HOW SOLID IS THE AFRICAN UNITY? – AFRICA DAY

“…..Some counties tend to think in the confines of their small, fragmented and parceled-out little states forgetting they have no impact but if colonial boarders are opened, the impact will not only be for a single state but for the entire continent……”.

Every 25th May, the African day is celebrated within the African continent to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963 and the African Union (AU) in 2002, as well as celebrate the continent’s progress. 2017 of course wasn’t any different, African leaders were seen hosting events and ceremonies to mark the significant day. This year’s celebration was under the theme ‘Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth”. The theme was derived from the fact that the continent today has one of the largest populations of people aged 35 and younger, and while that can be an asset, it can also be a challenge. Over the years, I used to ask myself why we celebrate the Africa day; I realized that we do so because of the richness and diversity of the continent and its people, and it’s also one of the ways to promote unity and solidarity among the African states. After realizing this, I started pondering on how solid the African unity is?

So far, only 13 countries have loosened or scrapped Visa requirements for African travelers in a move towards the lofty goal of turning Africa into a continent with seamless boarders, modeled after other regional blocs like the European Union, but what about the other 41 countries? This means that some African travelers are denied entry into many African countries. Let me just point out Ethiopia, a country that hosts the African Union headquarters requires almost all African states but 3 to pay for a visa between US$28-US$50. To what extent is this promoting the free movement of people and goods on the continent? I also tried to apply for a Visa to another African country (I choose not to disclose) to attend an International conference only to be denied. I wasn’t disappointed because I was not going to attend the conference but simply because I realized we still have a long way to go as far as reaching the African solidarity. Some counties tend to think in the confines of their small, fragmented and parceled-out little states forgetting they have no impact but if colonial boarders are opened, the impact will not only be for a single state but for the entire continent.

The notion “African solutions to African problems” became very popular in 2014, but it seems to just have been an interesting catchy phrase.  I think the founding fathers of the OAU: Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere envisioned a united Africa free of war but African countries are fighting amongst themselves either politically, economically or even cold wars. Back to the popular phrase “African solutions to African problems” that is yet to yield much for the citizens of the continent. If we are to look at insecurities and conflicts in some countries like Burundi and South Sudan, many lives have been claimed and scores displaced. What has the continent done? To what extent has the AU gone to pacify these areas? How are the young people affected in the conflict areas? These are the questions and many more others that someone keeps asking. What solutions have been adopted for these African problems? Like xenophobic attacks that are still make headlines on the continent – often surfacing at the beginning of every financial year because post-apartheid South Africans are looking for job opportunities in order to put food on their table. This is not only a symptom of the deep leadership deficit but an indicator of limited or no African unity and solidarity.

Africa is a large and beautiful continent blessed with ample natural resources but surprisingly young Africans are always risking their lives on a desperate journey to cross the Mediterranean, only to live as illegal immigrants in Europe. We have lost thousands of young people to the sea, who are fleeing the poor state of the living conditions in their respective countries. What is the missing link? Unless African leaders start thinking about a more forward-looking, people-centered developmental agenda aimed to transform African communities, they might just continue singing the African unity and solidarity without realizing it.

 

 

Speech by President Museveni on his inauguration

Uganda Politics

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is sworn in for fourth term at Kololo Airstrip in the capital city Kampala Thursday, May 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen Wandera)

On the 12th May 2016 Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, was sworn in for a fifth term at the helm of the beautiful Central African country. In attendance were various African head of states and governments, including Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who has an arrest warrant issued by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In his speech Museveni referred to the ICC as “a useless body. They are a bunch of useless people.” This is not the first time an African leader has made such remarks about the ICC and it wasn’t Museveni’s first time either. In brief, the problem African leaders have with ICC is that they say that it unfairly targets Africans and ignores other war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by others. This is an allegation with basis I fact, all 32 people indicted in its history are all Africans.  This argument ignores the bigger problem, which is why does Africa not have their own independent and credible national judicial institutions or even African Criminal Court.

Admissibility is a legal term that defines when a case may come before a court, with the ICC, it may only accept a case, if the national judicial system is investigating and prosecuting the same matter in an independent and credible manner. This was the case in Kenya with the Waki Commission, set up to investigate and prosecuted the post-election violence, was found to not be credible and the cases passed to the ICC. This failure of our institutions is what puts us in this situations, where we are always undermined by the Western powers and they feel the need to act like a big brother and ‘essentially protect us from ourselves’, even against our wishes. Africa needs functioning credible, strong and independent judicial institutions, in which the ordinary citizen has access and can expect fair treatment no matter his/her economic status, tribe, political affiliation or gender.

We already have a continental court with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but it does not work efficiently, because of lack of political will and economic means. The African Union, the parent of the African Court is mostly funded by non-African institutions and governments. Again this is another area in which Africa needs a long term solution not just rhetoric, the area of economy.

The ICC might very well be biased against the African continent, as African leaders make up the majority of indictments and prosecutions, even though we know there are human rights violations in Europe, the Americas and Asia. But leaving the ICC isn’t the answer to countering this supposed bias. Instead of trying to evade prosecution from the ICC, African leaders need to be working at eliminating poverty in their countries, educating their citizens, and establishing the rule of law and truly observing human rights. They need to renounce and uproot from their governments, the greedy, self-serving attitudes that have plunged our continent into poverty and wars for so long, and take responsibility for bettering their countries, rather than always blaming others for our misfortunes.

Our leaders are well within their rights to demand that the ICC be fair and just in prosecuting all the leaders around the world who commit crimes against humanity. In the meantime, they need to ensure that they are blameless themselves, rather than trying to find ways to avoid prosecution.

Once again we refer to Museveni’s speech where he referred to the Chinese nation and said “Those people are also our genuine friends. They have no arrogance. If a man has his own house and he goes in another man’s house … what type of fool are you?” Here he was basically saying that the Chinese government offer aid or maybe investment without any conditions, unlike the western countries. African countries rely too much on foreign aid in every area of government from health and education to military, this has created a situation where they always have to beg. The natural resources of Africa are not benefiting Africans, either through corruption or global economic policies that do not offer Africa their deserved share. Policies of institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have put Africa in so much debt, due to high interests, that it will take generations to pay back. What is needed is not to choose Chinese over Americans but to create an African economy that is self-sustainable and strong, where we trade among ourselves, negotiate together as one and allow free movement of goods and people within the continent.

 

In conclusion, what Museveni should have said in his speech is that we need an Africa with strong, independent and accessible national institutions, a strong, united and inclusive economy and the ability, as Africans, to identify and solve our own problems.

By Joseph Nkurunziza Chairperson of Africa Democracy Forum @ryarasa

 

 

 

 

 

Poverty, corruption and climate change must be addressed to harness the fourth industrial revolution

By Joseph Nkurunziza

We are inevitably on the brink of a technological revolution; the fourth industrial revolution. This is an important and powerful global shift that recognizes the need to realign business processes as well as government policies to technological advances in order to effectively meet goals. Technology is exponentially influencing our lives on a daily basis and in future it is not expected to relent but will in fact alter some of the more sophisticated human tasks such as driving a car by offering self-driven vehicles. It is also expected to make positive impacts on important sectors such as health, infrastructure and environment to improve service delivery.

The fourth industrial revolution is an opportune time for African states to catch up with their European, American and Asian counterparts. Technological advances based on digital networks have somehow leveled the playing field for Africans to be able to develop important solutions tailored to the African context. At the just ended World Economic Forum, delegates emphasized the need to adopt the revolution to transform economies and improve the lives of citizens in Africa. Indeed the revolution if well adopted, I believe stands the chance to achieve better standards of living for Africans while providing employment to the growing youthful population – many of whom are educated but lack employment opportunities.

While previous industrial revolutions largely by passed the African continent because African states were unable to effectively harness their potential, Africa should this time around prepare adequately to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution. There is hence a need to ask ourselves one fundamental question: what will it take to sustainably adopt the fourth industrial revolution to improve lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Africa?

To answer this, we must recognize that the revolution will not function in a vacuum. There are many factors that will influence the uptake of the latest digital technologies in Africa. Poverty, governance issues including corruption and climate change are paramount to address if Africa is going to make the most out of the revolution.

Poverty is a barrier for African economies to effectively harness the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. Poverty and its corollaries – hunger, diseases and lack of proper education – have a negative impact on the ability of people to exploit available opportunities. It presents people with difficult day to day choices where having enough food to put on the table is the foremost priority. A large population of Africans is living below the poverty line and they happen to be the ones who can benefit most from advances in technology.

A unique trait of the revolution is the ability of people to not just use technology but create it to solve problems and improve quality of lives. Governments hence need to invest heavily in poverty alleviation programmes and institute policies that will give the poor an opportunity to take advantage of technological advances. As people are lifted out of poverty and empowered to use technology to solve problems, the ripple effect will be enormous on the economy. We will have more people solving age-old problems, creating wealth and ultimately contributing to poverty reduction.

Corruption is a cancer that has characterized many African governments for far too long and contributed to limited development. It is also one of the reasons why the continent did not benefit fully from previous industrial revolutions. Good governance is vital in addressing the issue of corruption. It calls for the participation of citizens in ensuring that leaders are accountable and governments as well as the civil society have role in educating citizens on the benefits of an inclusive government. Whatever advances can be achieved through technology need to be protected  from regressing through corruption.

Climate change although a relatively novel issue in the development world, is having widespread effects that cannot be ignored even when we are debating matters of technology. The African continent contributes least to climate change compared to developed countries but stands to suffer most from its effects. As weather patterns become more erratic due to climate change, Africa’s poor population whose mainstay is agriculture is drawn farther into poverty. Poverty, as previously explained will limit adoption of the fourth industrial revolution.

Poverty, corruption and climate change need to be addressed to enable Africans to harness the immense benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. It is an uphill task but unless we recognize the importance of addressing these issues and investing in appropriate measures and systems, we risk – yet again – being by passed by the revolution.

Joseph@neveragainrwanda.org  Twitter: @ryarasa

The Power of the Young

Walk-To-Remember


 

He alone who owns the youth, gains the future,” this statement carries much truth and weight especially in this generation. The international day of youth was held on August 12, 2014, in Kigali with the aim to celebrate the power and importance of the youth in bringing about change in a nation first, then in the world. There is a mighty power in the midst of our nation and it is our duty to utilize that power to bring out positive change.
Countries in the world, especially in the Great Lakes Region, have to realize the importance of the youth as partners of positive change and development. Governments, leaders, and policy makers must seek to implement relevant laws and policies that will empower the youth as pivotal citizens of the nation. The youth’s input is equally, if not more important as they hold the future of the nation. Every generation must be given room to bring about the revolution and change suitable to its needs and vision.
The international day of the youth’s should focus on raising the voice of the young especially in policy making bodies. There is much that could be gained from the young people of our nation. Their power to discover, explore, and create new things should be respected and empowered. The nation should provide the support and tools required to the youth in their endeavors because they are the source and actors of a change for brighter nation.
There are several committed, energetic, and proactive young citizens in Rwanda who instill hope in a better nation. Young entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and movements can bring about social change in the nation if provided with the right support and tools. There is hope that the issues that strike the region, even the world, have their solutions in the hands of the young generation.