A Glimpse into the Future of Incorrigible Leaders and Incorruptible Africa -By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Senegalese leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has also started with well-coined linguistic phrases to win the hearts of the estimated 18 million population, African leaders and the world. Yet to be officially inaugurated, at the age of 44, and admirably as Africa’s youngest head of state, Bassirou Diomaye Faye on March 25 made his first inspiring speech to the nation in Dakar’s Radisson hotel in Senegal.

As a political newcomer popular among the youth, Bassirou Diomaye Faye unreservedly promised to govern with humility and transparency. And most importantly, without mincing words, emphasized fighting deep-seated corruption and graft in Senegal, reputed as one of most stable democracies, at least, in West Africa. That means, the new government would soon adopt radical measures to intensify efforts at addressing economic exploitation and uproot the primary causes of under-development. The current peaceful transition of power in Senegal marks a boost for democracy for others to emulate in West Africa.

The basic question and serious concern is how to uplift the majority of impoverished people, engage in practical noticeable economic transformation. How would President Bassirou Diomaye Faye implement or enforce that commitment to fight corruption, renegotiate oil and gas contracts, and above all, to prioritize transforming the entire economy? More than 60% of people under 25 and are still struggling to find jobs in a country of approximately 18 million.

Corruption is wide-spread across Africa. For example, Ghana and Senegal scored 43 points out of 100 on the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. South Africa scored 41 points out of 100 on the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index. 

South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa also made similar promise of fighting graft, among others, in a powerful speech during his inaugural ceremony, but what is the situation today. South Africa boasts of excellent reputation on global stage and yet suffers from high unemployment, grappling with energy supply deficits and many other economic headaches. More examples are abound in Africa. The new military administrations in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger also share such startling critical accusations of corruption and malfunctioning of state governance against previous governments. 

As popular English saying ‘it’s easier said than done’ and ‘the end justifies the means’ and many similar ones to portray the difficulty of committing to pledges and promises. Critics say Africans must stop disparaging, and shifting blames for their under-development to United States and Europe. Rather re-examine the complexities of their own strategic-development policies have been adopted these several years after attaining political independence. Critics further say African leaders must work with uttermost transparency and stop their opaque, crooked deals especially relating to natural resources on the continent. Critics noted that African leaders are fond of taking unilateral decisions, barter natural resources without cabinet approval and parliamentary discussions. And according to critics, Africans consistently blame their poor performance on external factors.

During political campaigns almost all potential candidates, eyeing for the presidential position, make skyline promises and sincere pledges to uproot corruption. Military also use corruption as one of the reasons for overthrowing constitutionally elected governments. Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute’s latest report on ‘illicit flow of capital and corruption’ says only a few countries stand out as remarkably clean across Africa.

As a matter of historical fact, corruption practices dotted across the continent, deepened into the bone-marrow and generally forms an integral and indescribable part of the society today. Corruption has become an unerasable characteristic feature of African politics. The worst is African politics characterized by lack of transparency and, most often, operates behind public accountability. 

Senior Writer Kate Whiting indicated, in her report on the Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, that  “Corruption is hindering Africa’s economic, political and social development… More than this, it affects the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.” And in some countries, including Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, two-thirds of people fear retaliation if they speak up about corruption, so it goes unreported. The report attributed the deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as a rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media to corruption in Africa.

In July 2009, Barack Obama was right when he told political tyrants and autocratic African leaders who have enriched themselves through opaque deals that Africa’s future (including efforts to uproot all kinds of crimes, engage in sustainable development) is up to Africans. “Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans themselves,” Obama said during his first landmark presidential trip to Africa.

In addition, Obama declared that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” Some leaders of external countries have it a policy to interfere in the internal politics of African States, and as a result end up supporting long-time corrupt autocratic leaders. Here it must not be absolutely analysed that the United States is dictating or imposing its form (model) of democracy. 

It is a normal political culture to show tenets of good governance by public accountability and that business deals at the highest levels are conducted with transparency. For instance, large-scale deals involving natural resources and financial, must be thoroughly discussed at the legislative assembly, and approved by the executive cabinet. Unilateral decisions taken, without consulting with legislative body or parliament and the cabinet, by a leader are proned to be also criticized by the civil society.

Under the presidency of Jacob Zuma, who ruled South Africa from 2009 to 2018, corruption was at its highest. Zuma participated in anti-apartheid struggle until South Africa finally attained its independence in 27 April 1994. He held various positions in ruling African National Congress (ANC) until he was elected president of South Africa. Before that, he was the deputy to President Thabo Mbeki, but was dismissed of corruption over arm deals. There were multiple graft scandals, that he was forced to step down in February 2018, and currently spends time in prison, and faces corruption allegations in court.

In January 2018, as elected president of the African National Congress, Cyril Ramaphosa has raised hopes that he will stamp out corruption. “Corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality. We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks,” Ramaphosa declared in his maiden speech after his election. “We must investigate without fear or favour the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that caused turmoil in the markets and wiped billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans,” he added.

In May 2021, the South African commission investigating corruption and graft, Ramaphosa acknowledged that the ruling ANC party did little to prevent corruption, including by his predecessor Jacob Zuma. “State capture and corruption have taken a great toll on our society and indeed on our economy as well,” Ramaphosa said. “They have eroded the values of our constitution and undermined the rule of law. If allowed to continue they would threaten the achievement of growth, development and transformation of our country.”

Since Ramaphosa made his promise in 2018, already five years, there are still fresh demonstrations and allegations of persistent corruption in Ramaphosa’s administration and inside the government. South Africa is not an isolated case. It’s neighbouring southern States including Mozambique and Angola have similar horrible cases. After 38 years of rule, in 2017 President dos Santos stepped down from MPLA leadership. in efforts to fight corruption, Angolan leader João Lourenço removed many of the country’s top politicians including Isabel dos Santos who were seriously corrupt under Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

According to the Economist, diamonds and oil make up 60% of Angola’s economy. Its population estimated approximately 25 million. The country now depends on expensive food imports, mainly from South Africa and Portugal, while more than 90% of farming is done at the family and subsistence level. Thousands of Angolan small-scale farmers are trapped in persistent poverty.

From the Maghreb coastline to Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are all engulfed with corruption. Sudan, located in northeast Africa, has economic crisis, social problems despite its huge natural resources. Apparently, Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for 30 years, did little for native country, his motherland, monopolized political power and ran deeply corrupt government. The New York Times wrote that Sudan’s economy was largely shattered due to political tyranny, deep-seated corruption and poor policies. 

Peter Fabricius, Research Consultant from the South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies (ISS), cited corruption, poor policies and strategies quite recently in his article headlined – African Coups Are Making A Come Back – as some of the factors affecting sustainable development in Africa.

Nigeria has also experienced the worst and the highest levels of corruption. In an interview, Ambassador Uche Ajulu-Okeke with thirty-year achievements in the Nigerian Foreign Service spoke about the present-day Federal Republic of Nigeria, located in West Africa. Several years after its independence, the leaders have not succeeded in rebuilding the state institutions enough to reflect all-inclusive ethnic diversity, let alone in adopting Western-style democracy that takes cognizance of different public opinions on development issues in the country. The struggle for and misuse of power have brought the country into a stalemate, disrupting any efforts to overcome the deepening economic and multiple social crisis.

She further pointed to nepotism at all levels and institutions of government. Morbid corruption. Endemic kleptocracy. Ethnic cleansing and persecution of christians and ethnic capture of the military and security apparatus of the state. Massive corruption and widespread kleptocracy with indigenous ethnicities in power making strenuous effort to capture state resources to the exclusion of other ethnic groups.

Still in West Africa on the Atlantic coast, Guinea early this month said it would prosecute former president Alpha Conde, who was toppled in a military coup last September, for mismanagement, misuse of power and corruption, for murder and other crimes committed during his time in office. Conde will be among 27 former senior officials to face prosecution.

According to AFP report, the list of names includes a former president of the constitutional court, ex-speakers of parliament, a former prime minister and many former ministers, legislators and heads of the security services.

In 2010, Conde became the first democratically elected president in the history of the West African country. But his popularity dived in his second term as critics accused him of authoritarianism, and opposition protests were violently repressed. He was deposed on September 5, 2021 by army officers led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, a former special forces commander. Doumbouya has since been sworn in as interim president and implemented a crackdown on alleged corruption by the former regime.

Mineral-rich but deeply poor and saddled with a reputation for corruption, Guinea has enjoyed few periods of stability since gaining independence from France in 1958. Many Guineans initially welcomed the coup but there is growing discontent in the nation of 13 million people.

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