ANALYSE : Africa politics: between life-long rulers and timid democratic movements
In the biggest ever gathering of world leaders in 2000 in the its Headquarters, the United Nations launched the Millennium Development Goals, a political blueprint and momentum for addressing basic development-related issues. Barely a year later, at their Doha Ministerial Conference, the World Trade Organization trade ministers launched the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations. Concurring late Pope John Paul II, there has been a consensus on the fact that there can be no development without adequate democratic culture and practice. Yet Sub-Saharan Africa continues to display both mitigated and chaotic pictures.
The changing and advancing Africa...
The deadly and chaotic pictures of the pitched battle between a coalition of rebel forces and Idris Déby-led Chadian loyal armed forces, which satellite broadcastings poured on the world during weekend 2-4 February, evidenced once more the precariousness in which many African regimes are lagging and reminded the nightmarish days of early 70s. Improvements have unquestionably been made on African political and business landscapes. Some illustrations can be drawn from basic pillars of economic developments and prerequisites of political stability which are good governance and sound economic policies. Firstly, the nightmarish and traumatising pictures of atrocities, figures of two hundred thousands casualties of Sierra Leone civil war have been substituted by a lull and successful organisation of fair and free elections which led to change in September 2007. Secondly, Benin, the former laboratory of tropical Marxism has since stepped into a development-friendly dynamic. Three successful stories of democratically conducted presidential elections have culminated into a democratic regime and more political stability. The latest election of 2006 found Yaya Boni, a development banker presiding over the destinies of the West African country. Thirdly, Ghana's ruling party, notwithstanding a positive economic balance sheet of two presidential mandates, decided to choose a new candidate for the 2008 presidential race. After two terms of office, John Kufuor has abided by the Grundnorm's limitation of mandate.
On the other hand, Mozambique and Liberia (see African countries economic record on the World bank site www.worldbank.org/Africa) after decades of civil war have organised elections which led to democratic leaders. Alike, they adopted economic policies and implemented reforms which are yielding results critical for the softening of their post-conflict transition period. Whiles Liberia through relentless efforts has succeeded to clear her arrears due to the World Bank which makes it eligible for the HIPC and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) programmes, Mozambique has designed an economic development agenda centred around infrastructures upgrading and setting which lead to economic growth and improvement in livelihoods. These examples are strong evidence of political maturity of some countries. They constitute prima facie political guarantees of a desire to instil sound economic policies and enhanced stability which bolster domestic and foreign investors confidence.
Finally, the decision of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to vest their leadership to Jacob Zuma which implies that the ongoing president, Thabo Mbeki in South Africa, cannot seek another presidential mandate. South Africa has an impressive record on international and diplomatic issues. It is the leading economy in the whole of SSA. Its companies have become international (multinationals) and are gaining consistent shares in the ongoing privatisation process and market access for manufactured goods and high value added technological industries within the continent. Notwithstanding the grassroots of the party has not renewed her confidence on Thabo Mbeki, certainly, his position on AIDS pandemic deepened racial divide and inequalities, unemployment rate among the black communities and his overall economic liberal policy have not contented the majority of ANC membership. However, accepting the people's choice entails the impossibility to seek another presidential term in 2009 is a sign of political maturity.
In the meantime, the two leaders, Mbeki and Zuma, have been seen in public meetings; notwithstanding their legitimate political ambition, they are working together for the ultimate interest of South African people. Their attitude has prompted analysts and commentators to foresee a guarantee of a peaceful transfer of power, another manifestation of the solid foundation and vivacity of the country's democratic culture.
The lagging Africa...
At the other end, on the eve of 2008, two important events, in addition to the current stalemate in Chad that bears tremendous incidences on the macro-economic, political, legal and regional business environment, can be singled out to picture, portray and summarise the over all paradox of political and economic pattern and evolvement of SSA. The 2007 presidential elections in Kenya and the resulting politico-ethnic incidences and the end of year speech of the Cameroonian president Paul Biya where he reaffirmed desire to amend the constitutional limitation of the presidential terms of office. The peculiarity of these domestic issues lies in the fact that these countries are sub-regional locomotives, therefore their stability or otherwise bears far reaching consequences on their neighbouring countries and the sub-regions.
The disputed re-elections of the Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki and the wave of politico-ethnic violence which touched off thereafter would have been considered as an epiphenomenon had Kenya not been the economic lung of the Eastern African community. The smouldering scenes which reigned in Kenya in January and early days of February 2008 found their inner roots in the rejection of a constitutional reform in 2005. Beyond the demonstration of an obvious ethnic cleavage and the quest for political leadership, this unprecedented wave of violence puts in bare an economic policy principally based on statistics and figures, without the necessary creation of wealth, nor an equitable redistribution of the fruits of economic growth so extolled by political leaders and international financial institutions. Development experts are unanimous in agreeing that development policy which undermines endogenous factors and fail to lead to creation of job in order the curb the unemployment rate is doomed to failure. A lack of political and economic vision of a small group therefore crumbles away almost two decades of a democratic process and an economic development which was hitherto considered as a model of sub-regional stability. At the rebound, it also compromises economic reforms undertaken by neighbouring countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, etc. Kenya's skirmishes shall have far reaching and dramatic ripple economic, humanitarian and political effects in the Great Lakes region. The country is surrounded by countries which are recovering from severe political stalemates such as Sudan, Rwanda and the DRC. At the same time, part or whole of their territories are landlocked so that they rely on Kenya's port of Mombassa for their transit activities. Therefore, their economies, the humanitarian and force keepers rely on a stable situation to carry out their activities. Whatever the tailored-made and unique solution or deal Kofi Annan-led mediation team can reach at, the country in less than two months of turbulences has suffered incredible losses and at end of the day, there will no winner, instead, the poor Kenyan citizens shall consent more sacrifices.
On the other hand, the end of the year address of the Cameroonian president Paul Biya headed with his wish to amend a provision of the Fundamental Law to lift the veil linked to the limitation of the presidential mandate and run the 2011 election. On a purely constitutional law perspective, and Hans Kelsen's legal positivist doctrine of the Grundnorm which should be complied with, it would be wholly legal, upon an ex-ante fulfilment of basic conditions required for such an exercise, that a grooming, better still an overhaul of the Constitution is envisaged. Nevertheless, it appears that the president of the leading country in the CEMAC zone in contemplating the modification of a disposition, article 6.2 of the Constitution, just to raise the buckler relating to the limitation of the presidential mandate. However it is 12 years old and the bulk of institutions envisaged such as the Constitutional Court, the Senate, the decentralisation of power, etc., are yet to be implemented.
More than a decade after the passing of law n°96/06 of 18 January 1996, instead of promulgating the expected decree of application, the president chose to commit another related to the Organisation and Functioning of the National Council for the Decentralisation and the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Local Services. By the meetings, seminars and workshops are held, amidst empty rhetoric to decide on their effective functioning, another decade may elapse.
Moreover, although the country withstood drastic human sacrifices to meet with the conditionality of international financial institutions and attain the Highly Indebted and Poor Country's accomplishment point (HIPI), the fruits of the accompanying programmes and initiatives are yet to be a reality. In addition to the devaluation of the CFA francs in 1994, civil servants and State agents underwent a two-third cut, their retribution including some in tax, transit and customs administration still pursuant to the Inter-professional Minimum wage (SMIG), i.e. less than $100 a month. Worse still, in the absence of official statistics on unemployment rate, unofficial figures estimate that up to 60% of the population is jobless or underemployed.
In the absence of some basic prerequisites relating inter alia to the possibility of the democratic alternation, pawns of a political stability, an adequate remuneration of civil servants and State agents, guarantee of the improvement of living standard and instigation of more respectability, probity and mitigation of the risk of accepting grafts practices, and curbing the unemployment rate, institutional, regulatory, economic and structural reforms undertaken in key areas of which trade facilitation is part cannot undoubtedly, be successful nor bear any fruit.
Most CPDM officials have been voicing that they are choreographing a careful dance with the grassroots and the diasporas, each avoiding to step on the other's toes. By March or so, the CPDM-led comfortable majority at the Palais de Verres of Ngoa Ekele will be validating the presidential desire. The emulations of the MPs have been increased. Who do they represent really? Millions of university graduates whose only dream for a brighter future is... for those who can afford it, immigration and for the less fortunate of them suicide because of unemployment? Or is the defence of miserable civil servants discernable in their daily action? Finally, what dot hey and the president know about the worries gripping Cameroonian : energy supply stalemate, skyrocketing foodstuffs and fuel prices, rising unemployment rate among youth, dizzy rise of urban and rural crime, to name a few.
Everybody knows the importance of marketing and communication nowadays. Certainly, Mr. Biya knows is better. However, among the knowledgeable Cameroon youth both within and out of the national triangle, none deserved to take care of such crucial mission than a communication mushroom in Paris. A way of confirming that Cameroonians and taxpayers are good to produce wealth, but others are better to enjoy and take care of.
And Cameroon's diasporas?
Undoubtedly, Cameroon's diasporas constitute the whiff of oxygen and the valve which save the country of an ineluctable suffocation. However, they enjoy no legal status within the decision-making arena; therefore they can only operate through informal channels. Mr Biya has, on occasions, praised the creativity, abnegation, sense of fatherland and know-how of Cameroonian youth, including those who live or work out of the national triangle. It is no mystery that they are skilful and knowledgeable. They possess a multifaceted and multidimensional expertise, yet they are not incorporated into any political debate or development endeavour nationwide.
The seemingly pessimistic situation in some African countries should not overshadow the great achievement and performance in the larger part of the continent. Some countries are both landlocked and resource less. Other do not comply with major standards of democracy. Yet, their political stability and overall development policies have enabled them to derive great dividends in terms of foreign direct investments, official direct assistance, etc. Burkina Faso, Mali, to name a few, have evidenced to the face of the world, that will limited financial resources, political willingness and a certain degree of participatory initiative can lay groundwork for infrastructures creation and updating, job creation and ipso facto poverty alleviation. There is room for hope, and whilst the international community shall be reacting, there should some caution so as to avoid throwing the baby with the bathwater altogether.
Copyright : © 2008 Victor KEUBOU. Tous droits réservés.
Mode officiel de citation : Victor KEUBOU, «Africa politics: between life-long rulers and timid democratic movements », Multipol, février 2008, <http://www.multipol.org>.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.