Democracy And The African Opportunists
By Paul Japheth Sunwabe
February 21, 2002
When the ideological struggle between totalitarian communism and democratic capitalism ended in 1991, democratization took center stage and the international system shifted towards the advancement of democracy as the only viable alternative to dictatorship and other oppressive forms of governments. Since then, democratization has reached a crescendo in Asia, Latin and Central America and in African states such as, the Republics of South Africa, Mali, Benin and Ghana. However, the democratization process has been very slow, or absent in the vast majority of African states. The evanescent presence of democracy in Africa coupled with the continent’s burgeoning civil wars is quite alarming, and African democratic activists now believe that Africa is speedily reverting to totalitarianism and the deleterious politics of exclusion. While it would be premature to concur that Africa is reverting to total tyranny, the recent Zambian Presidential and Parliamentary elections denote that African opposition leaders need to re-examine their strategies and commitments to the African people, and to the democratization process. Regrettably, Africa’s opposition leaders are yet to figure out that the struggle for democracy and freedom in Africa is against well-established and entrenched continental autocratic regimes, which control every media outlet across this vast continent, and continue to use national wealth to run highly sophisticated political campaigns that are latent with intimidation, brutality and murders.
For the democratization process to be effective and efficacious on the African Continent, proponents of democracy and African opposition leaders will have to be dedicated to the development of viable institutions, which are necessary for the advancement of democracy in Africa. Additionally, Western Governments who are engrossed in the success of democracy in Africa will have to bolster democracy in Africa by assisting Africa in cultivating cardinal institutions such as, an independent judiciary, which is autonomous of the government and has the capacity to adjudicate electoral fraud dispassionately, independent media, independent electoral commissions, and an empowered African-Civil Society. It should be no secret to the West, and African democratic activists that the success of democracy is predicated on the mentioned predictable institutions. As recent political developments in the Americas indicates, the cultivation and promotion of independent judiciaries have helped mitigate political tensions, thus reducing the possibility of full blown post democratization conflicts in the Americas. Realizing that viable institutions were essential for successful democratization, Eastern Europeans spent the early days of the1990s developing institutions (i.e. independent judiciary, an independent electoral commission, etc.), and training qualified individuals to preside and oversee the functions of those institutions. Today, former Communist Eastern European states (i.e. Poland, Chez Republic, Belarus, etc.) are reaping the price of their efforts. Not only has democracy flourished in Eastern Europe, but their trained practitioners and viable institutions have helped channeled the multiplicity of contending political claims and competing ideologies into positive actions.
If Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin, South and Central America can get it right, why not Africa?
Well, the answer is very simple: the political leadership of the Americas, Asia and Eastern Europe were serious about democracy to begin with, and remained truly committed to the democratization process. Beyond dedication, they had the desire to make a difference for their respective regions and people. Now, in the case of our autocratic continent, particularly Zambia, which is the focus of this article, the cultivation of institutions, the empowerment of the Civil Society and strategic long-term planning were conspicuously absent from the democratization equation. Fatuously, every political leader in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa rushed to replace a military dictatorship, or a founding father totalitarian regime with scant time and resources devoted to the development of vital institutions, and the training of new sets of individuals with impeccable credentials whose skills are needed to make African democracy functional. Why exactly did this happen? Again, for the most part, the 1990s rush to democratization was all about avarice, self-ingratiation, aggrandizement; and the effective utilization of discredited states’ institutions to enrich one’s self. Although African countries are relatively poor, there still exists in Africa today, the spoils of power: fraudulent government contracts awarded to family members and concubines, the infliction of the state’s payroll at the expense of the African tax paying peasants population; the employment of one’s ethnic kinsmen although they are seldom qualified for the jobs and spurious pensions and life insurance claims made to debunk states owned life insurance firms. Consequently, the regular hosting of fraudulent elections by African political prostitutes and for the purpose of legitimizing their thieving regimes, continued to be in vogue in contemporary Africa.
Capitalizing on our ignorance, and the illiteracy of our poor peasant parents, these nefarious demagogues and opportunist sycophants often engaged in vain and grandiose campaign declarations before the very eyes of the world. But, since the advent of the 1990s democratization process, Africans have waited patiently for these furtive angles of darkness to implement their traditionally elaborate campaign promises, which among other things stress individual freedom and freedom of the press, parliamentary and presidential term limits, the training of new security forces with emphasis place on human rights, and most importantly, economic reforms. But it seems that campaign promises are eluding both the African masses, and the international community, which was so optimistic about the prospects for democracy in Africa in the twenty first century. On February 15, 1992, former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba who had just won the Zambian Presidency observed the twenty first century African democracy in these poignant words, “ In Africa today, the era of dictators, of hypocrisy, and lies is over…In this present crisis, government alone is not the solution to our problems. For too long, the government was the problem.” Africans, let’s give accolades were they are due. Indeed, President Chiluba was right when he candidly stated that African Governments were the problems African societies continue to face fifty years after independence was obtained. In fact, a tribal chief in a rural community in Lesotho echoed this sentiment when he excoriated African Governments in these succinct words, “we have two problems, rats and the government”(Africa Betrayed 1990, p 306). But did the little town Southern African rascal like Chiluba live up to his promises? Nope! You see, pedantic political opportunist like Chiluba and the rest of the African democratic cantankerous rulers will only sing the song of democracy when they want to ascend to positions of prominence on the African Continent. Once they get there, everything is history, and they will waste no time in unleashing violence against the African people and anyone who will dare question their claim to power. In the tale of Zambia’s abortive democratization process, Chiluba reneged on all of his campaign promises, and took the Zambian people for a ride, landing them perfectly in the abyss of poverty.
In all fairness to the former Zambian President, he was not alone in the recent destruction of our once amaranthine Zambia. He had lots of help from the very people who lineup against his handpicked successor Mr. Levy Mwanawasa. Lieutenant General Christen Tembo who ran against Mr. Mwanawasa was once Mr. Chiluba’s former Vice President. Of course Brig. Gen. Miyanda was a minister in Chiluba’s government, and we are aware of that too. And, for the most part, the vast majority of the so called Zambian opposition leaders were once associates of President Chiluba in what was perhaps the most sophisticated reign of gangsterism in the history of Southern Africa since Apartheid was dethroned in 1992. Additionally, we know about Anderson Mazoka the self-proclaimed internationalist, who went on carousing moments after the Zambian-pulling stations closed, and even declared himself President of Zambia before the elections results were made public. Exactly when did these men become immaculate politicians? Again, a little bit of history will help explicate the tragedy, which has befallen us in Africa, particularly in Chiluba’s Zambia. You see, with the abrupt demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the world became insistent on democratizing Africa as a means of adverting impending catastrophes such as the ones we have all witnessed in Liberia and Sierra Leone lately; hence, billions of dollars were poured into Africa to advanced democracy. Furthermore, former African dictators were encouraged to abdicate and abscond the political scenes paving the way for a new generation of pragmatists, highly invigorated, responsible, talented and energetic politicians to assume leadership of the African Continent. Lamentably, what ensued was not democracy, but a strange marriage of convenience in which malleable men, and criminals rallied behind erudite martinets who were very didactic and utilized their eloquence to fleece our people while thwarting democracy and enriching themselves at the expanse of our overly taxed peasant families.
In contemporary African leaders’ culture of stealing, these reform acrobats looted financial aid intended for Africa’s many electoral commissions, and turned continental national treasures into personal bank accounts. With the resulting paucity of available resources to loot, murders and personal vendettas were inevitable. In the case of Zambia, the media is replete with reports of Chiluba’s approbated murders, and a mysterious 1995-car accident involving the current President, Mr. Levy Mwanawasa. While Mr. Mwanawasa survived the terrible motor accident, other inept Zambian politicians did not make it. Penza was murdered, and my friend Paul Tembo paid with his life. Isn’t it sad to be murdered before the very eyes of one’s wife and kids just a few hours before you were scheduled to testify against your former boss in one of Zambia’s biggest modern corruption scandals. African democratic charlatans, and political aspirants please take a careful look at Mr. Tembo’s bloody body, and think twice before you sell your soul and conscience for a few millions. Please be sanguine of the fact in mind that, in this place we all call home and Africa, when one falls out of love with the Chief Executioner, it can be costly. Sorry Mr. Tembo, and we truly wish your family well. Perhaps, this could have been Liberia’s Milton Teahjay. But we are all thankful that Milton survived the assassination pilot of the pariah regime of “Charles The Killer Taylor” whom he so passionately defended in Africa and beyond. But this is what it has come down to: thievery, murders, wars, disillusionment, and the politics of personal vendettas.
If only the criminals and accessories to crimes we erroneously referred to as opposition leaders in Africa can learn their lessons, Africa could have made significant progress in the advancement of democracy by now. But, democracy has stalled in Africa because the inept, diffident and inert opposition lacks vision and clearly articulated sense of directions. Even when the poor African peasants rise up against the African dictators; granting our opportunistic politicians a chance to make a difference, they will squander it. We could have been celebrating Zambia’s independence by now and the consortium of Native Black African Colonizers who unjustly colonized our Zambian people could have been put on trial and incarcerated by now. But, again, every functional illiterate Western college educated fool in Zambia wanted to become a president. This time, Chiluba did not have to rig the vote Liberia’s Samuel Kanyon Doe style. In fact, the opposition elected his mentally ill handpicked successor Mr. Levy Mwanawasa by splitting the vote. Fellow Africans, our contemporary opposition leaders are not serious, and they are as vapid as the haughty regimes they hope to replace.
Again, in Zambia, the fearless Zambian people were determined to curtail Chiluba’s behind the scenes third term rein so, they handed the parliament over to the opposition. But before the parliament could take a seat at the State House, some members of the opposition crossed over to Chiluba’s MMD party, and for a price tag of millions of US dollars. With chimeras and political opportunism now a Zambian way of life, Zambian Newspapers now lampoon the parliament, or may I rightly say, the “Chiluba Battalion” in these words, “Zambian Chilubatized Parliamentary lackeys.” We have seen this too often in “Mama Africa”. For example, in 1997, war ravaged Liberia had twelve presidential candidates, including three warlords who presided over that country’s genocide and fatuously, a convicted felon was selected by the opposition. Can we file a single candidacy? That would really make some sense! But will the fools do it? Nope! Liberia’s Dr. George Klay Kieh Jr. once lambasted two African opposition leaders in these lucid words, “The Liberian People's Party is going nowhere because the party has now become a conduit for Togba-Nah Tipoteh and Amos C. Sawyer's political aspirations. I will not allow these people to use me"(The Perspective magazine - April 8, 1998).
Liberians are at it again. This time, they will have more candidates than before, and as expected, “Charles The Chief Executioner Taylor” will be selected again by their stupidity. Okay, maybe they will opt for Alhaji G. V. Kromah so that he can return to Lofa County to finish up ULIMO-K’s surgical operations he began against the Lormas and Kpelles in 1993, and his Guinean right hand man will again return to the international arts market to sell the looted Lofa County Poro Society Masks. After that, he will come to America again, give an interview to The Perspective Magazine and deny that he once commanded a brutal and notorious ULIMO-K Army that committed genocide against certain Liberian ethnic groups. Or, maybe they will elect George Boley and the LPC so that they too can complete the fabulous job they began in Sinoe County in 1993.
Africans, here we are again at another critical juncture. We have had almost twelve years of democratization and the results are laughable: renewed autocracy, political violence, gangsterism and the usual African blame games. It is about time that we re-evaluate our commitments to democracy and to the African people; always keeping our eyes fixate on the price: coming redemption of our people. Presenting a united front and candidacy against the refractory dictators who have humiliated our continent before the eyes of the world is now paramount. To the courageous African people who continue to suffer for democracy and the right to self-rule in Africa, I want to leave you with one of my many epigrams: Do not lose hope! Your liberation is at hand, and very soon your tears will fall no more. Africans, let us reinvigorate and energize the struggle for democracy on our beloved continent!
Paul Japheth Sunwabe is a co-founder of Freedom and International Justice Foundation; a Washington DC based Multi-racial political organization seeking democracy, social justice and economic reforms in Africa.
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