89th minute to secure a 2-1 victory over Guinea in the opening match of the 26th Africa Cup of Nations at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium, Accra.

Photos by Oluniyi David Ajao http://www.davidajao.com , who takes beautiful photos, and generously shares them on the web. See more of his photos on Flickr, or at his website.

I spoke to a friend in Ghana this evening. He said everyone was out in the street jubilating. The police came in a car and told people to clear the street, but the people just climbed onto the police car. The police took it with a good nature. They were celebrating too.

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