Prejudice disguised as critique: The legacy of AU Commission Chair Dlamini-Zuma, By NJOYA TIKUM


Opinion is divided over the legacy of the AU Chairperson. It is arguable that she has resolved some of the historical challenges of the Commission and predictably either failed or worsened others. However, on the whole, Dlamini-Zuma has demonstrated what leadership can do if it is impelled by a clear vision.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma ascended to the leadership of the African Union Commission Chair (AUC) amidst much controversy, not least the polarisation that ensued between Southern Africa and Central Africa on the one hand and the West and East Africa on the other. She prevailed after a bruising battle with the then incumbent Jean Ping. Dr. Zuma became the first Southern African and woman to head the African Union Commission since the inception of the African Union in 2002. She also became the first national of Africa’s big-five countries to lead the continental body much against the standing tradition to leave the post to smaller countries as a means of balance of power since the Organisation of African Unity days.

The messy power struggles that preceded her ascent to power and the reality of an institution fossilised in binary politics of language and crude regionalism were always going to be her bane. As though that was not enough, Dr. Zuma had to contend with a bureaucracy that had for years mastered the art of self-interest, dodgy deal-making, corruption, outright cronyism and unreceptiveness to fresh ideas and thinking. The administrative apparatus that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma inherited from her predecessors was shambolic, heavy on protocol rituals and very weak on delivery. The idea of a result based management or outcome based programming was rocket science. Everyone, including the systems prime beneficiaries, agreed that change was overdue.

Beyond the blurred ethical parameters, the African Union Commission was more an assemblage of silo departments run almost exclusively by donor interests with little coherence and common planning. Performance management was not only non-existent; it was viciously resisted as antithetical to the agenda of endless unproductive meetings.

She inherited a Commission which on paper had the right rhetoric, commitments, structures and personnel, but in reality one that was a mere paper lion. It lacked coherence and cohesion. On paper it had a department responsible for citizen affairs and diaspora and an ECOSOCC that barely met the aspirations of the bulk of organised civil society and social movements. Its erstwhile leadership in 2012/13 indicted it as corrupt and moribund. That notoriously inefficient platform for engagement between citizens and the African Union leadership was – candidly speaking – stillborn. It favoured those who were allied with its then leadership and hardly delivered anything of consequence to African Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders who were suffering from the onslaught of increasingly intolerant states and political elites.

Though there was a functional gender directorate that was regularly quoted and a youth division, these were woefully inadequate when it came to real transformative value beyond high-sounding declarations. African youth before the Zuma era were there to be seen and not heard. Even their department was headed by persons long past their youth.

Overall, the Commission was emasculated by an increasingly bullish Permanent Representative Council (PRC) and a band of Commissioners who were not politically accountable beyond their nation-states.

So has anything changed? Has Zuma been worth it?

Dr. Nkosazana Zuma-Dlamini has only been head of the AUC for less than 5 years. Any person with an understanding of performance management, let alone result based management, will tell you that for an institution as large and complex as the African Union Commission, it is almost impossible to make a dent on institutional culture within a period short of 6 years. Worse still for Dr. Zuma, she first had to establish a benchmark.

For those who care to remember, Alpha Konare had undertaken an institutional assessment of the African Union which – amongst others- had confirmed a dire dysfunction at the Commission. It is not clear why Jean Ping ignored it. One can only surmise that he was busy agreeing with Beijing on the construction of the new building. But the findings of the Adedeji report are instructive regarding four factors, namely:

  • The true lack of power of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission viz-a-viz the PRC, Executive Council and Assembly;
  • The false consciousness of an AU reform agenda driven by loosely coordinated and almost wholly funded RECs, Organs and Institutions; and
  • The poor or lack of effective participation by African citizens
  • Administrative, operational and political challenges implicit in the AU Structure and business model

These daunting challenges were well known and already on the table when Dr. Nkosazana Zuma-Dlamini took over a largely cash-strapped Commission polarised by her very election to its helm.

It is arguable that she has resolved some of the historical challenges and predictably either failed or worsened others. However, on the whole, she has demonstrated what leadership can do if it is impelled by a clear vision. Let me explain the basis of my favourable assessment of her short tenure. I have avoided comparing it to her most recent predecessors to steer clear of the sterile measurements based purely on what she did or did not do for certain regions or countries.

A fossilized bureaucracy 

Though she never succeeded to change the internal locomotive and bureaucratic functioning of the Africa Union Commission, when history is written, Madam Zuma will surely go down as one of the most consequential Chairpersons of the AUC. Although she didn’t change the bureaucracy, she managed to get a Union-wide consensus on the need for change and greater alignment of all AU Organs, Institutions and Structures. There are now clear costed plans for the AUC restructuring that her successor can implement and to wit with a proper capacity needs assessment and development plan. In fairness, it was never within her power to change the job descriptions of Commissioners and her other subordinates without the consent of the PRC and Executive Council. The fact that the PRC acts as boss over the Commission is itself a splendid travesty. Within her own powers, she ensured the appointment of highly qualified individuals into various positions to help her drive her dreams of an effective Commission. Little wonder most of the Departments where these new crop of appointees are have taken up initiatives such as the Legal Associates Programme and AU Leadership Academy.

As the Adedeji report suggested, without a restructuring of the relationship between the Chairperson and the Commissioners, departmental level accountability and efficiency will remain lacking. What is suggested will be a possibility of the Member States electing the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson with the powers to appoint their own team. This way, the responsibility of delivering on set agenda becomes wholly owned by the Chairperson and his/her Deputy.

In addition to this is the antics of some Member States on staff matters within the Commission. The fact that some of them shamelessly defend, cover-up and in most cases threaten the Commission’s leadership against taking disciplinary measures on their citizens in the employ of the Commission found wanting in the exercise of their duties is disheartening. AU Commission cannot be the burial ground for misfits and people with questionable character or capacity.

Interestingly, the just concluded Summit has requested President Paul Kagame to head a panel on the restructuring of the AU Commission. With no less than President Kagame, a man of proven and enviable efficiency, effectiveness and excellence, there is no doubt that if the report is implemented (and does not go the way of the Obasanjo alternative financing model), this will signal a good omen for the Commission.

African citizenship and common African passport

For more than a century, efforts to achieve a borderless Africa failed. Jean Ping spoke about it tirelessly to no avail; President Alpha Oumar Konare also was unable to make any significant headway. Then on July 17, 2016 Zuma presented the new African Union passport to the AU Chairperson Idriss Derby of Chad and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. For all true Pan-Africanists, this aspirational bold move, though not sufficient, established for the first time in the history of Africa that it is possible to achieve one of the fundamental goals for which the then OAU was created. It shows that with determination of commitments of African leaders, free movement of Africans within Africa is an achievable objective. This is a groundbreaking step for the continent. One that was at the essence of postcolonial OAU struggles but that has become difficult to achieve for many decades. The only regret is that –due largely to the nature of intergovernmental relations – the first passports are being issued to bureaucrats and political elites who already travel freely across Africa on their diplomatic passports. Why not a female cross-border trader or young woman scholar?

Nonetheless, this was a classic Zuma coup. It was an example of the many ways she tried to bulldoze her ideas and initiatives on a system designed to take its time to decide on any issue. What is most striking about this African passport is the intention by Zuma to force the hand of Member States on the need to open up their borders and foster a visa-free continent for its citizens. The symbolic action of issuing the passports to the Presidents without the completion and adoption of the Freedom of Movement Protocol will ensure that no matter what happens, reactionary forces cannot stop the protocol when it finally comes for adoption at the Summit in 2018.

Agenda 2063

Its most vicious critics argue that it is a subversive attempt to dilute a more transformative African development pathway articulated in the Lagos Plan of Action and African Alternative to Structural Adjustment Programme (AFSAP), but Agenda 2063 marks a clear definitive plan for Africa. It was Dr. Zuma’s leadership that persuaded Africa leaders, CSOs and other private sector actors, to rally behind a continental development agenda 2063. Never since the independence struggles of the late 1950s and 1960s had the continent rallied around a single but multi-faceted cause. Aimed at socio-economically and politically transforming the lives of the one billion citizens, shifting the focus from political independence to domestic growth, equality and infrastructural transformation of the continent. It is no mean feat that she managed to have a Capacity Needs Assessment and Capacity Development Plan and a ten-year Implementation Plan for Agenda 2063 done in less than 3 years.

One Africa, one voice

Unlike the weak negotiating position Africa endured during the development of the Millennium Development Goals, thanks to her vision, at the time of the development of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, Africans had already galvanized themselves around a common position making their voices and opinion relevant at the negotiating table. The Common Africa Position (CAP 2015) strengthened Africa’s negotiating power and clarity within the broader global processes.

This model was also replicated for the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey where Africa was the only region with a Common African Position on global humanitarian effectiveness. A major component of this position is the proposal to establish an African Humanitarian Agency aimed at facilitating operational humanitarian responses in the event of disasters on the continent. Currently, the Commission is coordinating the development of a Common African Position on Habitat III scheduled for October 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. This was a deliberate attempt at ensuring that the African Union speaks with one voice on continental and global issues.

AU financing

Under Dlamini-Zuma’s leadership, following President Obasanjo’s report, for the first time, the AU took a decision to overcome its financial challenges and to fund 100% Operations Budget, 75% Programme Budget and 25% Peace and Security budget. Last week in Kigali, we saw signs of progress on this agenda when for the very first time, the African Union summit finally adopted a resolution to institute a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports, in order to address the funding challenges the African Union has faced since its inception. This is a result of concerted efforts even after Member States threw out the initial proposals from the Obasanjo Panel on Alternative Financing.

Through a consistent addition of the financing issue on the Summit agenda and the appointment of Donald Kaberuka, former head of the African Development Bank, the AU Commission Chair has shown an uncommon tenacity to get the issue resolved. The onus of implementation is now in the hands of whoever her successor is.

Another mechanism established during her tenure is the little known AU Foundation aimed at mobilizing private sector resources to support the work of the African Union Commission.

Ebola crisis

Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was not the first AUC Chairperson to lead in the context of humanitarian crises or epidemics (Evian Flu, HIV/AIDS, war, volcanic eruption in DRC, terrorism in the Horn and Sahel Region, etcetera). Many of her predecessors waxed lyrical and were rhetorical full of clichés describing but not resolving the problems that confronted them. Dr. Zuma’s leadership has been different in its activism and forthrightness. Confronted by one of the worst humanitarian and man-made crises the continent has ever faced in recent history, she swung into action in the face of divergent Member State reactions (some banning travels) and the challenge of coordinating efforts through intense lobbying. She convened and led an unprecedented fundraising drive on November 8, 2015 to support countries fight the catastrophe ushered by the Ebola under her leadership, and for the very first time, the private sector was mobilized to raise $32 million in one sitting; 855 volunteer health workers deployed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea via national structures and the ASEOWA mission. In fact, through the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, over $100 million additional funds were raised from the #AfricaAgainstEbola SMS Campaign. These funds are now being channeled into the Africa Center for Diseases Control (CDC).

Vowing to ensure that the continent is able to anticipate and respond to such occurrences in future, she provided the leadership for the operationalisation of the African Centre for Disease Control. The need for an African CDC was recognized at the African Union Special Summit on HIV and AIDS, TB, and Malaria in Abuja in July 2013. The concept has since moved through various stages of development, stakeholder review, and approval. The African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC) will help African countries effectively monitor public health, respond to public health emergencies, address complex health challenges, and build needed capacity.

Ending impunity

Dr. Dlamini-Zuma was able to set up an unprecedented AU Commission of Inquiry, an all-African initiative led by President Obasanjo with a comprehensive report that informed the August 2015 peace deal and the decision to establish a Hybrid Court on South Sudan. The onus of implementation of this report is in the hands of the AU Member States, one of the grey areas in the real powers of the Commission in the face of all-powerful Member States.

Under her leadership, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic were suspended over unconstitutional changes of government and alongside policy organs, led various interventions to ensure the return to constitutional order. The swift response of the AUC alongside its counterparts in ECOWAS and UNOWA on the eve of the resignation of former President Blaise Compaore, occasioned by the annual governance gathering – DGTrends – remains a highlight of her tenure.

Even the unfortunate Burundi issue was not because of her lack of engagement but that of the realities of state-centric geo-political dynamics of the East African region. It was on record that the Commission (represented by Commissioner for Political Affairs, Commissioner for Peace and Security and the Chairperson at different times) visited the country and met with various stakeholders more than a year before the controversial elections, prevailing on the authorities in Burundi to abide by the spirit of the Arusha Accord and their constitution.

Total independence of colonised African territories

Never afraid to take controversial positions, Madam Zuma supported the self-determination struggles of the people of Western Sahara and welcomed the application of Morocco to rejoin the AU. Though these may now seem normal, her decisions to embark on some of these controversial situations were historical at the time and the very first in most instances. Without doubt, her liberation credentials played a huge part in this as she ensured that she provided the needed attention to the plight of the Sahrawi people. On her behalf, the Commissioner for Political Affairs visited the Tindouf Camp twice in the space of three years to assure the people of the efforts of the African Union on addressing their situation.

AU long-term election observation

Appreciating the sovereignty of Member States and the mandate of the Commission, there are limitations to the powers of the AUC. Its role is largely advisory and supporting capacity needs of Member States. This power imbalance notwithstanding, the AUC established a long-term election observation framework to complement its electoral assistance mechanisms to Member States. This enabled it to oversee peaceful elections and transitions across the continent ranging from Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Central African Republic, and Benin save for challenging situations like Burundi and Guinea Bissau. While concerns have been raised by several quarters on the AU election observation methodology, the Commission is currently reviewing its strategies aimed at enhancing its efficiency.

Youth and women’s voice

No AUC Chairperson in modern history has brought the issues of youth and women empowerment to the forefront of continental discussion like Dr. Zuma. From declaring 2014 and 2015 as the Year of Women’s Rights to the declaration of 2017 as the Year of Investment in Youths, she has galvanized the continent around and forced heads of states to consider women and youth policy issues as fundamental to achieving the African transformation agenda.

On women’s issues, her greatest legacy will be the establishment of gender parity at the AUC level ensuring that there are 5 men and women each as Commissioners. Even in appointments of staff, she ensured the appointment of highly qualified women into several positions within the Commission. She also appointed a Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security to shine the spotlight on the challenges faced by women in conflict situations on the continent. This is coupled with an institutional reform of the Gender Directorate, ensuring the appointment of a competent director to further drive home efforts on women empowerment on the continent.

While her exploits on youth development were mainly hindered by structural challenges within the Commission, her commitment shone bright in the implementation of initiatives such as the African Youth Volunteer Corps, the Annual Youth DGtrends and the institutionalization of regular interactions with young people through social media. In fact, the social media engagement by the Commission in her tenure has ensured that the Commission interacts with a lot more citizens beyond the continental pre-conferences often preceding many AU events which were always limited to INGOs, their sponsored partners and professional lobby groups. Though necessary, these groups did not always represent the broadest spectrum of African political, social and economic opinion.

While youth issues most definitely go beyond the current efforts, it is envisaged that over the coming months, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma may be able to leave a footprint on youth development issues by ensuring the operationalization of the Youth Fund and an appointment of a African Union Youth Envoy to set the agenda for youth empowerment and development going forward. This, coupled with the elevation of the Youth Division into a directorate under the office of the Chairperson, hopefully in the next administration will further foster coordination on youth issues on the continent.


Overall, depending on what side of the table one sits, every situation has its triumphs and travails. Madam Zuma has her own faults and failures, but she is definitely not a disaster as some pundits would have us believe. A lot of these facts are verifiable from people who’ve keenly followed happenings at the AUC and the AU. Dr. Zuma’s decisions have not been perfect but her stature in the history of the African Union and the African Union Commission is forever unquestionable. As the first woman to have occupied the position, she has given a good account of herself and justified the need for equal participation and leadership of women. The many initiatives she has catalyzed, established and implemented will remain fitting souvenirs of her tenure.

Posterity, they say, is the best judgement of actions. Let posterity be the judge.

Time to Go Beyond Anti-Corruption Agencies in Sub-Saharan Africa. By NJOYA Tikum

As published in the GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog


To achieve the aspiration for an inclusive and sustainable human development in Africa, as articulated in the Africa Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 and reiterated in the Common Africa position on post 2015, African countries must reconsider their approach to the fight against corruption. In the last 15 years, the international community of anticorruption practitioners and advocates have induced African countries to establish anticorruption laws and bodies. With few exceptions, almost every African country—sometimes of their own volition and at times under immense pressure from international financial institutions—has embarked on wide-ranging reforms aimed at strengthening state accountability and eradicating corruption. However, these interventions have not resulted in any noticeable decline in corruption in most parts of Africa. Indeed, multiple indexes such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Governance in Africa Report, and the Afrobarometer, indicate that corruption has been on the steady rise in Africa. The critical question, then, is why the legion of interventions aimed at combating corruption have not yielded positive outcomes.

With monumental trust deficit between the state and citizens in Africa, relying on Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) to fight corruption can only yield limited results. For many countries, the establishment of an ACA was just another box to tick in order to get the next round of development assistance; the agencies themselves are mere window dressing, often suffering from institutional weaknesses and a lack of sufficient human and material resources. In several African countries, for example, ACA funding is tied to presidential benevolence instead of allocation through a transparent national budgetary processes. They are staffed by people with no technical expertise, sometimes including retired public servants who have no real zeal to rock the boat. In these countries, the modus operandi is to fight corruption in areas earmarked by the ruling political regime. In some countries, leaders have used the ACAs to further witch-hunts against political opponents.

How does Africa navigate itself out of this quagmire? To win the battle against corruption, Africa must move beyond offices and notepads to pragmatism and action, exploring new and innovative solutions:

To begin with, anticorruption strategies must be comprehensive, and must include governance innovations such as open data, transparency and accountability in business, procurement, construction, etc. As part of this comprehensive approach, resources from the national budget must directly be allocated for anticorruption capacity building as part of national development plans (NDPs). As with other parts of NDPs, annual and biannual benchmarks and targets must be established to track the progress of anticorruption initiatives.

In addition, African governments can and should make use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) and citizen social accountability tools. For instance, a number of web based applications have been developed to report instances of corruption in real time, providing an opportunity for cheap, affordable solutions to citizens and quick responses/actions by anti-corruption agencies and integrity institutions. See, for example, the Huduma, Ushahidi in Kenya and Frontline SMS campaigns on drug stock outs in the region.

Civil society organisations (CSOs) must play an increased role as the true watchdogs of the people. Given these responsibilities, and the need for CSOs to be autonomous and sensitive to local needs, it is unfortunate that almost 90% of anticorruption CSOs in Sub-Saharan Africa are funded by international donor agencies. The funding strategy must be adjusted, with national governments and other non-state actors taking up more responsibility for supporting anticorruption CSO activities.

Speaking of the international community, development partners must switch from playing a hypocritical role where they condemn corruption in the public sector in Africa but do little to stop corruption by private sector groups from their countries. They must embrace a new form of partnership where the private sector, including banks and transnational companies, are held to the same standards as public institutions

As published in the GAB | The Global Anticorruption Blog

African Civil Society: Between a Curse and a Plague? By Njoya Tikum

2016-01-08 11.44.55 (2)The only thing that holds a nation together is not its brilliant policies, constitutions, institutions, and sound economy but rather the values and principles upon which all these are founded. The problem of our political culture in Africa lies in our readiness to abandon principle and values Under the pretext of pragmatism. Clearly, real politick requires pragmatism, sophistication and not dogmatism. But pragmatism should never be equated with naked opportunism.

The removal of dictatorship does not necessarily result in democracy.Often, the demise of a dictatorship creates a severely contested political vacuum, a space upon which a people can either build another dictatorship or construct a democracy. History teaches us that those who bitterly fight present dictatorship are not always necessarily democrats .It is ‘therefore, important to grow a robust culture and habit of dissent, accountability and transparency especially in a pro-democracy movement. It is possible when fighting an intransigent incumbent to degenerate into an authoritarian politics of opposition that lacks the flexibility and open-ness to see-let alone accommodate- dissent and difference. In other words, pro-democracy activists must always ask the question “do we epitomize the change that we want to see?”. I assume that the primary business of NGOs and the broader civic movement is fighting for a more democratic,accountable, just and peaceful social order.

Incumbent regimes the world over and particularly in  Africa  do not just fold up and hand over power and privilege without a fight. Fighting for change is inevitably, a bruising game replete with many dangers, frustrations and contradictions.NGOs are the only business that continues to be in business when it has run out of business. They are also the only sector that believes that change will come at absolutely no personal cost.

Reality is sadly the very opposite, all change comes at a very great personal cost. As a result of poor mental, moral and ideological orientation, some tire, others sell-out, others become cynical and yet others degenerate into kleptomaniacs, fanatics, xenophobes and political criminals. Psycho-social support is very important If the struggle is to be sustained and won.

If civil society is to serve any meaningful role,we also have to deal with questions of personal integrity and the personal political-economy; as School fees, rent and other obligations have to be met even as we struggle. The first real test in a Struggle for change is clearly the sacrifices we are willing to make and the next equally important is how we innovate to stay alive, rather how we deal with our personal livelihood issues in the course of struggle. This is different from a neoliberal concern with creating a civic-bourgeoisie, a military bourgeoisie or for that matter administrative bourgeoisie.

The process of unseating incumbency or transforming the status quo (which is an American phrase that means ‘the mess that we are in’)is often long and protracted thereby creating a career for some and a personal political-economy for others. This paradoxically creates an internal movement incumbency whose logic is that it is unstrategic to change leadership before the broader struggle is complete. Our history is full of instances of institutional capture both at the state level and within civil society either by founder patriarchs, populists or usurpers who at some opportune time assume leadership in such institutions. In the ultimate analysis, the greatest struggle for freedom, for democratic practice and culture is always within and by the rank and file of the pro-democracy movement itself..

Fighting for change in economic contexts that are as depressed as those that subsist in many African countries , often raises serious issues about the role of money and patronage within the civic movement. As well perhaps the role of donors, INGOs and the corporatist culture. The difference between out-of-pocket expenses and sheer patronage is a very fine one. The absence of a framework or ethical basis for managing this issue often means there grows clientalism within civil society similar to that which exists in political parties. This ability of civil society leaders to dole out benefits to scores of unemployed citizens creates a complex set of relations that sometimes assume ethnic undertones or some form of personality cults that feed on dependency politics. So you end up with scores of poor or unemployed for whom mobilization meetings, demonstrations and workshops are income-making activities. They insist on being paid for the very effort they put into their own liberation.

This behaviour can not be solely blamed on the decadence of Citizens or lack of critical consciousness.The leadership of pro-democracy civil society often portrays itself as a fairly well paid and comfortable class of elites, a ‘civilocracy’. A self-selected and self-legitimating group of friends bound.

With this state of play, how do we progress?. Eloping from this state of decadence  demands  legislative enhancements and moral navel-gazing in most of our countries. to begin with, the  funding edifice of civil societies must mutate from internationally driven to nationally construed.

Part two of this blogpost will elucidate simple steps and methods necessary to  transforming African civil societies into one that is responsive  and true to its watchdog stature..

Adam: Democracy in Africa will affect us all in 2016

Many issues and events will shape the world in 2016, for better or worse. International terrorism will continue to haunt us, but the clear and present danger is posed by lone wolf attacks that can happen anywhere and are difficult to track. Plummeting oil prices will continue to wreak havoc on world economies, particularly Canada,…

Source: Adam: Democracy in Africa will affect us all in 2016

Why Nigerians Must Applaud Outgoing President Goodluck E. Jonathan

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Much has been said and written about the dilapidated state of the Nigerian economy, the rising insecurity, unprecedented level of corruption and Government inefficiency led by the Government of Outgoing President GEJ. As valid as these denunciations are, what some of our Nigerian comrades fail to concede is the fact that, it could have been worst were it not for GEJ’s selfless act (accepting the results without reservation).

Many Nigerian comrades are fast to point out that-GEJ had no other choice. When pressed, they even go as far as saying that Nigeria has come of age and that no single person can plunge the country into instability. As an optimistic African, I relish this argument and the feeling of maturity. I too believe that Nigeria is the continent’s big brother and must continue to show maturity in everything they do. After-all, it is the only country that can impose sanctions on western super powers in the same way sanctions are imposed on them. For its economic and military might, Africa must always look up to Nigeria. They have been there for the rest of Africa (including for our South African Comrades during those dark days).

However, as a realistic African, I cannot stop wondering what would have happened if GEJ (out of selfishness)contested the election result(as was the case in Ghana), what would have happened if instead of congratulating Buhari (as he did), GEJ went on live TV to say he won the election (as was the case in Ivory Coast and many other countries). The history of Nigeria and to a greater extend our entire continent has not been a palatable one when such circumstances occur. To overlook this selfless act of GEJ is to overlook the close to 2000 people who died following the result of the last presidential election where GEJ won and the history of Nigeria and the continent. So in my opinion, GEJ made Nigeria the matured Africa’s big brother that she truly is.
With ethnic tension at its apex in Nigeria at the moment, what GEJ did was to set the country on a non-ethnical and more sustainable democratic path. A path that will hopefully see the country follow the Ghanaians pattern in electing successive leaders not along ethnic lines but on merit and their vision for the country. Yes he lost the election, but he gave Nigeria what many other presidents would have avoided.

Many will say OBJ left peacefully, yes he did. But he did that at the end of his mandate, and he left mindful of the fact that his party and to a certain extent his handpicked successor was to lead the country. So it wasn’t really a lost. This is why I believe Nigerians must applaud Outgoing President Goodluck E. Jonathan. Not for economic reasons but for putting the country at the apex of the continent’s democratic strata.Because the burden of being a big brother requires a pedigree of objective maturity- The continent can now argue that the big brother is indeed a democratic beacon.

For a continent where leadership seems to be the cause of half of her economic, social and political problems, we must celebrate the victory of President-elect Gen Buhari and salute the courage of outgoing President GEJ. And if Nigerians will not give him this credit, we as Africans from countries like Burundi, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Libya, Egypt, Togo, Zimbabwe, etc must remind our Nigerian comrades of what political greed can do to a nation.

UBUNTU: Power of Collectivity or Principle of Success?

I recently came across this great story of a farmer who grew superior quality and award-winning CORN. Each year he entered his CORN in the best Farmer fair where it won honor and prizes.

Once a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learnt something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.

The reporter asked, “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering in the corn competition with yours each year?”

“Why sir, “said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior, sub-standard and poor quality corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my
corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors also to grow good corn.”

So it is with our lives. Those who want to live meaningfully and well must enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the life it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all. Call it power of collectivity. Call it a principle of success. Call it a law of life. The fact is, none of us truly wins, until we all win!!

And as my good friend Chris Ayangafac will say, “bro, Africa is endowed with the spirit of UBUNTU:I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Imagining an African Youth-led Democracy- By Njoya Tikum

On a working trip to South Africa, I met with my good friend and mentor Brian Kagoro who was leading the organisation of the International Youth Forum (hosted by UNDP and UN Habitat). As it was now of character for Brian and I to do some continental reflection, we immediately started contemplating what a democratic revolution led by young people (Youth-o-lution)will mean for the future of Africa. What if decisions about young people were made by them and not for them? what if  young women and men became the drivers of Africa’s  destiny? or better still, what if within the youths themselves, an inter-generational coalition led  the democratic process of Africa. As we went through the pros and cons of  Africa’s  Youth-o-lution, we began imagining what a Youth Led- Democracy will mean for Africa.

As Brian puts it, the question of under-development of African youth raises deep controversies about the confluence of modernity, culture, history, global and local injustices. Reinforcing these is the gendered nature of inequality and exclusion in many African societies. They are by no means exceptions in this regard.Equally so, it would be remiss not to note that it is after all an African country that has recorded the highest number of women that hold elective and appointive public office(Rwanda). That said , it is useful to note that all major religions that has engulfed Africa are largely partriarchal and dominated by senior black males. Most African traditional practices make a clear demarcation between the place of elders in decision-making as well as that of youth in obeying and implementing the wisdom of the elders.The space and place dichotomy based on no other merit but age typifies the stagnation of democratic development in several African countries. The illusion of experience and stability has justified the recycling of political elites who at a moral and technical level might be ill-suited to grapple with the challenegs of 21st Century Africa.

Modern society with its illusory claim of lberation has confiscated and sometimes annulled the human essence of African societies.Africans has embraced modernity without necessarily owning its definition and the processes of ensuring that it continuously develops to meet their objective and subjective developmental needs. Western institutional and epistermological fonts has been copied and applied without critical analysis or reflection. Africa has modernized governance without necessarily democratizing modernized African institutions and psyche. This super-imposition of archaic conceptions of power on inorganically fixed institutional types-in part – explains the convulsive mood that African countries have and continue to experience. Arguably African young people now have greater freedoms and greater rights and are more involved in decision-making. But such determinative power of choice conferrd upon persons who lack the economic means to sustain their own liberty has often meant an increase in poverty ,inequality, exclusion and anti-State sentiments and action. The destruction of a social ethos founded on mutual respect, inclusive development and social mores of the old order without any real modern equivalent defines the contours of Africa’s development quagmire and paradoxically the lovely continent’s real potential. We see in the place of traditional tyranny  a modern contextual tyranny of poverty, inequality and social dislocation. A more inclusive social order that reinforces social inequality through non-inclusion in the economy.

The fragility in African economies has often translated into fragility in African governance generally. It is a fragility reinforced by external as well as internal factors. At its ugliest this fragility takes on an ethnic and religious zealots face. The wealth of a few is seen as the anti-thesis of the poverty of many.It is as much a fragility arising out of weak leadership and institutions at the national level as it is an out-come of irresponsible leadership and global economic governance systems , processes,policies and structures. Across Africa we witness victims of this global attempt to transact development and democracy in an ethical vaccuum guided by missionary commitment to technicist terminology and lens. The language of clients and services ignores the centrality of self-determining human agents and national/local institutions. Stability and equality requires much more than good services provided by efficient nation-States , it requires genuine participation and inclusion of the disenfranchised majority.

In almost every African country where I have worked Youth make up more than 60% of the population. On average African High Schools each year produce close to 15 300 000 graduates per annum who predictably join the reserve army of the unemployed and restless youth.Often unemployed, poorly educated, with slim long-term life options this future generation is forced into a life of crime or scavenging. Instead of becoming what Oliver Tambo characterized as “shocktroopers” of the revolution, African youth have become the mainstay of the status quo(or the mess that we are in). They are use by political merchants to transact electoral violence and other heinous crimes in the interests or one or other political big man. The ugliness of African elections has a youthful face. Well one can also argue that were it not for their desperate economic plight African Youth would not be useable as political canon fodder. Beyond the ugliness of political contestation Africa is witnesses the nastiness of religious fundamentalisms across the board from Nigeria to Somalia to Algeria, Egypt and South Africa. Hatred in the name of the Nation, the tribe or even God has become an escape route for many unemployed and impressionable youth.

The global food , fuel and financial crises has created a further layer of hopelessness for a continent whose youth are yet to escape the lure of western exploitation and harsh migratory conditions. More young people go to bed hungry everyday  and a greater degree die of preventable diseases for want of medicines , access to clean drinking water and useable energy.

There are a myriad of structural and super-structural reasons that could explain the plight of youth in Africa today. But none is as important as the diminishing participation and leadership of youth in important political , economic and social decision-making within African communities. If this one is guaranteed then resourcing youth initiatives aimed at self-empowerment makes much more sense. Then youth employment makes plausible sense.

Imagining a youth-led democracy requires that we imagine a democracy that is open to innovative means and way of doing business. It also requires a sense of the future that is stronger than the present and the past. It requires inter-generational thinking. What this might mean for a bureaucracy like the United Nations, an LDC  or Middle Income Country(MIC) or small island State(SIS) requires much more reflection and focus.

But let us dare to imagine Youth-led Democracy not as an abherration or an Island of the immature, but a congregation of the foresighted.

Should Presidential Debates be Mandatory in Africa?

ImageAs Ghana prepared to hold its  presidential debate in  October 2012,   a writer with the  African Review  concluded that “holding live debates in Africa  only currently makes for good television only; the continent is still a long way from issue-based politics”.  This assertion instigated many  rhetoric questions for me;what is issue based politics? if Africa presidential debates were not issue-based, what then were the candidates discussing during the two hours session?.  I was thus persuaded to follow the Kenyan presidential debate last week (broadcasted On TV and online), to see if what this writer had said made any sense. To my delight, the Kenyan presidential debate did not only cover very substantive social, economic and military issues (jobs, youth unemployment, human rights, Kenya–Uganda border crisis, piracy, ethnicity and race) it  also showed the progress made by the continent  in the democratization of the electoral process.

As the primary means through which people express their preferences and choose their representatives, elections are a powerful democratic governance tool of voice, accountability and, ultimately, economic development. Elections feeds into the governance process which then provides economic and social policies that are responsive to people’s needs and aspirations and that aim at eradicating poverty and expanding the choices that all people have in their lives.

If inclusiveness and participation are fundamental ingredients for effective elections and democracy, then presidential and even local/ representative debates during election provide an avenue for these two ingredients to be added into the process of governance. In the Kenyan presidential debate of last week, the citizen had a chance to ask questions to the different presidential candidates through social media. Young voters embraced the new found medium of participation and engaged in the process as advocates or critics of the different policy visions advanced by the candidates. While this may not be life changing, a retrospective reflection of the political and electoral process that dominated the continent two decades ago, reinforced the reality of today’s changing Africa (two decade ago, citizens of most Africa countries could easily determined the outcome of the elections before people actually cast their votes- today, they get to engaged with the candidates directly, challenged thier propositions and share their opinion throughout the process). This is a recognizable mile stone that can easily be undermine with useless comparison to the so called issue-based politics in America ( btw:  are  America presidential debates really based on issues?– did any body watched the last Republican primaries?)

The other glaring progress noticed was the presence of a female candidate on stage during the presidential debate. Though this would have been considered a taboo two decades ago, the Kenyan presidential debate and the strength of the arguments advanced by the lone female candidates elucidates a changing reality in the continent.  That a female candidate was able stand toe to toe on live TV with other male politicians is an indication of what Africa’s tomorrow will look like and an inspiration to  all the intelligent sisters who  dare to dream  in countries with  some form of societal oppression and prejudice.  Beyond the debate, this shows that there will come a time  in africa when no special measures will be required to address deep-seated gender inequalities and provide traditionally excluded communities access to political power and the institutions that serve them. Though the continent now boasts of a number of female presidents, no one is blind to the challenges faced by women and the girl child in Africa.

Elections are usually the only means by which power is pursued and attained, and resources accessed in many African countries. They become, in the absence of a broader democratic system, a winner-takes-all proposition. As a result, those perceived as being  exclusive and flawed – can trigger violent conflict or call into question the legitimacy of the entire political system.  I’m not naïve to think that presidential debates alone will usher in a new era or transparent politics. This is not the case in most developed and developing countries. However, whether the presidential debates are issue based or not is irrelevant considering the broader role it plays in fostering inclusiveness and participation  and hence democratization in the countries that adopts this model. As my old friend would say,  “if  presidential debates are mandated in all African countries, most dictators will  not be able to stay in power  that long because they will run out of ideas to justify  perpetual renewal of their mandate”. With that, I concur that presidential debates should in deed be a norm in Africa’s presidential electoral systems.