11 June 2017

Africa Doesn't Need Strongmen

Photo: allafrica.com
Some of the African leaders - Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi. Robert Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere and Ian Khama.

Consistent evidence show that when dictators establish themselves over their gullible populations, they rule uninterruptedly by internal opposing forces. With few exceptions, (for example Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi), all dictators drive their nations to economic downfall and over dependency on foreign aid.

The wisdom of African strongmen rule in Africa is an utter contradiction with no justification whatsoever more than 60 years of post-colonial profligacy. Does any nation need a strongman ruler, given the history of their dismal performances thus far?

Consistent evidence show that when dictators establish themselves over their gullible populations, they rule uninterruptedly by internal opposing forces. With few exceptions, (for example Libya's Muammar Gaddafi), all dictators drive their nations to economic downfall and over dependency on foreign aid.

By the inherent nature of dictatorship, human suffering follows a steady environmental degradation, low economic productivity, decline in human conditions, unfettered expropriation of resources by foreign interests, and inexorable alienation of citizens from the State. Many unpleasant traits of dictatorships makes strongmen rule in Africa unjustifiable.

Mobutu of Zaire ruled the vast African country for 31 years. By the time he was deposed, the entire country had barely 1,000km of road into the countryside with a huge part of the mineral-rich countryside inaccessible.

Nearly 92 per cent of Congolese lived under the poverty line of $2 a day. By not investing in infrastructure, Mobutu perpetuated under-development and the haemorrhaging of Congo's resources by foreign interests.

During his rule of over three decades, human rights violations were widespread. It took a combination of foreign forces in tow of malignant internal insurgents to kick Mobutu out.

Like under Mobutu, internal dissent attracted a death sentence under Amin. He killed soldiers, religious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, students and intellectuals, criminal suspects, and foreign nationals. Bodies were often dumped into the River Nile.

Documents show the killings, motivated by ethnic, political, and financial factors, continued throughout Amin's eight-years in control.

Only with an external force of arms by Tanzanian People's Defence Forces were Ugandans able to rid itself of a vicious rule of tyranny and economic collapse in 1979.

Recently, the Economic Community of West African States forced out the deranged Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh, with the combination of diplomacy and potential for external force. There are many strongmen buttressed all over Africa such that to depose them, only an external force may suffice.

Internal opposition has proven insufficient to galvanise the critical masses needed for change. Strongmen are vicious, employing corruption, and collaboration with external capitalists to exploit Africa. Moreover, terrorism charge is strategically employed as a weapon against internal dissent and armed insurrection.

The young Joseph Kabila in DRC, himself a trainee dictator, seems to have graduated given his clutch on power. Soon he will join the regional club of full-time dictators. Nearly every African country where strongmen rule, they have lurked and disabled internal dissent.

The lessons are there for us to draw from in order to realise the potentials of good governance and development. African scholars should increasingly interpret the terms "good governance" and "development" correctly. These terms exists in situations where Western capitalist interests of exploitation are guaranteed. Clearly, good governance and development are interpreted differently for Africa.

Even those who claim to value democracy and good governance as a pretext for development, support the entrenchment of dictatorship in Africa in as far as their interests are guaranteed. We have to only look at the 2015 report: 'How the world profit from Africa's wealth', which highlights the exploitation of Africa. According to the report, African nations received $162 billion in aid, loans, and remittances in 2015. At the same time, Africa lost $203 billion through resource extraction, debt payments, and illegal logging and fishing.

In Uganda's 2017/18 Budget, about 52 per cent was allocated to debt repayment and government is reported to have paid taxes for several investment companies to keep them afloat! But not all love is lost with strongmen of Africa.

Decisions by arap Moi of Kenya and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania to relinquish power demonstrated that when strongmen hands over power peacefully, their countries tended to harness the potential of transformation into a form of democracy quite quickly.

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