Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 - Another Wasted Year for the African Continent

As the year 2008 draws to an end, most people the world over are taking stock of the past year, assessing what was done right and what was done wrong. In the United States of America, there is an air of enthusiasm as the citizens are excited at the historic election in November of the first African American President, Mr. Barack Obama, whose inauguration comes up on January 20, 2009. Even as America experiences its deepest recession since the Second World War, there is palpable optimism and high expectations of the ability of President Elect, Barack Obama and his formidable team to turn the tide on the economic downturn.

If the optimism and excitement holds up all through 2009, America, and indeed the world may emerge from the recession sooner than later. After all, a significant determinant of economic fortune is consumer sentiment. A positive sentiment usually means more demand, which often jump-starts production to increase supply to meet the demand. Of course all these require an able team to midwife with delicate precision, and the overall sentiment is if any team can achieve this, it is that being assembled by President Elect Obama. Such is the magic of the man.

Across the Atlantic, on the continent that bore the man who sired Barack Obama, the sentiments are just as optimistic and enthusiastic. Obama’s unlikely story and eventual peaceful election is iconic of what the ideal should be, even for Africans. Obama symbolizes the hero in many an African folktale that saves the day and leads his people to redemption, something which most Africans desperately need to be rid of their tyrants. All Africans (on the continent and in Diaspora) should be proud of this fine young man and his achievements, as he has forever demystified age-old racial stereotypes and low expectations of the black man. In Obama’s word, “Yes we can.” Blacks can be anything they set their minds, all it takes is hard work and a people and system that are fair and conscientious. But there stops the import to Africans of the Obama ascension to the US presidency.

Mr. Obama just happens to be an African American who was elected to be the President of the United States of America come, January 20, 2009. His primary responsibility and allegiance is to the American people and its interests. Those interests may well be stability in Africa among others and the Obama administration, no doubt, would do anything in its power to achieve this if the American people so desire it. But in the final analysis, the responsibility for the stability and prosperity of African countries rests squarely on their leadership and citizenry. Whether it be the genocidal junta of Omar Al-Bashir engaged in the ethnic cleansing by the Janjaweed in Darfur, Sudan, or the maniacal and demented regime of 84-year old Robert Mugabe in his tyrannical bid to hold on to power in Zimbabwe, impervious to the pleas of the international community and the consequential ruin his sit-tight posture is wreaking on his country, the responsibility is squarely Africans’.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ugandan and Rwandan backed, Laurent Nkunda-led National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) rebel army is in a civil war with the Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe backed Joseph Kabila DR Congo government forces. This is a war involving six of the poorest nations of the world. Granted, Namibia has a GDP per capita of about $5,200, making it one of the richer African countries, but it has an HIV prevalence rate of about 21% in adults, one of the highest in the world. The other five countries have equally high HIV prevalence rates and some of the worst socioeconomic indices in the world, yet they squander their meager resources on a complicated and fratricidal war.

In Nigeria, while there is no full-blown war, the situation in the Niger Delta is just as dire. Rogue pirates and criminals parading themselves as environmental militants are on the prowl kidnapping, killing, extorting, sabotaging, blowing up oil installations and illegally bunkering crude oil with impunity while the corrupt and ineffectual government of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sits pat. With the potential of being one of the richest countries in the world on account of its rich human and natural resources, Nigeria has been hobbled by its deeply entrenched level of corruption that guarantees it a spot in the top-tier of the most corrupt countries in the world each of the 15 years Transparency International has published the corruption perception index (cpi).

The story in South Africa is not much better, only earlier this past summer in May, South African youths took to the streets to maim, rape and murder non South-African black Africans, particularly those from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia and Ethiopia, who they erroneously blamed for taking up their jobs and using up government resources that would otherwise have been used to benefit South Africans. Many believed this rash of xenophobia was wrought and stoked by Mr. Jacob Zuma, the African National Congress (ANC) president and putative successor to the Kgalema Motlanthe led government when elections are held in 2009.

These are some of the sad tales of the African continent that bore Mr. Obama. The same blood that courses the veins of these lot flows through those of the President Elect. Yes indeed Africans are ecstatic at Mr. Obama’s election and even more vociferous about this are all the despotic and corrupt misanthropes in government all throughout the African continent (except perhaps Mr. Mugabe who hates everything western). It boggles the mind that these purloiners in power can recognize merit and a system and democracy that works while at the same time toil very hard to entrench chaos and turmoil in their countries in their bid to self-enrich and hold tenaciously on to power. To paraphrase Mr. Obama’s controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright of Trinity Church, Chicago: “…not God bless African leaders, it's God damn African leaders…”