|Thursday August 6, 2015 - US President says Africa needs strong institutions not strongmen - and six years later even though Sierra Leone has strong institutions in place, a rogue rat passing off as President makes a mockery of the institutions of governance.
Judiciary (including the Supreme Court), Anti Corruption
Commission and others compromised.
In July 2009, US President Barack Obama made his first historic visit to Africa as he touched down in the Ghanaian capital Accra where he was warmly received by many on the continent who saw this visit as a sign that the continent would now enjoy the spotlight of the powers that be in the United States of America.
Allow us to remind you of a part of what President Obama told the people of Ghana and Africa with the rest of the world listening with rapt attention. Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than just holding elections. It's also about what happens between elections.
Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.
In the 21st century, capable, reliable, and transparent institutions are the key to success -- strong parliaments; honest police forces; independent judges; an independent press; a vibrant private sector; a civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in people's everyday lives.
Across Africa, we've seen countless examples of people taking control of their destiny, and making change from the bottom up. We saw it in Kenya, where civil society and business came together to help stop post-election violence. We saw it in South Africa, where over three-quarters of the country voted in the recent election -- the fourth since the end of Apartheid. We saw it in Zimbabwe, where the Election Support Network braved brutal repression to stand up for the principle that a person's vote is their sacred right. Now, make no mistake: History is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.
With better governance, I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity. Witness the extraordinary success of Africans in my country, America. They're doing very well. So they've got the talent, they've got the entrepreneurial spirit. The question is, how do we make sure that they're succeeding here in their home countries? The continent is rich in natural resources. And from cell phone entrepreneurs to small farmers, Africans have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities. But old habits must also be broken. Dependence on commodities -- or a single export -- has a tendency to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, and leaves people too vulnerable to downturns.
Just as governance is vital to opportunity, it's also critical to the third area I want to talk about: strengthening public health. In recent years, enormous progress has been made in parts of Africa. Far more people are living productively with HIV/AIDS, and getting the drugs they need. I just saw a wonderful clinic and hospital that is focused particularly on maternal health. But too many still die from diseases that shouldn't kill them. When children are being killed because of a mosquito bite, and mothers are dying in childbirth, then we know that more progress must be made. Yet because of incentives -- often provided by donor nations -- many African doctors and nurses go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease. And this creates gaps in primary care and basic prevention. Meanwhile, individual Africans also have to make responsible choices that prevent the spread of disease, while promoting public health in their communities and countries.
Let me be clear: Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war. But if we are honest, for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes. These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck. Now, we all have many identities -- of tribe and ethnicity; of religion and nationality. But defining oneself in opposition to someone who belongs to a different tribe, or who worships a different prophet, has no place in the 21st century. Africa's diversity should be a source of strength, not a cause for division. We are all God's children. We all share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to access education and opportunity; to love our families and our communities and our faith. That is our common humanity.
That is why we must stand up to inhumanity in our midst. It is never justified -- never justifiable to target innocents in the name of ideology. It is the death sentence of a society to force children to kill in wars. It is the ultimate mark of criminality and cowardice to condemn women to relentless and systemic rape. We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur and the dignity of every woman in the Congo. No faith or culture should condone the outrages against them. And all of us must strive for the peace and security necessary for progress.
Fast forward, six years later to Kenya where President Obama was officially visiting the land of his father for the first time - as President of the United States of America. It was a visit that was full of hope as it was full of elaborate security arrangements that could only be found in a country where the hand of Al Shaabab terrorists had displayed its usual trade mark - mass murder at the slightest opportunity as witnessed at the Westgate Shopping Mall and the Garissa University attacks.
The BBC had this report on a talk given to young people at a stadium in Kenya just before leaving for Ethiopia and the African Union.
US President Barack Obama has praised Kenya's economic and political advances, but also warned of challenges ahead. In a speech in Nairobi, he said his father's homeland had "come so far in just my lifetime". But he also said corruption, terrorism and tribal or ethnic division were threats to its future. "Kenya is at a crossroads, a moment filled with peril but enormous promise," he said. Young Kenyans nowadays did not have to serve a colonial master or leave the country - like his grandfather and father had had to, Mr Obama said. "Because of Kenya's progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now," he said to applause from a huge audience at a sports stadium in the capital, Nairobi. But he warned that despite the country's political stability, tribal and ethnic divisions could be stirred up.
"A politics that's based on only tribe and ethnicity is doomed to tear a country apart. It is a failure - a failure of imagination," he said. President Obama also warned that the "cancer" of corruption was costing the country 250,000 jobs. And he condemned the repression of women - including female genital mutilation and forced marriage, which he said did not belong in the 21st Century - adding that the best use of development aid was to spend it on girls' education."
And in Ethiopia, this is what he told African leaders at the African Union in Addis Ababa, the first US President to visit and address the African Union. The event was at the Mandela Hall where his speech was punctuated by prolonged applause as he ripped apart the greedy designs of African leaders tearing their countries apart.
I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African. Africa and its people helped to shape America and allowed it to become the great nation that it is. And Africa and its people have helped shape who I am and how I see the world. In the villages in Kenya where my father was born, I learned of my ancestors, and the life of my grandfather, the dreams of my father, the bonds of family that connect us all as Africans and Americans.
Dignity -- that basic idea that by virtue of our common humanity, no matter where we come from, or what we look like, we are all born equal, touched by the grace of God. Every person has worth. Every person matters. Every person deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Throughout much of history, mankind did not see this. Dignity was seen as a virtue reserved to those of rank and privilege, kings and elders. It took a revolution of the spirit, over many centuries, to open our eyes to the dignity of every person. And around the world, generations have struggled to put this idea into practice in laws and in institutions.
Africa’s progress will depend on unleashing economic growth -- not just for the few at the top, but for the many, because an essential element of dignity is being able to live a decent life. That begins with a job. And that requires trade and investment.
Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption. And you are right that it is not just a problem of Africa, it is a problem of those who do business with Africa. It is not unique to Africa -- corruption exists all over the world, including in the United States. But here in Africa, corruption drains billions of dollars from economies that can't afford to lose billions of dollars -- that's money that could be used to create jobs and build hospitals and schools. And when someone has to pay a bribe just to start a business or go to school, or get an official to do the job they’re supposed to be doing anyway -- that’s not “the African way.” It undermines the dignity of the people you represent.
Only Africans can end corruption in their countries. As African governments commit to taking action, the United States will work with you to combat illicit financing, and promote good governance and transparency and rule of law. And we already have strong laws in place that say to U.S. companies, you can't engage in bribery to try to get business -- which not all countries have. And we actually enforce it and police it.
History shows that the nations that do best are the ones that invest in the education of their people. You see, in this information age, jobs can flow anywhere, and they typically will flow to where workers are literate and highly skilled and online. And Africa’s young people are ready to compete. I've met them -- they are hungry, they are eager. They’re willing to work hard. So we've got to invest in them. As Africa invests in education, our entrepreneurship programs are helping innovators start new businesses and create jobs right here in Africa. And the men and women in our Young African Leaders Initiative today will be the leaders who can transform business and civil society and governments tomorrow.
Africa’s progress will depend on development that truly lifts countries from poverty to prosperity -- because people everywhere deserve the dignity of a life free from want. A child born in Africa today is just as equal and just as worthy as a child born in Asia or Europe or America.
Instead of just sending medicine, we’re investing in better treatments and helping Africa prevent and treat diseases. As the United States continues to provide billions of dollars in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and as your countries take greater ownership of health programs, we’re moving toward a historic accomplishment -- the first AIDS-free generation. And if the world learned anything from Ebola, it’s that the best way to prevent epidemics is to build strong public health systems that stop diseases from spreading in the first place. So America is proud to partner with the AU and African countries in this mission. Today, I can announce that of the $1 billion that the United States is devoting to this work globally, half will support efforts here in Africa.
I believe Africa’s progress will also depend on democracy, because Africans, like people everywhere, deserve the dignity of being in control of their own lives. We all know what the ingredients of real democracy are. They include free and fair elections, but also freedom of speech and the press, freedom of assembly. These rights are universal. They’re written into African constitutions. The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights declares that “every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being.” From Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, democracy has taken root. In Nigeria, more than 28 million voters bravely cast their ballots and power transferred as it should -- peacefully. Yet at this very moment, these same freedoms are denied to many Africans. And I have to proclaim, democracy is not just formal elections.When journalists are put behind bars for doing their jobs, or activists are threatened as governments crack down on civil society then you may have democracy in name, but not in substance. And I'm convinced that nations cannot realize the full promise of independence until they fully protect the rights of their people.
No country is perfect, but we have to be honest, and strive to expand freedoms, to broaden democracy. The bottom line is that when citizens cannot exercise their rights, the world has a responsibility to speak out. And America will, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable even when it’s sometimes directed toward our friends. And I want to repeat, we do this not because we think our democracy is perfect, or we think that every country has to follow precisely our path.
For more than two centuries since our independence, we’re still working on perfecting our union. We're not immune from criticism. When we fall short of our ideals, we strive to do better. But when we speak out for our principles, at home and abroad, we stay true to our values and we help lift up the lives of people beyond our borders. And we think that's important. And it's especially important, I believe, for those of us of African descent, because we've known what it feels like to be on the receiving end of injustice. We know what it means to be discriminated against. We know what it means to be jailed. So how can we stand by when it's happening to somebody else?
I have to also say that Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end. Now, let me be honest with you -- I do not understand this. I am in my second term. It has been an extraordinary privilege for me to serve as President of the United States. I cannot imagine a greater honor or a more interesting job. I love my work. But under our Constitution, I cannot run again. I can't run again. I actually think I'm a pretty good President -- I think if I ran I could win. But I can't.
So there’s a lot that I'd like to do to keep America moving, but the law is the law. And no one person is above the law. Not even the President. When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife -- as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path. And sometimes you’ll hear leaders say, well, I'm the only person who can hold this nation together. If that's true, then that leader has failed to truly build their nation.
You look at Nelson Mandela -- Madiba, like George Washington, forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully. And just as the African Union has condemned coups and illegitimate transfers of power, the AU’s authority and strong voice can also help the people of Africa ensure that their leaders abide by term limits and their constitutions. Nobody should be president for life.
And finally, Africa’s progress will depend on upholding the human rights of all people -- for if each of us is to be treated with dignity, each of us must be sure to also extend that same dignity to others. As President, I make it a point to meet with many of our Young African Leaders. And one was a young man from Senegal. He said something wonderful about being together with so many of his African brothers and sisters. He said, “Here, I have met Africa, the [Africa] I’ve always believed in. She’s beautiful. She’s young. She’s full of talent and motivation and ambition.” I agree.
Let’s work together to stop sexual assault and domestic violence. Let’s make clear that we will not tolerate rape as a weapon of war -- it’s a crime. And those who commit it must be punished. Let’s lift up the next generation of women leaders who can help fight injustice and forge peace and start new businesses and create jobs -- and some might hire some men, too.
Nelson Mandela taught us, “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Every one of us is equal. Every one of us has worth. Every one of us matters. And when we respect the freedom of others -- no matter the color of their skin, or how they pray or who they are or who they love -- we are all more free. Your dignity depends on my dignity, and my dignity depends on yours. Imagine if everyone had that spirit in their hearts. Imagine if governments operated that way. Just imagine what the world could look like -- the future that we could bequeath these young people.
Yes, in our world, old thinking can be a stubborn thing. That's one of the reasons why we need term limits -- old people think old ways. And you can see my grey hair, I'm getting old. The old ways can be stubborn. But I believe the human heart is stronger. I believe hearts can change. I believe minds can open. That’s how change happens. That’s how societies move forward. It's not always a straight line -- step by halting step -- sometimes you go forward, you move back a little bit. But I believe we are marching, we are pointing towards ideals of justice and equality. New thinking. Unleashing growth that creates opportunity. Promoting development that lifts all people out of poverty. Supporting democracy that gives citizens their say. Advancing the security and justice that delivers peace. Respecting the human rights of all people. These are the keys to progress -- not just in Africa, but around the world. And this is the work that we can do together.