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Corruption is a terminology perceived as a global phenomenon which has entrenched every society in the world identified as the blight of most political and economic evils in societies and with its entrenched vices. Political corruption is not a new trend that pervades most of the African states. Since independence, cases of official abuse of public resources for selfish enrichment have characterized most of the African states. Natural resources such as oil, natural gas, land and financial resources have been the target of most African leaders immediately they assume power. Over the years, African states have experienced its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the human wellbeing. Cases in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, Libya, and the current unrest in most of the African Arabic states has been linked to poor governance, inferior political institutions, outdated legislative system among others as the core causes of corruption and dictatorship in the African states. This study discusses the causes of endemic corruption with a bias in the African states.
Africa has had a myriad of conflicts year in year out. The trend as currently evidenced has not changed. Recently, the conflict in Africa has been that of corrupt and dictatorial regimes facing impeachments by the citizenry through demonstrations and protests. The major reasons causing conflicts and problems in Africa are corruption sanctioned by the leaders in the country and lack of respect for the rule of law. Failure to respect the rule of law by these oppressive regimes in Africa leads to human rights violations. When the rights of the citizens are violated, the leadership is said to be dictatorial. This essay is a discussion of dictatorship and corruption amongst African leaders.
Scholars define dictatorship under different contexts. The first context is known as authoritarian dictatorship. Under this context, the leader of a country has the power to govern without consent of those that are being governed. The second context is that of totalitarianism, under this context, the leader in the country regulates nearly all aspects of the people. These aspects are the public and private aspects of the citizenry and in particular those that are branded by the leadership as a ‘threat’ to their leadership.
A dictatorial regime is bent on consolidating power around them. Africa has been unlucky to experience the two types of dictatorships. To cite a few examples, the first one involving African leaders is that of Robert Mugabe. The first president and founding father of the president of Zimbabwe, Mugabe has been accused of being a dictator. Although he has been elected before legally as the president, there are reports that, the elections have been undemocratic and therefore not free and fair. In effect, this put him in a situation whereby he has acquired power illegally without properly being given that responsibility by the electorate. In the last election held in Zimbabwe he was the only candidate in the runoff after intimidating opponents, this is contempt to the rule of law and hence dictatorial.
Under the same context of dictatorship, a well known African leader is Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan president is currently facing a torrid time this moment in his country. Gaddafi came into power through a coup de tat; hence, he didn’t have the responsibility from the citizenry to lead them. Gaddafi has continued to deny his people basic human rights. Most important of these basic rights is freedom of expression. His continual suppression of the people has led to an uprising.
One of the effects and intended purposes of dictatorship is instilling a sense of fear on the population. Once that happens, the leaders are then ready to plunder the national coffers without facing opposition from the people. Dictators accordingly reduce the citizens to an attitude that is both docile and passive. As such, the people can not act but react to circumstances going on in their country. Most of the African leaders are very corrupt and rule in a dictatorial manner. Most people deride the way African leaders manage the country resources. Most of the African countries are wrecked by massive corruption and dictatorial rule. African leaders together with their associates have spirited away billions of dollars leaving African countries in abject poverty and low or no economic growth. Most of the African leaders treat their countries’ economies as their individual cash cows.
These leaders have proved to be publicly egregious as they rule in a dictatorial manner, torturing and executing their opponents. Rampant corruption in Africa as led to massive poverty that has resulted into lack of proper education, high infant mortality rate, malnutrition, lack of proper health care etc. These leaders do not come up with sensible economic plans and they do not act in any way as paragons of prosperity and efficiency. Africa has the most abused and impoverished people in the entire world despite being the richest continent in terms of its natural resources.
The level of ignorance and poverty among most Africans. A good example can be drawn from Nigeria. For instance, a Nigerian political aspirant, Obafemi Awolowo raised a salient concern when he argued that since independence, African governments have been “a matter of few holding the cow for the strongest and most cunning to milk”. This literally implies that, the political mighty uses the poor population to hold the cow for them to milk and leave them languishing in poverty. Furthermore, a view generally held has it that vandalism and looting of public assets is not a crime against society but for the society benefiting from the central government. This observation is what has generated into exposing illiteracy and ignorance among the electorate.
The political leaders capitalize on this ignorance and carry out open looting of national treasury as the general public is unable to find out. Under such circumstances everybody runs over the other to enrich themselves at the expense of others. In addition, cases in Zimbabwe can reveal how the political leaders behind the incumbent president come up with corrupt oriented policies such as forceful ejection of the whites with large businesses that support the country’s economy in disguise of acquiring land for its citizens. However, this is not the case. The agricultural lands taken away from the white farmers are given as dockets to the political allies of the president. The general public has no say but just support such catastrophic moves implemented by the government without considering the looming negative outcomes.
In addition, it can be posit that potential causes of brazen and penurious graft that exists among the leaders to be greed and flamboyant lifestyle as a core cause of corruption. Political leaders in love with showy lifestyle delve into graft practices to nourish the it as well as embrace a style of civic sleaze and lack of modesty. Such corrupt practices are further embraced by the mores and attitudes of the community who are the electorate. For instance, the flamboyant lifestyle of the Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe has raised massive attention world over as it is argued that his family especially the wife uses state resources to do her shopping at the expense of the public outcry. The president’s living standards are in indebt contrast with that of the citizens. Furthermore, gift giving as an indication of allegiance or compliment to traditional rulers may be fabrics of the general public propelling corruption among its leadership. besides, a political setting that keeps out favors towards influential or affluent citizens may also be influenced and propelled by corruption. For instance, wealthy elites may opt to sleaze for them to gain power and protect their selfish interests.
Another chief cause of fraud in African leaders is ethnicity commonly known as tribalism in Africa. Associates and kinsmen seeking favoritism from politicians may inflict complex strains on the decent disposition of the official. Thus, they use government officials related to them as avenues for their personal survival and gains. A culmination of using public resources for personal gain may further lead to pressure on arriving officials from other kinsmen to follow suit. This has been a characteristic of the Nigerian, and Kenyan governments. Political leaders in public offices impose their power on all public recruitments with hidden interests of favoring their kinsmen, friends as well as political allies. Due to public outcry for instance, Kenya’s military recruitment had to be called off as shortcomings were exposed in the whole exercise in the year 2010.
Such conditions further promote corruption in sense that those people chosen by their close counterparts will cover them no matter what circumstances prevail. However, the fact is, the introduction of contemporary set of laws on inter-ethnic political interactions is a recent majestic and western program that may consume some time to become the norm. Deep loyalty to other tribal groups for governmental decisions was early on viewed charily, as well as an early formation of institutions for the development of a unitary organization in the country, may further lead to induced corruption. Nevertheless, a current practical advancement to governance and relationships has steadily taken prominent role in the political development.
It must be understand that African leaders use dictatorial and corrupt means to gain power. As cited in the two examples on how Gaddafi and Mugabe gained power, there leis enough evidence that, leaders who use unfair means to gain control of the instruments of power are bound to be both dictatorial and corrupt. Therefore, the means to which a regime comes into power makes is a contributing factor to dictatorship and corruption. Normally, if a regime gains control of the nation though fair means, the regime will endeavour to work hard and fulfil its promises to the electorate.
Another contributing factor to dictatorship and corruption in Africa is weak institutions. These are the institutions charged with observing that there is rule of law. However, dictators ensure that these institutions are weakened to a point that, they are not a threat to their leadership. One of these institutions is the constitution. One case in point is the constitution in use at Libya. When Muammar Gaddafi came to power, he drafted the constitution on his own and called it ‘The Green Book’. This rendered the constitution before the coup de tat by Gaddafi irrelevant and thus weakened other institutions like the judiciary and parliament. In effect, the weak institutions have continually made Gaddafi more dictatorial and corrupt since they were rendered powerless.
Dishonest leadership where African leaders are full of lies, use propaganda, blackmail to rule, and create wealth .this has resulted into a lot of corruption and dictatorships. African leaders use lies to lure the voters to vote for him or her. He then uses the political powers gained to exploit the citizens. Most countries have suffered a lot from their leaders’ egregious corruption and dictatorships. .For instance in Congo, billions of dollars were looted during Mobutu Seseseko rule of thirty years.
Most of the African leaders are very ego centered and selfish .They uses their power to amass wealth at the expense of their citizens. Muammar Gaddafi the president of Libya has been for over forty years is recently facing a lot of opposition from the Libya citizens. He is said to be corrupt where he has accumulated a lot of wealth for himself and has used dictatorial rule to remain in power.
Most African leaders misuse their countries natural resources such as oil, diamond, gold and other mineral where they pocket all the returns form the exploitation of these resources. For instance, Sani Abcha of Nigeria was reported as being corrupt and dictatorial leader of this oil-rich country. He was reported to have ‘rigged’ the elections and a lot of government executions happened during his tenure together with killing of pro-democracy protestors by the police. Corruption and use of dictatorial force of the African leaders is very poignant and have received worldwide condemnation.
Greed among the African leaders makes them to be corrupt and dictatorial. “They pocket all the money in billions of dollars and hide them in Swiss banks and other foreign banks. For instance, Mobutu Seseseko who was the president t of Zaire/Congo amassed for himself approximately $5 billion at the Congo’s expense and as a result, malnutrition, hunger and abject poverty were experience in this country. He also imprisoned and even tortured his opponents. The massive power and authority given to most of the Africa leaders make them to be corrupt as well as dictatorial. They are seen as to be above the law thus nobody tries to question their deeds. Most start as good leaders but eventually end up becoming vey corrupt and dictatorial. Once they have accumulated a lot of wealth and political power, they become very selfish and always want to remain in power for the rest of their lives. They rule using terror and instilling fear to their opponents. For instance, General Idi Amin who was the ruler of Uganda brutalized Uganda citizens using external aid from foreign countries and he murdered many people including clergy, solders, friends and ordinary citizens.
Most of the African leaders are given external aids mostly from the Western organizations and government. This aid is easy to be exploited by the leaders and most of it ends up in their pockets. Most of the money gained from aids is not used to benefit the whole country but just a small group of the political class together with their associates.
Nepotism is very rampant in Africa. African leaders favor their own relatives and award the best jobs and other government contracts. This ahs resulted in a lot of corruption and use of dictatorial power so to maintain power and wealth. Impunity in the African states has made corruption rampant. The political leaders have no fear of the repercussion of their corrupt practices, as the judicial systems are not able to punish them. They use their wealth and political powers to avoid being arrested fro their corrupt or dictatorial practices. Samuel Doe, who became the ruler of Liberia through a bloody coup in 1980, killed or jailed those who opposed his dictatorial rule.
Capitalism is another factor, which has enhanced corruption, and dictatorship. Most African leaders are puppets used y the west to extend their interest into the African countries. These leaders allow corruption to happen in their countries. Tribalism is another grievous thing, which makes African leaders to be corrupt and dictatorial. As each African country is made up of many tribes, each leader tends to favor his tribe. They allocate most of the country resources to the tribes that support their rule while torturing the tribes, which oppose their rule. Massive corruption is mostly exhibit in the employment of high-ranking jobs at government institutions and ministries. Through unnecessary government controls imposed by the African leaders all aimed at enriching the political class of that country, most African leaders practice corruption and dictatorial rule. “The byzantine maze of state controls and regulations provided the vampire leaders with golden opportunities for self enrichment.”
Through foolish and unachievable economic policies all tailored to benefit the leader together with his associates. African leader come up with policies that favor their businesses and other investments thus exploiting the citizens with a sole aim of increasing their wealth. African leader have also become corrupt and dictatorial due to adoption of wrong political ideologies and systems. Most of the leaders adopted one-party state, which promoted impunity in the countries. Thus, a leader was able to carry out corrupt practice and receive no condemnation because the ruling regime has a lot of powers and autonomy and nobody is allowed to question their deeds.
Another grievous thing is the low caliber exhibited by the African leaders. Most of them lack proper understanding of the countries development plans and progress, Illiterate leaders who lack focus on their countries and are only concerned about their individual interests. They come up with plans to create wealth for themselves oblivious of the economic repercussions it has on their countries’ economy. Despite its vast and highly valuable natural resources, Africa is in a big mess socially, economically and politically and most African citizens are mired in a fatal grip of destitution, disillusionments, squalor and abject poverty .At the same time, African citizens buffeted by massive environmental degradation and tyranny. Some measure should be taken in order to ameliorate the corruption and use of dictatorial rule by the African leaders.
Tribalism, ethnic rivalry and neo-patrimonialism in Africa are contributing factors to corruption and democracy. Africa is normally defined as a nation of nations. Each individual in Africa is belongs to a certain tribe, in the same way that each European is from a certain European country. The rivalry amongst the tribes has rendered most African leaders unable to handle the needs of the whole nation and in particular the leaders who do not come from their tribes. In effect, the leaders have failed to institute constitutional reforms that meet the needs of the diverse tribes. These African leaders end up practicing partisan dictatorial politics. In addition, a corrupt way of co-optation better known as ‘buying off’ leaders stems in place and is used by these leaders.
The Western nations have continued to support development projects in Africa. Therefore, as donors and development partners in Africa, the West has continued advocating for good leadership and governments that will follow the rule of law. Through the Bank and the International Monetary fund, are not given the required funds for development projects in terms of loans and donor aid. Furthermore, another reason that has made the leaders and their governments be deprived of these funds is accountability. A corrupt, dictatorial government lacks accountability in effect wasting the funds intended for development in uncalled for ways.
Africa is developing at a slow pace due to dictatorial leadership, which comprises of looting of national resources, lack of the rule of law, corruption, tyrannical legislation against the media and harsh suppression of the opposition. Immediately when African leaders get into power, they do not concentrate in building the nation but become tyrants in that they cannot accept any advice from anyone may it be a friend or someone from the opposition. They in most cases turn against the opposition whereby they start arresting, torturing and even killing those who fail to comply with their rules. They therefore base this dictatorial act on the pretext of protecting national sovereignty.
Instead of African leaders investing in their own country in order to develop it, they however, steal from the system. African corrupt leaders shamelessly extract money from their countries and invest overseas. Mobutu is alleged of stealing a fortune that is equivalent to Zaire’s national debt. He used this money to develop his own investments leaving the country seeking foreign aids. Through corrupt regimes, $20 billion is estimated to be taken out from Africa every year. Nevertheless, President Olusegum Obasanjo claims that African corrupt leaders have managed to steal approximately $140 billion since they gained their independence. According to the research, it has been noted that 40 percent African created wealth is invested overseas. This is a clear indication that African leaders highly contribute to the poverty that is engulfing Africa by stealing from their own country and develop other nations.
The autocratic and corrupt legacy is difficult to break, more so in instances whereby the leaders are treacherous to the citizens. In addition, the leaders are ignorant of the interests of their people and in mostt cases they do not take any measures to ensure good governance. Therefore, the western leaders see a necessity to use any means to make the governments set in motion systems that enable the society to secure their liberty and peace. The evidence of this is the recent involvement of the French and United Nations peacekeeping forces in the standoff at Ivory Coast.
Corruption and dictatorship in Africa has continually been sustained by the flexibility of the constitution. The flexibility in constitution, enables the dictators and corrupt leaders change state constitutions, in order to maintain and consolidate their powers. This has been a major problem in most African nation the precedence of which was set by President Sese Seko of Zaire in 1965. He never allowed the constitution to enter into force until when he was deposed in 1970. Another new way that the flexibility of the constitution has been abused is the increase in term limits for the presidency. In effect, there are African nations that through their dictatorial leaders have enacted legislations to include the titles of “life President”.
In most cases, if the money has to be spent within the country, it is spent in ceremonies, activities, and services that are not likely meant to benefit the economy or to those who are terribly in need of the government’s assistance. Money is mostly spent on building lavish palaces like unity palace of Cameroon, buying a fleet of cars and jet planes. This act is on the African regime at the moment where leaders only care about their wealth and not those people who are languishing in poverty. An example is former emperor Bokassa of Central African Republic, wasted more than $20 million on valueless and detested coronation. The money he squandered was his country’s wealth that was collected from the taxes paid by the poor citizens.
Another corrupt and ruthless leader is King Mswati III who spent £8 million in constructing and developing palaces for his 13 wives, £500,000 in purchasing eight Mercedes cars whose number plate was made up of gold, £330,000 celebrating his 36th birthday party while more than 700,000 people live in poverty. A recent research shows that a Cameroon government squandered FCFA30 billion of the country’s wealth when purchasing a new presidential plane while government teachers have had no salary for a whole year, and Cameroon Postal Service have not paid customers their savings of over FCFA54 billion.
Greed for wealth is not the only motivating factor for African leaders but also power to crush their opponents. As mentioned earlier, once an African leader gets into powers, they focus on mistreating and punishing their opponents. This is why in most sub-Saharan countries; the military expenditure rises by 24 percent annually when the country’s economic growth increases by only one percent. It has been noted that approximately $15 is spent on arms annually resulting to economic destruction and increased refugee crises. Most of the money is spent on worthless commodities that bring nothing in return but poverty and disaster the region.
Zimbabwe’s Aippa and Posa for example, brought about exploitive legislation, raiding of the media, civil and judiciary society of professional independence. The country’s army, police, and secret services complied with the ruling party and pretended not to see any kind of offensive act. This resulted to chaos in the country where many were dying of hunger, people suffering of many diseases and masses became even poorer. Regardless of the suffering, no one had a right to question the decisions made by the ruling elite whatsoever. It either is one decides to live with the problem or do away with his or her life.
In the history, Africa is besieged with dictators who completely ruin the country’s economy and have a country full of foreign debts. When these leaders are overthrown or they die, they leave a country with high prices of commodities that a poor citizen cannot manage. Industries are the most affected whereby they collapse and start laying off people hence increment of unemployed people. Such problems lead to high-rise of crimes in the community, many tribal divisions, and depression among people. Muammar Gaddafi for example, was unconventional leader who has collective weapons meant for mass destruction. These weapons were bought with the money from the country’s oil reserves. This money went to waste although it could boost the jobless and those in marginalized areas. Currently the country has the highest number of jobless people and that poverty is rampant in the region. Gaddafi has been in power for 42 years but was overthrown by angry crowd who went on the streets demanding that he should step down. Before he finally stepped down, he was defiant but people could not let him continue with his autocratic rules.
African dictators want their families to remain in power even after their death. They want their sons to succeed them like Col Gaddafi of Libya who was succeeded by his son Saif Al Islam and Ali-Bien Bongo who succeeded his late father Gabon’s Omar Bongo. These dictators have adopted the repressive legislation that was used by the colonialists whereby it now seems that we got rid of colonial rule and replaced it with repressive African tyranny. After the gallant of sons daughters of Zimbabwe defeated the colonists, people thought they were saviors of the nations but it was the others way. Today they are plundering the nations resources while getting assistance from the foreigners. Many believe that this is black continent’s dilemma and African people will continue to suffer in poverty and misery.
African leaders need to change the attitude and create a right environment in order to have a solution to the current African poverty. In Africa, there is need for good governance that will promote democracy for the development of the African continent. Additionally Africa needs leaders with committed leadership who are willing to implement good governance and are accountable and transparent towards their citizens and the entire world. They should start investing at home and start spending less on arms and military in aim of fighting and crushing their opponents. There is no African country, that is destined to remain poor and with good governance, Africans will have reserves instead of debts.
In conclusion, corruption and dictatorship have been the biggest problems to the conflicts facing the continent of Africa today. The Western leaders in their quest to improve the lives have of African citizens have continued to pressure the governments to ensure good governance and openness in government. In addition, the citizenry in Africa is continually being strengthened through the civil society to agitate for change. Furthermore, the United Nations and Western leaders are stepping in to help the countries agitating for change.
As evidenced from the discussion, corruption and dictatorship go hand in hand. In most cases in Africa, a regime that is dictatorial tends to be corrupt. Some leaders in Africa have governed their subject in dictatorial ways; the dictatorial regimes are the most corrupt. However, the trend is changing as more and more Africans are challenging these dictatorial regimes.
While the world is becoming more and more advanced in terms of technology. The oppressive regimes and leaders in Africa have to change with the current political dispensation in the world. A dispensation that advocates for openness in governance and democratic leadership is what people advocate for in the current world. While the Western world is doing its best through its leaders to help the citizens in Africa through strengthening the civil society sector, the respective regimes are not helping in making the situation nay better. Recently, Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast refused to handover power to the rightful winner in elections held in that country recently.
This followed a battle where the election body declared the incumbent as the loser, but the justice system overturned that declaration. In effect, this is a clear indication of the lack of independence in the institutions meant to administer justice. Another fact that has contributed to leaders who are both dictatorial and corrupt is tribalism. This has been a factor considering the ethnic rivalry amongst the leadership in most African countries. Only a few African leaders can be said to execute their roles in government with no ethnic bias.
After the colonial period, corruption has been a cause for concern in African states as it diverts already limited resources and funds, undermining economic progress as well as impeding policy changes obligatory for development politically, economically and socially. Africa states present a archetypal case of the countries in the world whose expansion and growth has been destabilized and retarded by the peril of corrupt practices. Without doubt, corruption has dominated the African to alarming levels. The situation has worsened to the extent that whichever approach one looks at corruption, violation of public duty and obligations as well as deviation from high moral standards in anticipation for fiscal gains are imminent. Corruption is connected with ethical decay and dishonest actions whose effects of are felt in the political and Social arena, and economic spheres.
African leaders have been accused of advancing corrupt actions by capitalizing on the ignorance and poverty among its citizens. Thus has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, with corrupt actions going unnoticed. In addition, ethnicity has been has been a core tool among most leaders in advancing their corrupt deals. In this connection, favoritism is given to friends, family members as well as political allies in public recruitments. Furthermore, permissive and selective application of the rule of law has been a contributing factor in promoting corruption. The problems the continent of Africa is undergoing stem out of the corrupt leaders and dictators holding office today. If there was democratic leadership in Africa, most of these problems would not be encountered since the institutions will be enhanced to strongly work for the good of the country.