please Ghana, don’t. Resist the temptation

The just concluded run-off elections in Ghana have resulted in an awfully close result. Less than once percentage point separates the two candidates, with the opposition’s Atta Mills having a slight edge. The Ghanaian electoral commission has said that it will announce the results on Friday. Opposition supporters are already claiming victory even as both sides claim that there were wide irregularities that might have significantly affected the outcome.

I trust (more like I hope) Ghana does not pull a Kenya on itself. With all the hype that has surrounded this West African country as a model of governance on the continent it would be a disappointment if things got out of hand as a result of a close election. The ruling party should be willing to give up power, if it loses. The same applies to the opposition. Democracy is a self-correcting game. If whoever wins sucks, he can always be voted out in the next election. After all the modern bureaucratic state should be structured such that the people’s will is served, regardless of whatever party is in power. As I wait for Friday I shall keep my fingers crossed and hope that Ghanaians remain the proud supporters of democracy that the whole world wants them to be.

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when will we get it?

I know it is the season of merry and I should probably be writing about some fun thing that is happening somewhere in Africa. I also know that the mainstream media in the West and in Africa have already covered this story at length and that I should probably give it a rest. But I can’t. I can’t because it amazes me that we keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Like little children without any knowledge of history we keep repeating the same mistakes that have been made on the continent of Africa over the last four decades.

I am talking about Guinea, the world’s largest exporter of Bauxite whose president just died and where there is an ongoing tussle over who really runs the country – the army or the civilian Premier? The army has concocted a name for itself – The National Council for Democracy and Development – and vowed to hold an election in two years. This sounds very much like the dictators that have run Liberia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and many other African countries at point in the last four decades. They are always pro-democracy and pro-development. They always promise to correct the ills of the civilians they’ve deposed and/or disposed of. It makes you wonder where these clowns (the Guinean army) have been over the last 24 years when the late President Comte had been milking Guinea dry and jailing and killing the opposition.

Can we ever learn? Do we ever feel jealous when we read about Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia and now India and China? Are we ever embarassed that we are the only region of the world that is still largely a basket case? Do we ever pause to think of what we are doing to future Africans? How are they going to compete in a world where everyone but Africans has broadband internet and no loner has to die of malnutrition? Do we ever pause to think of these things? Do we ever pause to think about why we need nation-states and what they ought to be doing for the people?

Things never seem to change. There is always some bloody country somewhere messing up and trying to take the entire neighborhood with it. Think of Kenya at the beginning of the year and what this did for East and Central Africa. Think of Zimbabwe and what it is doing to Southern Africa. Think of Sudan and Chad and how this has distabilised the entire region. Think of the DRC and Western Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi (and now Angola wants in on the action). Why can’t we just calm the hell down and start thinking about providing schools and indoor plumbing, and malaria medicines, and condoms and ARVs and TB medication? Why aren’t our governments ever concerned about laying the groundwork for every African to have a chance at a proper modern life?

These are the questions that have bugged me all of this year and will probably continue to bug me next year. It is really sad.

This Christmas think of the generic African kid that keeps appearing on the cover of every international newspaper, dusty, naked and with flies all over his face. Think of this kid and try and figure out how such images impact your life.

A more cheerful post is coming soon…

are these guys serious?

Quoting the Daily Nation, “Kenya will lease out 40,000 hectares (about 100,000 acres) of land to a Gulf state to grow food at a time when the country is facing serious food shortages.”

Like seriously? could we not just grow the food and then sell it to these people from the desert? Is it really worth it for a port at Lamu? Can we not get that money from somewhere else? How about a joint ownership venture with the government owning like 90%. Wouldn’t this be more beneficial to the tax payer?

You know, this story reminds of a concept about state formation: It is only those leaders who have at one time had to defend and fight for their borders that really care about them. It has only been forty years and Kenyan leaders have completely forgotten how the Mau Mau had to fight and die for national freedom. Yes they were no match for the mighy UK and yes the UK would have stayed if they really wanted (HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE), but the fact remains that they fought and died for their country. The same country that some half-baked rascals are now eagerly leasing away with alacrity. I am pissed off to the bones by this. We are facing a food shortage and instead of using our land to grow our food we are leasing it off for other people to grow their own food?? Like where does this even begin to make sense????

Why, Kibaki, why???

So what happens after we’ve parceled off most of Kenya to Qatar, China, India, UAE, the Saudis and just about anyone willing to pay the goons that we’ve entrusted with our political leadership? Are we gonna become squatters again? Are we gonna start being called “boy” again? Are we gonna revert to being nothing but farm workers and clerks again? And what kind of children will we be raising when all the bosses employing all the parents are from somewhere else? Are NOT Kenyan?? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for an autarky by that statement. It just bothers me to think that we are risking a case where employment in the farms, in the factory, in the city all belong to foreigners. This will be a big dent to our national psyche. We need to make Kenyans feel like they can amount to something more than being the drivers of some Saudi tycoon.

And where exactly are the Kenyan millionaires? Can’t they afford to invest in such ventures? What are they waiting for? They could get government guarantees of whatever kind and have parliamentary oversight (these thieves to check on corruption?? – hey I know this is ludicrous but please allow me to dream for that is the only way to remain sane in moments like these) and grow food and feed Kenyans so we can stop reading and seeing those disturbing images of fellow Kenyans starving. How hard can it be? Am I delusional for thinking it can’t be that hard? I ask again, how hard can it be?

ps: The comedy that is Kenyan politics never ceases to make me laugh. So ODM, instead of holding proper elections just creates posts for everyone. As many vice presidents as there are serious contenders. As many secretaries as there are serious contenders and so on and so forth. Does anybody ever think of how this looks to someone who is just a little bit more curious and questioning than the very gullible proverbial Wanjiku?

And the PNU crowd. They elected a name that as a kid I thought was synonymous with “Vice President.” Can we get new faces and names please?

happy Jamuhuri Day!

It has been 45 years since Kenya attained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963. In the 45 years we have avoided the descent to civil war that has blotted the histories of nearly all of Africa’s states. We nearly descended into chaos in 1982, 1991-2, 1997 and 2007-8 but we did not. The Kenyan people were able to stand firm against those who were pushing the country towards anarchy for their own selfish ends.

That said, we still have a long way to go. Sometimes I even wonder whether our biggest achievement as a nation thus far has been to merely maintain our borders as they are. Our economy is still largely 12th century or before that. Our politics is as tribal as it can get and our socio-cultural progress has been dismal to say the least. We are yet to forge an all-encompassing nationla consciousness. There is not yet a myth of Kenyanhood.

As we celebrate our independence from arbitrary rule by foreigners we should renew our vigilance against arbitrary rule by Kenyans. God bless Kenya!

ps: I think as a Jamuhuri day gift to all of us President Kibaki should veto the media bill just passed by parliament. Press freedom is the real test of a nation that claims to be a liberal democracy. We cease to be a true democracy when information is not easily shared. It is no secret that whoever contrlols information flow possesses power.

will someone please take this mad man away

Robert Mugabe is a delusional mad man bent on destroying himself and his entire country. Ok, may be I am overplaying it, but what do you make of a man who is denying that there is cholera in his country while hundreds continue to die and flee into other countries? A man who continues to cling to power when the economy of his country is a total mess with super-hyper-inflation and no prospect of recovery? A man whose strongman rule and outright thuggery has sent an estimated more than three million people fleeing to neighboring countries and beyond? What do you make of this man than to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with his head?

12 million human beings should never have to suffer because of the selfishness and greed of one man. Humanity has failed and continues to fail in allowing Robert Mugabe to continue being the president of Zimbabwe. It is time someone in SADC or the AU or the UN or the EU or NATO grew a pair and sent this old man a serious message with details about his departure from the helm. Previously, I was of the opinion that he should be accorded amnesty in some country somewhere, far away from Zim but not anymore. This man should be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity. The international community should stop pretending and see the Zimbabwean political, health and economic crises for what they really are  – tools of war being used by this mad man Rob against his own people.

Why is Mbeki not being as serious as he ought to be about this? Where is Kofi Annan? Where is the UN on this? Enough with the toothless resolutions. Do something. Innocent people are dying.

And I am not being delusional myself. I am not in any way insinuating that the departure of Mugabe will be the panacea to all of Zim’s problems. Far from that. The damage has been done and it will take a generation or two to fix it. But the departure of Mugabe will definitely be the beginning of the end of the many ills that have plagued Zimbabwe since the mid 1990s.

time to start telling it like it is in the DRC

So the UN just accused the DRC and Rwanda of directly helping the rebels in the conflict in Eastern Congo which continues to kill, main or dislocate hundreds of thousands of people. I say it is about time. This has been the Great Lakes Region’s worst kept secret. I could have told the UN this months ago. I wonder what took them so long to see this for what it is and say so in the media. But better late than never, now that the cat is out of the bag it is time for someone to take some action.

(CAUTION: I know this is a gross simplification of the conflict, I just wanted to highlight the gist of it)

I must say that I am deeply disappointed in Paul Kagame. Why did he have to get bogged down in this mess again? Why not concentrate on getting aid money and making Rwanda the IT capital of the continent? Why get involved with the criminal Nkunda? Is the coltan that attractive?

As for Kabila, I have no regrets. This is a man who has failed to show leadership or the guts to run a country as large as the DRC. He seems to still believe in the outdated notion that if you control the capital you control the country. Kabila, wake up and smell the coffee – or whatever it is you drink when you wake up. Does Chad, Sudan and Mauritania ring a bell. These situations should inform you on what happens when you allow rebel activities within your territory. Sudan and Chad may have survived but their governments continue to face existential threats as long as the rebels are allowed to exist. So grow a pair Kabila and take the fight to Nkunda, and if you can’t own up to your weakness and negotiate for some decentralisation arrangement. Your country is too big to be as centralised as it is anyway.

I am pleased by the UN’s move. It now remains to be seen what it will do about its claim. Sanctions on both governments? Not likely. Perhaps a slap on the wrist and a threat of cessation of aid. (Don’t you just hate the bullshitting that goes on in New York?) In the meantime Congolese women and children will continue to be killed, raped and denied a normal livelihood as Kabila, Nkunda, Kagame and all the other clowns involved in this mess continue in their little dance of guns, dollars and coltan.

the state of global human rights

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

These are quotations from articles I and III of the declaration of human rights, that famous document that was adopted by the United Nations on 10th December, 1948. It has been 60 years since the declaration was made, in an attempt to guarantee humanity to all peoples of the world. The sad thing, however, is that not much has changed since then. Hitler’s concentration camps are no more but Guantanamo still exists. Fascism no longer poses a global threat but millions of human beings – mainly in the third world but in the so cold first world as well – continue to live under the yoke of oppressive governments.

The liberal ideas and hopes for the demise of the all-powerful nation-state to usher in a post-statist human rights respecting new world order have all died. Instead, the state has become more and more powerful as humanity tries to grapple with 21st century problems of terrorism and the economic uncertainties associated with too much integration in the global economy – as is being seen in the current global financial crisis.

The 1948 declaration set the ball rolling, and we should celebrate this great achievement. However, we should forever be vigilant against the emergent challenges to society that have managed to push the respect for human rights to the back seat. The war on terror has brought about enormous challenges to the idea of universal human rights. Should terrorists be accorded these rights? what about those merely suspected of being terrorists? and how about corrupt regimes that help in the “war on terror”? should millions of third world citizens be condemned to a life of misery simply because their unworthy leaders are cooperating in the “war” to save Westerners from attacks?

ghana does Africa proud, again

It was the idealism of the founding fathers of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, that brought to reality the idea that African nations would one day become independent and be able to govern themselves. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of political independence,” Said the Osagyefo. Although in between things got bloody messy – with Nkrumah’s failed presidency and the ensuing chaos that lasted until Rawlings brought some semblance of calm and then handed over to the largely successful Kufuor – Ghana has re-emerged to be one of the few countries in Africa with  a functional pluralist liberal democracy.

With the elections over this past weekend, it seems likely that the incumbent party’s Akufo-Addo will win with more than 50% to obviate the need for a run-off. Regardless of the outcome, Ghana’s election was impressive, coming after the madness that marked the Nigerian, Kenyan and Zimbabwean elections. I am still not too happy with Ghana for its dismal performance on the modernizatin front. But I am happy that I am watching news which show that an African country held peaceful and fair elections and that there is no specter of violence and chaos as the country awaits the final results.

I hope that with the scheduled production of oil in the next few months Ghana will embark on a serious development plan to make it not just an exporter of cocoa but an industrialised nation in its own right.

And may this be a lesson to crazies who run elections in places like Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

ps: why are we being held hostage by Kivuitu and his gang? This is a group of men and women whose incompetence nearly plunged our country into civil war. If anything they deserve to be charged with gross negligence and slapped with heavy fines.

three cheers to Tutu

Finally someone is saying something that can move things a bit in Zimbabwe. The Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has called for the arrest or forceful ouster of Mugabe if he does not resign ang go home – or wherever he wants. Right now Harare’s people are faced with a cholera epidemic in the wake of total economic collapse. You know we have come to think of Zimbabwe as a failed state but it was not that long ago – even though Rob’s madness had already began then – that this country had great prospects. Zimbabwe could have been great. It still can, if someone acts now.

Which reminds me of the other day in a class on International Aid that I am taking. We were talking about humanitarian intervention and international law. Repeatedly, respect for sovereignty came up as a reason to not intervene in places like Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, the DRC and all the other near failed states on the continent. Now I know there is no money to intervene in all these places. But we don’t need to. All we need is to set a precedent in one African country. A precedent that you cannot get away with killing or starving your own people. A precedent that you cannot get away with stealing your people’s money like Obiang’ and all the thieves in leadership positions are doing across the continent. Then everyone will think twice before they rig elections, kill innocent people or steal money out of state coffers.

Africans need to realise that they are in the only region of the world that still remains objectified. The only region that has not risen up to claim local agency in its history. Latin America, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa – all former colonies of Western Europe – have risen up to become actors in world history in their own right. The Chinese have a giant economy. South East Asia has considerable clout too. India has the atom bomb and massive amounts of top notch human resources. The Middle East is managing its oil and transforming the desert. Latin America is a middle income region by all means. And Western Europe and its off shoots continues to be ahead of everyone else – this is purely a historical accident and should not be imputed to anything else (read Jared Diamond).

Africa on the other hand remains to be the poster child of failure. Soon enough we shall be receiving aid from the Indians and the Mexicans and the Brazilians and may be some day even the Afghanis. Why don’t African leaders see what they are doing to the African people and their collective consciousness? Why don’t they see how detrimental to future generations of Africans their actions are? Why don’t they seem to mind the fact that when one says Africa or Africans the first things that come to people’s minds are Aids, Poverty, Hunger, Disease, and all manner of evils. Why?

The middle East has dictators. Pinochet was a dictator, but not a mindless buffoon like Samuel Doe, or Amin or Mugabe. Suharto was a corrupt thief, but not the moron that was Abacha. Why I ask. Why can’t any of our leaders, dictators or not get anything right? Why?