New Partnership for African Development: An initiative that lacks integrity.
A. Ncube - 15 April 2002
Africa and Africans are finally facing up to the sad state of their continent
and seeking ways of convincing the world that they are now ready to do
something about it. Or are they? An initiative called the
New Partnerships for African Development (NEPAD), which spells out the
steps Africa will take to attract investment has been drawn up by the
leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria and is apparently ready for
presentation to the G-8 countries.
NEPAD outlines a number of steps that
Africans will have to take in order to solve the many problems that afflict
the continent today - problems of endless wars, mismanaged economies and
the poverty they produce. Underpinning NEPAD are the 3 principles
of Democracy, Human rights and Good governance- principles which are not
in existence in their entirety anywhere in Africa. Let us take a
closer look at the three countries championing NEPAD. Of the three,
Nigeria is an interesting case and what some would say is a perfect example
of everything wrong with Africa. It is a country on the brink of
civil war, has immense wealth but is unable to distribute it equally amongst
its citizens and cannot meet its own energy requirements yet supplies
10% of American oil imports.
Algeria's is a country in the grip of civil war and has a questionable
human rights record while South Africa is beginning to exhibit signs of
economic decline and struggling to live up to the expectations of
its black citizens.
Given this background, NEPAD would seem
a deeply flawed initiative because it contradicts itself. These
three countries, however well-intentioned their aims may be, come across
as wanting to be seen as doing something because they themselves are in
breach of the very same standards they are prescribing for others.
This therefore denies NEPAD the integrity it needs if it is to be taken
seriously by African leaders and the people whom they serve. What
chance has it got in the Western corridors power, where most of the funding
is expected to come from, will it be shot down even before it takes off?
I hope it does this time around because while I support NEPAD in principle,
the conditions for its implementation are not right for the reasons I
will spell out in this article. Before I do that, it is important
for you to separate the idea from the environment in which it will be
applied, as you'll see why.
The "African house" is in a mess, chaos
reigns supreme. Things must be done in an orderly fashion; order
therefore is a pre-requisite of any meaningful development agenda in Africa.
It is surprising that given this chaotic background, the founding leaders
of NEPAD did not engage the very people, ordinary Africans, whom they
say they want to help - they promise to engage them later on in the project,
presumably after they've secured the funds they need. As a result,
most Africans I meet have never heard of NEPAD and herein lies the first
major flaw. I doubt it even, that Joseph Kabila and others like
him will have heard of it. Surely the fiercest debates about NEPAD should
have taken place in African homes/communities first, with governments
collating citizens' views and making representations to a continental
body such as the African Union, for discussion and fine-tuning before
engaging with the West.
That ordinary Africans were not consulted about what NEPAD should seek
to do means that most of their leaders will give scant regard to the plan.
This total disregard for citizens' views
exposes NEPAD as an idealistic plan which worries itself more with abstract
notions of democracy and less with what the people of Africa really want
to see done about their plight. What the citizens of Africa need
are realistic assessments of their problems and the right action programmes
to deal with them - assessments of democracy, good government and human
rights they will carry out themselves (elections, referendums etc), action
programmes they will formulate and therefore be able to evaluate from
time to time.
Given these shortcomings, the founding
leaders of NEPAD should not be presenting this plan to the industrialised
countries of Europe and America just yet. Africa must first measure
up to the standards set in NEPAD, the starting point should be the restoration
of order in the continent. Sovereignty issues must be the basis
for an African revival because the absence or weakness of the nation state
in some parts of the continent continues to undermine all efforts by communities
and governments to forge ahead.
NEPAD should insist on African countries seeking and obtaining international
legal sovereignty i.e. the recognition of governments by the international
community. Countries like the [Democratic] Republic of Congo and
Somalia, where there is little or no central government at all, have no
access to international markets. In Zimbabwe, the government of
Robert Mugabe is not legally recognised by some countries and shunned
by others because of alleged electoral fraud. These countries cannot
hope to benefit from NEPAD unless they are brought back into the international
porous nature of African borders poses a serious threat to stability.
The instability of the Great Lakes Region is further exacerbated by the
collapse of borders, which has resulted in the uncontrollable mass movement
of people. This in turn has caused the total collapse of domestic
sovereignty in the countries concerned because local authority structures
have disappeared, making it impossible to regulate society. Lawlessness
and war lordism have replaced authority, looting and plunder being the
only thriving activities.
Of most importance is the need for NEPAD to empower governments to intervene
in countries where crimes against humanity are committed. While
international law does not allow leaders to interfere in the internal
affairs of another country, special mechanisms must be enshrined in NEPAD
so that intervention is allowed where deemed necessary. Knowledge
that other leaders will intervene will deter genocidal tendencies from
African leaders. If, however, abuses of power in Zimbabwe and the
impotence of other leaders in stopping them are anything to go by, NEPAD
is doomed to failure. South Africa and other so-called "superpowers"
of Africa lost an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the ideals
of NEPAD, prevaricating over Robert Mugabe's flagrant abuses of power
which continue to this day. It shouldn't be any wonder then that
NEPAD is met with cynicism in some quarters.
If intervention mechanisms can be enshrined in NEPAD, leaders will be
able to protect future African generations from slaughter. The culture
of genocide, which saw tens of thousands of Ndebele people murdered in
Zimbabwe in the 1980's, will have been banished. African leaders
must not be allowed to hide behind international law when abusing their
citizens, they must be open to external sources of authority, which in
the first instance, should be other African countries/institutions.
Courts of justice, for example, can be created and given full independence
to pursue perpetrators. International organisations such as the
UN should complement the efforts of African institutions, not supplant
One of the biggest ills that afflict
Africa today is war. Together with HIV/AIDS, it is the biggest threat
to social and economic development - it is encouraging that NEPAD acknowledges
this even though the South African president, a leading proponent of NEPAD,
dangerously intellectualises about HIV/AIDS while more and more of his
countrymen get infected everyday. His virtual denial of the existence
of HIV/AIDS is nothing short of genocide against the people of South Africa.
Most governments in Africa are involved
in wars of one kind or another. Wars of attrition, survival and
legitimacy litter Africa at the same time that new ones threaten to erupt
everyday. NEPAD should look at the causes of war, which ordinary
people can readily give, if it is to come up with a solution once and
for all. The tribal tradition which in some countries was abolished
by colonialists and replaced with Western models of government lies at
the root of most, if not all conflicts which rage on today. Post-independence
governments have failed to adapt to the Western systems they inherited,
choosing instead to revert back to tribal systems, which are often biased
in favour of the majority tribes.
The failure of African leaders to rise
above tribal politics is often cited as the main source of conflict between
governments and citizens. Marginalised communities throughout Africa
have at one point or another resorted to armed struggle as a way of asserting
their rights. Can NEPAD be honest enough to acknowledge that there
are countries where the unitary/central system of government has not worked
and is the source of conflicts. Can it be bold enough to recommend
other authority structures such as monarchies and/or federal systems if
they can be accepted as legitimate by the people concerned?
is a diagnosis of Africa very few people will disagree with.
Its authors need to address the question of legitimacy and integrity before
they can sell the initiative as African. This they can achieve
by giving their citizens a voice, allowing them to say for themselves
what they want their leaders to do as far as solving problems is concerned.
Only when NEPAD is endorsed by ordinary Africans, who will have been satisfied
that standards they will have set for their governments have been met,
that the "African house" has been restored to order, should the leaders
take the idea to the second phase - international support. Doing
it the other way round suggests that the founding leaders of NEPAD do
not believe that Africans can improve themselves without outside help.
All African people want is total and absolute enfranchisement in their
countries, the rest will follow on from that.