Africa has been betrayed. Freedom from colonial rule has evolved into ghastly tyranny, arbitrary rule, and denial of civil liberties, brutal suppression of dissent, and the wanton slaughter of peasants. (Ayittey, 1993: 10)
I have wondered why there are many institutions and centres focusing much on Africa especially in this 21st century. However, as I try to search for answers I come to the realization that Africa has a lot to study about. Indeed, Africa has problems and success stories too. More particularly, the problem I see about Africa is a leadership crisis. With the dawn of independence in many African countries the masses seem to have forgotten that leaders should come and go. As we were gripped by the pomp, fanfare and euphoria of independence we forgot to checkmate our fellow comrades who emerged as our ‘new leaders’. We enjoyed the long dance of freedom. We danced in the moonlight, we danced all day, and we danced in the rain. Little did we knew that our happiness will be short-lived. Little did we knew that we should appoint leaders who are responsive to our needs. Little did we knew that we should create strong independent institutions which are free from the manipulation and influence from the executive.
New Leaders in Africa:
They came to the podiums wearing suits and ties. That was the very moment we lost them. They offered well–crafted speeches whilst hammering the podiums (in emphasis). We chanted slogans, we broke into dance and song. We offered them a red carpet. Look what they did. They started by saying we are busy re-constructing what had been destroyed. This was meant to divert our attention. They went on a massive wealth accumulation spree. Then they started drinking coffee, mineral water and tea. They started appearing more Victorian and British in outlook. They started rolling expensive limousines, Mercedes Benz you name it. They started building expensive state of the art mansions in Paris, Switzerland, and across Africa. They started operating businesses. Soon their Swiss accounts became fatty overnight.
We all wondered whether these were ‘new leaders’ in Africa. What’s ‘new’ in them. To us they all remained the same if not worse than the system they replaced. What only happened was to remove white capitalism with black capitalism. They started controlling the means of production. They started mining diamonds, cobalt, gold, platinum, asbestos etc. They started operating industries. They started stealing and breaking what had been built during the colonial years. They started reading Walter Rodney’s book entitled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. They forgot to read the famous books by the Ghanaian author George B.N Ayittey entitled Africa Betrayed and Africa in Chaos. As they addressed the masses in the village they blamed all of Africa’s problems on colonialism and neo-colonialism.
They stood in the verandas and spoke in high tones that it was better to misgovern ourselves than be governed well by others. Sooner if not later, the reality dawned upon us that we were being taken for granted. Politicians proved to be the same. Bribery Index has risen with Zimbabwe being amongst one of the top African country which is deemed more corrupt according to Transparency International rankings as of 2012. We have all witnessed the fall in human development index (HDI) across the African countries from the Cape of Good Hope to the Nile River. Our freedoms have been stifled. The leaders have enacted more repressive and draconian pieces of legislation to curtail our freedoms. All these African leaders pretend to be illiterate; they seem to forget to read Amartya Sen’s must read book entitled Development as Freedom.
They pay us pittance, we work for starvation wages. When we fall sick, we fail to access Medicare due to high charges demanded by doctors in Africa. When ever an African leader falls sick s/he is rushed to Europe, Asia or to the USA.Were do they get the money to fly to such faraway countries, one may be forgiven for asking? Isn’t this taxpayers’ money. It is also worth quoting Steve Biko here, it is the poor people who have no hospitals and are therefore exposed to exorbitant charges by private doctors. It is the poor people who used untarred roads, have to walk long distances and therefore experience the greatest wear and tear on commodities like shoes. But it is the leaders who betray us. Each African country celebrated its day of independence with unbounded euphoria. Freedom at last! But not for long. That fresh breath of freedom from colonial rule was to prove ephemeral. ‘One man, one vote’ came to Africa only one time. (Ayittey, 1993: 100).
Cheetah Generation versus the Hippo Generation: Which Way Africa?
George Ayittey offers quite an interesting metaphor of cheetah generation on the one hand versus the hippo generation on the extreme end. What we need in Africa is the cheetah generation to borrow from his analogy. Cheetah generation is the young emerging African leaders
Who brook no nonsense about corruption, inefficiency, ineptitude, incompetence, or buffoonery? They understand and stress transparency, accountability, human rights, and good governance. They also know that many of their current leaders are hopelessly corrupt and that their governments are contumaciously dysfunctional and commit flagitious human rights violations. The Cheetahs do not look for excuses for government failure by wailing over the legacies of the slave trade, Western colonialism, imperialism, the World Bank or an unjust international economic system. (Ayittey)
These are the young leaders who aspire to take Africa to the proverbial Promised Land. The Hippo generation is the extreme opposite these are
Intellectually astigmatic and stuck in their muddy colonialist pedagogical patch. They can see with eagle-eyed clarity the injustices perpetrated by whites against blacks, but they are hopelessly blind to the more heinous injustices they perpetrate against their own black people. They care less if the whole country collapses around them, but are content as long as their pond is secure. And they would ferociously defend their territory since that is what provides them with their wealth. (Ayittey)
In the unfolding crises in Africa, many people are asking that is this what we fought for? African masses across the African political plateau are questioning the hardly won Independence, some are beginning to agree with Ngugi wa Thiong that African independence is independence with a Question mark. Many Africans including myself also still believe that what we earned was a mere flag and anthem independence. We have been betrayed and we continue to be betrayed during election time. Ayittey argues at length that Africa is suffering from a catastrophic leadership failure or monumental deficit of leadership.