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Can prize money be a panacea for bad governance in Africa?

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by ByaseL, May 27, 2009.


Do you think the Mo Ibrahim Prize Money will work in Africa?

Poll closed Jun 3, 2009.
  1. Yes

    0 vote(s)
  2. No

  3. Do not Know

    0 vote(s)
  1. B

    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    May 27, 2009
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
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    We all like goodies, don’t we? I have no big qualms about prizes provided there is a good purpose for dishing them out. In a typical African setting, resources permitting, we occasionally give out goodies as a recognition or appreciation of a high point. Our children, for instance, expect some kind of rewards when they excel at college. At the risk of being branded as a male chauvinist, I dare say that some African traditions even go as far as pampering a woman who produces boys (especially the so called first born) for the family with a handsome gift. In short the act of rewarding is simply an expression of appreciation. Even the ultra conservative like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (RIP) accepted some goodies (in form of farm implements) from the public when he retired as the head of state in 1985. This was in recognition for of a job well done. People did not wish to see their beloved leader live as a pauper in retirement. It is not a good showcase to see our past leaders wallow in misery.

    Our contemporary rulers are not from planet Mars. They are just normal human beings like me and you with their moments of aspirations, worries, taste for good life, etc. A Human mind like commodity prices tends to get sticky upwards. Call it hangover. Once we acquire a certain lifestyle and taste it becomes very difficult to accept anything less that the status quo. For many African leaders life after state house can be very scary unless there is a very elaborate and constitutionally guaranteed retirement plan which can ensure continuity of comfort for them after leaving office. South Africa is probably the only countries South of Sahara with a comfortable retirement package for its top leadership. Unfortunately this is not the case for many countries in Africa. No wonder most leaders get tempted to dip their fingers in our national treasury tills when there is still a chance for them to do it just for the “rainy days” in retirement.

    A typical case of state marauding is that of former Zaire now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Listen to how the late President Mobutu and his henchmen used to siphon millions of dollars out of state coffers. It would start by president casually ordering his finance minister to avail “His Excellency” two million dollars as petty cash. The minister would in turn instruct the central bank governor to fork out three million dollars purportedly for the president. The governor would shell out four million dollars from the bank’s kitty ostensibly for the president. The minister and the governor would pocket two million between them! This extravaganza would be repeated time again and again. That is how poor Zaire was fleeced to her knees. The Kenya Goldenberg scam and our own Radar malfeasance, EPA cum Debt Conversation Programme (DCP) prowling and possibly Deep Green Finance mischief are all symptoms of serious corruption at a high level of state functionaries. The tactics may differ but all have similar results: Pillaging!

    Corruption and anarchy have become quite intractable in almost all developing countries Tanzania inclusive. Despite concerted efforts from the donor countries and multilateral organizations to stamp out the vice and bring about good governance the situation remains quite desperate in many countries. We find ourselves entangled in a situation of wanton greed for power and money, feeble checks and balance and weak institutional frameworks. Also the anxiety about uncertain future has somehow forced some african leaders to renege on constitutional term limitations and tampered with the constitution to eternally perpetuate themselves in power. President Paul Biya of Cameroon and Museveni of Uganda are some of the most recent culprits. Former President Arap Moi of Kenya attempted to anoint a successor (read surrogate) who could serve his personal interests while out of power but got stuck. Not to be outdone President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe assaulted the constitution to give himself a free hand ( just in case he decides to call it a day midway) to choose a successor president without going through the ballot box. His machinations were nipped in the bud at the March 2008 elections with the opposition gaining a upper hand in Parliament. However it has not been plain sailing all the way. Former President Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia and Bakil Muluzi of Malawi third term projects were buried in Parliament and both of them somehow goofed on their succession plans and have subsequently lived to regret this. This experience is in one way or another sending a chilling message along the spines of the current leadership across the continent hence the crisis at hand. In a nutshell the leadership question in most african countries has become a self centered project rather than a people oriented issue.

    We can’t go on like this. Developing countries particularly in Africa need to break out this vicious circle of leadership and governance crisis. This is why, in my view, Mr. Mo Ibrahim’s intervention is not misguided. Mr. Mo Ibrahim thinks he can make a humble contribution towards helping Africa get out this quagmire and came up with some noble idea. Bwana Mo Ibrahim has made big bucks, in fact lots of it from communications business and wants to be a little bit philanthropic. He has a prerogative to use his money the way he likes provided he conforms to governing laws and ethics. Mr. Mo Ibrahim is not the first or the last one to do this. Haven’t we heard of the filthy rich bestowing their vast wealth to cats, dogs or churches? Sometime in 2007 a rich guy snapped up the late Revolutionary Che Guevara’s hair (nywele) for an outrageous hundred million dollars plus at the auction in New York! Mo Ibrahim is of the view that spending his money on our VIPs will be a worthwhile cause. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

    The tycoon is totally sick and tired with the way our rulers are behaving and wants to use part of his fortune to shape or influence how our countries are governed. For this alone, Mr. Mo Abrahim is dangling a carrot worth five million dollars plus (a goodie?) annually to our dear leaders to behave well while in office. Mo Ibrahim is hell-bent on charming our big men out of “permanent residence” mindset at state houses. He is desirous to see our rulers learn some “table manners” and stop eating our national cakes like there is no tomorrow. Bwana Ibrahim is determined to dissuade our “democratically” elected leaders from behaving like feudal village chiefs and try to be good to us while they occupy the highest offices on our lands, and so on and so forth.

    The annual Mo Ibrahim Prize is about allaying fears, enticing and encouraging African leaders to avoid cutting corners here and there so as to underwrite their future when they no longer enjoy state patronage. The prize is about motivation for honesty, diligence and work ethics by our leaders in the course of their duties while looking forward for a reassuring life after office. It is an allurement to our presidents to remain spotlessly “clean”. Granted, it is not a panacea for african democratic and governance problems but one of the ideas or ingredient, if you like, towards a comprehensive political and governance solution.

    In a typical fashion this award has attracted a wrath from critics of all kinds. Detractors have compared this prize to bribery to african leaders to step aside from leadership. Sourgrapers like President Museveni went further to belittle it as a reward for poor presidents! Their argument is that african leaders do not have to be given this sort of inducement to do what they are supposed to do. I find this school of thought a bit wanting. Former President Nelson Mandela, Peter De Clerk and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa, have all bagged the Nobel Prizes for political and human related work. What were they NOT supposed to do to merit such recognition? Prizes are for achievers, period. The Mo Ibrahim Prize is meant to reward achievers and not mediocrity. Some of our leaders would also want to become a Chisano or a Mogae who have scooped this award. Retired President John Kufuor of Ghana is now the man to watch.

    Indeed the Mo Ibrahim prize can not be a universal remedy for endemic graft and governance tribulations in Africa. We are also not oblivious of the fact that not all leaders will be looking forward to work for this incentive for various and varied reasons. For some of our rulers five million dollars is just pocket money given the resources at their proposal. Frankly I do not expect our brothers and sisters from oil rich Nigeria or Angola to fall over each other for this peanut stuff from the Sudanese pedigree. Ditto the mineral rich Ghana, DRC and may be Tanzania. In some countries looting is very much entrenched and has become way of life as exemplified by a West African proverb; Even if you slaughter a whole cow for a hawk (mwewe), it will still come for the chicks! Habits don’t die easily.

    Misgivings aside, the Mo Ibrahim award can’t be dismissed out of hand as an ineffectual concept. It deserves a second look. In my view it is a catalyst and a watershed for democratic and good governance forces to set the ball rolling. These forces can be galvanized along the way. It is a genuine attempt by Mr. Mo Ibrahim to look for an internally groomed solutions rather than copy and paste, stereo type prescriptions from faraway which hardly tick in our environment. This idea needs to be improved and improvised to make it more effective. For starters, how about setting up our own tailor made bounty for the outgoing Tanzania president who will succeed in several quantifiable benchmarks including; Serious crack down on endemic corruption, economic an employment growth, income disparity reduction, freedom of speech and expression, political level playing field, piece and security, political harmony in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar and gender balance. It is a tall order! The working mechanism for such a reward can be debated and agreed upon democratically. I am just thinking aloud.

    Let’s face it. We are at the mercy of cantankerous rulers. We are in a warlike desperate situation with corruption and governance issues which cannot simply be wished away. Desperate circumstances sometimes call for desperate measures.

    Byase Luteke
    Email: byasel@hotmail.com
  2. T

    The Truth JF-Expert Member

    May 31, 2009
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    10 or 20 years from now we will look at Mo Ibrahim's experiment as one of many "panacea" that have been tried and fail in Africa. What will be viewed or considered great leadership in Africa, will be mediocre by world's standards. There has never been a great African leader nor will there ever be one. No amount of money, prizes will change the nature of African leaders because it is mostly biological.
  3. Nkamangi

    Nkamangi JF-Expert Member

    May 31, 2009
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    Your hatred for the African race is evident in all your posts, I wonder why. You must be hurting really bad inside
  4. J

    Jasusi JF-Expert Member

    May 31, 2009
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    Huyu Punjabi nimeshaacha kumsoma siku nyingi. Achana naye.
  5. T

    The Truth JF-Expert Member

    Jun 1, 2009
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    I just tell the truth and I do not sugar-coat it. Perhaps this is what you are referring to as hatred but it's not. Now if you disagree with what I said or do not believe that I tell the truth, then you are welcome to debate me.
  6. BUSARA6

    BUSARA6 JF-Expert Member

    Jun 2, 2009
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