Monday, 24 February 2014

African Leaders’ homo-antagonism could be an indicator of mental disorder

This unhealthy obsession that some Africans have with genitalia and sex should be studied. In 2014 alone the number of vocal, verbally abusive, obnoxious and sexually graphic rants by some leaders on the continent led by non-other than H.E. Robert Mugabe himself makes one wonder if gay sex are really a matter of national and continental attention. 

First of all, they routinely speak verbosely about gay SEX. Yes, sex, not necessarily the human rights and privileges as citizens that gay people are entitled to already by law. The pervasive argument thus is that if one engages in SEX in a particular manner then that person should not enjoy constitutional rights. The idea that one’s right to life and freedom is hinged on who he or she has sex with can make any reasonable person’s head spin. But the fact that these leaders proceed to criminalize certain sexual orientations based on this illogical and unlawful preposition is quite simply a sign of severe mental illness.
Now, Robert Mugabe is 90 years old. His utterances could easily be construed to be the onset of senility. But we have much younger leaders spewing the very same sort of hate speech. Let’s be quite honest, there is no way to lawfully prosecute and incarcerate a person based on how they had sex. Where is the evidence, for starters?
So these countries that have chosen to criminalize “gayism” as they call it, have quite simply decided to conduct arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, illegal convictions, beatings and arrests on whomever they choose to do so, so long as they can simply label you “Gay.”
We have reached a point in this continent where it’s now a normal acceptable thing for politicians to get up and discuss publicly the sexual proclivities that they are fantasizing about. Its fantasy based analogies on the sexual exploits of gay people because of course the same people spewing hate speech against homosexuals claim that they are heterosexual. It’s a bizarre claim to make, seeing as nobody doubted or was curious about their sexuality nor was interested.
More revealing though is the underlying clear neurosis that these people have. According to Sigmund Freud “The genital stage” in psychoanalysis describes the final stage of human psychosexual development. Freud proposed that if a child experienced sexual frustration in relation to any psychosexual developmental stage, they would experience anxiety that persists into adulthood as a neurosis, a functional mental disorder. (Wikipedia)
This sort of neurosis is exhibited by frigidity, impotence, unsatisfactory relationships – and I think we should add here the tendency to publicly announce your own narrow minded infatuations with genitals and what grownups do in their bedrooms.
The ability to accept that other people’s sex lives have nothing entirely to do with him surely is not too much to ask from an adult. It isn’t too much to ask that Heads of State focus on state matters and not sex. We aren’t demanding too much by requesting that legislators concern themselves with policy that entrenches constitutional rights and not laws that criminalize sex positions or partnerships.
The truth is, the discussion on gay rights has automatically been sexualized and infantilized by leadership that is quite infantile themselves and sexually immature. It’s insulting to the entire continent by the way, to declare one’s utter lack of sexual maturity as “African”. A person who is so focused on genitalia and fantasizes publicly about sexual positions, partners and exploits is just mentally ill, and that mental illness is not an African Cultural trait.
It’s certainly offensive that pornographic utterances are allowed to be broadcasted as “news” simply because the “Newsmaker” is having a public mental fit. Some go into such graphic details that they even touch their own body parts while making these disgusting statements – surely!
Instead of allowing someone with deeply rooted insanity ascribe his delusions to our culture, why not seek medical help for these people? If “gayism” is unnatural, what then shall we call a person who speaks so profusely about it and in such an explicit manner?  Sub-natural is a word that comes to mind.
Not to be left behind, Maendeleo ya Wanaume held a public protest against gays and lesbians and demanded that the United Nations create an “International Anti-Gay” day. In case you are wondering who these people are, this is the same group of men’s right activists who go by the name “Men Against Women Empowerment” (MAWE) who claimed that men turn to bestial sex because women deny men conjugal rights. Thus, according to MAWE, a man will have sex with a chicken because no woman would sleep with him.  In case, they didn’t know, such an argument does not fly in a court of law. Theirs is the sort of reasoning that demeans and insults all men; that men are bestial to the point that they sleep with animals in the absence of women. It’s truly ironic then, that they find it an acceptable inevitability that a man can have sex with a chicken, but not with another consenting adult.

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia took it a step further. He described gay people as “vermin, mosquitoes.” In the attempt to dehumanize homosexuals, Jammeh reveals exactly what sort of inhuman leader he truly is. Each time people call for the rights of a minority to be removed, infringed or abused we speak more about the uncivilized nature of the larger society than anything else. If, citizens really want to decide by law what sort of sex should be legal then let us go to a referendum, complete with pictorial guides on what positions we should vote for. That way, the majority of the population can see for themselves exactly what sort of fantasies and infatuations their leadership indulges in at their expense.

Monday, 17 February 2014

AG’s response to petition dismisses survivors of sexual violence

It is no secret that rape and sexual violence were part of the 2008 Post Election Violence (PEV).
Widespread cases of rape, forcible circumcision and amputation of sexual organs pepper the contents of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) report better known as the Waki Commission.
In the findings from CIPEV, it is noted that the 900 cases of SGBV that were reported during the post-election violence were only the “tip of the iceberg.”
The hearing of petition 122/2013 began on 22nd January, 2014. It was filed by 8 individuals and 4 civil society organizations against the Attorney General and 5 other senior government officials for their failure to protect victims of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) during the post-election violence of 2007-08. The hearing of this case has been scheduled for March 25th, 2014.
The civil society organizations were the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), The Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), The Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya) and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Kenya). 
This constitutional petition was filed in February 20th, 2013, giving the AG and his fellow respondents more than a year to respond to the application. Two court orders requiring a reply have been given since the petition was filed, yet none of the 6 respondents  – The Attorney General, The Director of Public Prosecution, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, the Inspector General of the National Police, the Minister for Medical Services and The Minister for Public Health and Sanitation - filed a response for 11 months.
Civil society to bring the matter to public attention through the mass media and online efforts. The online campaign included a massive singular drive aimed at urging the Attorney General to respond to the petition, dubbed #SGBVjusticeKE.
We can say that the pressure worked, because on 22nd January, the AG and the DPP finally filed a response, a response that unfortunately was commensurate to erasing the existence of victims of SGBV and their concerns. The AG and DPP argue in their response that the petition is premised on generalities of exertions and does not specify factual happenings.
In addition, in his separate filing, the AG claims that many victims sought refuge and were offered protection, and those who needed medical attention were attended to. The DPP claims that the petitioners have never made any report to any police station and their names do not appear among the 381 sexual offences reported and investigated.
These responses are not only an erasure of the depth of suffering endured by the petitioners themselves, but are also a completely disingenuous attempt to sweep away the serious matter of SGBV violence as a systemic component of the post-election violence.
On the matter of cases of sexual violence reported to the police, the DPP himself has admitted that out of the mere 369 cases that they have looked at since 2008, just 163 were taken to court, and only 122 had been concluded by September 2013, resulting in 54 people being jailed over Sexual and Gender Based Violence.
This is a clear shortfall on the part of the DPP. The figures of cases he claims to have worked on are almost insignificant given the magnitude of the incidences from the PEV. In fact, to claim that the petitioners’ constitutional case is without merit and based on generalities is to deny the findings of the CIPEV report which indicates that over 900 cases were reported.
The AG and the DPP are yet to provide any sort of viable argument that can conclusively attest to the fact that the government indeed provided protection and medical care to the thousands of affected men, women and children who are survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence from 2008. Indeed, it appears that their stand is that if the person was injured, they must have gone to hospital or to the police, forgetting that many of the survivors of sexual violence were displaced persons forced to flee their homes.
Thus they could not directly access medical care and certainly did not have any sort of protection.
It is truly a reflection of the general dismissal that this government has chosen over the plight of thousands of victims of sexual violence from 2008; indeed in the last 7 years, this government has done absolutely nothing to assist survivors of SGBV in any humanitarian capacity. This sort of victim-erasure still goes on, and it is the reason that the constitutional petition by these brave 6 females and 2 males is so important, not just to those victims from 2008, but also to other victims of sexual violence.
Christine Alai, a human rights lawyer with Physicians for Human Rights is quite explicit in the obligations that are required of the Kenya government.
“Where does the buck stop? It stops with the State that is legally obligated to ensure that any of its citizens who face any form of crime has a right to a proper formal response. When we speak about sexual violence more particularly, the laws of our land, the Constitution, international, regional and human rights treaties that we have signed and committed to as a country, all obligate us as a country.” She said.
By his own admission, the sum total value of the 2012 task force DPP Keriako Tobiko initiated involving several agencies resulted in “4000 PEV cases that are un-prosecutable.” This was a finding that came about from the admission that most of the cases did not meet the threshold for prosecution because “there was not enough evidence or the investigations were botched.”
For too long, we have found that the attitude of this government and its prosecution and investigation agencies towards victims of sexual and gender based violence is that the victim must produce evidence that they were violated, rather than the state being obligated to investigate reported cases to the fullest extent and further prosecute perpetrators.
It is unacceptable; completely and utterly unacceptable that victims of sexual assault are abandoned in every sense by a government that is fully obligated by the supreme laws in the Kenya Constitution and further by the treaties and international laws and protocols of which Kenya is a party to. This attitude is indicative of the prevalence of rape culture and normalization of rape and sexual violence in the nation, stemming directly from the very law enforcement agencies mandated to protect citizens.
Shailja Patel adds that "not one single leader from ODM, now CORD or PNU now Jubilee, has ever apologized to the people of Kenya, to the women, girls, men; who were displaced, who were raped, who were tortured".
Barbara Mwamburi, a student and artist, defines the extent of the damage she endured as a survivor of sexual violence succinctly.
“We are not taking people seriously. It is viewed as a lesser crime because it’s like nothing was taken away from you. I feel anger; once that happens to you, you die a little inside, it’s like something that was inside of you was sucked away.”
It is clear that the DPP, and the Attorney-General by extension, should have reached a point of self-reflective truth; he cannot proceed on these cases from the 2008 post-election violence, but he is not at liberty nonetheless to lend a callous, insidious and inconsiderate response to constitutional petitions by survivors. The answer ‘No’ cannot, is not, and will never be acceptable from them.
Twitter@: bettywaitherero

Saturday, 15 February 2014

State response to Protests is Excessive

Boniface Mwangi may well be one of the bravest (or craziest) young Kenyan activists ever. According to his own admission, he has spent the last 5 years being an activist for social justice and the last two years organizing and leading protests on various issues with the government of the day. It’s strange then, that Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia and his cohorts have only just realized that this young father and husband is working to “topple the Jubilee government” through protest.
The assertion by the National Security Advisory Committee that the USA through USAID is “working to destabilize Kenya through activists” is just laughable, because if USAID is interested in destabilizing Kenya all they have to do is stop funding this ungrateful government.
It is certainly no secret that not only is the Kenya government funded heavily by the US and aid organizations such as USAID, but in addition several sectors receive direct support in order to remain functioning. This includes the very same government hospitals where those brutal policemen wanted to put Boniface Mwangi and his fellow protestors.
Come to think of it, one of the key issues being protested was that the Jubilee government promised to provide “free maternity care to women” which of course is yet to materialize in the greater part of marginalized and rural Kenya because there are no hospitals to begin with.
The number of projects this government undertakes in co-operation and with the support of western nations and aid organizations is staggering. From medical services, to agriculture, provision of water, sanitation, child health, education, vaccination, food aid, military and financial support Kenya is one country that has and continues to remain unable to fully fund its own activities, functions and services.
If you are living simply because someone else is pumping air into your body, the last thing you want to do is hold up your middle finger. Let’s agree on one thing; we cannot sustain this bloated ineffective and inefficient government filled with ghost workers in the civil service and vampires in the political arena all squabbling over the miserable taxes that the Kenyan population ekes out. According to the Commission on Revenue Allocation, the amount spent on development by this government is meager compared to their recurrent expenditure.
It’s not a secret that we have several funds missing – sorry, “unaccounted for” going up to a cool 300 billion ksh that the Auditor General highlighted last year.  A true patriot would hunt tooth and nail for the treacherous villains who siphoned such a staggering amount out of Kenya’s meager coffers.
Instead, we have this government sitting at the doors of envoys with begging bowls and then turning around and making politically divisive, needlessly acrimonious statements to the public while they blatantly attack unarmed peaceful citizens who were exercising their constitutional rights.
If we really have no need for the West as has been the cry of Jubilee politicians for the past 1 year, then why are we taking their money? Let’s feed our own people! Let’s educate our own children and build enough schools so that the laptops that Jubilee government promised have desks to be put on.
As for the ridiculous claims that we are now looking East and towards China, if the Standard Gauge Railway and its highly publicized and scandalous dealings are anything to go by, somewhere in China there are some people who have Kenyan names but Chinese citizenship. When someone decides to triple the cost of an entire railway line and pass on that cost to a third world developing nation where people are so poor that Americans have to pay for their food, those people have the clear intention to economically destabilize the entire country.
I am sure that the registered owners of “China Road and Bridge Construction Company” are very well known to the National Security Advisory Committee seeing as they were pitching for a project that would cut across Kenyan territory. I strongly suggest they look into the intentions behind this latest scandal, perhaps they may find that these are individuals who have been planning to destabilize the nation through tendering.
The kind of noise made over mere human rights activists, whose protest was so humble that it was dispersed in a matter of moments shows us just how heavy handed and immoral this government can be. If anything, one would expect that a “destabilizing” group would be large enough to give the police a running battle for a few hours, not just minutes. As for the weapons of choice, the heavily armed anti-riot police barely broke a sweat kicking foam babies and demonstration placards.
If that display of crudity was meant to show the brawn and control of the government and those who sent the police, all it did is ingrain into the psyche of the ordinary Kenyan just how barbaric and oppressive this nation has become, and what little respect is given to Article 37 of the constitution and human rights.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Can the International Crimes Division prosecute Kenya's PEV cases?

The ICD was to deal with mid and lower level perpetrators of crimes during election violence stemming back to 2008 and including crimes committed as far back as 1992 and 1997 election period, and its scope would inculcate the basic legal foundations of the International Criminal Court and the International Crimes Act.
Reverend Samuel Kobia expressed the recommendations adopted by the JSC concerning the establishment of the ICD as 6 key directives, the first and foremost being, “to ask the Chief Justice to establish an International Crimes Division in the High Court of Kenya to try both international and transnational crimes.”
It is with this very first recommendation that one should begin to challenge the legal principles behind the International Crimes Division. The challenge here is not that the division is to be set up by the Chief Justice, but that the JSC can give direction to an independent holder of a constitutional office such as the Chief Justice. Can the JSC order or direct the Chief Justice? In essence, the mandate and power of the JSC in setting up the ICD comes directly into question.
The second key recommendation underscores the overstepping of powers by the JSC : “to establish a way of facilitated independent prosecution unit to focus on international crimes”.
The proposal to set up an independent prosecution with a prosecutor not answerable to the Director of Public Prosecution is a clear indication of how once again, the JSC made a highly questionable recommendation, overstepping its powers in relation to prosecutions.
DPP Keriako Tobiko stated, “The proposal is at best a misnomer and at worst constitutionally misleading”.
The push by the JSC to form the ICD despite these dubious recommendations has been 2 years in the making, a push that can only be described as legally confusing at best and wholly political at its worst. Under the guise of complementarity, the ICD is a proposal that circumvents already existing structures in the judiciary that allow for prosecution and appeal processes.
Already, the JSC chose to ignore the retrospective principle of legality; a principle that states that a person cannot be tried for crimes which were not criminal offenses at the time the crimes were committed. Thus, to prosecute perpetrators of election violence from 1992 and 1997 under the international criminal act, or in line with the legal foundations of the ICC which itself did not exist at the time is a proposal to circumvent true justice for the sake of a political gain, which is to appear to be acting and prosecuting these crimes. Instead what should have been done is that the perpetrators of crimes should have been prosecuted for murders, rapes, assault and arson under existing legal structures in the penal code.
The claim that the ICD is supposed to entrench the principle of complementarity with the ICC is also quite dubious. In a side meeting at the ICC Assembly of State Parties (ASP) last year, Prof Alex Whiting clarifed the necessity of genuine efforts to prosecute at the national level in states.
“It is much easier for high, senior leaders to resist the work of the international court, to denigrate it, to slow down, to refuse to co-operate if there are no other prosecutions going on. Put otherwise, imagine in these countries if lower level and mid-level perpetrators were being prosecuted that would put an enormous pressure on the government to co-operate with the higher level accused,” he said.
In its report on the establishment of the International Crimes Division, the National Council for the Administration of Justice cautioned: “For the ICD to have credibility among Kenyan public and international community, it must be made clear right from the outset that it is not in any way meant to circumvent the ongoing trials of prominent Kenyans.”
When it comes to the probability of prosecution of cases from 2008, the DPP has made it quite clear that he cannot move further. In 2012 he set up a task force agency to review over 5000 pending post-election violence cases. Out of 5000 cases, only 1000 could proceed to trial and these are the cases currently being handled by the DPP, leaving nearly 4000 cases which lacked sufficient evidence or which were botched in the investigations conducted. Keriako Tobiko quite literally broke the hearts of thousands when he announced the truth behind this failure in prosecutions.
“The sad and painful truth therefore is that at present there are no cases arising out of the 2007/08 PEV that can be prosecuted before the ICD,” he said.
If cases from the 2007/08 PEV cannot be prosecuted at the International Crimes Division, one must ask then what is the true purpose of the ICD? Why is there need to have a special division to deal with transnational crimes such as money laundering when already there are sections of the Judicial process that deal with these crimes, from the magistrate’s level all the way to the High Court?
Some more disturbing facts arise when one considers the participation of the public in consultations concerning the establishment of the court. The JSC claims that they engaged the civil society in the consultation phase but this appears not to have been done in a competent manner.
“Recommendations made by the CSOs were not wholly considered in the final report of the Judicial Service Commission. For example, the scope of crimes to be handled by the ICD is too wide because it is seeking to try trans-national and international crimes as opposed to focusing on international crimes.” Edgar Kavulavu, programme officer ICJ-Kenya.
The sad reality is that rather than strengthening already existing processes and structures of the judiciary especially in prosecutions and investigations, the Judicial Service Commission decided to create a new division that will inherit the very same problems that the judiciary is already labouring with. What remedy is there for the victims and survivors of the post-election violence in 2008, when even the police who are accused of committing crimes are expected to investigate themselves?
It is sad to state, but the International Crimes Division and its proposed framework may indeed be a white elephant; it certainly cannot deliver justice in the 4000 PEV cases that are un-prosecutable.
A lot of time, money and effort has thus been put into what looks like just smoke and mirrors; a political stillborn whose intention was to create the appearance of complementarity while utilizing dubious methods to create the ICD.
For the victims, there is now dwindling hope for justice; their options are now limited to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation report, public interest litigation cases such as the one initiated by survivors of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and finally, to pray fervently, that the government can find a way to be ethnically neutral and dispense compensation to all those who are Internally Displaced in a fair and equitable manner.
As it is, just considering the possible outcome of these options is depressing. In this regard, the JSC should be held answerable to the Kenyan public on its actions concerning the International Crimes Division.

Draft letter to ICC was not adopted

Whereas the 22nd AU Summit in January remained focused in general on food security with repeated concerns over peace and security crisis in Mali, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo with little to no mention of Kenya on the floor of the General Assembly; in November the extraordinary AU Summit was like an excerpt from the film “The gods must be crazy.”
The sort of rage spewed forth in the extraordinary session of the AU in November would have made one truly believe that the AU was completely at war with the ICC.  Admittedly, the language used in the speeches was dripping with contempt, raw anger and vitriol. That event can be best described as the wailing stage in AU/ICC political drama. Perhaps the speech writers should consider psychotherapy to deal with their emotional issues.
 The 22nd Summit of AU session in January, however, was quite different in nuance and temperament. Despite the absence of focus on Kenya in the inaugural session, behind the scenes some truly interesting diplomatic antics were going on. Out of sheer irritation I am sure, officials at some embassies alluded to a last minute attempt to introduce a letter to the floor of the assembly. Irritation that was undeniable; for too long Kenya has had this “African” timing sort of approach to making requests; last minute, forcefully and haphazardly.
Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible to trace exactly who wrote this letter, so we can call it “the letter that government never wrote,” or as Njonjo Mue, Human Rights lawyer and expert on transitional justice calls it – The Un-Letter.
Seeing as the un-letter not only ruffled a few feathers but also irked entire countries, it’s important to scheme through its contents.
First of all the un-letter is purportedly from the AU “We the members of the African Union” and is addressed to the President of the ICC, Justice Sang Hyung Song. The drafters of this un-letter seem to be from the fraternity of psychologically challenged characters as those who penned the rabid speeches of certain Heads of State at the extraordinary AU assembly. For the record, a political body has no business whatsoever writing to judges. Judges simply try cases; they don’t deal with wailing political cry babies.
Secondly, the writer of the letter had the temerity to postulate arguments on behalf of the defense team of the accused directly to the president of the ICC. It’s obvious that if this writer indeed had reasonable or sound arguments the accused would have hired him/her as his lawyer. As it is, the sort of thinking presented in the un-letter proved beyond doubt that the writer is only competent enough to regurgitate legally unsound hypothesis based on political propaganda which they claimed were “astonishing breaches of basic principles of criminal courts in general and more specifically the ICC itself.”
I wonder how this person came to such a conclusion while at the same time not realizing that he should not be writing to a Judge. And that’s not all; the un-letter was filled with grammatical errors not to mention confusion when it comes to legal applications and jurisdiction of the Office of the Prosecutor and the International Criminal Court.
As if this hilarious document and its existence could not get any stranger, the moment it surfaces it is shared with the disclaimer that it is not a final copy nor was this letter adopted by the assembly. Along come some journalists, with all the defunct intelligence in the world and they publish this draft – the Un-Letter - claiming that this is the AU position!
I wonder what goes on in an editor’s mind when he comes across something so questionable and he doesn’t even pick up the phone to call to confirm the source and substance. What is even more amusing is that the media house in question did not even send a reporter to the AU summit.
Maybe this is a Kenyan thing, because the last time a similar badly constituted, legally unsound document filled with grammatical errors turned up, Kenya wrote a letter to the UNSC through its former permanent representative to the UN, Amb. Macharia Kamau, demanding that now that the accused are heads of government the UN terminate the cases at the ICC.
The fact that it was written through a representative who indeed should know the limits of the UNSC is telling of the Kenyan malaise. The UNSC of course ignored the letter because it cannot tell the ICC to terminate cases.
If our letter and speech writing is anything to go by, then it’s no wonder we are the brunt of disparaging jokes. I am sure the international community is just tickled pink anytime they open diplomatic mail from Kenya; Lord knows what sort of correspondence they receive. We keep writing to the wrong people and telling them strange things.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

An African Challenge to an African Solution

The African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are impressive. The sort of investment in infrastructure alone leaves one agape – the main building itself is one of the tallest skyscrapers in all of Addis. Yet the financial force behind these investments is yet another testimony to the reliance on foreign donors that is endemic to the continent. Much of the funds for the more modern buildings and resources did not come from member states rather it is countries like China, and through co-operations with EU states that have supplied these funds.
For too long the bureaucratic processes at the AU have been undermined by the political aspects of dealing with situations deemed as crisis. Because of the silence of the behind the scenes negotiations that are admittedly slow, we are prone to accusing the AU of not intervening in a timely fashion in security crisis situations such as the conflicts in Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have to admit that even I have fallen prey to the perception that the AU not only drags its feet in responding to such situations but indeed does not actually act until a western nation or the United Nation first intervenes.
But this is not the case; indeed in almost all of the current conflict situations, the AU had already initiated peace negotiations and had begun considering what measures it can undertake to stem the devastation being experienced by the peoples of these nations. Unfortunately, while the people are dying the African leaders are busy politicking and the more decisive western nations step in.
The problem remains the same when it comes to funding the AU and its member states. The immediate former chairperson of the AU commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma intimated in her recent address to the general assembly that “African states are rich but African people are poor.”
This is true – we are a continent of vast resources and riches, capable of not only providing more than adequately for our people but also capable of funding our own activities and initiatives. Yet African nations routinely find themselves facing west when looking for funds from “what we euphemistically call partnerships.”
Even as we grapple, 50 years on, with what we define as the sovereignty of African states, it is no small irony that we are not financially sovereign despite having so much natural wealth and indeed no shortage of African billionaires. It is a challenge to our sensibilities that not just the governments seem to be unable to sustain themselves but the civil society as well.
Donald Deya, C.E.O of Pan African Lawyers Union put it most succinctly. “The hypocrisy is comical; the African governments accuse the civil society of having 60% foreign donor funding while having 60% of their governments budgets coming from foreign funds.”
As we marked the first 50 years of the African Union, we acknowledged that certain aspects of the original ideals behind the formation of the African Union have indeed been met. 50 years ago, we wanted to end colonialism on the continent and 50 years later we have achieved that.
Still, the fact that even now we as a continent, in our different capacities as government and civilians are still turning for financial support to the west, is a most dampening truth. Why is it, that we still are unable to sustainably fund our own activities in our various sectors?
One suggestion put forth by members of the civil society in a discussion forum on the shrinking space for civil society organizations (CSOs) is that perhaps a redirection of funding for certain initiatives can assist. Take for example The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, an award by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to African heads of state or government who “deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents, and who democratically transfer power to their successor.” (Wikipedia)
This prize includes a 5 million USD initial payment and 200,000 USD each year for life and is believed to be the world’s largest, exceeding the 1.3 million USD Nobel peace prize. Yet since its inception only 3 African heads of state have received this award and none since 2011.
Firstly, this lack of awardees is telling of the dearth in good governance among Heads of State on the continent. Secondly, most African heads of state themselves are extremely wealthy; it’s really easy for them not to find the award any sort of incentive to leave power anyway!
The suggestion then is that the Mo Ibrahim foundation should re-direct the prize funds to the civil society or to the African Union and support endeavors by these institutions to promote peace and security, justice, human rights and economic and cultural development.
As a continent, we cannot look forward to the future while still expecting foreign funds to sustain us and yet at the same time impetuously claiming that we are sovereign and thus free from colonialism. It is a hypocritical stance and one that is telling of our own lack of commitment to Africa and its people. It is certainly up to us to seek an economic and financially viable and sustainable solution to this; and to commit ourselves to funding our own governments and the African Union so that we can stabilize.