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The Curse of Bad Governances and Rampant Corruption in Africa

The Curse of Bad Governances and Rampant Corruption in Africa

Why Africa, a continent blessed abundantly with natural resources and excessive value of human capital is yet to find its rightful place in world politics? Africa is very rich with natural possessions such as fertile soil, enough rain and sunshine for cultivation, raw materials, oil, gas, gold and many other major resources, but corruption and bad governances are the major reasons for the visible miserable poverty, unmanageable sufferings and deaths on the continent.

Where Does The Liberian Media Stands?

The continent oil's high quality makes it relatively inexpensive to refine; but most Africans are seeing little benefit from this influx of oil drillers and investment; in fact they are often hurt by exports of their countries' oil and other riches.

For instance, between 1970 and 1990, countries without oil saw their economies grow five times faster than those of countries with high quality of oil. A classic example is Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, these two neighboring countries with abundant of oil and riches are rated among the poorly nations. This is directly due to abuse of riches by the corrupt elites, politicians and foreign capitalists.

Nowadays, bad leadership and rampant corruption are killing Africa’s progress while the greater number of the continent’s population lives on less than one United States dollar a day.

The population in most cases is suppressed by their leaders, the autocratic means that keep these corrupt political bureaucrats in the hands of power. But two important groups that have the influence to change the situation for the best are the media and civil society institutions. It is in this regards that the aim of this research paper is to analyze how a robust media and civil society are the ways to enhance democratic governance on the continent

A robust mass media and a vigorous active civil society are two important ingredients in a strong and healthy democracy that can curtail corruption from the society even without the political backbones. Without free media and an active civil society, there is space for enormous and unchecked political power leading to corruption and anti-democratic behavior by government officials.

This review presents evidence to suggest that independent media play a critical role in improving governance and reducing corruption, increasing economic efficiency and stability, and creating positive social and environmental change.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon to the African continent and its huge populations, it has been eating up every sphere of the continent especially corruption prone states in Africa; not to mention ours which is 169- year old. This unethical practice has grown even larger to an extent it is not only hampering development and growth on the continent but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it.

Unlike other continents, in Africa corruption is being fought or dealt with through rhetoric-with judges and law enforcement personnel being opened to bribery to compromise cases, even when there is a strong and visible evidence and fact; this fight on the continent doesn’t come with sincerity, commitment and loyalty.

Corruption appears to be the daily practice across majority of the African countries as it widely carry out and visible in the system, it is also eating up the fabric of other sectors including political institutions, schools, civil society organizations, Banks, the media, police, national and international NGOs, commercial drivers, business sector, sporting groups, churches and mosques, and banking institutions.

In this article, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, South Sudan, Kenya and Equatorial Guinean and Liberia are being used as a case study for several reasons. In the case of Liberia the oldest African Republic, the second Black Country in the world to declare its independence and first on the continent to elect a female President, first to produce a female President of the World Parliament (United Nations General Assembly) and the only African state to produce World Best Footballer.

On the flop side, Liberia is the only state of the 193 UN Member States that uses two unconnectedly national currencies and the United States Dollar concomitantly.   

History tells us that no matter how great a nation is, if the citizens of the nation and other nations began to lose faith in their leaders, that government or leadership could eventually fail as others around the world have in the past. No matter what the leadership’s moral or ethical makeup is, without the regime willing to address the welfare of its people and demonstrate good governance values, the government will collapse.

It’s hardly possible to accept that Africa either Liberia is poor; the continent is abundantly rich but why the continent is clustered at or near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index. Poverty can have a devastating effect, such as lack of food, improper health care; homelessness and lack of jobs all play a role in the effects of poverty, but top of these is the curse of bad governances, abused of national wealth  and widespread corruption. 

In this research article, my focus will be on two issues which I am convened are responsible for the backwardness of states on the African continent, compared to the rest of the other continents. A recorded number of people die each day on the African continent due purposely to extreme poverty.

According to several findings from various studies, 14% of children in Sub Saharan African countries alone are estimated to be underweight, out of 28% of children who are underweight in all poorer nations of the world (Sotho, Why Africa is Poor, June 20, 2006.).

Majority of the crises across the African continent are direct result of the struggles for oil wealth or opposition against exclusion from resources and bad governances. The continent experienced dozen of vicious wars in several countries including the Nigeria’s Biafra war, the rebels’ war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formally Zaire), Angola, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopian-Eritrea war, Rwanda war between the Hutu and the Tutsi, Senegal-Casamance Region, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Northern and Southern Sudan’s war, Kenya post election violence, Libyan, and now Mali, just to name few.

All these wars were direct results of abused of state resources and national wealth, bad governances, corruption, class system and abused of state power and authority by handful of African leaders and foreign capitalists.

This is clear from the well-known Niger Delta crisis where the struggle by the ethnic minorities for autonomy and resource control has assumed insurgent proportions with frequent attacks on oil and government interests by well-armed militias. Apart from the militias, transnational networks trading in illegal bunkering and small arms are also involved in the struggles for oil in the Niger Delta.

The present resource-rich African states and political elite may not be able to use the increased revenues from the sale of oil to transform their economies or societies, and would more likely enrich themselves and their patrimonial networks, or seek to entrench themselves in power through forceful means.

In many of Africa's most oil-rich countries, such as Nigeria, Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea, oil, instead of being a blessing for the population, it becomes to some extend curse and produces corruption as an endemic debacle, as oil discovery in Africa automatically leads to corruption menace which gives birth to doom and gloom-driven poverty.

Africa is the world's poorest inhabited continent and though parts of the continent have made significant gains over the last few years, of the 175 countries reviewed in the United Nations' Human Development Report 2003,  twenty-five African states and state territories ranked lowest amongst the countries of the world. 

Poor performance is a general concern in Africa, and is mostly explained by the persistence of inefficient markets, corruption, poor institutions, low government intervention as well as insecure property rights. The major cause for the failures of the African continent on the global stage can be attributed to lack of socioeconomic development, bad leadership and rampant corruption.

A research conducted over the past decade in 49 of the 53 countries on the continent, African leaders have miserably failed to convert freedom from colonial power to the popular beliefs of democracy and liberty. They have been unsuccessful in building capacities for the people to engage in meaningful economic and social development.

Whenever power is handed over to an African leader either through a democratic process or autocratic means, he individual takes advantage of the people by enriching themselves and family while a greater number of the population continues to live in abject poverty.

Let me quote the words of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia: "Africa is not poor; it is poorly managed”. She made the statement in August 2009 during her interview with the BBC. Corruption is hurting African governments and private sectors with Liberia being no exception as the President 2009 statement is appeared to be hunting her administration.

There has been public outcry over reported widespread corruption in the three branches of government with the national Legislature and Judicial branches at the top of the index of corruption in the Liberian society.

Despite stringent anti-corruption laws and permanent commissions to curb it in Liberia, corruption reigns supreme in both public and private sectors with it to some proportion being tolerated without concert action against the perpetrators, with the fight against corruption being selective, other perpetrators are dismissed and sent to course while other remain untouchable and glorify, the Liberian population also shared part of this situation.

Corruption in government is at all-time high; it is on everyone’s lips in the country while the President has persistently acknowledged the existing of corruption, describing it name as “public enemy and vampire”, This undefeated virus is negatively impacting Sieleaf’s administration despite of numerous gains both domestically and internationally by her government which enters its final last 12 years of governance.

It is obvious that cases of corruption with sufficient proofs are compromised as a result of strong political connection, ties or alleged bribery since courts and judges are vulnerable to bribes and all forms of inducements despite the huge monthly salary and other benefits that attend their respective portfolios. Some of judges and law enforcement personnel especially court officers and police are money-driven and integrity-drained.

As a result of this, corrupt practices becomes 'not guilty' even though there are available facts to prove otherwise. The weak and corrupt legal system of Liberia is providing a fertile ground for corruption and if rapid interventions are not made to overhaul our judiciary sector, corruption will forever remain a major enemy to reckon with.

Corruption is the main reason for crises across the continents including the Arab revolution which started in Tunisia to Syria while corruption  was the reason for the April 12, 1980 bloody coup of which President William R. Tolbert’s government was overthrown, followed by the public execution of the 13 high ranking officials. The execution, many believe was a direct result of the 14-year bloodbath in the country which claimed approximately 250,000 lives and destroyed billion dollars’ worth of properties and displaced over a quarter million Liberians.

The local media on a large scale regularly betrothed into biased reporting by treating some candidates with favor, while the rest are not given free media access to present their cases to the people. As a matter of fact, let look at the recent past, the fracture of the media was such that affluent candidates bought some media houses while others have established theirs to directly propagate their political agenda outside conventional and ethical media practices (2012 BBC report).

On the continent, poor governance has led to poor economic growth and it is manifested through corruption, political instability, ineffective rule of laws and institutions. Some African countries went through governance failures and corruption at some point in time, but their governance capacity made them recover and ensure the maintenance of rapid growth performance through constant demands to improve government and reduce corruption

In many African countries, corruption takes place as a rule based for decisions. That is, public officials influence the economic decision in detriment of the entire society. This results in inefficiency and high transaction costs as well as distortion of transparent and normal market operations and thus, creating insecurity for investors.  Corruption takes place when public officials break the laws to fulfill their own interests. The most common types of corruption are bribery and extortion as well as the allocation of public resources to favor political benefits. 

The Legislature or Parliament, which should play a major role in eliminating corruption and encourages good governance, is one of the most corrupt public institutions that is corrupt and creates bad laws and passed substandard concession agreements. African countries have a weak tax base and the policy makers lack integrity thus, facilitating corruption.

Secondly, members of the legislature are not independent in the discharge of their functions; most time remotely controlled by the Presidents or heads of state. This ugly practice is visible from one state to another on the continent.

The majority of democratically elected African leaders embody dictatorships and further more dictate policies which are just match with their own private and not the public interests. The consequence of such kind of leadership leads the African people to sectarian conflicts and creates political instability in their countries.

In most cases, the African leaders try to run their respective countries by copying the modern western state systems at domestic level and neglect the tradition and culture of their own people.

This is visible from one state to another, from region to region on the continent.  The leadership in most African countries is centralized, thus, the local government does not have the power and authority to take any decision, development in most cases is imposed on the rural dwellers by these urban political corrupt bureaucrats. Such bad governance therefore hinders efficiency and the capacity of the local administrations.

Another consequence of rampant corruption on the continent leads to African children not having access to quality education which should have afford them to gain knowledge and skills, to equip them to have better ideas and opportunities for employment.

Other correlated problems as well, for example, lack of skills and strong policies, and that is low economic performance with high inflation,( Affrey Sachs, Can world poverty’s end, updated on April 20, 2005 in UK.

The ruling class in Africa many a times pleads ignorance of the fact that they are in power in order to be of service to the citizens and not vice versa; they exploit their positions to put as much public money as they can in their pockets and even get away with it! Unfortunately, most African countries have come to recognize corruption as a normal occurrence and often see it as a means to an end.

For instance, the Transparency International approximates that corruption in Africa robs us 25 to 35 percent of financial support for the essential service provision, in addition, many research studies and publications on corruption in African countries by corrupt  elites and bureaucrats have proven that African leaders extract billions every year from their economically weak countries.

It is obvious that cases of corruption with sufficient proofs are compromised as a result of strong political connection, ties or alleged bribery since courts and judges are vulnerable to bribes and all forms of inducements despite the huge monthly salary and other benefits that attend their respective portfolios. .Some of judges and law enforcement personnel especially court officers and police are money-driven and integrity-drained. As a result of this, corrupt practices becomes 'not guilty' even though there are available facts to prove otherwise. 

The weak and corrupt legal system in Africa is providing a fertile ground for corruption and if rapid interventions are not made to overhaul our judiciary sector across the continent, corruption will forever remain a major enemy to defeat. This unethical practice has grown even larger to an extent it is not only hampering development on the continent but it is also hunting men and women of honesty and integrity who have made it their lifetime duty to blow loud whistles against it.

In 1999 the United Nations approximated that the ruling elites drained more than 250 United States Billion Dollars out of Africa each year in their private over sea back accounts. But it remains unknown where these corrupt political bureaucrats invest their ill-gotten gains and wealth stolen from their ailing economic.

Empirical studies show that Africa continues to be poor because politics is considered an easy ticket to prosperity, to add to that the leadership has no continuity agenda and opt for dying in office, being some of the richest people in the world amidst the most poverty-stricken citizens in the world.

Studies further show that Africa's corruption index is a manifestation of its leadership and institutional failure after gaining it freedom from colonialists essentially because of misuse of power mediocre management of economies, corruption, and the absence of true democracy, personal wealth are what our leaders today embrace.

Conflicts and crises such as civil strife have affected governance in Africa as well as the establishment of sustainable growth performance. According to research, in sub-Saharan Africa between 1950 and 2016 there were about 97 successful coups, over 120 failed coup attempts, and 153 reported coup plots; Africa constitutes the greater numbers of this statistical reports, with the most recent successful coup in Burkina Fasso. 

All these coups and attempted coups or rebellions were direct results of abused of state resources and national wealth, bad governances, corruption, class system and abused of state power and authority by handful of African leaders, cronies and foreign capitalists, as in more instances, coups seem to be linked with civil wars.

Africa is rated as the continent experienced the most frequent coup d’états around the world. In contemporary Africa, out of the current 54 States there are so far only ten that have not experienced a successful or failed military coup.

They are Southern Sudan, Swaziland, South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Djibouti, Malawi,Namibia, and Mauritius. All country in West Africa experienced coups; the region has the highest numbers of successful and failed coup. The reviews of coups or rebellions in Africa

Although some countries have recovered from civil wars, good governance remains a challenge. This includes boosting national capacity to avoid crises in governance, maintaining good internal relationship and peace building, as well as reinforcement of issues regarding national security reducing and crime (World Bank 2005).

Although the leadership issue is considered as one of the major problems in the world, but its horrible condition in many African states made their political situation quite instable. Most of the African governors are busy with their own business and hand in hand of foreigners are draining the public resources out in favor of their overseas partners.

A free and independent media supply timely and relevant information to citizens, allowing them to change their own behavior and to demand higher social standards for society.

The media in some countries, especially the ones in which the leaders feared the media, for example, will not exercise the same influence as those in democratic societies, the ones in which the media enjoys its responsibilities and function as a free press. Even among similar types of government, other factors, such as technology, the target audience and the message, may influence the extent of media impact on the society.

Society is influenced by media in so many ways. It is the media for the masses that helps them to get information about a lot of things and also to form opinions and make judgments regarding various issues! It is the media, which keeps the people updated and informed about what is happening around them and the world. In a consolidated democracy, both the media and civil society need one another.

There cannot be an active civil society without a free media. The two always have to complement one another in order for democracy to flourish. “The presence of free press brings public corruption cases to the voters while voters in a democracy, in turn punish corrupt politicians by ousting them from public offices.

The media provide information to the actors throughout society allowing them to participate in the decisions and debates that shape their lives. The media also play in important monitoring role in a democracy that enables citizens to hold their governments and elected officials accountable—leading to better policies and service implementation.

When one speaks about democratic governance, the reference is to the citizens' right to increase participation and initiative in government policy-making, giving citizens the power to check the government and thus make elected officials and civil servants accountable. Civil society groups such as Non-Government Organizations, political and social foundations, diverse interest-based movements help to create an atmosphere of consensus and dialogue, thus consolidating democracy.

The free media has its important role in all this since it enables dialogue to take place and make government more accountable as well as bridging the gap between government officials and the citizens. The media set the public agenda and act as the gatekeeper of public issues. They perform the watchdog role, especially in political transparency and fight against bad governance, including corruption, abuse of state wealth, human rights and constitutional violations, dictatorial and autocratic governance by public officials and suppression of civil liberties. 

All modern developed countries move to a new, modern state functions at the growing demands of the population to the quality of life of the society and the transition to a new stage of development - an information society.

The media in some countries, especially the ones in which the leaders feared the media, for example, will not exercise the same influence as those in democratic societies, the ones in which the media enjoys its responsibilities and function as a free press. Even among similar types of government, other factors, such as technology, the target audience and the message, may influence the extent of media impact on the society.

The modern type of society imposes significantly higher demands on the reproduction and development of human capital, which, in turn, distributes the usual functions of the state from the traditional to the modern side.

These modern functions are associated with the policy of the state in areas such as education, health, social security, basic science; the media plays a critical role in championing these essential human needs. The purpose of the media is to inform people about current, new affairs and to tell about the latest gossip and fashion.

It tells about the people who are geographically divided. As the fourth estate, the media provide the checks and balances in relation to the three branches of government, as created by the Constitution. The real influence of the media in national development will depend on the media themselves, the societies in which they operate, and the audience they reach. None of these factors are the same everywhere, at all times, or under all conditions.

From the 1950s to 2000s, Africa has experienced lots of assassinations either by coups d'etat or by civil naughty including political detentions, thus depriving Africa of the men and women who would perhaps have built a better future. Each assassination, each coup d'etat, each civil disobedient and each political exile dealt a blow to Africa.

All these ugly activities are direct results of bad governances perhaps under the influences of foreign capitalists to plunge the continent into perpetual crises to enable the foreign powers indirectly loot Africa rich oil and other riches.

The various corruption prone states on the continent must act to truly promote a responsible society of integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency.  The fight against this virus can never be won through unfilled words but through concrete actions, there is multiplicity of genuine corruption cases lingering from one state to another without prosecution as corrupt bureaucrats move about freely.  When will the possibility occur to curtail or defeat corruption from the continent?

Josephus Moses Gray, Contributing Writer
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