Saturday, September 17, 2011

Africa's Leaky Political Institutions

Chinua Achebe stated that the central problem facing modern-day Africa was one of bad governance. Ah!, but what was the medium, the social framework, that allowed these "bad Governors" to flourish in modern-day Africa. In my opinion, I'd say that what ails Africa the most is chronically faulty institutions. Our Central problem is less a problem of odious individuals in politics, but rather, one of leaky political institutions (that allow these same odious individuals to flourish unhindered, in their own high depths of depravity).

Political commentators will trot out the same institutions needed for social progress (enforceable property rights, the sanctity of contracts, press freedoms, apolitical militaries etc, etc). But, only two essential ingredients are needed to put Africa onto the path of greater progress: term limits and greater press freedoms. If all African Presidents and Prime Ministers were limited to only two terms (with each term lasting four or five years) then we could have the dynamism and change that's needed for any society to flourish. Furthermore, there must not be a proviso that allows our tin-pot dictators to amend the Constitution (with a Parliamentary majority), in order to run again for political office. It would be either one term or a second, and then you're out! We could avoid the situation (of Guinea's ex-President) Lansana Conte who stayed in office for a grand total of 24 years. Ten of those years in office were spent in bed-ridden isolation, as the rudderless country of Guinea lurched from one problem to another.

The second institutional reform that has to be allowed is greater press freedoms. We might never be able to root out corruption or tribalism, but at least with greater press freedoms, we will know where we stand and what needs to be done. If it weren't for Wikileaks we might not have learnt of President Mugabe's health problems or some of the inner schisms that beset the ruling Zanu-pf. We need a vigorous press that's allowed to flourish, and engage and debate with the nation on the various goings-on. It's essential to have greater press freedoms, as living in the dark runs counter to the smooth functioning of the democratic process


dernali said...

I dissent on Wikileaks...

James Chikonamombe said...

Wikileaks is just the tip of the iceberg. With modern media technology, I'm sure that "whistleblower" outlets like Wikileaks will become mainstream.