African Insights Blog - Newsletter
July 12 2009
Africa's Strong Men – Men of the Clenched Fist instead of the Open Hand Blocking the progress of Africa
Africa-Needs a paradigm shift from Strong Men to Servant Leaders
President Barack Obama addressed the Parliament of Ghana about good governance, liberty, economic opportunity. It was an inspiring speech for the people of Africa, a speech to the millions of Africans who are yearning for more, who keep their heads down and their voices low but in their hearts, they dream of for more. Many Africans were touched since President Obama unlike many Westerners did not speak mere sterile words but from the heart and his own family experience. President Obama spoke as a friend and as a son of Africa.
Africans are used to lofty speeches filled with empty promises; they have heard them over and over again. Many African Leaders say the right words as they speak, but their actions reflect their real intent of heart, the desire to stay in power at all costs.
Many African leaders start out in the bush as rebels fighting the government in power. Occasionally a reporter from CNN, BBC or Al Jazeera might get to interview them. The rebel leaders will speak about the oppression of the present government in power, about hardship for the people. They speak about wanting to change in the injustices of a present regime, of how it will be when they come into power. They will speak of better days to come, of democracy, the freedom of expression at the ballot box. They will speak of building a country that is for all the people no matter from what part of the country or people group they might come from.
Then comes the day when they arrive in the capital, victory is theirs, jubilant crowds filled with hope greet them. A speech is made of how a better tomorrow has arrived. The new president moves into the presidential palace, the power is now theirs. Fiery speeches are still made, and a few who benefit from the new leader cheer but life for everyday people in the country has not changed. The people realize that once again, what they heard and even now hear are mere words, slogans, rhetoric but the truth is that the new ruler is in power for himself and is there to fulfill his own agenda.
The faces of government may have changed, the old cabinet is removed, a new one moves in. However the name of the game remains the same…”eating at the table.” Eating at the table means that if you have a position of power it is your right to benefit from that power for yourself, family, friends, clan and ethnic group.
Each year, millions of dollars given in aid to African countries by nations by Western Nations never go to the intended need or project. Instead they go into the pockets of men and women in power who amass a fortune while the people of the country that they rule continue to live on less than a dollar a day.
The promises of change made in the bush dissipate into thin air like water on hot tarmac. The promised hospitals, the promised schools, the promised roads without potholes, the promised free and democratic elections remain in the form of empty promises without fulfillment. The new buildings going up are not for the people of the country, but for the leader and the circle of his faithful that he has gathered around himself. The government in power has changed, the old one is gone, the new one has come, but more often than not, one cannot tell the difference between the old and new, since for the people of the country, the only change is the name and face of the president. As for the people of the country, it is business as usual and the only ones who benefit are those who are in power.
Often there are some changes. Police presence has increases, traffic stops become more frequent, and it is not unusual to be stopped several times on the way to or from work. It is not about the rule of law, but the want of money. Corruption continues to be the rule of the day. In hospitals, the absence of medicine and staff increases. Schools lack more books, teachers, classrooms, sanitary facilities. In the courts, it is not longer protecting the innocent until proven guilty, but the use of the judicial system to protect the government in power.
The new Parliament members go about the business as the previous parliament. It is all about the accumulation of things for themselves, including personal benefits, salaries, car allowances. While the constituents at home contend with bad roads and potholes, the members of parliament debate about bigger vehicles to traverse in comfort on the bad roads. While members of parliament send their children to expensive International schools in the country, the average person is struggling with having enough money for school fees for the children. While members of parliament to Hospitals in the West or South Africa, the average person struggles with their medical problems and forgoes much needed medical care. While members of parliament and government have private asphalt roads constructed to their homes, the average person struggles with having enough transport money to go to work. Yet, each year on the Victory day of the ruling party there are lofty speeches about the successes of the present government since it liberated the country from the last oppressive regime. The cycle of power, greed and corruption continues.
Is there a solution? Can Africa change? As the President of Barack Obama once again…Yes we can or loosely translated. Yes, African can.
Africa needs leaders that realize that power, that being in power is a privilege given in order to serve and not be served. That along with power comes responsibility. That along with the power to lead comes accountability to the people of the country.
Africa needs servant leaders that represent all the people of a country not just those of the same tribe or ethnic group, but have a deep desire to serve their people. Africa needs servant leaders that are dedicated to make government services available for all, that use the police and military to protect and serve and to as tools to remain in power. Africa needs leaders that do not see power as a means of extraction from the people. Africa need leaders that understand that power is given to serve the people, to lead them into a better future. Africa needs leaders but will go beyond mere slogans into a reality where freedom, the right to pursue a better quality of life through accessible education, healthcare is available and accessible to all and not just for a privileged few.
Africa needs leaders that will hold ministers and others accountable, that will actively fight corruption and graft at every level. African needs leaders that respect the laws of the land and its constitution and most of all be accountable to the voters at the ballot box.
Can such leaders be found in Africa? They are there but most strong men cut them down before they have a chance to mature and become, grow in maturity that allows them to lead their country in a dignified manner.
Can such leaders be found in Africa? Nelson Mandela was such a leader, he served one term in office and left graciously, not clinging to power but leaving with an open hand instead of a clenched fist.
Africa – awake and may you be blessed with men and women that come with the open hand of service instead of the closed fist of dictatorial rule….from Africa…jon
America and the West certainly has its problems, just think of the situation Illinois where a Mr. Obama's Senate seat was in the process of being sold to the highest bidder. Some African leaders rejected Mr. Obama's speech as meddling in African affairs, that he lacks experience in African matters and that the US aid is often tight into fight against terrorism and has a military hook to it. That the US trade barriers are still high and the example of cotton from West Africa is used. It was also felt that Mr. Obama's speech was more of the same US thing only from a President who had African blood flowing through his vein.
China does not have the same good governance policy as the USA, it has get what you can policy in Africa and it does not matter who rules the country as long as China can extract what it needs and wants. Even North Korea is training military and police forces in Africa. If African leaders feel the American doors are closing they can always turn to the East to countries such as India and China, South Korea, North Korea, and to any country that does not support an American message such as Iran. The second scramble for Africa is on and some Western Countries including the USA could be left behind. At the end of the day, Africans must decide the future of Africa something that was an integral part of Mr. Obama's speech.
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