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Africa's tortured relationship with corruption

Corruption Demo The African masses have expressed their displeasure at the rise in corruption on the continent

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 Source: Arthur Kennedy

It is a thing of evil beauty to watch.

African leaders repeatedly decry corruption and pledge to rid the continent of it.

Nearly every coup staged in Africa has been motivated in part by the desire to rid one country or another of corruption. Nearly every election in the last quarter century won in Africa has been won on an anti-corruption platform.

We have seen men of “probity and accountability ", men claiming to be "incorruptible ", men with brooms to sweep our governments clean--- and yet, corruption marches on. And in Africa, we don't steal trifles. We steal big. Have you heard of politicians stealing BILLIONS in other parts of the world?

According to the Economic Commission for Africa, between 1970 and 2008, Africa lost 800 billion USD in illicit transfers abroad. Furthermore, extractive industries lose 50 billion a year while up to 150 billion USD may be lost in toto. According to the Afrobarometer report 72% of Africans believe there is corruption in their Presidency. Only Botswanans had a majority giving their government a thumbs up in the fight against corruption.

Last week, our politicians innocently added some comedy to our corruption curse. President Buhari of Nigeria, speaking as the Guest of Honor at Ghana's independence celebration, pledged solemnly to help Ghanaians fight corruption! The next day, most Nigerians were in stitches at the idea that any Nigerian, let alone Buhari could help anyone fight corruption. They wondered whether their President had forgotten the adage, "charity begins at home".

Over in Ghana, Ghanaians were thinking of the proverb, "If a man called "Nakedness" promises you a piece of cloth, listen to his name".

President Buhari has been told pointedly by President Obasanjo that he has "corruption on his nose". Obasanjo, in turn, has been described as "the father of corruption in Nigeria". And South Africa just recalled Zuma from the Presidency, due mainly to corruption, headlined by "Nkandlagate".

So what will lift Africa from our SHITHOLEAN nadir to a "WAKANDAIAN" high in our fight against corruption?

First, we must accept the limits of naming anti-corruption CZARS.

The Nuhu Ribadus, Thuli Madonselas and Martin Amidus are great, honest and committed but they can only do so much. We must focus on preventive measures -- in the police, customs and excise, the courts and procurement agencies.

The policeman must have an automatic camera to record his dealings with the public.

The Port Authority must have cameras recording their dealings with the public.

Bidding for public procurement must be automated and every sole-sourced contract must be made public, except for national security reasons.

And every African country must have a "Freedom to Information” law that will grant access to government documents. This has done a lot for America and will help us.

And despite the "beyond aid" mantra, we need a lot of aid in fighting corruption.

First, Western countries can vigorously enforce the UN Convention against Corruption, the OECD convention against corruption and the numerous laws on their books against corruption. They can do this by naming bank account holders.

They can do this by repatriation of proceeds of corruption. They can do this by sanctioning the officials of MNCs and the African officials who corrupt or are corrupted by them.

If you doubt the power of the West to help, look at FIFA, Mabry and Johnson and GHACEM Cement. FIFA was happily luxuriating in corruption till it ticked off the United States. Since then, working with the Swiss, the Americans have taken down Blatter, Platinni and and over 30 top FIFA officials and FIFA is the cleanest it has ever been. Mabry and Johnson and GHACEM exposed corruption in the highest echelons of Ghana's government in the 1990's due to cases in Britain and Norway.

Despite all these measures, we need a spiritual transformation of our values to beat corruption.

We cannot have leaders who preach about probity and accountability or brag about their incorruptibility while presiding over corrupt governments. We cannot have judges who sentence poor goat stealers to long jail terms and then take goats as bribes with no consequences.

We cannot have civil servants who collude with businesses to loot public money and face no consequences. We cannot have preachers who preach integrity and accept corrupt money as harvest money and offering. We cannot fill the pews of our churches on Sundays and fill our days with corruption the rest of the week. Maybe, former President Rawling was right. We should let our public officials swear on the deities of their tribes to be honest on the pain of death. That way, Ghanaian officials will swear on Antoa, Tigare, etc, to be honest, in the name of God and the gods. And other countries officials will the same.

May God bless Africa.

Columnist: Arthur Kennedy
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