Mohammed Ibrahim, the Sudanese money-man trying to give African leaders incentives to govern sanely, has this index of African states, indicating their performance on a variety of governance benchmarks. On the most important index (according to me) which is on the Rule of Law, Transparency and Corruption, the best performing country is Cape Verde, followed by Botswana (I was there last summer and I loved it!). Mauritius, South Africa, Seychelles, Namibia, Ghana, Lesotho and Senegal are also ranked highly on this index. For more information and to look at other indices visit Mo’s foundation website here.
Kudos to these high fliers when it comes to the rule of law. No civil society can exist without laws. Adherence to laws is the true mark of a civilized people. Man sets his own laws and everyone, by residing in any given country, implicitly consents to the laws of that country. So it is important that all people obey laws that they make for themselves. This is not too much to ask, is it?
The failures of most African countries can be directly attributed to the non-existence of the rule of law. It is Montesquieu who said that laws shape cultural mores just like cultural mores shape laws. With good laws we can inculcate in our citizens the virtues of orderliness and predictability. Predictability guarantees me that I will not be shafted by a judge when I am on the right. Predictability guarantees me that I will not be robbed of my property, and that even if that were to happen the law will be on my side. This is the pillar of civil society.
Unfortunately, this is something that is lacking in many an African country. Structural Adjustment Programmes, developement projects of all kinds and all manner of foreign intervention will not bring this to the continent. It is up to Africans to be honest with themselves and acknowledge that to be truly civilized is to obey your own laws. Not somebody else’s but your own laws. laws, laws laws.