13 February 2013

Africa: Political Instability Retards Africa


A lot has been written attributing the endless wars in Africa to meddling by former colonial powers who are alleged to bent on getting Africa's resources on the cheap. But, I tend to differ with that assessment. Africa's problems stem from immaturity of understanding what politics is all about. It is political instability that will undo and retard Africa's development.

The first thing the Chinese did in 1949 when Chairman Mao's forces took over was to create political institutions to cater for one unitary state out of all the diverse populations in that country. Yes, the communist political ideology was paramount to build that unitary state. After building that unitary state, the Chinese have embraced capitalism and perfected it to such an extent that they have now become the second biggest economy in the world after the USA. All this was achieved by building stable political institutions.

It has been said several times that people do not eat democracy. The cradle of democracy, Greece, is in turmoil. Even the head of the IMF was convinced to say that the problems in that country are not due to lack of democracy but to the culture of unstable political institutions which do not address the system of accountability. In short she said, Greeks must learn to pay their taxes, not to avoid them. The same goes for many African countries.

Here in Africa, it is instability of political systems attributed to corruption where a few corner the market and thrive at the expense of the majority. In such a situation, the only redress open to the oppressed by such a system is to take up arms against those in power. If political institutions are developed in such a manner that there is an even playing field and there is accountability, there will be stability in Africa. The same goes for newly democratic countries such as South Africa, to give just one example. Many people may not understand what happened in that country in 1949 when the Boers took over from the British or English-speaking government of South Africa.

Whether we like or not, the Boers went on to create their political and economic institutions. The first thing they did was to make their language, Afrikaans, an official language at par with English. Even if one failed in English language, one would still proceed to an Afrikaans university to become a doctor, engineer or whatever. Yes, their undoing was to introduce the policy of separate development or Apartheid. If they had built a unitary state for all the people of South Africa, there would have been no animosity against them as part of the population.

South Africa's democracy did not come about in 1994 due to any protracted war at all but through the world's abhorrent of apartheid. The new rulers of South Africa have to build new political institutions to replace what they inherited if they are to build a politically stable country. This is what Zimbabwe is doing with the introduction of the new constitution. Zimbabwe will emerge stronger and resolute if it is given time to build its political systems to give stability to the country which is a prerequisite to developing a modern state in which every citizen will be able to play a part.

Therefore, Zimbabwe has to avoid political instability but this can only be buttressed by setting up state institutions that are not marred by corruption which is allowing a few to horde the resources of the country. Many think corruption is just a bribe. These bribes take place everywhere, even in developed democratic countries. What corruption that retards the development of the country means is where politically connected people corner the market to themselves and their relatives including their cronies or supporters. This is what happened in North African countries.

They defended their corrupt activities with the force of arms and those arms came from the Western countries. The colonial administrations were set up to give themselves advantages denied the majority of the people. The institutions of state were set up to service this cabal of selfish and racist people. If the new institutions of state were to follow the same concept of colonial administrations to serve the well connected cabal of people, then there will never be any political stability.

In the new dispensation, the environment must be created where anyone can use their potential to achieve success and must be protected by the institutions of state set up to serve the interests of the people not just the few. In this context, the education system is a case in point. This is a known universal pathway to success. The low pass rate in the 2012 O Level examinations must be viewed as a denial of children to aspire to a better life.

Whether this is due to apathy by poorly paid teachers or to lack of financial resources allocated by Government, it is still an unacceptable situation. In developed countries, the average pass rate at O Level is above 60 percent with Asian countries achieving about 80 percent.

The system must not deny children any hope of improving their lives.

What then is an African dream? It is to live in a country with stable political and state institutions which defend the rights of an individual to pursue happiness in peace knowing that no institution whether political or state can take way that right but to reinforce the spirit to succeed in life.

The people of Africa are yearning for political leadership that will bring stability and economic development rather than perennial wars that never seem to end.

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