Thursday, 2 June 2011

POVERTY: The AU has failed to rid the continent of poverty scourge

  28 May 2011  Evarist Kagaruki

May 25, the African Union (AU) – formerly Organisation of African Unity (OAU) - marked its 48th anniversary. This was yet another occasion for the people of Africa to reflect and examine whether the organisation has lived up to the ideals and vision set by the founding fathers when it was established in1963.
The continental body was founded amidst great fanfare, exuberant joy and high expectations, as a vehicle for the liberation, political unification and economic emancipation of Africa.
The first mission has long been accomplished, except in one part of the continent, Western Sahara, which is still under Moroccan occupation.
But the organisation’s indictment on unification and economic liberation is that it has been a great disappointment. With the transformation of the OAU into AU more than a decade ago, many thought things would change. Sadly, they have not!
Africa is still in a very serious development crisis, gripped by social, economic and political nightmares. It is trapped in the cycle of degrading poverty, underdevelopment, indebtedness, civil conflicts and the HIV/Aids pandemic.
The African masses are getting more frustrated and angry, as they sink further into the vortex of poverty and see the gap between them and the rich (who include their elected leaders) continue to widen.
The word “independence” for them has become almost meaningless, referred to only in discussions, when nostalgically reflecting on the historical experiences of the (sometimes bloody) protracted struggles against colonialism that culminated in political freedom.
What is perhaps most distressful to most Africans is that almost everything that has worked in the other continents did not work in their own continent!
Compared to other developing regions of the world such as Asia and Latin America, Africa is the least industrialised region with the worst disintegration of the productive and infrastructural facilities.
And it is the only one that can’t feed itself although it has the natural resource capacity and agricultural potential that could enable it not only to be self-sufficient in food, but also have excess for export.
Without aid from the benevolent donors and the assistance of NGOs, many African states would collapse. Which is to say, in the absence of outside help Africa’s future is extremely bleak. Our leaders still blame colonialism for most of the continent’s predicaments, although we are not the only region to have been colonised by Europeans.
But, despite all these troubles, Africa is a continent of billionaire leaders who are not ashamed of being in-charge of debt-ridden, beggar countries and impoverished citizens!
In the course of the five decades of independence, Africans have become aware of this rather unsettling contradiction and the fact that their collective energies toward securing sustainable socio-economic development have been squandered by a succession of bad leadership.
Bad leadership has been manifested by, inter alia: over-dependence on aid for development and the lack of creative thinking to put the continent on the path of self-reliance; irresponsible and insensitive leadership; mismanagement and nepotism; repression and denial of basic human rights; lack of people-participation in the policy making process; and lack of accountability and corruption.
African governments, by and large, suffer from these chronic maladies. Africa has tried the Western-type of democracy without success.
This is mainly because leaders agreed to adopt the system half-heartedly after being forced by the changing world circumstances.
If you just look at the way most African states conduct elections today, the absence of functioning democratic institutions, and the ruthless handling of the Opposition by those in power, for example, you clearly see that there is little hope for genuine democracy and progress in Africa.
The question of organising credible elections is particularly critical to development since the problems of poverty and underdevelopment can’t be effectively tackled when there is in place a fraudulently derived leadership.
Unfortunately, what we have in most of Africa today are leaders and governments that emerged through a fraudulent electoral process.
These are the members who make up the “AU Club” - people who cannot be expected to spearhead the struggle for the second liberation, which is economic independence, because they do not have the interest of their people at heart.

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