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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ghana 2012 elections: There can be politics without violence

The campaign must move away from the shallow politics that addresses none of the major problems facing the country to substantive and critical issues such as how do we connect the south of the country to the north by fast train network so that we do not have all our goods and passengers move by road thereby creating congestion and unnecessary fatal accidents. 
Language used by politicians and their agents must be civil, polite and full of respect and be devoid of the insults, tribal and ethnic rhetoric that has come to define the Ghanaian political landscape. Politicians must stop using abusive, inflammable language and avoid utterances that will not auger well for the wellbeing of the country. 
…The 2012 campaign must be based on policies
By Lord Aikins Adusei

The year 2012 will be another year for elections in Ghana. Leading candidates of the two main dominant parties i.e. the ruling National Democratic Congress and the opposition New Patriotic Parties are mobilising their supporters, issuing statements and making pronouncements. The President is alleged to have said that he would hand over the reign of government in 2017 prompting his critics and chiefly the opposition NPP to suggest that the President intends to stay in office irrespective of the outcome of the 2012 elections. The NDC on their part have argued that the NPP is willing and intends to use violence to achieve victory at all cost. They point to statement made by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo the flagbearer in which he is reported to have used the phrase “all die be die” suggesting that nothing but a win will calm him and his supporters. Nana Addo has been accused by his critics and opponents particularly the NDC and their supporters of playing the ethnic card by using the word “Akan” which is the name of Ghana's largest ethnic group.
The recent brouhaha surrounding the use of biometric voting and the NPP insistence that there cannot be biometric voting without verification has added another twist to the fuel being poured into the upcoming 2012 elections.
These accusations and counter accusations are a semblance of the suspicion, mistrust and election violence that characterise elections in Africa in particular and the developing world in general. However, violent as elections in Africa may have been, there is enough evidence that Ghana has been a nation which has defied the odds in Africa and has maintained a positive reputation and standard that her African contemporaries are struggling to match. It is this reputation as a stable, peaceful, violence-free democratic country that Ghanaians must be happy and be proud to protect in the 2012 elections.
Students of politics and indeed politicians know too well that in politics wining and losing are things of reality and Ghanaian politicians must begin to educate and prepare their supporters on these realities so as to offset any negative event(s) that will emanate as result of the elections. One message that must be made clear is that so far as the 2012 presidential election is concerned there can be only one winner. That winner could be President Mills, Nana Addo or any of the presidential candidates of PNC and CPP. Since there is going to be only one winner and several losers, whoever emerges as the winner should quickly show maturity and leadership and avoid statements that will be interpreted negatively by the losing candidates. The losers on their part must accept the outcome of the election as being the people's verdict, congratulate the winner and assure their supporters that there will be another opportunity in 2017. In short every effort must be made to prevent the 2012 elections from going the Ivorian or the Kenyan way. Indeed it is the view of the author that there can be politics without violence and Ghana must not burn because of candidates losing or wining elections.
Campaign based on Policies
Each of the parties must have a clear campaign message and tell Ghanaians why they want them to vote for them. That is the political parties must talk more about their policies both domestic and foreign and take time to explain these policies to the people. For example domestically it is extremely important that the parties let Ghanaians know what policies they have on these specific issues: internet access and telecommunication in rural areas; quality education for all Ghanaians; financing tertiary education; financing and providing quality healthcare for all Ghanaians; employment and skill training for the youth; water delivery in cities and villages; quality and affordable rural housing; and promoting industrialisation, research and development.
Other policy areas could be ensuring energy security for businesses and fighting energy poverty in Ghana i.e. reducing Ghanaians' dependence on firewood, charcoal, kerosene and candles and increasing access to modern energy facilities. Other policies could also focus on ensuring that Ghanaians fully benefit from the proceeds of the oil, and other minerals in the country; providing irrigation, tractors and machinery for farmers and to ensuring that goods produced will not be left in the bush for lack of good roads. Voters may want to know what the parties' policies will be on combating climate change and desertification; addressing the problem of Kayayo and child streetism; providing efficient, reliable rail transport network; revamping Ghana urban road transportation system; fighting corruption and keeping Ghanaians safe at all time.
The campaign must move away from the shallow politics that addresses none of the major problems facing the country to substantive and critical issues such as how do we connect the south of the country to the north by fast train network so that we do not have all our goods and passengers move by road thereby creating congestion and unnecessary fatal accidents. Thus the critical question political parties and Ghanaians must ask and answer is what do we do as a nation to come out from the economic quagmire, poverty and deprivation that we continue to find ourselves in and how do we solve our numerous problems. The question of what we must do and how we must do it must be central to the campaign. In short the focus of the campaign must be economic and political stability; peace and prosperity; unity and love; economic and social equality; national security; and protecting our national interest.
Faith in the Electoral System
All political parties must have faith in the electoral system, the Electoral Commission and its chairman Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan. Judging from their previous experience and performance in organizing elections there can be no doubt that Dr. Afari Gyan and his team members have what it takes to organise the elections. In the past the Commission has shown itself to be a credible institution that operates without favouritism. In fact throughout country, the Commission has come to symbolise independence, transparency, accountability, fair play, honesty, integrity, openness, objectivity and strong leadership and is idolised by many institutions in Ghana and Africa. This notwithstanding, it is important that the Commission continues to work hard to erode any misconception that it is favouring or might be favouring one political party against the other. All peace loving Ghanaians must continue to support the Commission to deliver a credible, free and fair election which will make all of us proud.
Language use
Each of the parties must assemble their best election strategists to craft messages that will catch the attention of voters. The campaign strategist and managers must develop and come up with policies that Ghanaians can identify themselves with. The party that sells well will win at the end of the day. The parties must commit themselves to run clean, free and fair campaign devoid of any acrimony. These would help to avoid the mayhem and destruction that characterised the elections in Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
Language used by politicians and their agents must be civil, polite and full of respect and be devoid of the insults, tribal and ethnic rhetoric that has come to define the Ghanaian political landscape. Politicians must stop using abusive, inflammable language and avoid utterances that will not auger well for the wellbeing of the country. They must use sound argument to criticize their opponent(s) without the usual insults. Political leaders must quickly condemn irresponsible statements that will put the peace and stability of the country in danger and bring the nation into international ridicule and disrepute.
Each of the political parties and NDC and NPP in particular must educate their members on how to conduct themselves during the elections. The parties must reign in their supporters; suspend wayward members and distance themselves from anyone who will soil their reputation.
Every soul we lose and every property we destroy will be a cost to our common identity as Ghanaians. Therefore, circumspection must be exercised by moderators of radio and television programmes. The Ghana Peace Council, the media, universities, National Union of Ghana Students, the Christian Council, Catholic Bishops' Conference, and other faith based groups, non-governmental organisations and the international community must play their role to ensure that Ghana will once again go through another successful election without violence. Ghana is a constitutionally governed country and anyone who tries to disturb the peace of the land must be dealt with according to the laws of the land. Therefore the police and the judiciary must be allowed to work independently without pressure from any quarters.
Every prosperous nation is built with the sweat of all its citizens and politics is just one of the wheels by which a prosperous nation is built. But the politics must not be violent before we can build a prosperous nation. Indeed the politics can be conducted without unnecessary violence, loss of life and destruction of properties. Ghana is our home and the only country we have and doing politics based on policies and not violence must be our primary aim and concern.
Lord Aikins Adusei is an activist and anti-corruption campaigner. He blogs at and can be contacted at

France: A vampire and a deposit box for Africa's looted funds?

Nicolas Sarkozy, French President
Nicolas Sarkozy, French President
 Thus when corrupt African dictators, public officials and top civil servants dishonestly empty the treasuries of their poor countries they find western allies who are willing and cooperative to hide the looted funds. ...The Bongos also showered French business elites with business contracts in Gabon, and as if that was not enough Omar Bongo also showered French politicians with financial gifts that only came to light after his death.

By Lord Aikins Adusei
On June 21st 2010 Ms. Christine Lagarde, former French Finance Minister and current IMF Chief and Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala,  Finance Minister of Nigeria and former World Bank Group's Managing Director wrote an article which was posted on Project Syndicate website captioned 'No Safe Havens for Dirty Money'. In their article they argued that tax havens, looted funds, bribery, and corruption hurt poor countries more and that the global financial crisis has served to show that there is little tolerance for people who cheat. To them both high income and particularly low income countries will benefit if everyone plays by the rules adding that 'Corruption – under any form or circumstance – is a cancer that cripples developed and developing economies alike. It undermines economic growth. It is a crime that produces particularly damaging consequences in the developing world'. “Everyone must play by the rules” in order to save the world from the current difficult economic and financial situation.
The people in low income countries, according to Lagarde and Okonjo-Iweala, want to see an end to the corrupt financial havens that allow corrupt officials to steal public money and stash it abroad. They submitted that the impunity for this type of global crime can no longer be tolerated: 'Abuse of public authority for private gain is not acceptable'. They added that there is the urgent need to foster openness and transparency in financial transactions and to ensure accountability at the global level.
In March 2010 Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington based anti corruption group published a report titled “Illicit Financial Flows from Africa: Hidden Resource for Development”. The report estimated that between 1970 and 2008 Africa lost about $854 billion through trade mispricing. The GFI report added that the figure of the illicit financial outflows could have gone as high as 1.8 trillion dollars if components such as mispricing of services and smuggling had been included.
Global Financial Integrity has argued that a large portion of this massive illicit money leaving Africa finds its way into Europe and North America through a network of opaque global financial system comprising tax havens, secrecy jurisdictions, disguised corporations, anonymous trust accounts, fake foundations, trade mispricing, and money laundering techniques. A key component of this huge illegal money transfers is the stealing of public money by corrupt officials. These public monies, usually proceeds from sale of natural resources, loans contracted from World Bank, IMF and grants are meant to help the poor countries fight and end human suffering, end poverty; put children in school; end energy poverty; build hospitals; provide potable water; promote food security and provide badly needed retroviral drugs to people living with HIV and AIDS.
The stolen monies are welcomed by the banks in Europe notably those in France, Switzerland, Britain,and Luxemburg. In most cases little or no due diligence is followed and most of the banks appear to advise and encourage their so called clients on how to invest their monies in order to avoid being detected. The Levin Report of 2010 prepared by a committe of the the US Senate revealed that Britain, Switzerland, United States and France are known to be major recipients of these stolen public monies from Africa. These rich countries have been seriously involved in shady deals with Africa's political elite who are amassing wealth at the expense of the welfare of their populations. The conditions of secrecy created in countries such as France, Switzerland, Britain and Luxemburg enable African leaders to steal with impunity and deposit their ill-gotten wealth in these jurisdictions. Thus when corrupt African dictators, public officials and top civil servants dishonestly empty the treasuries of their poor countries they find western allies who are willing and cooperative to hide the looted funds. 
The case of Alpine nation of Switzerland as a safe haven for Africa's looted funds is known worldwide. Switzerland has been described as a parasite feeding on poor African and Third World countries because for more than half a century it has 'built a reputation as the world's centre for tax evasion, fraud accounting, money laundering, racketeering and a staunch ally of corrupt third world leaders and a great beneficiary of third world corruption'. Over the last six decades or more various categories of persons including presidents, popes, prime ministers, corrupt dictators, wealthy business men, and drug dealers have all used and benefited from the banking secrecy laws of Switzerland'.
However, when it comes to France very little is known about how it has successfully milked African countries and created massive poverty in its former colonies. Very little is known because of the eagerness of the French media and the judiciary to protect illegal financial operations of French politicians and members of the business fraternity. The French media, the French prosecution office and the judiciary have all turned a blind eye to the adulterous relationship between French politicians and French business leaders on one hand and the political entities in Africa on the other. Since the 1960s France has connived, aided and abetted African leaders to plunder the treasuries of their countries for safe keeping in France and to buy luxurious properties in French cities thereby turning the former colonies into a miserable land of poverty.
This corrupt behaviour of the French establishment is what makes the article by Lagarde and Okonjo-Iweala on 'No Safe Havens for Dirty Money' is interesting. It is interesting in sense that while the content of the article and its conclusion are in the right direction it is also laden with hypocrisy, double standards and pretence on the part of the authors and the entities they represent. For example in their article Lagarde and Okonjo-Iweala praised France and the United States for pushing G-20 countries to adopt tougher financial regulation, and for promoting governance, and accountability aim at safeguarding the world's economy. However, while praising France Lagarde and Okonjo-Iweala failed to tell the world about how France has encouraged corruption and mismanegement in Africa and continues to do so despite the fact that such corrupt activities are hurting the poor in Africa.
Christine Lagarde for instance was the Minister of Finance in France and a key cabinet member in the President Nicolas Sarkozy's government. As a Finance Minister she was in a powerful position to fight corruption and bribery and end the practice where her country has become a safe haven for Africa's looted assets, but she and her government did nothing to stop France from becoming the deposit box of Africa's dirty money. French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised in 2006 to change the adulterous relationship between France and her former colonies in Africa so as to bring an end to the massive corruption and dictatorship sometimes engineered and supported by the French state, but almost four years after taking office he has done little if not nothing to follow through his campaign promise.
France continues to serve as a haven for looted African resources with the encouragement of French politicians, businessmen and banking officials. They continue to encourage corrupt African leaders to steal from their poor countries and hide their loot in French Banks. France continues to serve as a paradise for corrupt African leaders where they enjoy their loot after leaving office and the French authorities are quick and too willing to entertain them despite the growing call for France to take action against them.
France and the Bongos of Gabon
The most important discussion on how France has served as Africa's angel of death devouring African economies and turning rich resource countries into pariah states could be seen from Gabon. The late Omar Bongo of Gabon who ruled his country for 41 years was considered one of the corrupt African leaders and was known worldwide to have used his country's oil wealth to buy mansions and other properties in France and to buy political influence and favour from the French ruling class. In 2009 French police investigation uncovered a huge number of properties that were bought by Bongo and his family. In all 33 mansions and other luxurious properties were uncovered. One of the mansions a 21,528 sq ft is located at Rue de la Baume near to the Elysee Palace the home of the French presidency. According to the Sunday Times in UK, the investigation also uncovered nine other properties in Paris, four of which are on the exclusive Avenue Foch near the Arc de Triomphe. Bongo was also reported to have a further seven properties in Nice, including four villas, one of which has a swimming pool. The late Edith and wife of Omar Bongo, until her death still had two flats near the Eiffel Tower and another property in Nice.
Omar Bongo together with his family had 70 bank accounts in France from which several properties worth millions of dollars were bought from. Omar Bongo and his relatives also bought a fleet of limousines, including a £308,823 Maybach for Edith. Payment of some of the cars was directly taken from the treasury of Gabon. The Sunday Times in UK reported that until her death Edith had over 75 million dollars stashed in banks in French Monaco. The same Edith used a cheque drawn on an account owned by Gabon treasury to buy the £308,823 Maybach in February 2004. “Bongo's daughter Pascaline, 52, used a cheque from the same account for a part-payment of £29,497 towards a £60,000 Mercedes two years later. Bongo bought himself a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti F1 in October 2004 for £153,000, while his son Ali Bongo (now Gabon president) acquired a Ferrari 456 M GT in June 2001 for £156,000”. French police investigations indicate that this lifestyle of profligacy was supported by leading French banks.
The current President of Gabon Ali Bongo, son of Omar Bongo has continued the corrupt empire his father created with French politicians and the business elite. Canard Enchainé, a French satiric newspaper reported on the eve of the 2010 France-Afrique conference in Paris that Ali Bongo had purchased a hundred million euro property in Paris. The property located on the University street has been described as "one of the most beautiful" in the heart of Paris. Canard Enchainé noted that the building covers a space of 4,500 square metres with the garden covering 3,700 square metres. "The 100 million euros does not include other expenditure to be made for the renovation and maintenance work which could take a third of Gabon's GDP".
The sad thing is that major investigations uncovering huge financial irregularities in France on the part of the Bongos have been shelved. The investigations have been shelved because French authorities believe that if they move against the Bongos they (the Bongos) may retaliate by punishing French businesses in Gabon and deny them access to the lucrative oil deals. Till today not a penny of the millions of dollars of Gabonese money believed to have been stolen by Bongo and hiding in French banks has been returned. This is what brings the hypocrisy of French politicians like Lagarde out clearly. While shouting 'No safe havens for dirty money' at the same time they are keeping billions of such monies in their banks with no indication that they are ever going to return them.
One of the most notable quotes of Omar Bongo was: “Gabon without France is like a car with no driver. France without Gabon is like a car with no fuel”. That is how Bongo saw the corrupt relationship that existed between him and his international friends in France.
Apart from directly stealing money meant for the development of Gabon and stashing it in French banks with full knowledge and support of French elites, the Bongos also showered French business elites with business contracts in Gabon, and as if that was not enough Omar Bongo also showered French politicians with financial gifts that only came to light after his death. Bongo is believed to have used proceeds from his country's oil to finance the election campaign of a number of French politicians and then used those politicians to help him secure his dictatorship in Gabon and also to protect his stolen assets in France. According to Henry Samuel of the Telegraph newspaper in the UK, former French Presidents Jacque Chirac and François Mitterrand are among a host of French politicians who are alleged to have received illegal payments from Bongo. According to former French president Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, the late Omar Bongo spent years building up a very questionable financial network with politicians in France. This financial network deprived the people of Gabon access to the basic necessities of life including food, water, housing, electricity, health and education.
In 2001 Pierre Mario, former head of French intelligence acknowledged that Bongo used money stolen from his poverty stricken country to pay subsidies to French political parties and politicians. He noted that "the subsidies of Bongo serve everyone at the time of French elections and create a sort of backward colonialism". The irony of the situation is that while Omar Bongo saw nothing wrong with how he mismanaged Gabon oil revenue to enrich himself and his cronies, France also saw nothing wrong on how a president of its former colony squandered money on properties and on politicians in France.
To achieve their so called foreign policy objectives French politicians and business elite encouraged Bongo to amass wealth meant for the development of his country. France also used the entire arsenal available to her (including military and intelligence) to make sure her so called national interest was not threatened. France offered military, political and other support to Omar Bongo which effectively enabled him to remain a dominant figure for 42 years in Gabon. The French military base in Gabon for instance was not used only to protect the Bongos but was also used to gather intelligence which France used to effect regime change in her former colonies.
Thus despite his reputation as a corrupt dictator, French politicians routinely entertained and openly showered praises on Bongo for his enthusiastic support for French dubious policies towards Africa most importantly the encouragement of African tyrants to loot and deposit their dirty money in French banks.
Mike Jocktane former aide to Omar Bongo will on Thursday 24th November 2011 publish a book titled "The Scandal of the Ill-gotten Gains". The yet to be published book contains details of how Omar Bongo sent briefcases full of money to Nicolas Sarkozy to help his presidential bid in 2007. According to Mike Jocktane "Omar Bongo helped finance Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign” and provided him money after the 2007 elections. The financing of Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential campaign by Bongo underscores why Nicolas Sarkozy, current French President, made Gabon his first point of call in Africa apparently to thank Omar Bongo for his financial support. Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy described Bongo as a 'great and loyal friend of France' but he (Bongo) has been denounced for working for, himself, his family, France and local elites and not for Gabon and its poor people. Eva Joly, European Union Member of Parliament and a former French investigating magistrate who investigated the Elf corruption scandal has argued that Omar Bongo represented only himself and the interest of his associates in France and not the people of Gabon. “He (Bongo) was a president who didn't care about his citizens. He served France's interests and French politicians well. The oil boom did not benefit the Gabonese. It benefited us (French citizens). France has a great debt toward Gabon for having kept Bongo in power all these years”. According to Eva Joly despite an oil-led GDP per capita which was equivalent to that of Portugal's GDP, Gabon built only 5 km of freeway a year and still had one of the world's highest infant mortality rates by the time of his death in 2009.
France and other African dictators
However, it is not only the Bongos in Gabon who have used France as a safe haven for their ill gotten wealth and who are being protected by the French state. Paul Biya of Cameroon, Dos Santos of Angola, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic, Blaise Campore of Burkina Faso and Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea have made headlines in recent years for using France as a fortress for their corrupt dealings. For example Denis Sassou Nguesso, according to French police investigation has 24 properties, one hundred and twelve (112) bank accounts and fleet of cars in France. It is believed that these numerous bank accounts contain hundreds of millions of dollars of money siphoned from the coffers of his resource rich but economically impoverished country.
In 2011 French police seized 11 luxurious cars worth $5 million from the home of spoil-child Obiang Mangue son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator Obiang Nguema. The point is that there are so many stolen African assets hidden in France if when returned to the countries of origin could make some of them the richest countries on the planet.
Like Switzerland, France has carved a name for herself as a protector and supporter of corrupt African dictators and a beneficiary of their illicit activities. However, unlike Switzerland which has embarked on a journey of image rehabilitation by repatriating some of the money deposited in her crook banks, France has shown no interest in doing such a thing. The military support France usually provide her client dictators in Africa has not only promoted dictatorships, human rights abuse, conflicts and corruption but has also undermined democracy, good governance, rule of law, economic development, food security and poverty reduction. Thus France's obscure and deadly African policies have produced a situation where the people of Africa have been deprived of resources that could have enabled the citizens to enjoy good standard of living.
Through the actions of its military, the courts, politicians and business leaders, France indirectly and directly has encouraged dictators in Africa to loot the coffers of their poor countries and deposit the loot in French banks. French cities are washed with properties bought by corrupt African leaders using monies they have stolen from their impoverished countries. French political and business leaders consider these African leaders as friends and allies. The corrupt French political and business establishment annually throw lavish parties at the French presidency for their African friends while the corrupt African leaders reciprocate with banquets during which African resources are auctioned to French corporations without a price. France has been a willing accomplice to the day light robbery taking place in Gabon, Cameroon, Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali, Guinea, Chad, and many parts of French-speaking Africa and has become a deposit box for dirty money and assets stolen from the African people.
Therefore the chorus 'No Safe Havens for Dirty Money' being sung by Christine Lagarde of the IMF and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala must be played to French politicians, business elites, the banks, the property sector and the corporations, for charity they say begins at home.
By Lord Aikins Adusei
The author is a political activist and anti corruption campaigner

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Africa's military must be a force for stability, peace, prosperity and positive change

Captain Moussa Camara, chief of the ruling junta whose officers massacred 157 Guineans in September 2009           

A reflection of the role of the army in the past
The Arab Uprising in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as well as the recent deadly civil war in Ivory Coast has shown the paradoxes within the Africa military establishment. The uprising and wars have brought to the to fore how the military in Africa can be a force for peace, stability and prosperity and at the same time a force destabilization, chaos, mayhem and destruction. In Egypt the army won the respect of not only Egyptians but also the entire world when they refused to slaughter their countrymen in their thousands in support of the Mubarak dictatorship. They realised that it will be sensible for Hosni Mubarak and his sons to leave the throne of power rather than butcher thousands of their own people. In Libya and Ivory Coast on the other hand the army chose to side with the powers that be and subjected their own people to extreme brutalities.

When the military in Africa is critically examined not too many positive things can be associated with it.

The role of the military everywhere, Africa included, is to secure the democratic institutions and protect the territorial integrity of their nations and prevent outside predators from preying them.

Unfortunately in Africa the armies have ignored their traditional mandate of safeguarding the territorial integrity of their nations and have adopted positions that have been detrimental to Africa's development and progress. Like the German army that raped, tortured and killed six million Jews in the 1940s, the armies in Africa have been associated with extreme barbarity, massacre, rape, torture, genocide, summary executions, economic sabotage, infringement of civil liberty, dictatorship, corruption, pillage, force imprisonment, social havoc, brute force, political instability, usurpation of constitutions, reversal of democratic values including the overthrow of constitutionally elected governments. According to Patrick J. McGowan of the Arizona State University, between January 1956 and December 2001 the African military carried out more than 80 successful coups, another 108 failed coups, and 139 attempted and reported coup plots.

Civilians always bear the brunt of military excesses in Africa 

It is difficult to find a single country in Africa where the armed forces and the security institutions have not had excesses against the country and the civilian population. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, the militaries in Africa have become a destabilising force preventing Africa from catching up with the rest of the world. In South Africa and Namibia where apartheid was brutally and religiously enforced by the white minority governments, the armed forces were the enforcing power. The genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 which resulted in the death of some 800,000 people could not have taken place without the strategic involvement of the armed forces. The horrors of the Biafra war in which tens of thousands of Nigerians especially Igbos died was made possible by the incursion of the military into civilian rule.

Throughout the continent the military sees itself as alternative to civilian rule, a wrong notion that has had profound and devastated impact on Africa's development and progress.

Immediately after independence many of the armies in Africa joined forces with American and European intelligence agencies to forcefully overthrow governments that they were mandated to protect. Throughout the 1960s,1970s, 1980s and even 1990s the armies in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, DRC and Algeria among others took their countries hostage and reversed decades of economic, social and political progress. In Ghana despite the massive economic and social infrastructural projects carried out by Kwame Nkrumah's government the military connived with Western imperialists and abruptly stopped Nkrumah's effort to industrialise the country. In the process they helped to reverse the many successes that were chalked under Nkrumah's presidency. Ghana today is still struggling to attain a middle income status while her contemporaries like South Korea and Malaysia enjoy one of the best standards of living in the world.

Since Egypt became a republic in 1953 the army has been in power most of the time with Gen Hosni Mubarak in charge for 30 years until the people's revolution swept him aside in 2011. During his 30 year reign Egypt, its leadership and its institutions became more corrupt, and inequality between the people and the ruling elite and their cronies widened exponentially. In the early years of her independence the Egyptian army adhered to its original role and fought aggressively against British, French and Israeli invasion but after Mubarak came to power the army as they have done everywhere on the continent, increasingly turned its attention to its citizens treating them as if though they were an invasion force. Although there appears to be a revolution in Egypt that effectively ended the dictatorship of Mubarak, but a closer look at the country suggests that there has not been any revolution at all. The army headed by Field Marshal Tantawi, a longtime ally of Mubarak is still in charge and there are reports that the number of civilians tried in military courts has increased under the supposed revolution, which is a clear indication that the army's disregard for civil institutions and impunity is still in operation.

The Nigerian armed forces have done more harm than good to their country. The harm which begun in January 1966 ushered in a period of brutalities, assassinations, coups, counter coups, civil war, official corruption, human right violation, economic decline, and impunity that the country has still not recovered from. Dubbed Africa's sleeping giant because of her economic and political potential, Nigeria is often ridiculed in international circles and is now considered a failed state thanks to the role of its military. Since independence in 1960 there have been six major coups in the country with most of the country's 50 years of independence being ruled by corrupt military dictators. By metamorphosing and constituting itself into civil and political power and entrenching corruption and impunity the armed forces of Nigeria helped to lay the foundation for what has become a hopeless and desperate security situation in the country. Since oil was discovered, the armed forces have backed corrupt multinational corporations like Royal Shell that are destroying Nigeria's environment and endangering the livelihoods of millions of people in the Niger Delta region. The threat of the military taking over power was heightened when Omaru Yar'Dua died and even the current administration lives in fear of the armed forces as is indicated by a recent speech by Nigeria's vice President. In the speech he pleaded with the army to respect the constitution and remain loyal to the government.

Col Al Gaddafi of Libya toiled for 42 years to develop Libya into the Switzerland of Africa but used seven months to destroy what he painstakingly helped to build. Despite the good works he did in Africa he also supervised a government based on terror, fear, intimidation, torture, imprisonment, assassinations, terrorism and killings. In the spring of 2011 the Libyan army under the command of Gaddafi and his sons were in fact ready to slaughter their own citizens in order to maintain their grip on power until they were crashed by the rebels but not until 25,000 Libyans have been sacrificed. In Ivory Coast, Gen Robert Gay and Laurent Gbagbo both used the military to achieve their political ambitions and succeeded in plunging one of Africa's successful economies into civil war that killed about 3000 people and shattered the economic successes of the country.

The security forces in the Horn of Africa remain one of the feared armies on the continent. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isaiah Afeweki of Eritrea and their security architecture continue to engage in wars, kidnapping, assassination, torture and imprisonment of people critical of their regime. Many Eritreans and Ethiopians are freeing their countries in their thousands to escape the brutalities of the forces. In Cameroon the feared military unit called Jean Damme has been used by Paul Biya to intimidate and terrorise the civilian population rather than protecting them from the dictatorship of Biya.

Uganda's Iddi Amin and his henchmen seized power and begun deporting Asian business owners destroyed the country's economy. Museve's 25 year dictatorship has not helped to place the country on the path of economic prosperity, social cohesion and cultural advancement. In Ethiopia Mengistu and his army officers succeeded in turning the country into a country of hunger, famine and total destitution. The sad story of Somalia where a brutal civil war is still ongoing was the making of Siad Barre and his military dictatorship that begun in 1969 and ended in 1991.

The military in Togo and Guinea have had their faire share of the atrocities suffered by Africa and her citizens. The military in both countries have engaged in repression, massacre, corruption, and reversal of freedoms. In Guinea for example Lansana Conte and his bunch of military officers ruled the country as their personal fiefdom for more than two decades and succeeded in reducing the country to a beggar state despite being rich in gold, bauxite and other minerals. In September 2009 the Captain Moussa Camara military government that took over power when Lansana Conte died succeeded in shooting, stabbing, assaulting, raping women and massacring 157 innocent members of their own population. In Togo also Gen Eyadema retarded the country's development for 32 years until his death in 2005. The army quickly installed his son as his successor to ensure that the legacy of corruption of the father continues.

Gen Mobutu Sese Seku's Zaire (now DRC) suffered the same fate as any of the African countries mentioned above. Backed by his country's armed forces, the United States and her European allies, Gen Mobutu made poverty and corruption one of the entrenched symbols of his country. For 32 years he led the armed forces to turn their guns on Zairians killing as many as he could and stealing billions of dollars worth of DRC assets and stacking them in American and European banks. The DRC army has been accused of rape, extortion of money from civilians and killing them. The DRC armed forces are considered one of the most indisciplined armies in the whole of Africa. Since the late 1990s more than five million Congolese have perished in the hands of the military, the various rebel groups, and Rwanda and Uganda armed forces.

A soldier stripping a woman naked during the 2009 army massacre of 157 unarmed opposition protest

The brutal and dictatorial regimes of Blaise Campore of Burkina Faso, Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Dos Santos of Angola, Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic; their abysmal economic performance; and the inability of the people to raise their voice have been made possible through their alliance with the military who have been used as war dogs to pounce on the populace and deny them economic, political, social and cultural freedom. The so called strong men of Africa have been able to bring Africa to economic and political standstill because of their use of the armed forces and other security institutions to instill fear in the population. Today Africa remains the only continent where military dictatorship and dictatorial regimes backed by the army is still dominant. In other words the military in Africa have been largely a distracting force. In the name of national security which can be interpreted as regime protection these military governments implemented oppressive dictatorial laws that turned their own citizens into slaves without rights.

Surrounded by their kind these army officers like Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida, Hosni Mubarak, Gaddafi, Jerry Rawlings, Iddi Amin, were never and have never been concerned about the welfare of the people but rather their stomach and there is enough evidence to proof it. The evidence about how Africa has suffered in the hands of the military is clear when countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Libya are considered. From Sani Abacha who stole more than 3 billion dollars in five years, to Mobutu who bankrupt Zaire, to Hosni Mubarak whose ill-gotten wealth was pegged at 75 billion dollars, to Omar Bongo who stole Gabon's money to financed French political parties, to Obiang Nguema, Paul Biya, Blaise Campore, Denis Nguesso, Omar Bongo and Dos Santos accused by civil society organisations of corrupt, flamboyant and extravagance lifestyle the evidence of why Africa is a paralysed continent is clear.

Some of the periods in which the army took over power remain one of the darkest and wasted years in Africa's effort to fight illiteracy, poverty, hunger and diseases. In many of these military takeovers many businessmen and women lost their investments as businesses were confiscated, sold or given to their cronies. In countries like Ghana state owned businesses were sold to cronies and allies of the regime. In Nigeria for instance Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha among others succeeded in draining the country's coffers by using money meant for electricity, education, health, water, roads to buy expensive military machines for their own protection. Gaddafi for example bought several billions of dollars worth of weapons from France and the United Kingdom while cities such as Benghazi were crying for infrastructure.

In most of the countries like Ghana the armed forces have never fought external aggressor rather they have often been used as instrument through which external aggressors (particularly Belgium, Britain, France and United States) get their hold on Africa's resources and their people. The armies in Algeria, Gabon, Egypt, Rwanda, Tunisia and Uganda have been the main instrument through which countries like United States, France, Belgium, have achieved their foreign policy objectives in Africa. France for instance used her troops stationed in Gabon and Senegal to gather intelligence and used the armies in Africa to carry out more than 40 coups against the people of the continent. The billions of dollars that Egyptian armed forces receive from the US annually is the main reason why the armed forces protected the regime of Hosni Mubarak for 30 years because he was seen as useful weapon and counter force against Iran and Iraq.

From a closer look one can easily see why and how Africa (one of the resource endowed continent in the world) has been reduced to a beggar and a desperate hopeless continent. The Armed forces incursion into civil power destroyed economic progress that was made in the early periods of independence. Political, economic and social institutions were destroyed as the armed regimes implemented policies without thinking about their impact. The army backing of the dictatorial regimes such as those in Zimbabwe, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea and Angola has endangered Africa's economic growth as well as her social and political progress.

Wind of Change

There is no doubt Hosni Mubarak and his sons would have been in power and amassing wealth to the detriment of the Egyptian masses if the armed forces had chosen to back them. Unlike Libya where an estimated 25000 souls have perished, the refusal of the armed forces in Egypt to kill protesters at Tahir's Square helped to avoid a possible bloodbath. The armed forces' refusal is a sign of how the army can be a force for good, a force peace, stability and positive change. In Ghana the armed forces are seeking a different role that will not only contribute to improving the overall security situation but also the economic development of the nation. The armed forces in Ghana are considering entering into business ventures. This new concept is an indication of the positive thinking that is emerging in the African security command. These ambitions by the army should be nurtured as it has the potential of helping the armed forces to generate extra money outside the traditional sources. In Rwanda and Uganda the United States is helping the armed forces with training and reorganisation. Though many doubts the real intentions of the United States, it is hoped that such training will inculcate a sense of discipline and professionalism in the psyche of the army and help protect the countries from the instability that have come to defined them.


The 21st Century has come with new security challenges that demand new strategies and tactics. These challenges also demand an army which is well trained and well resourced to respond to the threats and challenges. The emergence of Boko Haram in Bauchi and Borno States in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia; the threats posed by pirates in West, East and Southern  Africa and its impact on the safety of international maritime transport all demands that the army in Africa undergo serious transformation and reorganisation to respond to these emerging threats.

Therefore many of the armies in Africa need  reforming to reflect their role in this 21st century and also to respond to the emerging security threats such as piracy and terrorism. Democratic values, human rights, and respect for contitutional order must be at the centre of any training offered to the men and women in uniform. This will help them to understand the need not to derail the wheel of democracy and economic progress being made in Africa. It will help them to be on the side of the people always and not back dictators and power hungry individuals who seek to perpetuate their rule through violence and intimidation.

Rather than seeing itself as an alternative to civil power, the army in Africa must work closely with other security agencies to protect the institutions of governance, democracy, civil liberty and rule of law. Therefore they must not allow themselves to be used by unscrupulous politicians to the detriment of the security and wellbeing of their countries. And they must adhere to their mandate as the protector of the territorial infrastructures of the countries and refrain from acts that destroy the very nations they are supposed to protect.   The military must do more to improve their relationship with the citizens of their respect countries. It is not in the interest of the army that they are feared rather than respected by the people. The 21st century global security arrangement demands that the armed forces become more professional, less power hungry and ready to protect the interest of their countries.Africa is bigger than any single individual and the armed forces must ensure that they will not be a bastion for insecurity, but rather a force for political stability, peace, prosperity and positive change.

By Lord Aikins Adusei