Time Running Out for Sit-Tight African Leaders – Obasanjo
by Clifford Ndujihe
December 10, 2012
Accra, Dec 10, 2012 (Vanguard/All Africa Global Media) -- Three time Nigeria leader, General Olusegun Obasanjo was at the head of an African Union, ECOWAS observation team to last weekend`s presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana. At the end of the polls he gave his assessment of the election and other issues pertaining to the continent.
FORMER Nigerian military and civilian Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo has hash words for African dictators and sit-tight leaders: “You are now endangered species.” We don`t have to worry ourselves over sit-tight rulers. How many of them are left now? They are becoming endangered species,” Chief Obasanjo said in an answer to a question on why Africa is menaced by a host of power-thirsty rulers who do not want to leave office and often manipulate elections to remain in power.
The question came after Obasanjo, who is the joint head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Union (AU) observer missions to Ghana 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, presented the preliminary observations of the two bodies on Saturday night.
Africa still habours a handful of sit-tight leaders, who are not entertaining any plans of quitting or retiring from the Presidential villas unless death forces them to do so.
They include President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has been in power since 1980; Paul Biya of Cameroon (since 1982); Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic (1979 to 1992 and 1997 till date); Jose Euardo Dos Santos of Angola (1979); Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (1979); Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (1986); Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso (1987) and Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of Sudan (1989).
A vintage Obasanjo, who easily switched from seriousness to sarcasm and jocular mode, in a reply to another question said Nigeria did not need to copy Ghana`s cheaper parliamentary system of government and drop her expensive presidential system. Reason: “It is not the system that is expensive, it is the people. For Nigerians, whatever system we adopt they will make it expensive.”
Given that the Biometric verification machines (BVM) used in Ghana last weekend contributed hugely to the hitches which made the exercise to be extended in over 400 polling stations to the following day, a suggestion was made that Africa should side-step the machine-based electoral process and adopt an indigenous fool-proof traditional African method like Option A4, which Nigeria used in the early 1990s. Obasanjo disagreed with the suggestion. He said: “We in Nigeria are funny people at times. One of my colleagues (head of state) came up with it and we called it Option A4. In the election, you have to queue up behind your leader. Some people have suggested we return to the old Greek City State of gathering at the City square. We cannot return to all these because the modern state has gone beyond the Greek City State of gathering at the City square. The fact that Nigeria is not practicing the Option A4 means that your so called African native way of voting is not appropriate in the modern era.
“On the declining rate of women participation in politics, Obasanjo, who ruled Nigeria for 11 years, first as military ruler for three years and later as a civilian, during which he was alleged to have attempted a tenure extension dubbed `third term agenda`, tasked African leaders to take decisive action on women empowerment.
Noting that there is nothing in the constitutions of the various countries that directly prevents women from participating in politics, the former Nigeria ruler lamented that most African states are male chauvinistic . “The belief is that only women who are prostitutes go into politics. But we need to change this. If Rwanda can achieve 50 per cent affirmative action, others can do it. We (ECOWAS, AU) have all recommended that there should be affirmative action,” he stated.
When the master of ceremony kept referring to him as “General,” a vintage Obasanjo joked: “My political opponents in Nigeria call me `General` when they want to paint me as a dictator. But in my party (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP) they call me a chief. So, it depends on where you belong.”
Ghana polls were `fairly fair`.
Earlier, in his review of the polls, Obasanjo said the 250-man ECOWAS and AU`s 40man teams arrived on December 3 ahead of the December 7 elections and were deployed to all parts of the country.”We watched the concluding part of the campaigns. As expected, the campaign was feverish.
It was laced with some words that are emotive and some words that were encouraging. But all in all, it ended peacefully. On the first day of the election, we went out; we saw the coming in of materials, in some cases late. The election was generally peaceful, orderly and smooth. There were hiccups but the hiccups were not such that would grossly undermine the result of the election.”
“So far, we have looked at the election objectively for a week now. We have cross-checked all we need to cross check. What we have issued is a provisional statement that the election has been fairly peaceful, fairly smooth, fairly transparent, fairly credible and fairly fair.”
Elections are human operations.
No matter how hard you try, there may be areas where things will not go according to plans. This election is no exception. Late arrival of materials was observed. In one area, materials did not arrive until 12 noon. There was also breakdown of the biometric verification machine in many locations. When we saw the Electoral Commission, EC Chairman, he said many people in the field did not know and if they knew did not implement it. The batteries for the machines were to be recharged every five hours. If you allow the battery to go down to zero, even if you change it the battery will require two hours to pick up. This caused delay and the election was extended to the following day so that those who were on queue and could not vote on Friday would do so on Saturday.”
Thus, the ECOWAS team among other recommendations advised that there should be a back-up verification method like voters` card and voters` register instead of relying solely on the BVM for verification of voters before they could vote.
Said Obasanjo: “We are saying that there should be a fall back position. Machine is a machine and can fail. The EC should come up with a fall back position so that no eligible voter will be disenfranchised because a stupid machine has failed.” Tackled on ECOWAS team`s recommendation that the Parliament should come up with a law to regulate the media, which critics argued would hurt media freedom given that Ghana does not have the Freedom of Information of law yet, Obasanjo responded: “Now, right to libel has been removed from the statute book, and this allows a little bit of recklessness on the part of the media, which must be checked. Some say freedom of information, which I call right to information, must be taken along with certain bit of responsibility and respect.”
© 2012 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved
Morsi - Egypt`s Democratic Dictator?
by Omar Ashour
December 05, 2012
Cairo, Dec 05, 2012 (ThinkAfricaPress/All Africa Global Media) -- Mohamed Morsi, Egypt`s first-ever elected civilian president, recently granted himself sweeping temporary powers in order, he claims, to attain the objectives of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak`s dictatorship.
However, these steps have incited strong opposition from many of the revolutionary forces that helped to overthrow Mubarak - as well as from forces loyal to him - with protests erupting anew in Cairo`s Tahrir Square.
Morsi has thus been put in the odd position of having to defend his decision against the protestors while simultaneously making common cause with them. “I share your dream of a constitution for all Egyptians and with three separate powers: executive, legislative, and judicial,” he told his opponents. “Whoever wants Egyptians to lose this opportunity, I will stop him.” So, was Morsi`s “auto-coup” necessary to realise the revolution`s avowedly democratic goals?
For the greater good?
The new Constitutional Declaration, the Revolution Protection Law, and the new presidential decrees have several aims:
First, to remove the public prosecutor, a Mubarak-era holdover who failed to convict dozens of that regime`s officials who had been charged with corruption and/or abuse of power. Second, to protect the remaining elected and indirectly elected institutions (all of which have an Islamist majority) from dissolution by Constitutional Court judges (mostly Mubarak-era holdovers). Third, to bring about retrials of Mubarak`s security generals. Fourth, to compensate and provide pensions for the victims of repression during and after the revolution.
While most Egyptians may support Morsi`s aims, a dramatic expansion of presidential power in order to attain them was, for many, a step too far. Given Egypt`s extreme polarisation and distrust between its Islamist and secular forces, Morsi should have anticipated the protests. Suspicion of the powerful, after all, has been one of the revolution`s animating factors. Another is a “zero-sum” attitude: any achievement by Morsi is perceived by his opponents as a loss.
The anti-Morsi forces are sharply divided ideologically and politically. Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal reformer, has little in common with Ahmed El-Zind, the head of the Judges Club and a Mubarak loyalist. But the anti-Morsi forces that backed the revolution regard the price of cleansing the judiciary as too high, arguing that the constitutional declaration will lead to dictatorship.
Indeed, the declaration protects presidential decrees from judicial review - although Morsi stipulated that it pertains only to “sovereignty” matters, and stressed its temporary nature. It also gives the president emergency-like power to fight vague threats, such as those “endangering the life of the nation”. Only if the new draft constitution is upheld in a popular referendum on December 15 will these provisions be annulled.
But the opposition factions have not been adhering to democratic principles, either. Mostly comprising electoral losers and remnants of Mubarak`s regime, some aim to topple Morsi, not just get him to backtrack on his decree. ElBaradei, for example, “expects” the army to do its national duty and intervene if “things get out of hand” - hardly a compelling democratic stance, given the army`s track record.
Morsi`s decrees have undoubtedly polarised Egyptian politics further. The worst-case scenario is street clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi hardliners. Historically, such clashes have often sparked civil war (for example, Spain in 1936 or Tajikistan in 1992) or brutal military coups (as in Indonesia in 1965 and Turkey in 1980).
For Morsi and his supporters, it was imperative to neutralise the Constitutional Court judges, whose ruling last June dissolved the first freely elected, post-revolution People`s Assembly (the parliament`s lower house). According to the Morsi camp, the politicised Court intended to dissolve the Consultative Council (the upper house) and the Constitutional Assembly, as some of its judges publicly hinted. Likewise, the sacked public prosecutor had failed to present any solid evidence against those of Mubarak`s security chiefs and officers who were accused of killing protestors, leading to acquittals for almost all of them.
As a president who was elected with only a 51.7% majority, Morsi needs to be sensitive to the demands of his supporters, mainly the Islamists and revolutionaries victimised by the security forces. But, for many revolutionaries, there were other ways to sack a tainted prosecutor and cleanse the judiciary. For example, a new law regulating the judiciary has been a demand of the revolution since its early weeks.
For Morsi, the dilemma was that the Constitutional Court could strike down the law, rendering the effort meaningless. He had already backed off twice: once in July 2012, when he abandoned his effort, under pressure from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to reinstate the elected parliament; and once when he tried to remove the public prosecutor by making him Egypt`s ambassador to the Holy See.
Morsi`s “Constitutional Declaration” was a decisive - though undemocratic, polarising, and thus politically costly - step to break the impasse. And, while such decrees have led to dictatorships, not democracies, in other countries undergoing political transition, none had a politicised judicial entity that played the role of spoiler in the democratisation process.
Dominance of the security sector
Indeed, almost two years after the revolution began Egypt`s security forces have not been reformed in any meaningful way. Now, Morsi, in his effort to force out the prosecutor, will have to avoid opening another confrontation with the Mubarak-era security generals, whom he will need to protect state institutions and maintain a minimum level of public security.
The security sector may, it seems, emerge from this crisis as the only winner. It will enforce the rule of law, but only for a price. That price will be reflected in the constitution, as well as in the unwritten rules of Egypt`s new politics. This constitutes a much more serious and lasting threat to Egypt`s democratisation than Morsi`s temporary decrees.
Omar Ashour is Director of the Middle East Graduate Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. He is the author of The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements.
© 2012 AllAfrica, All Rights Reserved
Observer Says Africa`s Ability To Corrupt European Politics To Increase
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Commentary by Michael Schmidt: “How African Dictators Corrupt European Politics”
It is not only African presidents who are corrupted by European aid-with-strings-attached. Evidence abounds showing a secret and extensive “suitcase” system in which millions of dollars are sent by African dictators to corrupt the European political process.
We have seen several curious reversals of the usual pecking order in world affairs regarding Africa` status of late, not least of which have been the spectacle of Portugal begging for aid from its former colony Angola, and of European citizens relocating back to their former colonies, fleeing economic crisis in Europe for poorly-paid jobs in the African hinterland.
But there is a longer-lived and more secret relationship between Africa and Europe that overturns the conventional view of African presidents being corrupted by European aid-with-strings-attached; this is the phenomenon of la valise, “the suitcase” system of millions sent over decades by African dictators to corrupt the European political process. Seeing as how language differences divide common understanding between Francophone Africa and Anglophone Africa, the two largest colonial-language blocs, it is worth us here in the English-speaking part of the continent to examine this phenomenon so entrenched in Francophone African affairs - and now apparently spreading. The Center for French and Francophone Studies at Duke University in North Carolina hosted a debate on la valise on 5 October 2011 called “The Colonies Pay Back: Culture and Corruption in Franco-African Relations,” and this article comprises extracts from that debate.
POST-COLONIAL FRANCE, THE “SUITCASE REPUBLIC”
Philippe Bernard, the outgoing Le Monde correspondent for Africa, initiated the debate by noting that Robert Bourgi, Gaullist French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s unofficial advisor, had in September 2011 accused former socialist President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who were in power from 1995-2007, of having received enormous bribes in the form of suitcases stuffed with cash, from five West and Central African states - the Congo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Gabon - to fund Chirac`s campaign. In a later interview with Canal+, Bourgi claimed that the 1988 campaign of far-right candidate Jean-Marie le Pen of the National Front, had also been partly funded by the valise. Chirac and de Villepin have denied Bourgi`s claims.
According to the Telegraph`s retelling of the tale, Bourgi claimed in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche that he had personally “transported `tens of millions of francs` each year, with the amounts going up in the run-up to French presidential elections - an intimation the cash was used to fund Mr Chirac`s political campaigns. `I saw Chirac and Villepin count the money in front of me,` he said. He alleged he regularly passed on bank notes from five African presidents: Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal (in power 2000-2012); Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso (1987-today); Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast (2000-2011); Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Congo (1997-today) and Omar Bongo of Gabon (1967-2009), whom Mr Bourgi called `Papa`. Together, he alleged they contributed Pounds6.2-million to Mr Chirac`s successful 2002 presidential campaign. A sixth leader, President Obiang N`Guema of Equatorial Guinea (1979-today) allegedly was the last member to join the cash donor club,” until, Bourgi claimed, a nervous de Villepin brought the system to a halt in 2005. Bourgi claimed he had personally run the valise system for 25 years and in exchange, the African dictators were granted huge reductions in their debt to France once their sponsored candidate attained office in the Elysee.
Bernard said he believed the system had arisen out of the notion of “France-Afrique, the confusion of French and African interests. It has been a public secret since (African) liberation in the 1960s: in 1960/61, deals were signed that France will use its power to defend the (African) regimes and France will have exclusive access to African raw materials and the right of France to intervene militarily in case of threats to African national security. In the 1980s, the Gaullists (then in opposition against Francois Mitterand`s Socialist government) were similarly accused - that a percentage of Gabonese oil revenues were allegedly used to finance their campaigns - but proof and public testimony was lacking.”
Professor Stephen Smith, former Africa editor of Liberation, and Bernard`s predecessor at Le Monde, recalled rumours that “money smuggled in by Africans to the French Prime Minister`s office in djembe drums. The office has no air-conditioning, so the thought of him standing there with his sleeves rolled up counting it all is amusing.” On a serious note, however, Smith recalled that in 1971, at the very start of a reign that only ended in 1993, it was said that the first President of Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, had donated “bags of money” to the conservative Georges Pompidou government. There was, Smith said, “a long continuity of the practice from the Gaullists (Charles de Gaulle was in power 1959-1969) to (the rightist Republican Valery) Giscard d`Estaing (1974-1981), a continuity of conservative governments,” who had been propped up by la valise: “This amounts to a post-colonial `informal state,` not on paper, but in practice.”
Remember that this period - the Fifth French Republic - was brought into being in 1958 by the crisis in France precipitated by the Algerian Liberation War. So we have half a century of African dictators, installed and propped up by French military power, who in turn propped up with African oil and other revenue, a string of conservative sister regimes in France - although Smith said that the valise system in the six countries also worked via French companies working in parallel in the former colonies: one paid the French conservative Gaullists; the other paid the French socialists and communists. Given France`s strategic position within Europe, its influence only matched by Germany and Britain, anyone able to buy the French Presidency in effect purchases huge influence in Europe itself - so progressive politics on both continents appear to have been bedeviled by these secret transactions.
Smith said that his first newspaper scoop on the secret practice regarding the shadowy character of Bourgi, was in 1995 for Liberation when he wrote about the unprocedural write-off of Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko`s debts: Mobutu “raised his little staff and I was afraid he would hit me! Robert Bourgi earned €600,000 from Mobuto to put out the fire - and he earned €1-million to stop a book that I was writing.”
Bourgi`s “accounting is pristine; he deals only in cash, so there is little to prove.” The bribe money was later deposited in South African or Lebanese bank accounts, Smith claimed. The reach of Bourgi`s unofficial power was considerable: Smith claimed that when Sarkozy wanted a rare photo-opportunity with South Africa`s now-reclusive and elderly Nelson Mandela, Bourgi simply phoned up “Papa,” Gabonese President Omar Bongo, who persuaded the old man to agree to fly to Paris for the meeting in 2007.
THE SUITCASE SYSTEM EXPANDS
Prof Achille Membe, a specialist in post-colonial Africa, responded that the valise system was one of “mutual corruption” that has “shackled France and Africa for decades”: “The relationship is not only corrupt in terms of money... It`s a deeper form of cultural corruption that has emasculated somewhat African civil societies. In terms of the future, France still has military bases in Africa and can kick out a Gbagbo. But when France has to pay a heavy price (for intervention), it will think twice.”
Bernard said that as France`s grip on the African continent started to be eclipsed militarily (by the USA in particular), in terms of the Francophone African CFA currency which is linked to the embattled Euro, in terms of French companies losing their exclusive relationships with African regimes as the International Monetary Fund took the reins in many countries and a s Chinese, Brazilian and Indian investment poured into the continent, Sarkozy wanted the “network of go-betweens” such as Bourgi, who had “operated as a parallel diplomat,” to end.
Smith agreed that France now made more money from its relations with Anglophone Africa - South Africa and Kenya in particular - than it did from its former colonies, but warned that “now you`ve got a multiplication of the French exceptionalist models: China`s Africa relationship is as corrupt as the French; the French preserve and privilege has now become globalised.” Membe added that in his view, the waning of the French star in Africa - despite French remaining a dominant African language, and despite the existence of an African Diaspora literati in France - was that France itself “has entered a process of re-provincialising,” of monocultural conservatism and retreat from world affairs.
Membe said that “Robert Bourgi`s `revelations` weren`t revelations in Africa. In Francophone Africa, this hasn`t been perceived as a scandal” because the prevailing cynicism about Franco-African relations was underscored by a long-term trend of the decline of the importance of France to its former colonies: “Geography is no longer centred on Paris... Robert Bourgi and others are the last spasms of a dead proposition, something that is on its knees, no longer historical but anecdotal... France will become a parenthesis.”
But it is very far from clear whether the valise system has indeed come to an end and lost its ability to shape African history. Smith said that Sarkozy`s own reputation was in doubt as he had written off 40% of the debts of Congo and of Gabon - whereas Chirac had capped the write-offs at only 8%, so suspected payments to Sarkozy would have been “a good investment by African leaders.” If Sarkozy is also involved, then Bourgi`s end-game in speaking out about the valise system after 25 years - and claiming it ended with Chirac - is clearly not aimed at tarnishing Chirac, who is a dying man and a spent political force, but rather to threaten Sarkozy while he is still President, forcing him to allow Bourgi to retire smoothly, without fear of prosecution, aged 67, to his newly-purchased mansion in Corsica.
Smith said the roots of the system lay in the fact that “when Europeans came to Africa, they `unbuttoned` themselves,” initiating the corrupt relationship. But it takes two to tango, so what of the agency of African leaders themselves? “If I was an African leader today,” Smith admitted, “I`d still `invest` in France because the United Nations, IMF etc will turn to France when they need assistance in Africa - despite it having lost leverage as a one-stop centre - so African leaders` choices will still count.”
It is clear the suitcase system will continue, although likely spreading to include several newly invested powers - the USA, China, Brazil, India and South Africa - and ironically, with continental growth at 5.5%, peripheral Africa`s ability to influence and corrupt political affairs in the metropole may well even increase.
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