Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in East and Central Africa
Entebbe, Republic of Uganda - 12 – 14 December 1994
The Africa Leadership Forum in collaboration with Transparency International organised a three-day seminar to discuss the topic Corruption, Democracy and Human Rights in East and Central Africa from 12th – 14th December, 1994 at The Lake Victoria Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda.
The seminar which is the second in the series was sponsored by the European Commission and was attended by thirty seven participants drawn from about thirteen countries in East and Central Africa, as well as other parts of Africa and the international community. Participants at the Seminar included two former Presidents and the Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda as well as eighteen observers including members of the Diplomatic Corp in Kampala and the media.
The Seminar was formally declared open, by H. E. Mrs Specioza Kazibwe, Vice President of the Republic of Uganda on behalf of H. E. President Museveni who was unavoidably absent, while General Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of State of Nigeria and Chairman, Africa Leadership Forum gave an Opening Remark.
With the two addresses setting the scene and the tone of the seminar, participants proceeded to examine the organic linkage between corruption, human rights violation and undemocratic practices in Africa. Thereafter, participants focussed discussion on the effects of corruption on development, on democracy and on human rights, the role of the North in the spread of corruption in Africa as well as the expected roles, duties, obligations and responsibilities of the civil society in the drive and crusade to end such negative practices in preparation for the challenges of Africa in the 21st century.
Analysing the consequences of these negative practices, it was pointed out that corruption thrives most in undemocratic environments. Such a situation, it was pointed out, provides the setting and serves as the precursor for widespread violation of human rights and similar unwholesome practices. It was observed that corruption in Africa has grievous damaging effects on the development process and remains one of the strongest motivators of human rights abuse and undemocratic practices. The organic linkage between the three concepts was recognised and it was pointed out how the effective resolution of one must be organically linked to the rest.
It was further observed that over the years in Africa the state has proven to be the main channel for personal wealth accumulation and securing privileged position in society.
The seminar reasoned that at all times. African leaders must bear in mind that the authority of government derives from the will of the people and may be exercised only in accordance with that will. It follows therefore that it is the right and responsibility of the people, not the government, to determine what constitutes the public good. This is fundamental to the principle that the authority of government derives from the will of the people. Government is an instrument of the people, created by the people to serve their will. Those government officials whose actions reveal an underlying belief that their positions confer on them a superior wisdom and a right to regulate the behaviour of others by their personal definition of the public interest engage in a misuse of government’s coercive power, violate the public trust that has been vested in them, and demonstrate that they leave a lot to be desired to be fit for government service.
Participants noted that the position and activities of most countries in Europe, Asia, and North America in this respect are most times if not always characterised by varying and differing forms of contradictions. Hypocrisy and double standards. It was observed for instance, that while drug trafficking and international terrorism are seen and promoted as central global issues requiring the support of all decent members of the global community, corruption has not been placed on the same pedestal. In consequence, corrupt African leaders who are more often than not perpetrators of human rights abuse and despots usually find a safe haven in the countries of the North. Such a situation it was noted has tended to serve as the required inducement for African leaders with a knack and tendency for corruption to soldier on. It was also pointed out that while in most countries in the North bribery is a serious crime that is equally frowned at by members of the society, businessmen from the North are permitted by law to make off-shore briberies in the name of business in Africa. These were identified as some of the major contradictions that characterize the activities of Northern governments and business men. It was observed that this practice has been encouraged over the years because countries of the North profited immensely from such an unwholesome state of affairs.
In this respect, the concept and practice of “aid for trade” also came sharply under focus. It was pointed out that the mechanisms of effectuating this scheme is such that it serves as a breeding ground for corrupt practices. Participants however expressed hope in the future given the current constellation of global events. It was noted in particular that with the re-emergence of serious ethical considerations in international business negotiations and the general concern for more decent business practices the global environment seems more prepared to accept high ethical standards and consideration in business practice.
The effects of corruption, especially grand corruption on development, democracy and human rights and also the role of the North in the spread of corruption in Africa are particularly pernicious because prudence and rational considerations in decision making as well as judicious utilisation of the available limited resources by a principled leadership is more often than not a rarity and an exception to the general rule and practice in Africa. In consequence, there is an increased impoverishment of the African people through capital flight, largely unrepayable debts and a depletion of the capacity of effectively pursue sustainable development.
Noting that the change of climate in the international community provides Africa with a time honoured opportunity to seek an effective and instructive modality of confronting its current challenges in this respect, the seminar observed that while certain other actors within the international community may jointly and severally be partly responsible for the current state of affairs in Africa, Africa especially its leadership cannot escape the collective blame for the current turn of events. At the same time it was recognised that institutions and members of the civil society cannot be absolved from the blame. It was pointed out that the NGO community in particular have a share of the blame as well as a crucial task in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Redressing the situation it was agreed is a major task which is nonetheless surmountable and achievable. As a root and branch cure, civic education and the identifications of the parameters of a just social order must be accepted as fundamental. In this respect, the various segments and components of the African society must wake up to its responsibility. The seminar took the view that in building for the future and even in the present the family must be seen as the proper starting point for the inculcation of a durable and sustainable anti-corruption culture and respect for human rights as well as democratic practice. The relevance of Africa in the next millennium was seen as particularly contingent upon her ability to face up to its own practical realities.
The role of the military as a major contributory agent in the truncation of democracy as well as a catalyst in the virus-like spread of corrupt practices also came up for mention. It was noted that the military in Africa, contrary to its professional training and outlook, have through incursion into politics as well as through the military contracts exacerbated the spread of corruption in Africa. It was argued that the modalities fro awarding military contracts may need to be democratised to reduce the tendency for officials to corrupt the system.
Commenting on the roles of various segments of the African society, it was observed that certain fundamental steps were crucial: these were identified to include the change in the concept of development to incorporate and rest on a state that is liberalised and with a firm commitment to democratisation of access to the institutions of state and economic institutions. In addition, a radical change in economic structure was advocated. More importantly principles of accountability, transparency, openness, respect for rule of law, periodic change of elected leaders based on meaningful choices, popular participation in government and an efficient, less corrupt civil bureaucracy functioning on identifiable rules of operation were seen as some of the crucial steps in the concretisation of efforts towards the empowerment of the people against corrupt leaders and despots on the continent. African women as mothers, wives and sisters were also identified as critically placed to speed up the process of effectively combating the spread of corruption in the society.
Reviewing the role of the legal system and the judiciary in this crusade against corruption and despotism, it was remarked that most African laws were wither archaic or at variance with different aspects of African culture. In addition, to this the judicial process has in certain instances displayed a serious structural and procedural rigidity to the extent of denying justice in cases of corruption and human rights abuse often time through long-winding delays before a case is decided. Participants recalled the dictum that justice delayed is actually justice denied and remarked that in Africa judges appear unwilling to make laws but are merely willing to interprete extant laws, thereby denying the legal system of the required dynamism necessary for progress and stability. This lack of activism, is further reinforced by the quality of some of the judges in Africa. It was however pointed out that in the midst of all of these there are judges in Africa who have managed to remain of impeccable character and above board.
Corruption across the board is systemic in many African countries, arising from the corruption of leadership inducing a collapse of institutions designed to contain corruption. In many countries this has contributed to a grinding poverty which has driven those on the margin to engage in petty forms of corruption simply to survive. In the absence of a living wage the people are victimised twice over: they are denied development and then forced to lower personal standards of honesty.
A major factor in corruption is that at the higher level there is massive corruption in decision making, which creates white elephant projects and drives up the costs of those necessary projects and contributes further to the impoverishment of the people.
The Seminar recognised the central importance of civil society in supporting the evolution of a democratic society.
Civil society also has a role in developing public awareness of corruption as a practice which actively impoverishes the nation and cripples development, and that the politician who offers bribes for votes is likely to be one who accepts bribes for favours. It must also contribute to providing role models of honest persons of integrity, and an environment in which those who prosper illegitimately are regarded as criminals, not models to be emulated by the young. This needs to be done within the family, at school, within communities and at the national level. In this light, openness of our democratisation process can be understood as a dynamic two-way operation of generic forms on particular contents and particular in which the deployment of the conceptual and institutional machinery of democracy is at the same time the representation of specific needs, interests, motivations, claims, rights and obligations by individuals and groups. Going beyond structuring or rearranging African political actors and institutional activities in their spontaneous, often turbid reality, this operation should result in their transformation into forms of transparent agency and practice within a democratic political system.
Assessing the role of the parliament in the movement against corruption and despotism in Africa it was observed that although as an institution it is strategically positioned to curb the excesses of the executive and to facilitate and deepen the institutionalisation of transparency and accountability, however it was noted that the members of parliament must as a starting point be willing to be transparent in their personal lives as well as the lives of their immediate families.
It was also pointed out that in there is no African country that legitimise or legalizes corruption. In effect, corruption remains an illegality in Africa as its is in the North. In the case of Africa in particular, it was noted, that there are sufficient laws in the statue books to deal with cases of corruption, what has been lacking has remained the political will, the personal courage of the leaders to enforce the laws to the letters. In this respect it was also pointed out that the NGO community as the vanguard of the civil society must realise its responsibilities and challenges demand that like Caesar’s wife she must be above board and beyond reproach at all times.
Participants agreed that Africa does not need any loan or donations because her funds illegally acquired and deposited in offshore account alone are enough to pay of her debts and service her development programmes if brought back to the continent.
The Seminar learnt with great interest of the national anti-corruption strategy being developed and implemented in Uganda, and hopes that Uganda will continued to set the peace and complete its accountability and transparency reforms to the point where corruption in the host country is successfully contained. Participants were equally briefed about the core activities of Transparency International. TI was seen as one of the major vehicles which has arisen out of the understood need on the part of both countries of the North and the South to clean up the system and provide a more level playing field for all actors within the system. The point was made that within the NGO community in Africa it is very difficult to identity any African NGO as solely concerned with battling corruption. While this was seen as an indictment of the African NGO community, it was equally pointed out that effective linkage and networking with some of the existing mechanisms within the international community is crucial. The media, it was argued, occupied a special role in any society that aspires to be democratic and accountable, a role which it must discharge honestly, fearlessly and in a non-partisan manner. It must expose corruption wherever it occurs and whoever may be involved. It must not become captive to political point-scoring. To develop such a media, standards of professionalism must be set by journalists themselves, and not by the imposition of controls by parliaments. The conference saluted the impressive achievements of some journalists in several countries on the continent and declares its solidarity with them.
The media was enjoined to adopt a more responsible outlook while eschewing sensationalism as it undermines the confidence of every one in the veracity of their reports. It was argued that such untoward practices detracts from the worth of media practitioners. Participants took due cognisance of the limitations in the operational milieu of the media in Africa in terms of the campaign against corrupt practices, despotism and human rights abuse. It was however noted that the role of the media remains crucial and fundamental in the process of civic education.
After an exhaustive discussion of the issues identified above participants made the following recommendations charging the international community, African governments, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Africa Leadership Forum (ALF), Transparency International (TI), the media and other institutions and members of the civil society in Africa with specific responsibilities:
Farm House Dialogue
Religion and Society - Dialogue 29
11th – 13th March, 1994
The 29th Farm House Dialogue on the topic “Religion and Society” was held as usual at the Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited, Ota, Ogun State from 11th to 13th March, 1994.
In his welcome address to the participants, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman, Africa Leadership Forum observed that religion has endured a long history and has indeed captured the society and the core of humanity. He noted that, in the past, religion, governance and medicine were interwoven. However, in the contemporary society, religion has been described as the opium of the people. Is religion needed to assist the society? If religion is required in the society, what role does it play? How can religion be employed to enhance peace, harmony and progress in the society? What is fundamentalism, and is it restricted to religion? What about ethnic and nationalist fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism intrinsically bad? Has religion a divisive or uniting influence on the society? While referring to the conceptualization of religion as contained in the 19th Farm House Dialogue on “Religious Pluralism and Democracy” and that of society as was adopted in the 28th Farm House Dialogue on “Women and Society”, he implored participants to examine to what extent these definitions need modification to suit the purposes of this edition of the Dialogue.
In his “Opening Thoughts”, the Chairman of the Dialogue, Dr. Christopher Kolade observed that Religion, which is basically a personal affair, has become a threatening factor to the stability and the very survival of society. In his words, though societies – local and international, have evolved political and diplomatic methods of resolving many testing issues, those which arise from the so-called religious differences appear to pose the most difficult challenges to the wits and cooperative instincts of human beings.
He emphasized the need to distinguish between the religion itself and:
the practice of the religion:
the structures that have been set up for the ease of administration or management;
the interpretations of religious requirements that have evolved for convenience or self-indulgence;
the problems that have arisen from the failures of leadership, etc.
From these two backgrounds, participants agreed on the following framework for the discussion of the topic;
Definition of Religion, Faith, Society.
Religious Pluralism in a Multi-Identity Society
Religion, Politics and Governance
The Impact of Religion on Cultures and Structures.
The Benefits, Problems and Limitations of Religion in the Nigerian Society.
Conclusions and Recommendations.
Conclusions and Recommendations:
It was agreed that religion is not only relevant but also needed in the Nigerian society.
Everybody should take responsibility for rectifying the prevalence of secret cults in higher institutions through openness, improved communication etc.
While giving appropriate recognition to the fundamental tenets of the various religions, every necessary avenue should be opened to harness the real potentials of women in religious activities.
All religions have the same source and no religion preaches hatred, violence and other negative vices. The demerits associated with religion are the handwork of certain elites who use religion as an instrument to achieve their selfish aims.
The basis of secularity is fairness, but fairness could only be ensured by good leadership.
The differences between religions and sects may be fundamental, but they are not necessarily negative or destructive.
The heads of all religions should organize themselves to come together and discuss their differences and problems. This should be done outside government control. This would serve as a platform for resolving their differences and fortifying their common aspirations.
There should be similar efforts at the family and the federal level. Children should be educated to understand, respect and appreciate their religion and those of others.
Concerted efforts should be made at the family and government levels to regulate the quality and content of teaching aids, video films and TV programmes.
Farm House Dialogue
Police and Society - Dialogue 30
4th – 6th November 1994
The 30th Farm House dialogue on Police and Society was, as usual, held at Obasanjo Farms Nigeria Limited, Ota, Ogun State between November 4 and 6, 1994.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Dialogue, Mr. Gabriel Okara praised Africa Leadership Forum for providing the platform whereby Nigerian youths and elders could interact informally as they strived to proffer workable solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the nation. Mr. Okara likened Nigerian to a dead sea fruit that is bright and beautiful on the outside, while its inside is rotten, on account of the nation’s bright prospects and potentials, which, unfortunately, have not been translated into life more abundant for Nigerians.
The Chairman then introduced a proposal on the structural framework for the Dialogue, as prepared by one of the participants, as a working document to guide the deliberations. He called for suggestions on possible amendments to the draft work-plan.
After an exhaustive and extensive debate, the following was arrived at and adopted as the framework for the discussion of the topic Police and Society:
Based on deliberations, the dialogue made the following recommendations for the improvement of both the police as an institution and the society in general.
1. To improve the image of the police force, and enhance the confidence of the people in the police, it is necessary that:
The police should be insulated from politics.
The appointment of the Inspector General of Police should be subject to the approval of the senate or other similar institutions since lawmakers are elected representatives of the people. The president should not have absolute authority in appointing the I.G.
The relativities in salaries and other conditions of service existing in 1965 among the various agencies of government should be restored.
2. The issue of the deployment of the police by the president should be justifiable to prevent the use of the police for unpatriotic intentions. This way, aggrieved citizens can go to court to seek redress if they are convinced the president is abusing his powers.
3. Such traditional methods of keeping the order as existed in the pre-colonial era, and as currently practised in some of the rural communities, should be reexamined with the view to incorporating them into the operations of the Nigerian police.
4. There should be a guarantee of the tenure of service of the Inspector-General of the Police Force such that a police officer could outlive the government that appointed him as a way of ensuring that his allegiance is to the constitution and the Nigerian state and not to the president who appointed him. The appointment should be for a fixed period of time.
5. Professionalism in the police force should be encouraged through the recruitment of men/women who are genuinely interested in making a career in the police.
6. The police force should organize itself to be able to push forward its demands for economic and general welfare.
7. Cases of bribery and corruption and other unethical conduct among the police and their civil collaborators should not only be seen as abhorrent but must also be investigated and, where guilt is established, consequently punished.
8. The police should attempt to improve their image through courtesy and other positive public relations methods.
9. The control of the police should be decentralized to give room for the force to be responsive, especially in terms of issues peculiar to certain parts of the country at a particular period. The power to monitor, regulate and discipline police officers should be vested in the Police Service Commission.
10. To improve the efficiency of the police, a well-trained, adequately equipped and well-remunerated police should be maintained as against the present situation whereby the force is composed of a large number of poorly-trained and ill-equipped personnel. The welfare and remuneration package should be improved upon through an enhanced salary structure, provision of adequate infrastructures and the provision of adequate retirement benefits such as gratuities and pensions.
11. The appointment of an Inspector-General of Police should last for a fixed period of time such that an IG outlives the administration that appointed him.
12. Police officers should be posted to their states of origin or states where their ethnic groups are found.
13. The use of Special Constables should be reintroduced to beef up the manpower and efficiency of the police.
On the state of the society, it was recommended that:
1. Poverty and other manifestations of underdevelopment in the society should be urgently addressed in a manner that would reduce pressure on members of the society including the police; pressures that may otherwise lead to the demand for gratification by police officers in order that they may be able to enjoy some basic necessities.
2. The society should appraise its social value systems to de-emphasize negative values such as materialism, greed and conspicuous consumption; and it must promote values such as hard work, honest living, integrity and a sense of patriotism.
3. To develop and sustain a people-oriented leadership, there should be adequate political education for all classes of people in the society. Such education should show the link between good policing, the welfare of the people, social peace and stability and the maintenance of law and order.
Peace, Security and Conditions for Harmonious
Relationship and Living Together of Rwandans
In furtherance of the security and stability calabashes of the CSSDCA, General Olusegun Obasanjo held a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda in Kampala in September 1994. At the meeting, issues concerning Rwanda and the potential role that could be played by President Mobutu Sese-Seko of Saire in a sub-regional initiative to foster peace, security, harmonious relationship and living together of Rwandans and, by extension, peace, security and stability in the entire Great Lake sub-region were discussed. Both President Museveni and General Obasanjo agreed on the necessity of conciliation involving face-to-face discussion between Presidents Museveni and Mobutu in the first place and an all- embracing sub-regional meeting on peace, security, harmony and good neighbourliness in Rwanda and the sub-region.
President Museveni indicated his readiness to meet with President Mobutu to discuss these issues. Based on this positive response, General Obasanjo then invited former President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi to join him in the conciliation meeting.
The meeting with President Mobutu was held in Gbadolite, Zaire, on 7 and 8 January 1995. President Mobutu conducted the meeting in an open and frank atmosphere. However, he left no doubt that as a result of frequent attacks by the international media on him personally and his government, he had adopted a rather withdrawn posture and reduced his involvement in affairs of the sub-region.
The major task therefore was to convince President Mobutu of the desirability of getting him more actively and constructively involved. President Mobutu was also briefed on an earlier meeting with President Museveni with General Obasanjo in September 1994 and the subsequent one in December involving also President Buyoya. Therefore, it was suggested that President Mobutu agree to hold a consultative meeting with President Museveni and he reacted positively to the proposal. President Mobutu agreed to play a constructive role in engendering peace, security, stability and a positive relationship within the sub-region and promised to send a delegation to President Museveni as a preparatory step towards a meeting to be held on neutral ground.
General Obasanjo proceeded with a letter briefing President Museveni on the results of the meeting. He also outlined a possible plan of action and agenda for discussion. These efforts under the auspices of the ALF undoubtedly broke the ice and laid the groundwork for the summit of the leaders of the Great Lake Sub-Region, held under the auspices of the Carter Centre in Cairo in November 1995.