The whole of Africa and Ghana in particular is in a frenzy mood because the President of the United States of America is paying a visit to Africa between the 10-11 July, 2009. Many in the continent have developed perception that Obama's visit will change every evil thing in Africa including poverty, hunger, starvation, wars, diseases, economic depression, environmental and social chaos. Where those false hopes come from I do not know.
While his visit offers a number of opportunities for Africa, it will be wrong for people to think that all problems will be solved in the 21 hours that Obama is going to spend in Ghana. I want to urge Africans to leave Obama alone because there is very little that he can do the continent. He is yet to fulfill the promises he made to the American people to create 600,000 jobs and improve healthcare and until such promises are met there is no way he will be able to solve the economic and social problems confronting the continent. Besides, Americans nowadays depend on China for financial support so how can President Obama ignore the problems in America and starts solving the huge problems facing Africa today.
It is true Obama's father hails from Kenya and both attended Havard but that will not have any bearing or whatsoever in his relationship with Africa. The fact that he chosen to visit Ghana and not Kenya should send a clear message to Africans that he is not in for the nepotism and cronyism that continue to mark many regimes in Africa. In fact Africans should give President Obama a break because God has given us every mineral one can think of. He has given us oil, gas, uranium and what have you so what do we want from Obama? If it is friendship then fair enough but if it is dependency on American aid then forget it.
Africans should forget it if they are looking for a messial from America. Omar Bongo, Paul Biya, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Obiang Nguema, Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak, Daniel arap Moi, Lansana Conte could have been messiahs for Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Egypt, Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya but they chosen to steal what belonged to their nations and banked their ill gotten wealth in foreign lands instead of investing the money in their countries.
We love to cling onto our little and insignificant tribal and ethnic groupings and wage war against one another instead of uniting to fight hunger and poverty. Our political leaders love to govern the people with impunity, barbarity, cruelty, extreme brutalities and torture instead of providing them with basic necessities of life and allowing them to enjoy freedoms, rights and democracy. Our leaders and politicians love to steal from the coffers of the treasuries and mismanage what remains of their loot and we expect Obama to pour money into our sick economies.
Like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus Christ for silver coins the leaders have sold their own dignity and the birth right of the people to corrupt multinational corporations and foreign powers for protection betraying their own peoples for peanuts.
Look at how every leader wants to be associated with President Obama but if he had been an opposition candidate in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Togo or Cameroon there is no way he would have become president as the incumbent will do everything possible to win the election. He might have even been in detention or under house arrest or in exile as is happening in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea and Chad.
If Obama wins the 2012 elections he will never be president again but just look around the continent and you will find leaders who have been in power for more than 30 years and still want to rule because they think they alone have brains to rule. Gaddafi of Libya has been in power for 39 years now. Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea 28 years, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 28 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 27 years, Paul Biya of Cameroon 26 years, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda 23 years, Omar Al Bashir of Sudan 19 years, Iddriss Derby of Chad 17 years, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 14 years.
The 71 year old Mamadou Tandja of Niger wanted to change the constitution to rule for a third term. When the court ruled against him, he sacked the judges, appointed new ones and is now ruling the country via emergency powers. President Abdul Aziz Bouteflika of Algeria after two terms in office changed the constitution and is now in his third term as president. Ben Ali of Tunisia is no different, they have all concentrated powers in their hands taking their citizens for fools.
Go to Gambia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and see how journalists are being killed, detained and tortured. Visit Nigeria and witness how federal and state government officials are squandering billions of oil revenue while millions of young graduates have no jobs and the infrastructures in the country are crumbling. Go to Cameroon and see how millions continue to live in abject poverty despite huge oil revenue. Go to Equatorial Guinea and see how Obiang Nguema and his circle of friends live in opulence and swimming in oil money while the 600, 000 people in that country live in squalid conditions. Go to Angola and find out who has benefited from the oil proceeds.
Go to Congo-Brazzaville and see how Denis Sassou Nguesso and his family are utilizing oil revenue. Denis Nguesso has 112 bank accounts in France alone, plus fleet of expensive mansions and cars while millions scavenge for food in his oil rich but socially and economically impoverished country.
In Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Angola, Congo, Guinea and Central African Republic the first thing you will witness as you enter the country is corruption. Customs and immigration officials openly demand bribe because that is what they see their political masters doing everyday.
What do Africans want from President Obama? Is it loans, grants and food aid? I do not think we need aid. No we do not. What have we done with all the billions of dollars that we have received from the IMF, World Bank, US, Britain, France and Germany over the years? Have our leaders not stolen and banked it in Switzerland, France, Britain and save haven centers around the world? What have we done with the trillions of dollars that we have received from oil, gas, diamond, gold, cocoa, coffee, cotton and timber? Is it not sitting in Swiss, British, French banks?
What has Nigeria done with the over $400 billion she has received from the sale of oil and gas? How about Gabon? How many medical research institutions did Omar Bongo establish before he and his wife had to die in foreign lands seeking medical attention? What did Omar Bongo do with the billions of oil revenue that flowed into his country? Didn't he open 70 bank accounts in France for himself and bought expensive mansions for himself and his family while 30% of his countrymen live on less than a dollar a day?
Even Ghana which is being praised for her democratic credentials all is not well in that country. Corruption is rife everywhere. Almost everyday news of corruption involving current and former government officials surface in the media. Illiteracy sits deep with only 54% of the population who are able to read and write. Electricity is rationed. Waste management is a great challenge and poses great danger to the health of cities, town and communities. 30% of the population still remain dangerously poor while MPs drive cars worth $50,000 bought and guaranteed by a government that has promised so much yet has delivered so little if not nothing to cushion the suffering of the poor. How many Ghanaians know where gold and other minerals they mine go, who buys them or where the proceeds go? In Ghana cocoa exports accounts for more than 20% of GDP. But go to the rural areas of the country and you will be saddened by the appalling living conditions of farmers who spend all their time and energy farming a crop that contributes so much to the economy yet delivers so little to them. Lack of electricity, clean drinking water, good roads, schools, clinics, irrigation facilities are some of the infrastructures farmers and farming communities lack. So where has all the money gone? The answer is the politicians and their corrupt business associates.
I feel ashamed that these corrupt African leaders are crying for President Obama's attention. Is Obama not a blackman like Yar' Dua of Nigeria or Prof Atta Mills of Ghana, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Blaise Campore of Burkina Faso, Mamadou Tandja of Niger, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt or Gaddafi of Libya? What good have these men done for their countries except accumulating power and stealing from their poor nations? In spite of their massive failures and decades in office they still carry themselves as leaders of the people. They are like blind men driving in darkness. They behave like a child king or the proverbial pig who will always go back to the dirt no matter how well it is washed. They have no sense of shame and see nothing wrong with the poverty in their countries. What can be done for leaders who remain accountable to no one?
What do we want Obama to do? I guess to end the poverty and wars in Africa right? Do we want Obama to come and preach to us that it is time to stop stealing from the people? Do we want him to tell us it is time to invest in education, health, technology, roads and other infrastructures?
Do we want him to tell Paul Kegame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to stop invading and destabilizing Eastern Congo and stop profiting from the illegal looting of that country's resources? We want Obama to arrest the conflict and stalemate in Somalia and Madagascar yet we have leaders some of whom have ruled for over 30 years whose incompetence is the result of hopelessness written in the face of almost every African. Political leaders in the continent have no moral justification to celebrate the election of President Obama and his visit to Africa with the people.
Nigeria could have been the United States of Africa isn't she? She has all the resources: oil, gas, rich soil, a hardworking population but what do we see? Corruption, embezzlement, utter incompetence, political assassination, coups, election violence, environmental destruction, arm robbery, fraud, internet scam, religious conflict and tribal affiliations have eaten the better part of what should have been a great nation.
DRC a nation with a third of the world's natural resources yet what we see in that country are chronic poverty, malnutrition, massive official corruption, scant accountability, dictatorship, destruction of infrastructure, and wars which resulted in over six million deaths between 1998 and 2009.
Gabon could easily have become the Switzerland of Africa but her leaders have turned the oil blessing into a curse with poverty, corruption, embezzlement, waste, mismanagement, dictatorship, sitting very deep in the country.
Equatorial Guinea could easily have become the Singapore of Africa but her leaders have turned it into the usual African story of corruption, embezzlement, waste, mismanagement, dictatorship, poverty.
Libya could easily have become the California of Africa but 39 years of one man's dictatorship brought nothing but international isolation, wars, terrorism, scant accountability, coersion, fear, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, detention, force imprisonment and what have you.
Kenya was asking IMF for a $100 million loan yet the country loses over $1 billion annually through corruption. So what do Kenyans want Obama to do? To pump money into a rotten country? No way.http://africawatch1.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-to-imf-on-loan-request-by.html
Instead of Rwanda and Uganda helping to maintain peace and stability in DR. Congo they have crossed several times into that country in the name of fighting rebels but we know what they are doing there stealing over $600 million worth of minerals from that country. Is this what we want Obama to come and help us to do?
Lucky Dube the Reggae legend sung in his album Prisoner that "I asked the Policeman and said how long must I pay for my freedom? He said to me son they won't build no schools anymore, they won't build no hospitals all they build will be prison". How long must Africans pay for freedom, right to choose their own leaders in Egypt, Libya, E. Guinea, Angola, Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe? How long must they pay for the corruption of the few? How long must they pay for the incompetence, dictatorship and power grabbing of the insensitive politicians? The leaders won't build no roads anymore, they won't build schools what they build is poverty, diseases, corruption, power grabbing, incompetence and mismanagement. Africans are now economic prisoners in a continent full of rich natural resources.
Why trouble Obama when we are own enemies and destructive forces? What do we do with our own intellectuals I mean our own scientists, engineers, doctors, nurses, bankers, planners, architects, technicians and accountants? Why are they leaving the shores of the continent in their thousands for greener pastures abroad? Obama's father studied in US and returned to Kenya to contribute to his country's development and what good did Kenya make of him?
What is our own Africa Union doing? Or what has it achieved so far? Has the AU been able to bring peace to Darfur, Somalia, DRC, Chad, or Zimbabwe? Look at how divided we Africans are. Just look at how pathetic the Africa Union is. A body with over 53 members that see no wisdom in unity. A body that has not been able to accomplish anything except producing documents after documents and meetings upon meetings. A body made up of and controlled by corrupt dictators who represent no one except their own interests. What does it say about the leadership in the continent?
President Obama will deliver his policy statement about Africa in Ghana and there is a lot of expectations as to what he intends to do for the continent. But with all the dictators and kleptocrats still in power in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, Niger, Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Libya, Angola, Congo what do you think will happen if Obama should give Africa all the money that USA has? Wouldn't it be stolen by these same corrupt leaders and their associates? No matter the policy statement that Obama gives in Ghana poverty, diseases and wars will never depart from the continent if the leaders fail to change their corrupt, power grabbing and incompetent attitude. The tumor that is making the people poor is the leaders and until the tumor is removed the continent will not be healed of poverty, diseases and wars.
I would rather want President Obama to focus his attention on nations that are prepared to change and adopt political and economic reforms and demonstrate their willingness to fight poverty, diseases that continue to plague the continent not those whose leaders are waiting to die while still president. President Obama should focus on nations like Botswana, Zambia, Mali and the rest.
The leaders cannot eat their cake and have it again. The leaders cannot steal from the people and think poverty will leave them. The leaders cannot continue to mismanage our economies and think that unemployment will go away. Until we begin to realize that manna will not fall from heaven and there is nothing like free lunch we will continue to look to foreign countries as children look to their parents for everything.
By Lord Aikins Adusei
Activist and anti-corruption campaigner. He blogs at http://www.ghanapundit.blogspot.com