By Nimi Princewill
There isn’t a better conversation starter than this: “Africa is the wealthiest continent, but the poorest and least developed.”
Try it, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the debates that follow.
Africa’s progress compared to the rest of the world, can be likened to a chauffeur who drives his employer to important places in a luxury vehicle but himself waits idly in the car. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) plan had its ups and downs, but while significant strides were made in other parts of the world, the plan’s hugest failures were recorded in Africa. Despite the failure of the MDGs, as well as regular episodes of corruption, inflation, extreme poverty/hunger, economic dependency and other Third World plagues you’re abundantly aware of, African leaders still make quite flattering remarks as regards their fictional achievements, which are most visible on the pages of newspapers.
Who takes the fall for the continued economic and political backwardness of the African continent? The first-republic politicians who were more concerned with attaining independence than preparing for the administrative rigors of governance? Or the present-day leaders who are arguably in power to massage their egos and set up trust funds to exempt their future generations from poverty? And of course, some African heads of state are both first-republic and present-day rulers, having spent over three consecutive decades in power. Terrific!
One category of African leaders are famous for constitutional amendments (close to election year) to guarantee their eligibility for a longer stay in power despite mediocre achievements. Another category of African leaders plan to retire as kingmakers by ensuring power is transferred to a trusted relative or loyal stooge, to evade future prosecution for corruption.
The basic job description of the military does not include civil administration—which is good for democracy. However, in countries where leaders have tarried in power for decades but more than half of the population still live below the poverty line, can the next election be trusted to recruit better candidates? Can the ballots inspire a new wave of change in Eritrea, whose president has been in power since independence? Or Cameroon, Uganda and Equatorial Guinea, whose citizens have learned to live with rulers who’ve clung to power for over 30 years? Or Chad and Sudan, whose presidents have tarried for 27 and 28 years, respectively? Perhaps we can use the Zimbabwe experience as reference. Who says military intervention can’t represent the voice of the people? The military can enforce a peaceful transition of power from these never-ending, ineffective governments to interim ones, while putting measures in place for credible elections.
To break free from tyrant “democratic” rulers who have no moral justification for leadership, Africa could use another coordinated, peaceful coup this year. I don’t promote military intervention in politics, I just encourage it.