Presidential Empowerment Fund, what is this, not a form of money laundering?
By Prof. Michelo Hansungule
Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita who was overthrown and detained on August 18 and released three days ago reportedly wetted his pants when the soldiers appeared at the presidential palace to pick him up. A group of military officers known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) detained Keita at gunpoint and forced him to resign. This was despite heavy military guard around the palace.
Unlike moribund SADC, ECOWAS has been very strong in the denunciation of military involvement in government in West Africa and they moved quickly to impose trade and travel sanctions against Mali even though no one travels these days due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The 2000 Lome Peace Agreement, unconstitutional change of government in particular military coups have been outlawed in Africa. Most of my students do not always understand why it is not unlawful for incumbents in government to manipulate their constitutional frameworks to cling to power yet the same is illegal if it is orchestrated by men in uniform?
Since then the African Union has moved one important step further in the 2011 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance when in a hard treaty it categorically banned putsches and coup d’Etats completely anywhere on the continent . But this has not stopped coup d’Etats as seen in Mali and many others. Reason being misgovernance continues to be widespread in particular abuses of state institutions, massive corruption and plain theft of public resources while the masses are left to die in squalor this time of Covid-19.
Just two to three examples will suffice. Francisco Macias Nguema in Equitoria Guinea, former colony of Spain, the deadliest man in Africa, that despicable man who killed 40,000 Bupi people in a mass genocide in his country only because he hated them would be taking and keeping his country’s treasury to his village where he lived. Imagine keeping the country’s treasury not in the central bank but in your house in your village? Though it took long, the population finally got incensed and forcibly removed him from power. He was found by a village woman trying to hide in her groundnut field. She alerted the village who in turn alerted authorities who captured him and submitted him to trial and subsequent conviction.
That country as most African countries is not lucky. Macias was succeeded by his nephew current president Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo who actually participated in killing his uncle Macias following his conviction for high crimes. Mbasogo is himself now estimated to be worth US$600 million, just one man. What is all this money for in the hands of one man? His 51 year old son and vice president, minister of security and defence and political heir Teodoro Nguema Obiang is estimated to have a net worth of $ 200 Million. All these millions in the hands of one family, just father and son? Technically, Equatorial Guineans are the richest people in sub-Saharan Africa with a GDP per capita of $12,000 but the vast majority of its people live in abject poverty far worse than Afghanistan or Chad, one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Recently, Obiang was prosecuted in France for embezzlement and grand corruption. He has a mansion in western Paris which is valued at 107 million euros and other assets worth 43 million euros. The French prosecutor had asked for 3 years prison term for the Equatorial Guinea vice president and heir apparent.
Do you recall one Samuel Kanyon Doe president of Liberia 1980 to 1990 first as military leader then as civilian, was assassinated on 9 September 1990 by incensed Liberians who pulled him alive in a moving Land Rover. They subsequently tortured him to death. Imagine a president being pulled alive by a moving vehicle? When the masses are angry, it is irreversible. I have been doing work recently in Liberia and would not believe some of the people I met were personally involved in torturing Doe to death?
More recently on the evening of November 14 2017, the unthinkable happened in Zimbabwe when long time ruler president Robert Mugabe was removed from power he had held since independence in 1980. Who would have ever thought Mugabe would fall to his sword? Widespread poverty and violence precipitated Mugabe’s fall.
Now I understand there is what is called presidential empowerment fund in Zambia, what is this? Isn’t this equivalent to money laundering which is illegal in Zambia? Why should we have such things as presidential this and that? Are we like Marcias above keeping government money at home in State House? Where are institutions of law to keep this money? I am told that of the 8 Billion Kwacha government raised from the bond it floated recently, 3.1 Billion was allocated to the presidential empowerment fund? This is dangerous very dangerous.
We have had several presidents in Zambia now. First president Kaunda who stayed longest made several mistakes particularly stifling democracy which he banned in favour of one party and which is why we are still in this mercy today. Had Kaunda not banned democracy, we would have moved thousands of kilometres on the democracy terrain by now but look at where we still are today? Look at how we vote? However, one thing you cannot take away from Kaunda in spite of his shortcomings is he never stole, not even a coin. Had Kaunda been a thief as some of the leaders after him, there would be no Zambia to steal today. Kaunda never kept public money at State House but now I fear Zambia
Fortunately for us, there will be change of government soon in Zambia. So we have the opportunity to look at all these things and begin to return the country back to freedom, justice and development. Good thing is this change is coming soon, we will not have to wait long.