A very low population density may be at the heart of Africa’s historical under-performance when it comes to territorial state-formation and economic development. Bad geography, the very high disease burden and mediocre leadership, among other variables, may be but secondary causal explanations for Africa’s underdevelopment. The proximate cause may be how these secondary variables have affected and/or interacted with population density.
African intellectuals continue to be on the periphery of the discourse on African socio-economic development. The independence leaders jailed, killed or exiled many of them, leading to fifty years of disastrous misrule and general mediocrity from Dakar to Mogadishu, Khartoum to Jo’burg. The current crop of autocrats and pretend-democrats did not learn a thing from the last half-century and continue to opt for career poverty-voyeurs development experts from donor countries instead of their own people who may have greater incentives to see their homeland match the achievements of the newly emerging states of Brazil, India and China.
The road to Rule of Law in Kenya is just beginning to take shape. For sure, politicians will continue to flout the constitution but things are no longer the same. Today, as required by law, President Kibaki suspended higher education minister Hon. William Ruto because of the latter’s pending criminal trial over a fraudulent land deal. Section 62 of the Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act states: “a public office charged with corruption or economic crime shall be suspended at half pay, with effect from the date of the charge.”
Given the stature of Mr. Ruto as the ethnic chief de facto political leader of the vast Rift Valley Province, this is a big deal.
The next big test for how committed the ruling class in Kenya is committed to the Rule of Law will be when Ocampo and the ICC come calling with arrest warrants later in the year or early next year. Bigwigs in cabinet and close confidants of both the president and his prime minister are expected to be among those indicted.
I am in the middle of writing a piece contrasting a subset of African and non-African dictatorships over the last half century. As most of you might know, quite a number of African countries have been mournfully commemorating celebrating 50 years of independence from European empires. Many of them, including the behemoth and perennial under-achiever that is Nigeria, have almost nothing to show for over half a century of self-rule. Disease, endemic poverty, general political and socio-economic stuntedness are what come to mind when one thinks of these places, and with good reason. Look at the latest UN HDI report if you think that Africa’s bad press is nothing but unfair afro-pessimism.
And keeping with the theme of development, here is a blog post that I really liked about Botswana, a country that many like to cite as Africa’s success story.
As this piece in the Economist reports, Zimbabwe is slowly emerging from the hole that Mugabe and his men run it into. The pragmatic Tsvangirai and his MDC supporters appear to have decided that confronting the old man on every issue is a losing war and opted to placate him in the short run for long term gains. Importantly, Tsvangirai has strove to earn the confidence of Jacob Zuma, the South African president who is the de facto regional leader.
That Robert Mugabe is in the twilight of his despotic career is a given. What Tsvangirai and his men (and women, TIA) should be worried about is his cabal of leeches supporters who have continued to milk the country dry even as thousands of their fellow citizens died under crashing poverty and government brutality. These are the people in the way of Zim’s future.
Abdoulaye Wade, president of Senegal has signalled his intentions of making his son a political force in the country by appointing him minister of energy. Wade, 85, is due for reelection in 2012 and has indicated that he will run for a third term. In 2008 the Senegalese assembly voted to extend presidential term limits from 5 to 7 years. It must be nice to be 85 and still have such a promising future ahead of you.
So word is that Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o is billed as the front-runner to win this year’s nobel prize in literature. Ever since I read The River Between back in primary school I have always been impressed by the author. Ngugi was my first experience with Africa’s literary bloom that produced Soyinka, Achebe, Armah, Tutuola, P’Bitek, Liyong, Ba, among many others.
I am hoping Ngugi wins the nobel for his great contribution to English, Kikuyu, Kenyan and African literature.