By: James D. Hallowanger|
The face and fortune of Africa have changed dramatically in the last fifty years. The independence period started as European powers withdrew from the continent, in a disgraceful faction; after their defeat from African Freedom fighters, amid jubilation to the world as the East and West rivalry continue during the Cold War with basic human rights abuses. At the time, corruption was the order of the day which was watched by United States and the Soviet Union without actions or interventions. For them, some actions of their allies were reasonable as a sign of their backing.
Any wrong doing of their allies were treated with blind eyes as a matter of their support to their so-called bloc members. After independence and dancing, Africa has become bankrupt, with civil war, subject to dictatorial rule, weighed down by debt, and heavily depended on western assistance for survival. During most of African countries independence, there were collaborations, joy, I meant, real dancing in the dusty streets of Africa. The kids with their bare feet singing every street corner with the hope that future was opening for more opportunities.
Martin Meredith an American a political writer wrote in his book: “The fate of Africa” says, after all these dancing with tears of hope, Africa still remain undeveloped. With such resources on the continent and after almost two generations, Africa still remained the most undeveloped and poorest in the world. The continent of Africa has a vast resources including timbers, gold diamonds, oil etc. yet the continent has remained under the stages of under development.
This is happening when many development nations like China, Brazil Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. are developed or developing.
While in Africa, the only development is undermining at the highest and with corruption at its peak. Besides, Africa is known to sign for loans with no impact of development insight. Decades, after their independence, many African countries are still moving from mass poverty to economic stagnation at the time when the rest of the developing countries in Asia and Latin America are fast catching up with the western world in terms of meaningful progress to human development, economic stability, political development, striking technological revolution and advancement in national welfare.
According to an article written by Waziri B. Adisa,” political Opportunism, Corruption and Underdevelopment”, the major determinant of the underdevelopment in Africa is political opportunism aggravated by massive corruption and looting of government treasuries. While the effect of corruption on development has been shown clearly in the corruption perception, index of African countries like Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia. It has presented African countries as low human development nations on the continent. This is evident in the Human Development Report of the year 2013. And from where I sit, I have noticed and observed that North African countries of mostly Arab descent are development than the typical black countries on the continent.
At independence, Many African countries were of the total belief that their continent was to be built with sky strippers. They dreamed of bright future of their continent in terms of jobs, free health and education. After imagining their continent to be a top standard, they have now become hopeless day by day and totally loosing hope. And so, what really went wrong after those beautiful dreams?
African politics is more destroying when it comes to leadership. In Africa, leader consider themselves as masters of all. Their authorities are final and nobody dares to question their policies on issues of national concerns. For them, what they say is the Holy Bible that can never be changed.
According to Martin Meredith’s book, the independence of Africa came in the midst of an economic boom. On world stage, he continued, that African states excited the attention of the world, rival power blocs in the Cold War era, the position that each newly independent state adopted in its relations with the west or the East was viewed as a matter of crucial importance.
For these blocs, Africa was considered too important for anyone to loose. African leaders were treated with respect depending on the bloc they belong to. And one of the African Leaders who enjoyed such privilege was my Liberian leader, William V. S Tubman. Tubman was respected by the western country especially Unites States. I am told that President Tubman could rub shoulders with the leadership in Washington; he could smoke his pipe (cigar) and released smokes at the United States president John F. Kennedy. Oh! YES, Tubman of Liberia was the west favorite and a shining star in Africa. My University professor once told a joke about Tubman. He said, Tubman was a darling boy for the west. Professor Nepaye of the Department of Political Science at the University of Liberia said in the early 60,s Queen Elizabeth of England visited some African countries: Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Nigeria and Sierra Leone, these leaders bowed to greet the Queen, but in Liberia, it was a different style. Tubman Hugged the Queen before shaking her hands. At that movement, the Queen said this is a civilized man in the dark continent of Africa. Tubman style of coat suit in the heat of Africa derived from the United States, where his grandparents were sold as slaves, his parents returned to Africa in the late 1800,s.
Oh YES! In my Africa, family matters! There is nothing like half brother or sister. In Africa, any relative that looks after you as a child is your aunt, uncle, mother or father. Once you live in a neighborhood in Africa, you become family to the neighbor. You can discipline your neighbor’s child, when they are not around, you can later inform the parents of what has happened.
And they will heartily thank you for that. I dare you try that in the western countries, police will be called and you likely end up court. In Africa, children played out in the dusty streets for hours with their bare feet without any one guiding them. I dare you to try it in America by leaving your kids in the park unattended to just for ten minutes, you will learn from your mistakes. Africans are very polite people, they love strangers, especially in my country, Liberia. What a beautiful continent with a unique culture!
Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist, accurately prophesied the true nature of African politics in the next era. In his novel, A man of the people, published in 1966, he described the coming of the independence in Nigeria. He writes: we ignore man’s basic nature if we say some critics do, that because a man—has risen overnight from poverty and insignificance to his present opulence he could be persuaded without much trouble to give up again return to its original state.
The novel went to say: A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is more reluctant to go out again. Richard Dowden, in his book:” Africa Altered states ordinary mirages”, He said, most African leaders have been in the rain ever since.
From within, but in the name of the people still out in the rain, they continue to torment civil wars and coups and suppress their enemies. It is their loud speakers that stir up divisions among those still outside. Even when an outsider succeeds in uniting people and breaking into the house, he soon closes the door again and adopts the behaviors, manners and policies of the previous occupiers.
Dowden says, as they take the mantle of leadership, most of their people, still in the rain, die young from frustration, often sick and hungry. And if you say, you are an opposition, you become enemy of the government and their so-called- loyalists. You are viewed as an outsider and a trouble maker. Liberian man says ‘Chey’!
African politics are all local and personal. They have little to do with how Africa is to be ruled and everything to do with who is to rule. More besides, ideology, principle, political parties and policies have been merely disposable weapons in a battle for power between individuals and powers blocs.
And for the opposition, having won their elections and obtained the political kingdom, they have long labored for, they too will begin to change their political identity by showing their true colors by holding unto power at any cost; sometimes even at the cost of destroying the country itself. And don’t even ask me where? Just look in the political Mirrows on the African continent.
One of the reasons African leaders are afraid to give up power is because of their past leadership records. The wickedness they do to their own people. The money, stolen from the national coffers by the leaders and their followers, even their children.
In fact during struggling days in the rain with followers, they pretend like they are in support of the masses, but after their resumption of leadership, they become to show their true wicked attitudes, forgetting that they are coming from the rain.
These leaders are influenced by some ill-informed people calling themselves advisors. Sometimes promotion and demotion is even influenced by these so-called empty headed people.
The problem of Africa underdevelopment is leadership, mismanagement and corruption. Again, most African leadership is characterized by such negative as lack of direction couple with neglect of their own people they governed.
It is no secret that the people in Africa are languishing in abject poverty and hunger, squalor, disease and destitution.
Some African leaders are only after working out strategies on how to enrich themselves and perpetuate themselves into office.
The major reason why African continent is tagged as the most underdevelopment in the world is not far farfetched, and the that is many Africa leaders in general had at one time or other made verbal commitments to the principles and objectives of the code of conducts, but implementation had not been anything to be proud of.
Africans need to adapt the western styles of leadership. Leadership in Africa must see themselves as servant of the people. They must be able to accept criticism as a way of improving their government.
African leaders must not see themselves, their children, their so-called die-hard supporters of being untouchable. In Africa, an opposition is regarded as the enemy of the state.
No one dares to talk, or else you will be targeted by the power that be.
As for me, African leaders need to wake up, behave like they are still in the rain. Maintain their revolutionary stance and stand for good governance on the ground. Let them learn from other western leaders that, once you take the mantle of leadership you are answerable to the people.
The people have right to question your authority as how their country is being run. It is time that they sign bills that will be in the interest of the people.
It is undisputable fact that Africa is the poorest continent in the world, and the riches in terms of natural resources.
Today, the image of the continent is shattered and battered by corruption, nepotism gossips, undermining and killing of political opponents.
African leaders need to see themselves as servant and accountable to the people they serve. African leader needs to come down to the people and see their sufferings and make them to feel like they are all the same regardless of their status.
The resources of the country or the continent is not the personal property of anyone but the people. As president or leader of a nation you are not above the law but a mere servant of the people. It is time for African leaders to return to the rain and lead their people in the right direction by putting these resources on the continent for the benefit of the suffering masses.
About the author: Mr. James D. Hallowanger has obtained three master degrees; Political Science, International Relations IBB-GRADUATE School, University of Liberia, Criminal Justice Administration with emphasis in Counter Terrorism and Public Administration from the Lindenwood University, St. Louis Missouri, USA. He is the former the Senior political and Security Analyst at the National Security Council, Former Deputy and Acting head of the Executive Protection Service (Secret Service) and Deputy Director of police, National police Training Academy. Can be reached at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org