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The Four Types of Africa’s Corrupt Power Elites: How to be Corrupt in Africa October 10, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Africa Rising, Colonizing Structure, Corruption in Africa, Illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia, Land Grabs in Africa, The 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, The Tyranny of Ethiopia, Undemocratic governance in Africa, US-Africa Summit, Youth Unemployment.
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 (picture: TPLF/Ethiopia’s corruption Empire)

 

 

 

 

 

SHAPE OF THE CONTINENT: How to be, or not to be, corrupt in Africa where one size does not fit all

Christin Mungai, Mail & Guardian Africa

 

 

 

 

SOUTH Africa is awash with stories of corruption scandals touching on key public figures; from President Jacob Zuma on one end, to opposition leader Julius Malema on the other.

All is not well in Africa’s richest economy. However, recent reports paint an even bleaker picture for the continent in general. One noted that “acording to most of the available indicators, the war on corruption is at a standstill. In fact, these indicators show that corruption is actually increasing in countries where its impact is likely to be most harsh”.

How bad is it and, most importantly, WHY does it happen? We think a large part of it is down to the nature of the various states in Africa.

We took the scores of African countries in two indicators from the latest Fragile States index compiled by Foreign Policy: factionalised elites and state legitimacy. The former measures conflict and competition among local and national leaders, while the latter measures corruption and other measures of government performance and electoral process.

We plotted each country’s deviation from the mean on the two indicators, and the resulting scatter diagram suggests intriguing things about African states; especially how much is “up for grabs”, but more importantly, how the corrupt are corrupt – the strategies which would work if you were looking to loot public coffers.

 

 

See infographics @ https://magic.piktochart.com/embed/3030773-untitled-infographic

 

The Ones who Share Nicely

In the top right quadrant are the “democracy star-performers” – Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia are the far outliers, as well as countries like Ghana, South Africa, Lesotho, Tanzania, Benin and Senegal (mouse over the coloured dots to see specific countries). The countries in this have low competition among elites, and a high level of state legitimacy: citizens feel they have a stake in the country, their votes matter and they can hold leaders accountable.

On the surface, it seems that these countries have mature democratic processes and are committed to the rule of law. But it might also suggest something else – that where corruption exists, there is an “elite consensus” on graft, which means that leaders do not fight for the pie today because they know their turn will come with the next (democratic) election when they win power. Ghana is a good example here – there isn’t that overt looting of state coffers that you might see in other African countries, but you can still benefit illegally from public funds – if you play nicely.

The strong state in these countries also suggests that in order to be steal public money in this countries, you have to “formalise corruption”. In other words, because the state is strong, you have to use formal channels to enrich yourself – lobbying Parliament to make rules in your favour would work here. South Africa is the classic case here – Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), for example, was intended to reduce the economic disparity between racial groups entrenched during apartheid, but it has morphed into a vehicle for a few well-connected black businessmen to enrich themselves – this class of nouveau riche beneficiaries is disparagingly called “tender-preneurs”. But even that name suggests that to benefit from state largesse, you have to have a modicum of formality – you have to register a company, fill and submit tender forms, etc. In these countries, you can’t just ride roughshod into the Treasury.

How to win: Be literate, learn how to write a proposal, and know how to do cocktail chit-chat.

The Ones who Only Share among Themselves

In the top left quadrant are a number of countries that have a high level of state legitimacy – they score high in governance and fighting corruption – but they also have high competition between elites. Rwanda and Ethiopia show up here, two countries which have a military-turned-civilian regime in power. In Rwanda’s case it is the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), while in Ethiopia’s case it is Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front. In these countries, elections are not fiercely fought for across the board (the Parliamentary contest might be hot, but not that for president or prime minister) as it is almost taken for granted that the ruling party and/or its candidate will win.

So something else plays out here: internal competition within the party is intense, but you have to be “one of us” to be a legitimate player in the game. So we see these regimes coming down hard on “dissidents” because the game can only be played within the boundaries and uniformity of the ruling party. In Rwanda, for example, perhaps the reason openly gorging yourself from the public coffers is frowned upon here is because “everyone can’t do it” and it would make certain individuals stand out, not necessarily because it’s wrong. Liberia and Mauritania also feature here, but for different reasons: Liberia has a long history of a “ruling class”: Americo-Liberians, descendants of freed slaves, ruled the country exclusively since independence in 1847 until 1980, so to be in the game, you just had to be “one of them”. Mauritania also has a ruling class called the “white Moors”. So the elite can fight among themselves – Mauritania, for example, has  had a dozen coups or attempted coups since independence from France in 1960—but they firmly shut the door to outsiders.

How to win: Join the party, but always watch your back.

The Ones who Don’t Share

In the lower right quadrant are countries like Angola, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Swaziland. They score low on competition among elites, but high on corruption. Why aren’t the elite fighting among themselves? Here, the reason for this disparity might be simple: the elite has entrenched themselves firmly into power, they have sunk their roots deep into the state system, and aren’t going anywhere. But there’s a difference between them and The Ones who Only Share among Themselves –the ruling class is small enough to keep “eating”, so there isn’t any need for competition within that small group. Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, so it perfectly embodies this “total exclusivity”.

Ruling elites here have a steady income supply, like oil (or royal tributes), to provide an endless bonanza – and it explains why most of them have had long regimes in power, twenty years or more: Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Angola, Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso, the Bongo dynasty in Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso (with a short interruption) in the Congo and King Mswati in Swaziland have all been in power for more than 20 years). There just isn’t any real competition; and luckily, the money is enough to keep everyone who matters happy. In Angola, for example, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos family controls practically all the major sectors of the economy: his daughter Isabel is famously Africa’s first female billionaire, with assets in telecoms, banking and diamonds; daughter Tchize runs a television and communications network; son Coreon Dú is a music producer and singer; and son José Filomeno heads the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

How to win: Marry into the family and live quietly.

The Free for All: “Democratically Corrupt”

In the lower left quadrant are the conflict-plagued states: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, others with widespread civil strife – such as Zimbabwe, Libya and Eritrea – as well as others which, on the surface, aren’t “quite so failed”- Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria. These countries have the bad scores, both in the level of corruption and in the factionalisation of elites. Corruption here isn’t exclusive to some long-established ruling elite, or to any formal party structure. Outsiders do have a chance of getting in, but there isn’t enough to go around – the elite is too large, and there are too many vested interests.

It means that elections tend to be a “winner-take-all” scenario, fiercely fought on the ground. Still, there’s a silver lining here: the fact that politicians are fighting for citizen’s votes suggests that votes actually count. But here, there isn’t really an expectation to play nicely, or share with others, so we see lots of rogue behaviour, elites tend to thrive on chaos and unpredictability. The weakness of the state gives rise to strong lawless groups – such as Boko Haram or al-Shabab – and the country is vulnerable to civil strife.

How to win: Be a bully, and never, ever show any weakness.

 

http://mgafrica.com/article/2014-10-09-the-four-africas

 

http://mgafrica.com/article/2014-10-09-the-four-africas/

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Attention to Ethiopia (Africa): Corruption ‘impoverishes and kills millions’ September 4, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Africa and debt, Africa Rising, African Poor, Colonizing Structure, Corruption, Dictatorship, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia, The Tyranny of Ethiopia, Undemocratic governance in Africa, Youth Unemployment.
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Corruption ‘impoverishes and kills millions’

 

Pile of dollars (file picture)
BBC (4 September 2014) The ONE group says money lost because of corruption would otherwise be spent on school and medicine. An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners.A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime.

Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year.

If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive – and if the recovered revenues were invested in health – the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.

Corruption is overshadowing natural disasters and disease as the scourge of poor countries, the report says.

One describes its findings as a “trillion dollar scandal”.

“Corruption inhibits private investment, reduces economic growth, increases the cost of doing business and can lead to political instability,” the report says.

“But in developing countries, corruption is a killer. When governments are deprived of their own resources to invest in health care, food security or essential infrastructure, it costs lives and the biggest toll is on children.”

The report says that if corruption was eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Education would be provided to an additional 10 million children per year
  • Money would be available to pay for an additional 500,000 primary school teachers
  • Antiretroviral drugs for more than 11 million people with HIV/Aids would be provided

One is urging G-20 leaders meeting in Australia in November to take various measures to tackle the problem including making information public about who owns companies and trusts to prevent them being used to launder money and conceal the identity of criminals.

It is advocating the introduction of mandatory reporting laws for the oil, gas and mining sectors so that countries’ natural resources “are not effectively stolen from the people living above them”.

It is recommending action against tax evaders “so that developing countries have the information they need to collect the taxes they are due” and more open government so that people can hold authorities accountable for the delivery of essential services.

Read more @ original source:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-29049324

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-29040793

The statement ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning. To utter it is merely stating that you subscribe to the hype August 26, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Africa and debt, Africa Rising, African Poor, Aid to Africa, Development & Change, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Free development vs authoritarian model, Illicit financial outflows from Ethiopia, Land Grabs in Africa, Poverty, The extents and dimensions of poverty in Ethiopia, UN's New Sustainable Development Goals, Undemocratic governance in Africa, Youth Unemployment.
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‘Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations. Ethiopia, for example, is notable for having long-standing disagreements with the IMF regarding their growth rates. Whereas the official numbers have been quoted in double digits for the past decade, a thorough analysis suggested the actual growth rates were around 5 to 6 percent per annum. More generally, one study used satellite imaging of nighttime lights to calculate alternative growth rates, and found that authoritarian regimes overstate reported rates of growth by about 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points. Another recent study argues that inflation is systematically understated in African countries – which in turn means that growth and poverty reduction is overstated.’
http://africanarguments.org/2014/08/26/why-saying-seven-out-of-ten-fastest-growing-economies-are-in-africa-carries-no-real-meaning-by-morten-jerven/

Why saying ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning

By Morten Jerven @ AfricanArguments
Before, during and after the US Africa summit one of the most frequently repeated factoids supporting the Africa Rising meme was that ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa.’ In reality this is both a far less accurate and much less impressive statistic than it sounds. More generally, narratives on African economic development tend to be loosely connected to facts, and instead are driven more by hype.

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The ‘seven out of ten’ meme derives from a data exercise done in 2011 by The Economist. The exercise excluded countries with a population of less than 10 million and also the post-conflict booming Iraq and Afghanistan. This left 81 countries, 28 of them in Africa (more than 3 out of 10) and, if you take out the OECD countries from the sample, (which are unlikely to grow at more than 7 percent per annum), you find that every second economy in the sample is in Africa. It might not give the same rhetorical effect to say: ‘on average some African economies are expected to grow slightly faster than other non-OECD countries,’ but that would be more accurate.

And before we literally get ahead of ourselves (The Economist was reporting forecasts made for 2011 to 2015) there is a difference between forecasted and actually measured growth. According to John Kenneth Galbraith, the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable. So how good is the IMF at forecasting growth in Low Income Countries?

According to their own evaluation, IMF forecasts “over-predicted GDP growth and under-predicted inflation.” Another study looked at the difference between the forecasts and the subsequent growth revisions in low income countries, and found that “output data revisions in low-income countries are, on average, larger than in other countries, and that they are much more optimistic.” Forecasts are systematically optimistic all over the world, but in Low Income Countries even more so.

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Among those on the list of the fastest growers were countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia. The news that both Nigerian and Ghanaian GDP doubled following the introduction of new benchmark years for estimating GDP in 2010 and 2014 should remind us that the pinpoint accuracy of these growth estimates is lacking. How confident should you be about a 7 percent growth rate when 50 percent of the economy is missing in the official baseline? Recent growth in countries with outdated base years is also overstated.

While Ghana has reportedly had the highest growth rates in the world over the past years, a peer review of the Ghana national accounts noted that “neither a national census of agriculture nor other surveys, such as a crop and live-stock survey, have been conducted…there is no survey to provide benchmark data for construction, domestic trade and services.” It was recently reported that an economic census is being planned for next year. What we do know is that Ghana (together with Zambia, another of the projected ‘top ten growers’) has returned to the IMF to seek assistance following their entry into international lending markets.

Most of the time we simply do not know enough to assert accurate growth rates. There are also known biases and manipulations. Ethiopia, for example, is notable for having long-standing disagreements with the IMF regarding their growth rates. Whereas the official numbers have been quoted in double digits for the past decade, a thorough analysis suggested the actual growth rates were around 5 to 6 percent per annum. More generally, one study used satellite imaging of nighttime lights to calculate alternative growth rates, and found that authoritarian regimes overstate reported rates of growth by about 0.5 to 1.5 percentage points. Another recent study argues that inflation is systematically understated in African countries – which in turn means that growth and poverty reduction is overstated.

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Data bias is carried across from economic growth to other metrics. The pressure on scholars, journalists and other commentators to say something general about ‘Africa’ is relentless, and so the general rule is to oblige willingly. When talking about average trends in African politics and opinion, analysis is influence by the availability of survey data, such as Afrobarometer, and the data availability is biased. According to Kim Yi Donne, on The Washington Post’s ‘Monkey Cage’ blog, of the 15 African countries with the lowest Polity IV rankings, only seven have ever been included in the Afrobarometer, whereas all but one African country rated as a democracy by the same index is included.

Any quantitative study which says something about the relationship between growth and trends in inequality and poverty, relies on the availability of household survey data. One paper boldly stated that African Poverty is Falling…Much Faster than You Think! The data basis was very sparse and unevenly distributed. There were no data points for Angola, Congo, Comoros, Cape Verde, D.R. Congo, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Seychelles, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Chad, Liberia, and Sudan. In addition, six countries only have one survey. The database included no observations since 2004 – so the trend in poverty was based entirely on conjecture. Famously you need at least two data points to draw a line. Yet the study included a graph of poverty lines in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1970 to 2006 – based on zero data points.

A result of doubts about the accuracy of the official evidence, and a dearth of evidence on income distributions, scholars have turned to other measurements. Data on access to education and ownership of goods such as television sets from Demographic and Health Surveys were used to compile new asset indices. In turn, these data were used to proxy economic growth and in place of having a measure of the middle class. In both cases the data may paint a misleadingly positive picture. While claiming to describe all of Africa over the past two decades, these surveys are only available for some countries sometimes.

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The statement ‘seven out of ten fastest growing economies are in Africa’ carries no real meaning. To utter it is merely stating that you subscribe to the hype. It is particularly frustrating, and it surely stands in way of objective evaluation, that the narratives in African Economic Development switches from one extreme to the other so swiftly. The truth lies somewhere between the ‘miracles’ and ‘tragedies’. It is nothing short of stunning that in a matter of 3-4 years the most famous phrase relating to African economies has turned from ‘Bottom Billion’ to ‘Africa Rising’.

Because of a lack of awareness on historical data on economic growth it was long claimed that Africa was suffering “a chronic failure of growth”, but growth is not new to the African economies, growth has been recurring. There is no doubt that there are more goods leaving and entering the African continent today than fifteen years ago. More roads and hotels are being built and more capital is flowing in and out of the African continent than before. But what is the real pace of economic growth? Does the increase in the volume of transaction result in a sustained increase in living standards? The evidence does not yet readily provide us with an answer. It is the job of scholars to give tempered assessments that navigate between what is make-believe and what passes as plausible evidence.

Morten Jerven is Associate Professor at the Simon Fraser University, School for International Studies. His book Poor Numbers: how we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it is published by Cornell University Press. @MJerven

http://africanarguments.org/2014/08/26/why-saying-seven-out-of-ten-fastest-growing-economies-are-in-africa-carries-no-real-meaning-by-morten-jerven/

Related References:

 

Why Africa needs a data revolution

 

Since the term “data revolution” was introduced, there has been a flurry of activity to define, develop, and implement an agenda to transform the collection, use, and distribution of development statistics. That makes sense. Assessing the international community’s next development agenda, regardless of its details, will be impossible without accurate data.

Yet, in Sub-Saharan Africa – the region with the most potential for progress under the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals – accurate data are severely lacking. From 1990 to 2009, only one Sub-Saharan country had data on all 12 indicators established in 2000 by the Millennium Development Goals. Indeed, of the 60 countries with complete vital statistics, not one is in Africa. While most African countries have likely experienced economic growth during the last decade, the accuracy of the data on which growth estimates are based – not to mention data on inflation, food production, education, and vaccination rates – remains far from adequate.

Inaccurate data can have serious consequences. Consider Nigeria’s experience earlier this year, when GDP rebasing showed that the economy was nearly 90% larger than previously thought. The distorted picture of Nigeria’s economy provided by the previous statistics likely led to misguided decisions regarding private investment, credit ratings, and taxation. Moreover, it meant that Nigeria was allocated more international aid than it merited – aid that could have gone to needier countries.

Contrary to popular belief, the constraints on the production and use of basic data stem not from a shortage of technical capacity and knowhow, but from underlying political and systemic challenges. For starters, national statistical offices often lack the institutional autonomy needed to protect the integrity of data, production of which thus tends to be influenced by political forces and special interest groups.

Poorly designed policies also undermine the accuracy of data. For example, governments and donors sometimes tie funding to self-reported measures, which creates incentives for recipients to over-report key data like vaccination or school-enrollment rates. Without effective oversight, these well-intentioned efforts to reward progress can go awry.

Despite these failings, national governments and international donors continue to devote far too few resources to ensuring the collection of adequate data. Only 2% of official development aid is earmarked for improving the quality of statistics – an amount wholly insufficient to assess accurately the impact of the other 98% of aid. And governments’ dependency on donors to fund and gather their core statistics is unsustainable.

In fact, stronger national statistical systems are the first step toward improving the accuracy, timeliness, and availability of the data that are essential to calculating almost any major economic or social-welfare indicator. These include statistics on births and deaths; growth and poverty; tax and trade; health, education, and safety; and land and the environment.

Developing such systems is an ambitious but achievable goal. All that is needed is a willingness to experiment with new approaches to collecting, using, and sharing data.

This is where the public comes in. If private firms, media, and civil-society organizations identify specific problems and call publicly for change, their governments will feel pressure to take the steps needed to produce accurate, unbiased data – for example, by enhancing the autonomy of national statistical offices or providing sufficient funds to hire more qualified personnel. While it may be tempting to bypass government and hope for an easy technology-based solution, sustainable, credible progress will be difficult without public-sector involvement.

The recognition by governments and external donors of the need for more – and more efficient – funding, particularly to national statistical systems, will be integral to such a shift. Establishing stronger incentives for agencies to produce good data – that is, data that are accurate, timely, relevant, and readily available – would also help, with clearly delineated metrics defining what qualifies as “good.” In fact, tying progress on those metrics to funding via pay-for-performance agreements could improve development outcomes considerably.

One concrete strategy to achieve these goals would be to create a country-donor compact for better data.

Read more @ http://forumblog.org/2014/08/africas-necessary-data-revolution/?utm_content=buffer4f4fd&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Oromo: “For a people facing complete erasure, survival itself is a revolutionary act”, IOYA’s Former President Ayantu Tibeso at the Macha-Tulama Association’s 50th Anniversary Celebration August 7, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Aannolee and Calanqo, Ateetee (Siiqqee Institution), Ayantu Tibeso, Colonizing Structure, Ethiopia's Colonizing Structure and the Development Problems of People of Oromia, Afar, Ogaden, Sidama, Southern Ethiopia and the Omo Valley, Ethnic Cleansing, Finfinne is Oromia's land, Finfinnee is the Capital City of Oromia, Finfinnee n Kan Oromoo ti, Free development vs authoritarian model, Human Rights, Human Rights Watch on Human Rights Violations Against Oromo People by TPLF Ethiopia, Janjaweed Style Liyu Police of Ethiopia, Jen & Josh (Ijoollee Amboo), Knowledge and the Colonizing Structure. African Heritage. The Genocide Against Oromo Nation, Land and Water Grabs in Oromia, Language and Development, Macha & Tulama Association, Musicians and the Performance of Oromo Nationalism, Nimoonaa Tilahun, Oromians Protests, Oromo Protests in Ambo, Self determination, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, The Mass Massacre & Imprisonment of ORA Orphans, The Tyranny of Ethiopia, Tyranny, Undemocratic governance in Africa, Waldaa Maccaa fi Tulamaa.
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The fact that we are gathered here today to honor the founding of Macha Tulama 50 years ago speaks to the fact that despite all odds, we, as a people are survivors. Ethiopian history is full of attempts to annihilate the Oromo—culturally, politically, socially, economically, in all and every ways possible.Oromos — cast as foreign, aliens to their own lands, have been the targets of the entire infrastructure of the Ethiopian state since their violent incorporation. Our identity, primarily language, religion and belief systems and cultural heritage have been the main targets of wanton destruction.   Oromo and its personhood were already demonized, characterized as embodiments of all that is inferior, shameful and subhuman from the beginning. Oromo people were economically and politically exploited, dominated and alienated.

Ayantu Tibeso

Africa: A resurgent “Dictators’ Club” July 30, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Free development vs authoritarian model, Human Rights, Tyranny, Undemocratic governance in Africa, Youth Unemployment.
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‘The international community’s failure to demonstrate strong opposition to the antidemocratic trajectory of many African countries is allowing authoritarian heads of state to gain more power and influence. The United States should single out and prioritize the needs of the few African leaders working to comply with international law and to promote democratic governance domestically and regionally. One way Washington can do this is by acknowledging and giving preference to the democratic states participating in the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit next week. If current trends are not thwarted, the future of the continent could fall under the control of a resurgent “Dictators’ Club.”’

 

“Repressive leaders are also copying one another’s laws, which collectively undermine basic freedoms for the continent’s citizens. In 2009, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia enacted the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which essentially aimed to eliminate independent civil society activity. Within a few years, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya had introduced nearly identical laws, which are muzzling the work of human rights defenders, the independent media, local journalists, and members of the political opposition across East Africa.”

 

 

Reemergence of the African Rat Pack

(Freedom House, 30 July 2014) The reemergence of unconditional solidarity among Africa’s incumbent leaders is threatening respect for human rights and good governance throughout the continent. The phenomenon is obviously bad for the people of Africa and for the overall progress of democracy. But the worst consequence of many African leaders’ support for even their most authoritarian colleagues is the growing regional acceptance—and in some cases promotion—of deeply repressive policies.

Strong bilateral relationships in Africa, for instance between Presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, are undercutting domestic and regional democratic frameworks. In Zimbabwe’s 2013 election, Zuma—acting as the chief election facilitator for the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)—disregarded his obligation under the organization’s Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections to maintain neutrality by publicly rebuking a technical team for questioning the election preparations. Zuma then endorsed Mugabe’s reelection on behalf of SADC, even when clear evidence of vote rigging emerged, which Botswana cited as another violation of SADC’s guidelines. Nevertheless, Zuma stood by his counterpart in Zimbabwe, bolstering the idea that the region’s entrenched leaders can rely on one another in their efforts to maintain power, even if this means violating their own democratic standards.

This type of solidarity in Southern Africa has extended beyond domestic affairs to include limiting citizens’ access to justice on a regional level, as clearly demonstrated by the disbandment of the SADC Tribunal, launched in 2005 to enforce the SADC Treaty. The tribunal’s fate was sealed when it ruled that Zimbabwe’s seizure of land from white farmers without compensation was illegal and discriminatory. Mugabe refused to obey the decision, challenging the court’s authority and paving the way for its suspension in 2010. Despite the best efforts of civil society groups in the region, Southern Africa’s heads of state sided with Mugabe and voted to remove the individual mandate of the court, meaning victims of state abuse could no longer file cases against their governments. Not only was this a blow to human rights protection, but it also discouraged private-sector investment, as property owners would have no legal recourse beyond national courts. Once the SADC court ruled against the big man’s interests, political imperatives suddenly took precedence, and legal order was sidelined.

Repressive leaders are also copying one another’s laws, which collectively undermine basic freedoms for the continent’s citizens. In 2009, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia enacted the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which essentially aimed to eliminate independent civil society activity. Within a few years, Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya had introduced nearly identical laws, which are muzzling the work of human rights defenders, the independent media, local journalists, and members of the political opposition across East Africa.

A similar contagion effect occurred after the signing of what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay referred to as “a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.” Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, signed early this year, went far beyond other anti-LGBTI laws by banning association with or operation of “gay” organizations. Instead of pushing back, many of the continent’s leaders supported Nigeria with their own repressive measures, including the signing of an “anti-homosexuality” bill in Uganda, the introduction of a draft law to criminalize gay and transgender people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the launching of a parliamentary caucus to ensure the implementation of anti-LGBTI laws in Kenya, and the refusal of justice for victims of homophobic attacks in Cameroon. Many argue that this is not surprising given the preceding rise in homophobic rhetoric from many African leaders, but since the Nigerian bill was enacted, attacks against LGBTI people across the continent have increased, even in more tolerant countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Sénégal. Nigeria’s leadership catalyzed a steep regression for the protection of LGBTI individuals that could take decades to reverse.

Big-man interests are also driving a movement to withdraw en masse from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would enable impunity for mass atrocities. Urged on by President Kenyatta, who is currently accused of crimes against humanity at The Hague, the African Union (AU) held a special meeting in October 2013 to discuss an ICC withdrawal. Due to the efforts of countries like Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Sénégal, the AU rejected the proposition, but Kenyatta succeeded in obtaining a resolution calling on the ICC to postpone his trial and to exempt sitting heads of state from international prosecution. As if this were not enough, an amendment to the newly established Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights was adopted at a June 2014 summit, giving immunity to African heads of state and senior government officials (yet to be defined) at what was supposed to be the continent’s new regional human rights court.

If the immunity amendment to the African court’s statute is ratified by AU member states, leaders will not be deterred from committing the same crimes of the past, and African citizens will have one less option for protection against human rights abuses. Furthermore, the amendment is entirely at odds with the normative frameworks already ratified by the AU member states to protect human rights, including the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Compliance with and enforcement of these frameworks are the best hope for strengthening democratic governance in Africa. However, these treaties, laws, and protocols will be useless if authoritarian leaders succeed in working together to ignore and actively undermine them.

It is therefore extremely important for countries like the United States to work actively with their African partners to uphold democratic principles on the continent. The international community’s failure to demonstrate strong opposition to the antidemocratic trajectory of many African countries is allowing authoritarian heads of state to gain more power and influence. The United States should single out and prioritize the needs of the few African leaders working to comply with international law and to promote democratic governance domestically and regionally. One way Washington can do this is by acknowledging and giving preference to the democratic states participating in the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit next week. If current trends are not thwarted, the future of the continent could fall under the control of a resurgent “Dictators’ Club.” Read @http://freedomhouse.org/blog/reemergence-african-rat-pack#.U9lHW9JDvys