Corruption Should Not Be An
Acceptable Practice Anywhere!
By Siahyonkron Nyanseor
There is an inherent problem that most African countries are faced with, which is the "lack of loyalty to the state." In most African countries, Citizens' loyalties are first to their relatives, ethnic group (tribe), personal friends, and country last. Unlike their European and American counterparts, who owe their loyalty to their country, Africans are not. Some political scientists explained this problem of lack of loyalty to the state that most Africans exhibit to have its origin in the way these countries were established by outsiders.
In the Scramble for Africa: Causes and Dimensions of Empire, Raymond F. Betts, explained some of the reasons that contribute to Africans' lack of loyalty to the state. The manner in which the Berlin West African Conference: 1884-1885, carved-up Africa amongst European powers is one such example. According to Betts:
The "Scramble" suggests rapid and confused activity and, in this particular instance, a rush forward, a sort of treasure hunt. The metaphor therefore not only tends to describe vividly, it also tends to assign values to the historical action itself. The popular conclusion has long been that the opening up of Africa in the nineteenth century was done both with great haste and with reckless abandon as European explorers, missionaries, and military men brought European politics, culture, and confusion to a hitherto largely terra incognita.
This process introduced different "spheres of influence" among the African countries that were created. Moreover, these Africa nation states were forced to become countries without participation in the formation of the state. In Liberia's case, it was a group of white Americans who took up "the White Man's Burden" for the Grain Coast (the name Liberia was called prior to the arrival of the Settlers).
Due to the imposition of foreign hegemony, true nationalism or loyalty to the state never developed. The lack of loyalty to the state makes the African State fragile and the citizenry an easy prey for insincere ethnic politicians to exploit on the basis of sectionalism, tribalism, nepotism and personal relationship. As a result, African States have been experiencing all sorts of social, economic and political problems. These problems are maintained, instead of being resolved. These corrupt leaders exploit the differences through the use of bribery, brute force, and other forms of corrupt practices.
A good example of this is the current leadership in Liberia led by President Taylor and his coterie of friends, many of whom are now well-placed in strategic positions of power and authority (Blamo Nelson, Director of the Cabinet, Nyudueh Monkonmana, Speaker of the House, Jucontee Tom Woewiyu, Senator of Grand Bassa County, etc.). While studying in the United States, these individuals were leaders of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA); they advocated for human and civil rights, freedom of speech, and of the press, constitutional guarantees, improved health and educational services, and good governance in Liberia - the very same things they are violating today. Now that they are in power, they have become affected with "amnesia", and have abandoned the principles they once advocated.
The Liberian phenomenon is a sad commentary. It is hard to fathom how individuals who were nurtured, schooled and acquired the taste of American democracy - the citadel of world democracy - would easily abandon these important virtues once they acquired power. Their corrupting influence has spread like wildfire destroying even the most basic structures for building a democracy.
But again, there is truth to the adage that "Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts more." This is clearly the case of the Taylor regime. As the regime consolidates power and uses it for the sole purpose of acquiring wealth at any cost, and pursuing its grandiose plans of destabilizing the West African region, it heightens repressive rule and tightens it stranglehold on the freedoms of the Liberian people.
Dismayingly, however, apologists of this regime, lacking intellectual honesty and incapable of owning up to the mounting problems this regime has created either by their acts of omission or commission, have not only shamelessly, but deceptively, been engaged in a public relations war of words to deceive and make a mockery of its real interests. Mouthing such phrase as "constructive engagement," its vocal proponents are calling for a cessation of criticism against the regime in order that it be "constructively engaged." But this deception has only followed more deceptions, exposing its vulnerability and practice of corrupting the truth.
As a matter of fact, the recent victory of the people of South Africa has taught us that "constructive engagement" could not have brought independence to them, why then, should we apply a failed concept to our struggle in Liberia? We do not see its usefulness in dealing with those with such duplicitous mentality like warlord Taylor. The fact of the matter is, since there is a lack of honesty in the administration of the country, certainly it will be difficult for their policies to escape the attention of any concerned and caring person. In retrospect, it astonishes me; yet, I am not too surprise of the behaviors of my former associates. My intent here is to remind them of a historical fact that even they cannot resist or escape from wrath of the people, and that "No condition is permanent". Tolbert, Doe as well as a host of African leaders were victims of this historical fact. Furthermore, we are in agreement with Taylor when he says, "The ant on the treetop will always find water to survive." But if the ant is not careful, the water could kill it because the water was contaminated due to neglect.
This brings us to the general practice of CORRUPTION in the public sphere. Why has corruption continued to be an acceptable practice in business and politics, today? Corruption has remained entrenched for such a long period of time that it is assumed by some as if it is part of our human nature. Can something be done to stop corrupt practices? These are questions that have bothered me throughout my adult life. However, in order to address the many implications of corruption more adequately, one needs to know the origin.
Based on research, selfishness and greed make corrupt individuals to turn a blind eye to the suffering that corrupt practices inflict on others. Corruption has become rampant so much that in some parts of the world, it is an accepted practice. Arnaud Montebourg, a French lawyer laments that "Corruption is like a heavy pollution that weights on people's spirit." The Economist, a British magazine also added, "as much as 10 percent of the $25 billion spent every year in international arms trade serves to bribe potential customers. The magazine stated further that "corruption is but one form of oppression." I agree wholeheartedly with The Economist that corruption is another form of oppression.
At one point in my life, I thought corruption was a legal practice in Liberia. Why? Because many individuals who embezzled government funds were transferred to other positions where they carried on the same practice. Instead of being punished for their crimes, they were promoted as if they had done something good.
James Foley, U.S. deputy secretary of state puts it correctly when he said, "We all recognize that the cost of bribery is high. Bribes undermine good governance, harm economic efficiency and development, distorts trade, and penalize citizens around the world." Regarding this concern, on December 17, 1997, 34 major countries signed a "bribery convention" that is designed to "have a major impact on the global fight against corruption." According to the convention, a crime is committed when one offers, promises or gives a bribe to a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain international business deals.
Corruption is as old as man, according to some people. Others would argue that corruption started with the first family in the Garden of Eden, and that it exists in all human societies - from Genesis to Exodus. Yet, in almost all societies, there are laws against corrupt practices of any kind. If corruption goes unchecked, it will flourish and collapse empires. Unlike a tip that is given as an expression of appreciation for services rendered, bribe, a form of corruption is given to prevent justice or for other dishonest purposes.
As we may recall, it was corruption that hastened the downfall of the Roman Empire, so will it destroy those who engage in it - along with innocent people. Therefore, for someone who called himself President of a nation to encourage his security personnel to accept bribe suggests that he is a criminal as well as morally bankrupt. Right this moment, corruption needs to be denounced in all of its forms and manifestations. Because what is sweet in Billy Goat's mouth, eventually will run its stomach. It is the same with corruption. Small amount of corruption, leads to the one that will destroy an entire nation. We need to take the approach of a conscientious objector. A position that the apostle Paul took against corrupt Roman officials.
In the trial of Paul, Felix, the Roman governor delayed the trial, hoping that Paul would give him money to secure his release (Acts 24:22-26). Instead, Paul lectured him about "righteousness and self-control." This is the same approach we must follow if we intend to discourage corrupt practices in Liberia, Africa and the world in general.
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