By Mphatjie Monareng (SA) We all know that Africa is rich in mineral resources, land for agricultural purposes and several other ingredients for a functioning economy.
So, why are the native inhabitants of the continent still poor? Why do we still travel on gravel roads? Why do people still go to bed hungry?
I can think of many contributing factors, but none as important as poor leadership. Yes, poor, self-serving leadership – the single biggest impediment to Africa’s progress. When we don’t have clowns for leaders, we have cold-blooded criminals and shameless thieves.
The problem started in earnest in the years preceding independence with the installation into leadership positions of Western puppets and so-called liberation war heroes. And that was perhaps the beginning of Africa’s own undoing?
Our leaders start off as champions of political self-determination, going to great lengths (including military training) to prepare themselves for the positions formerly occupied by European colonial masters. Once they occupy these offices, their first priority is to line their own pockets first.
Dictators such as the late Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Idi Amin of Uganda, Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Reoublic and, lately, Omar Bongo of Gabon are the reason why Africa is in the state it is in today.
They are all distinguishable by two characteristics: endemic corruption and hunger for power (often without responsibility).
In the years just after independence, many of Africa’s leaders had come to power through military coups – often with the sole purpose of becoming home-brewed versions of their thieving colonial counterparts. Today, their successors have devised more acceptable ways of fulfilling the same outcome.
In countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Gabon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Libya, Egypt, Cameroon and Sudan, the office of the president or prime minister is still regarded as the preserve of a certain political clique and not a vehicle to advance the living conditions of the people.
In these countries, leaders either refuse to go to elections -citing potential tribal rivalries as excuses – or they simply organise elections only as mere formalities, with the ultimate aim being to legitimise what is by all means a charade, a mockery of democracy.
At the end of the day, when this so-called democracy has been achieved and leaders have come from various corners of the world to witness glittering inauguration ceremonies, the poor remain poor (or get poorer) and the rich get richer. The president flies thousands of kilometres for a medical check-up in a European clinic, leaving behind a population ravaged by preventable diseases.
These leaders – and not the global economic recession, nor climate change, nor weak currencies, nor neo-imperialism – are the reason why we still travel on gravel roads. They are the reason why many amongst us still go to bed hungry.