Will this AFRILEAKS venture help solve governance problems in Africa?

Thu, 15 Jan 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Folks, when it comes to bold initiatives to break the back of seemingly impenetrable, invincible, and overly self-confident systems, there is no doubt that Julian Assange and his Wikileaks have done a lot to excite interest in "hidden truths", especially what lies in the diplomatic cables (gathered by the United States' covert intelligence operations).

So also have the revelations of Edward Snowden stunned the almighty US and proved to it that, after all, its “fortress” of covert manouevres in intelligence work is nothing but a house of cards. At the poke of finger, it could collapse with damaging consequences.

Now, there is a new kid on the block called "AFRILEAKS," a whistle-blowing Website that has been launched with the sole aim of exposing politicians and businessmen who abuse power in Africa. AFRILEAKS is the brainchild of media and campaign groups. But why focus on Africa and nowhere else, especially if the objectives of this venture are scrutinized?

As the BBC reported, "AfriLeaks will give people a chance to leak sensitive information anonymously.

The site's founders say it is an attempt to boost investigative journalism to expose widespread corruption and human rights abuses.

It will also help circumvent growing surveillance by governments and corporate firms, they say.

Afrileaks, made up of 19 media outlets and activist groups, says it is committed to "'speaking truth to power'".

They claim that anybody will be able to send them documents and select which of their member organisations should investigate any incident of malfeasance that is reported.

"We've designed a system that helps you to share these materials while protecting your own identity, so that it becomes impossible to identify you as the source of the leak."

Most of the 19 are newspapers and include South Africa's Mail & Guardian, Kenya's Daily Nation and Nigeria's Premium Times.

The Mail & Guardian says AfriLeaks is modelled along the lines of Europe's GlobaLeaks with the aim of making whistle-blowing safer. (See more at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30799807).


Here we go, folks. The floodgates are now wide open for those who have any "secret" about happenings on the continent by politicians and their backers in business to blurt it out for AFRILEAKS to investigate and blare to the whole world. Will AFRILEAKS be the solution to the problems that governance in Africa is known to be suffering from?

How will such disclosures help solve problems in the long run so governance can be improved? Do African leaders and their business partners really fear any disclosure of anything they do in secret? Will they bother about this AFRILEAKS whistle-blowing venture at all?

For us in Ghana, we may rush to welcome AFRILEAKS, clearly because of the failure or refusal of our Parliament to pass the right to information law. Now that AFRILEAKS will be available for just anybody with any information to contact it for investigation and exposure, will our Parliamentarians pass this law so people can use it to improve governance?

I foresee a mad rush and clandestine efforts by people who will quickly politicize issues and look for just anything with which to damage the interests of the ir opponents. This is where the emergence of AFRILEAKS will serve purposes other than what we may perceive. Anyhow, this initiative could be the bell to toll for those with ulterior motives for being in politics and business. But the repercussions for those "okro-mouths" may be severe, especially in our situation, where it is more than possible for those leaking information to be easily found out and dealt with. Does AFRILEAKS have any protective cover for such would-be "victims"?

By a long shot, AFRILEAKS seems not to be an African initiative and may need to do a lot more to be able to succeed in helping keep the politicians and their business partners on their mettle. Is AFRILEAKS the solution to our problems of (mis)governance? I don't know.

It seems that African leaders and their partners in business do things with impunity, damn the consequences. Apart from what they do on the quiet to expedite theft of public funds and orchestration of vindictiveness against those they consider to be thorns in their flesh, they don't seem to be hiding anything else from the world. Those of them who abuse their powers do so in broad daylight; others who indulge in profligacy don't hide anything---and even extend it to their wives, who show off openly and establish their own pockets of authority to become potentates.

What else is there to hide from the public that AFRILEAKS will now help us know? We have heard of damaging allegations of some leaders siphoning off public funds to be stashed in Swiss Banks or doing many other dubious things to the disadvantage of their countries. Will AFRILEAKS help us know the truth? If so, good; otherwise, what is new to come from its quarters?

Take all the African leaders, for instance. What is Ghana's John Mahama doing in secret that anybody can reveal to AFRILEAKS to bring him down? How about Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe or South Sudan's Salva Kiir?

We wait to see what happens, though; and we will support this initiative if it helps us clean the stables. That is why those behind this AFRILEAKS venture must not wear blinkers to see only what they want to see to serve their own narrow political purposes. We will support this venture if only it will help us solve problems and not become the avenue for doing the hatchet job for political malcontents using their lackeys in officialdom and the media.

The fact that AFRILEAKS is not a purely African venture raises some initial issues, but we will hold our breath to see how the situation pans out.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.