George Ayittey is Africa's most renowned commentator on Black leadership. A distinguished Economist, famous commentator, relentless media analyst, and passionate writer, Ayittey has written two best sellers, Africa Betrayed, and Africa in Chaos. With access to a large body of diverse data and ideas, his breadth of scholarship is astounding. His views, remarkably consistent, will be part of the defining phase of African intellectual history during the 20th and 21st centuries.
During the Cold War, any African scoundrel who stepped into Washington, DC. and professed himself to be "anti-communist" or "pro-capitalist" unlocked the floodgates of U.S. aid. (Mobutu, Samuel Doe, Banda, etc.) Never mind the brutally repressive regimes they maintained in their own countries.
During the Cold War, the West did little to promote the ideals of democracy or freedom in Africa because it was more interested in looking for "Cold War allies."
Today, the Cold War has been replaced by the "War on Terrorism." And guess what, it's deja vu all over again. The U.S. or the West is looking for ALLIES in the war on terrorism and again all sorts scoundrels are going to claim they are fighting "terrorists" too in order to win U.S.
sympathy and aid -- when they themselves are the REAL STATE TERRORISTS!
Beshir of Sudan, Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Museveni of Uganda all claim to be fighting against "terrorists." Even Charles Taylor, the former lunatic warlord of Liberia, established an "Anti-Terrorist Unit"!! Now, President Obasanjo claims the freedom fighters in the Niger Delta are "terrorists"! Maybe, he is listening to Charles Taylor.
Here is President Musugu Babazonga, who says he is also fighting
"I am Musugu Babazonga, the President-For-Life of the Coconut Republic
of Tonga in the Gulf of Guinea. Don't mind Julius Nyerere of Tanzania;
he called himself "Mwalimu" (Teacher), while Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire
changed his name to "Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga", which, in the
local Lingala language, meant, "The rooster who leaves no chicken
untouched". And forget about Idi Amin who called himself "The Conqueror
of the British Empire". My name trumps them all. My people call me the
"Cutlass" (machete). I behead terrorists. Anybody who opposes me is a
terrorist. They give me nightmares. I can't sleep at night. Haba. That's
I agree with all the speakers at the United Nations General Assembly
that rule of law, free and fair elections, transparency, accountability,
stability, and foreign investment are all important in the process of
economic development and rejuvenation. But we have all these in my
country. It is an insidious form of racism and imperialism to claim that
we don't. We demand respect and recognition. If Europe has the European
Union, we also have the African Union. And don't think you are the only
one who has a space program. We have one too [Nigeria]. Next time, I
will come in our space shuttle so that you can see. We are buying
missile technology from North Korea. Don't worry, with time we will
learn how to read the instruction manual. If you have Viagra, we have
"vuka vuka." I gave some to Sani Abacha; it killed him.
I wrote the laws of the country myself and, since I am the ruler, we
have the rule of law and it is instantly enforced. In October 1999, my
deputy immigration director pulled out a gun in broad daylight in a busy
Monrovia street and shot dead a taxi-driver who had overtaken his
vehicle. That will teach the taxi-driver not to be in a hurry.
I have been in power for 30 years, so we have stability. If U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell calls my regime non-democratic and
totalitarian, I will sue him for defaming and humiliating my people
We have multi-party democracy in my country. Anybody can form a
political party if they want to but it is illegal to hold a political
rally of more than 6 people [Uganda]. We have just concluded our first
elections in 30 years and they were "free and fair". Those who opposed
me are in jail, where they are free to say what they want [Togo]. Nobody
bothers them there. I think that's fair. When it appeared that I was
losing the election, I sacked the Electoral Commissioner for not doing
his job and had the votes counted at a secret location [Liberia, Togo,
Niger]. I won 99.92 percent of the vote. In fact, I would have won 110
percent if the opposition had bothered to get out of their graves to
vote. Lazy bunch. So, you see, our elections were free and fair.
Yes, I take "development" very seriously. My pockets are well developed.
We have "foreign investment" too. My wealth is safely invested in Riggs
National Bank in Washington, D.C. and other foreign banks to protect
against foreign exchange fluctuations [Obiang of Equatorial Guinea].
Yes, my country produces oil but the oil revenue is a state secret - to
protect it from the prying eyes of imperialist enemies. My finance
minister keeps the accounts at a secure place - in a tree [Zambia].
World Bank officials said we need less government spending so we are
feverishly working on that. We have set up a Ministry of Less Government
Spending [Mali]. The Bank also said we should privatize state-owned
enterprises, so I sold them to my relatives and friends. They are all in
the private sector [Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe].
And I don't play with "accountability". My political opponents must
account for every penny they spend and explain where they are at any
moment of time. My security forces have been instructed to verify that
information and must report to me every step my critics and political
rivals take [Eritrea, Ethiopia, Togo, Zimbabwe]. I know who they are and
where they live. So we have "accountability".
We have law and order in my country and my police force is very
efficient. My police force thoroughly investigated the deaths of foreign
minister Robert Ouko and British tourist, Julie Ward. According to my
police investigators, "the foreign minister broke his own leg, shot
himself in the head and set himself afire. And the British tourist
lopped off her own head and one of her legs before setting herself
We have "Checks and balances" too. All government officials are
required, by decree, to have bank accounts on which they can write
checks and their bank accounts which must have positive balances.
Bounced checks are not tolerated. So we have checks and balances.
President Bush says his Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) will give
aid only to those governments that govern justly, promote economic
freedom, and invest in the people. No problem there. In fact, my country
should be the first to receive aid under that program.
I am the Constitution; I wrote it myself and set myself a two-term limit
before our first elections. No African leader should be in power for
more than 10 years [Museveni in 1986]. Of course, all the years I have
held power before the Constitution came into effect didn't count [dos
Santos of Angola, Rawlings of Ghana, and Museveni of Uganda]. It is
"just" because I have done a lot for my country. And if I don't like the
two-term limit, I will change it so that I can run for the third term
[Derby of Chad, Conte of Guinea, Nujoma of Namibia, and Museveni of
Uganda]. But all those who come after me must obey the two-term rule
[Nujoma of Namibia]. And when I retire, my son will take over [Mubarak
of Egypt]. He will be freely chosen by me. So, you see, we have
constitutional rule and I govern "justly". All the senior positions in
my government are filled with my relatives, friends, and tribesmen
[Burundi, Cameroon, Kenya, and Rwanda]. They love me, go ask them. They
are happy serving me because they know what will happen to them if they
don't. They will be fed to crocodiles. We have two radio stations in the
country and I own them. People can say what they want only on my radio
stations because freedom of expression is an outmoded concept (Jonathan
Moyo of Zimbabwe].
We are aggressively combating corruption. Movie theaters and television
are forbidden to show pornographic material, which corrupts the minds of
the young [Bashir of Sudan]. Violators are beheaded; they can appeal
later. And we do actively promote economic freedom. My ministers can
engage in whatever economic activity they like.
There is no famine in my country. The people are well-fed; they eat
grass. Hey, cows eat grass too! Unfortunately, there are no cows left in
the country because the people ate all the grass. So I am loading 2
million peasants into trucks to resettle them on the fertile soils in
the west [Ethiopia].
I respect the HUMAN RIGHTS of my people - especially in the Darfur
Region. That's why my country sits on the United Nations Human Rights
Commission [Sudan]. But the people must respect MY RIGHTS too. Any
violation of my rights is met with swift and severe retribution.
My people are not suffering from AIDS, which is a racist plot to
exterminate black people. Fortunately, HIV does not cause AIDS [Mbeki],
so my people are safe. If we are poor, it is because of Western colonial
plunder and exploitation. So the West owes us -- big time; in fact, $777
trillion! That figure was adopted by the African World Reparations and
Repatriation Truth Commission in August 1999 in Accra, Ghana (the 1999
Accra Declaration)and signed by Dr Hamet Maulana and Mrs Debra Kofie,
co-chairpersons of the commission.
We are waiting for the cash.
President Musugu Babazonga.
Impressed? Said Nigerian student Akira Suni, "Almost without exception,
they (African leaders) are a big disgrace to humankind. Apart from
indulging in their usual foolish rhetoric, what have they done to
satisfy even the most basic needs of our people" (BBC News Talking
Point, April 16, 2001, www.bbc.uk.co). Added Guinea's opposition leader
Mamadou Ba of his country's head of state General Lansana Conte rather
laconically: "He wouldn't hurt a fly, but he has nothing upstairs" (The
News & Observer, 4 January 1998, 18A).
In fact, few modern African leaders have anything upstairs because
their brains have thoroughly been eaten by insects. So they can't think
properly. Even Africa's children can see through their fraudulent
antics. At the United Nations Children's Summit held in May 2002 in New
York, youngsters from Africa ripped into their leaders for failing to
improve their education and health. "You get loans that will be paid in
20 to 30 years and we have nothing to pay them with, because when you
get the money, you embezzle it, you eat it", said 12-year-old Joseph
Tamale from Uganda (BBC News, May 10, 2002).
Unbelievably, it is the World Bank, IMF, and Western donors who are
highly impressed by the crass rhetoric of the likes of President
Babazonga and trip over themselves to form "development partnership"
with him. When the presidents of Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and South
Africa traveled to Kananaski, Alberta (Canada) on June 26, 2002, to
present NEPAD to the G-8 Summit to beg for funds, Mercy Muigai, an
unemployed Kenyan woman, was not impressed:
AAll these people [African leaders and elites] do is talk, talk, talk.
Then if they do get any money from the wazungu [white men], they just
steal it for themselves. And what about us? We have no food. We have no
schools. We have no future. We are just left to die@ (The Washington
Times, June 28, 2002; p.A17).
Is there any hope?
The Coconut Cure
In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, there is a place called "the magic corner",
where all and sundry, including politicians, come to be relieved or
cured of their problems. "Even those top leaders of the government come
to that tree", said Shabuni Haruni, a private security guard. "Yes,
during the election" (The Washington Post, Nov 12, 2001; p. A21).
Upon the payment of a small fee, a traditional healer ("witch doctor")
would take a patient to a huge baobab tree, reputed to be the abode of
ancestral spirits. Patients remove their shoes, kneel in front of the
tree with their eyes closed. At one session described by The Washington
Post correspondent, Karl Vick,
Rykia Selengia, a traditional healer, passed a coconut around and around
the head of her kneeling client. The coconut went around the man's left
arm, then the right, then each leg. When she handed the coconut to the
client, Mussa Norris, he hurled it onto a stone. It shattered, releasing
his problems to the winds. (The Washington Post, Nov 12, 2001; p.A21).