Irony of looters finding solution to looting crisis

Monday February 26 2024
Senegal protests

Demonstrators protest against the postponement of the February 25 presidential election in Dakar, Senegal on February 9, 2024. PHOTO | REUTERS


African heads of state met in Addis Ababa to discuss worsening political instability in many of its member countries. Instability includes coups, civil war, militia violence, ethnic violence, violent rebellions, street protests, hunger, refugees, and so on.

These are, indeed, apocalyptic times on the continent, thus the need for leaders to act in utmost urgency. Accordingly, the presidents’ cavalcades burst forth from palaces, heading to the airport.

The presidents, accompanied by an assortment of joyriders, then hop on to their presidential planes. On arrival in Addis, the capital of yet another country in political crisis, they hug like religious pilgrims.

In the bright Addis sun, their expensive taste in watches, belts and shoes are in full display. Seeing their ostentatious splendour and that of their entourage, you could easily believe that those pictures of starving people from their countries being beamed across the globe are fabrications of Western media.

Read: ULIMWENGU: Our ruling politicians seriously lack consistency

But I digress. What I want to discuss is the idea of African heads of state solving problems of instability in Africa. That idea is an oxymoron. How does the root cause of underdevelopment and instability – political leadership – resolve itself?


Can leadership that loots or misuses public resources, or refuses to hand over power when it loses, or adds itself unconstitutional terms, or postpones scheduled elections, or appoints unqualified cronies, or incites tribalism, or suppresses freedom of expression and association, etc, purport to solve instability and development?

Instability and underdevelopment result from looting, despotism, tribalism and mismanagement. For instance, the creeping instability in Senegal is being orchestrated by Macky Sall.

The violence in eastern Congo emanates from many years of ineffectual and corrupt government. The crises in the Sudans are a result of competition for power among the elite. The coups in West Africa happen because of corrupt governance and attendant poverty.

There is not a single problem in Africa that is not a direct consequence of bad, corrupt leadership. Therefore, the imagery of people who are the problem bidding each other triumphal goodbyes after issuing communiqués purporting to have solved the problem is the greatest, tragic farce in modern history.

The AU was not designed to solve Africa’s problems of democracy and development. It was designed to protect African sovereignty from outside interference. Sovereignty, according to AU logic, resides, not with the people, but with presidents.

Thus, when African presidents are criticised by international human rights organisations, the AU rushes to protect them, claiming African sovereignty is under attack.

Likewise, when the International Criminal Court threatens prosecution of presidents for human rights abuses on the continent, the AU says it is interference with Africa’s sovereignty. Does the AU ever criticise African human rights excesses, plunder of resources by presidents, murder of citizens by their leaders?

That we still expect much from the AU pantomime every year points to a crisis of rationality.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator