By: Kwaku A. Danso
I have not had the fortune to visit the Ivory Coast even though I have some friends from that nation who tell of how nice their capital city and nation used to be. However, the turmoil and disintegration that has taken place in the once-stable business darling of West Africa since 2002 may be described by a dance to cover the pain of living in some of our nations. In these nations, rising to the top has not been through use of the highest ethical and intellectual cognizance and goodwill for nation. Westerners seem to support any buffoon, if we are to borrow some words from Ghanaian native Prof. George Ayittey of the American University in Washington, DC. Our rationale for choosing leaders has been flawed and often for shallow reasons, including even actual cash bribes received by Chiefs and delegates of political parties, as Ghanaian elections has experienced without much publicity.
Writing on the Ivory Coast elections, writer Lauren Gelfand said:
“To trace the deterioration of Côte d'Ivoire from 2002, when a civil war pitted north against south, through Oct. 31, 2010, when ballots were cast in a presidential election five years overdue, one only needs to look at the dance trends that came and went during that time in the nightclubs, living rooms and village squares around the nation”.
(Gelfand, 2010, Oct.3. http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/6930/c-te-divoire-elections-avoiding-a-danse-macabre)
We Africans can dance, and even smile as we do often to cover our innate generational problems of closed-minded non-competitiveness in our parts of the world. However, where is the intellectual team work to plan and executive changes and a framework to avoid future pain in our societies! Why should our nations’ Constitutions be drafted by a few to suit their purpose, and not the long term interests of the society! Why should amendments and changes take so long and seem to lack the will of leadership! Why should our people sit idle and let a few have all the cake! Or is it because we lack even a core team of good, honest selfless people with love for nationhood!
It’s good to know about other peoples’ problems and issues in order not to make the same mistakes. As a native Ghanaian proverb goes, if you see your neighbor’s beard on fire, you get a bowl of water close to yours.
I think a few core problems with the post-Independent African nations were:
1. The lack of adequate intellectual and cognitive skilled team effort to craft our laws and rules, performance and enforcement mechanisms to make democracy work as effectively as it has worked in places like America. (A close examination of the founders of America show this team of dedicated intellectuals and core principled people with love for nation).
2. A cultural lack of will by leadership to enforce the few laws we have, and where absent, enactment of new ones.
3. A cultural lack of distance from, and empathy with the nation-state enforcing laws, but rather a media and citizenry support for the underdog criminals who need to face punishment and jail or even death sentence to set an example for others to follow and reinforce our cultural values and democratic principles.
If you examine Ghana and other nations of Africa, you see that overall leaders feel they can do whatever they want, including purchases, travelling and expenditures irrespective of the budget and the national revenue. The leaders, even the ones considered “good”, seem to lack planning, and want to remain in power and even overrule established laws. The old monarch-of-all-I-survey Kingship mentality seems to exist in Africa. Rules and laws do not seem to make much difference to leaders, and this has been so since the early times in the 1960s, including even our beloved Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Busia of Ghana and Houphouet Boigny of Ivory Coast, as well as the known described dictators like Eyadema, Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin.
What is the solution? I think where there are a few African leaders who consider themselves as caring and “good” for their nations, the African Union (formerly OAU) should be used as a platform to set standards of acceptable leadership behavior or code of ethics for members, and a strict vote and removal from membership of all leaders who violate these rules and codes. Where possible, violators such as those who choose to over-turn election results, whose governments refuse to have elections at the set times, whose governments imprison journalists and others in open contradiction of established modern international civil rights laws, or those who come to power through Coup d’etat, should be isolated, sanctioned, and removed from any free-trade among Africans, and where possible a military intervention to restore order.
It is time we Africans stopped the dance and the fake smiles, and faced our destinies with courage. We must refuse to allow uncivilized selfish behavior among some of our leaders taint the reputation of all our people, our African continent, and our race across the globe as a people on this earth. Our people have suffered enough due to the disgraceful behavior of a few. The AU and all of us as a people should make every effort to study other races and nations, emulate standards of good behavior, learn strategies others have used to survive and compete globally, and decide to compete as opposed to looking up to others for our survival! We owe it to our children and those behind!
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso (Writing from Livermore, California)
President - Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) & Moderator-GLU Forum
East Legon-Accra, Ghana & Livermore, California, USA