Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Corruption and Mafia cartels among African politicians undermining good governance and democracy

22.02.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
In an Africa where some leaders have risen to the rank of demi-gods, giving priority to strengthening their personal advantages rather than the search for a common good, the emergence of obscure governance practices has become unavoidable in political circles. Democracy and good governance are at the losing end due to rampant graft, looting and cartel deals. The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has not hesitated to attack African leaders, denouncing the unrestrained quest for self-interest among some of the continent's politicians and advocating for a new Africa that is fairer, more equitable, participatory and transparent. Contrary to the well-known adage that “people get the government they deserve”, she believes that is not the case in Africa because most African nations do not have the leaders they deserve.

Considered today as a new prerequisite for success, corrupt practices have successively made their nest in African political circles to the point where the continent is considered as the most corrupt region in the world. The reports prepared Transparency International, which includes the Corruption Perceptions Index, shows that the situation in Africa remains critical. Its 2018 report, published on Tuesday 29 January, confirms this observation since the continent is the region with the worst scores. This numerical observation, which skews the solid foundations for the implementation of a real administrative policy in Africa, is not without consequence. As pointed out by Transparency International, “corruption is a factor that contributes to the crisis of democracy, producing a vicious circle by undermining democratic institutions which, in turn, are no longer able to control corruption”.

The damaging effects of corruption and mafia-like behaviour in political circles

Corruption is a widespread phenomenon among African politicians. Beyond this observation, which undermines good governance on the continent, it is also the lack of rigour of Africans towards their leaders that have contributed to the spread of this plague, as seen in several reports published by NGOs. In the case of DR Congo, for example, a report by the NGO Sentry implicates the Kabila clan, which is accused of having taken advantage of its proximity to the political system to embezzle large sums of public funds through the Kwanza Capital bank.

This phenomenon does not end in DR Congo; as this type of abuse has also been reported in other countries on the continent. For Regis Houmkpè, executive director of InterGlobe Conseils, a firm specializing in geopolitical expertise and strategic communication, this phenomenon has unfortunately become quite common in Africa. He explains that “corruption and organized theft hamper the development of the continent and does not facilitate the implementation of true democracy”.

It is clear that corruption is a stumbling block to democracy and good governance. The more a country is corrupt, the less likely it is to experience real prosperity. According to Transparency International, which classifies each country according to a scoring system ranging from 0 (high corruption rate) to 100 (very low corruption rate) Africa stands out as the most affected continent, with the lowest scores. For example, the African average is 32, compared to 43 at the global level. It can be seen that countries like Somalia (180th out of 180 countries with a score of 10 out of 100), which sits at the top of the most corrupt countries, are not examples of democracy since several regions have ceased to cooperate with the central government in Mogadishu.

Conversely, in some of the least corrupt countries in Africa, democracy is becoming more widespread. Seychelles (28th with a score of 66 out of 100), for example, experienced an exemplary democratic transition in 2016. The cases of Cape Verde (45th), often cited as a model of good governance on the continent, and Rwanda (48th), which, despite a few vague intentions linked to the superpowers of its head of state and the issue of human rights, is an exception to the rule linking transparency and democratic vitality.

Politicians and those in power will always tend to trample on the law, to the benefit of their strategic position and their ability to dispense justice. In the cases of Mozambique, South Africa and Angola, corruption in political circles has not allowed democracy to flourish in recent years. In Mozambique, the so-called “hidden debt” corruption scandal involving several former government officials, including former finance minister Manuel Chang, accused of having concealed more than $2 billion in debt, has had a devastating effect on the credibility of the country’s democratic institutions. This has led to an increase in kidnappings and attacks on political analysts and investigative journalists who were trying to shed light on the subject. These acts according to Transparency International, has created a “culture of fear that undermines the fight against corruption” in the country.

In South Africa, a country with a reputation for democratic progress and development, another corruption scandal, the “State capture” by the Gupta brothers, businessmen close to former president Jacob Zuma, has been in the news in recent years. In this particular case, the involvement of former South African president Jacob Zuma, who has been accused and indicted on corruption charges, has not helped the situation.

More recently, in Angola it was the “Luanda Leaks” scandal that shook the whole country. In this country, ranked 165th in the Transparency International ranking, it is the first daughter of the former president of Angola, Isabel dos Santos, who is accused of having siphoned off the Angolan economy and fraudulently accumulated a fortune estimated at $2.1 billion. Given the fact that such an operation cannot be carried out intuitu personae, there is reason to question the entire Angolan political class because, for several political analysts, the ramifications of this operation go beyond the Dos Santos family alone. At the level of the implementation of good governance, all these things lead to generalized weakness of the existing national anti-corruption commissions in these countries.

The weakness of anti-corruption commissions

The lack of a genuine separation of powers in some of the continent’s “democracies” has created a grotesque situation that raises concerns about the ability of institutions to properly carry out their missions. This is the case of national anti-corruption commissions that are created every now and then, with some weakened by the political proximity that their members have with personalities in power.

In addition to this, there are situations in which people are prosecuted, but because of their proximity to the government, instigate intimidation campaigns, supported by threatening messages against anti-corruption agents. For Daniel Koufmann, former director of the World Bank Institute and now an expert with the American think-tank, the Brookings Institution, “it is true that we are living in a time of backtracking because the few anti-corruption commissions that have had the courage to lead the fight in Africa are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil their mission. Those who lead them to remain at the mercy of brutal dismissal and are regularly threatened, which can force them into exile”.

In Nigeria, a country renowned for its oil wealth and its misappropriation of its elites, the former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, had to leave the country in December 2008 to seek refuge in the United Kingdom. Appointed under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, he had been sidelined by the new authorities following the election of Umaru YAr’Adua in April 2007. Common death threats at the time had led him to move abroad. The same was true for John Githongo, Kenya’s “Clean Sir” until 2005 and former chairman of the Kenyan anti-corruption commission, who, for the same reasons as Malam Nuhu Ribadu of Nigeria, preferred to go into exile in the United Kingdom instead of losing his life.

The sores caused by Mafia cartels between African politicians

Agreements between politicians in the world are not new. It is only when they are made for the sole purpose of destroying the expression of popular opinion or preserving the advantages of a small community at the expense of the majority that they become “mafia” agreements. The African continent, the land of coups d’état par excellence, has seen its share of mafia agreements between politicians. Till this day, many people still question the relationship that was established during the last presidential election in the DRC, between the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila and the new president Felix Tshisekedi, destined to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father, an opponent of the Kabila regime, who would never have concluded an alliance with the former  regime in his lifetime, as well as many political analysts.

In Côte d’Ivoire, there has also been a recent breakdown in the alliance between the incumbent president, Alassane Ouattara, and , Guillaume Kigbafori Soro. The rupture between the two men seems to have been consummated and the harmful consequences of the said rupture between the two men are perceptible on Ivorian democracy.

For the plot to remove former President Laurent Gbagbo from power, Guillaume Soro, during a conference organised on 28 January 2020, acknowledged that there had been “an agreement” between him and President Ouattara, against democracy. For this specific case, Guillaume Soro recalled that Alassane Ouattara would have made three promises to former Burkinabe President Blaise Compaoré, if he ever made him President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. Among these, he recalled that he was to be reappointed as Prime Minister until 2015; then he was to be designated by Mr. Ouattara as the RDR’s No. 2, a post which was reserved for him, he said with the creation of the post of Vice President in 2008; and finally, he recalled that Mr. Ouattara was to serve a single term and support him to be President in his turn in 2015, something he did not respect.

The same goes for the accusations for the events that took place on 19 September 2002 during the armed rebellion. Mr. Soro, who describes President Ouattara as “godfather of the rebellion of 2002”, was told by Mr. Affoussiata Bamba-Lamine, a member of the GPS orientation and coordination commission, who spoke on the issue on Wednesday, December 25, 2019, in Barcelona, “that he wishes to reassure the Ivorians that he recognises only one destabilisation, that of 19 September 2002, on behalf of the current President Alassane Dramane Ouattara, which is why he continues to ask forgiveness from the sovereign people of Côte d’Ivoire”.

In the case of Cameroon, with the last presidential, municipal and legislative elections, which have just ended, we have seen another form of Mafia agreement between politicians from all sides. Between those who sold the dream of a real political struggle to the population for a while and who later joined the electoral masquerade of February 9 under the prism of obtaining a few elective posts and the advantages that come with them, and those who had promised to show the people their good faith, that they would withdraw their candidacy and would not take part.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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