The Sahel facing corruption. PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 15 May 2018 10:07

For many years, a nagging affirmation associates corruption and Africa. To say the least, that assertion, though interesting, may be excessive. Indeed, the world over, there is lesser tolerance for corruption.

Hence, the merit of the President of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, for putting corruption on the Agenda of the last Summit of that Organization.



An economic necessity.


For at least two reasons, it is useful to pacify the debate around corruption. First, this plague, which exists everywhere in the world, is not a specificity of the continent. In addition, denouncing and fighting corruption should not be understood as a moral standing, let alone a stigma. It is simultaneously an economic imperative, a political requirement and security measure.


Finally, fighting corruption also helps to promote economic development and hence, indirectly, to prevent civil conflicts and irregular migrations. Both two are often linked to exclusion and poverty and often exacerbated by unpunished corrupt practices.


In the 1990s, an Indonesian colleague asked me if, invested locally, the money generated from corruption would not lubricate the mechanisms of the national economy, thus accelerating the concerned countries’ growth. To him, corruption in Africa, unlike that of Asia, is too ostentatious and unproductive in that its loots evaporate immediately beyond borders and, in addition, is spent on flashy luxury products.


Global Financial Integrity and the African Development Bank estimate that $ 1.3 trillion has been transferred out of the African continent between 1980 and 2009.


Endemic and arrogant, African corruption discredits both the public and the private elites. This discredit weakens them morally as well as politically and makes their messages to their people inaudible, or at least hardly credible. It is also certain that it cannot convince their external partners.


Diverse forms of corruption


There is small and big corruption. Both kinds are disgraceful for their effects on mentalities and their extra costs imposed on the economy. The first is that of juniors employees and other public service agents. For a few pennies, they harass citizens at the big cities crossroads, and often with special attention to foreign visitors.


That endemic corruption, very obvious and exhausting, is only a by-product of the great corruption that is often institutionalized. It is the corruption of senior national officials. Through arrogant behavior and benefitting from impunity, these dignitaries introduced and generalized bribes, embezzlement and fraud. In several Sahelian countries this corruption has become a genuine political under culture.


That is precisely the corruption addressed by an international Convention signed on December 12, 2002 in Merida, Mexico. Its article 53 refers to "measures for the direct recovery of property." Better known in the media as the recovery of "ill-gotten property," this article deals with the ruling elites corrupt practices and the recovery of property. Property looted from their rightful owners, the citizens of the affected countries.


It is this well-known corruption, and especially its impunity, that is causing the greatest harm to Africa. Our states and citizens as well as our external partners should fight with determination that impunity.


In Europe, top political leaders, suspected of corruption will face national justice, not to score political points against them, a frequent practice in Africa, but to respond to accusations brought against them. A former German Chancellor, a former Italian Prime Minister and a former French Budget Minister are three of most known cases.


Ensuring governments’ decency.


In terms of corruption, actions by a number of governments’ leaders often aim at protecting their subordinates but mainly their own private pockets. No doubt there is intimate solidarity with these subordinates as if they had acted on orders from higher authority. This approach boosts the failing of states institutions and more precisely those that best protect the country and its citizens: the police and the judiciary, or inform and educate them: the free press.


Obstacles to the action of the judiciary against notoriously corrupt civil servants delegitimize states institutions and strengthen corruption. It discredits the governmental authority and annihilates the impact of its actions even the most worthy ones.


Precisely, in the Sahel countries where news and rumors move fast and everyone knows everyone else, the costs of corruption are much more devastating than in many other countries. They threaten the very viability of the most affected countries.


There are several reasons for that situation. The first is people extreme sensitivity to abuses that are often perceived as favoring a region or an ethnic group. In addition, the scarcity of financial resources, the magnitude of the requirements and the need to responding urgently, implies the inadequacy of the '' losses '' of funds. Finally, the importance of a responsible management of projects and other investments, and therefore the reduction of budgetary evaporation, calls rather for restraint than mishandling.


Moreover, in Africa, the most effective weapons for the prevention and fight against corruption - the press, police and judiciary - do not enjoy the same margins of freedoms or resources and influence as elsewhere. In their lack, or because of their financial deprivation, there is total blackout on prevarications. That context further weakens the dissuasion against the scourge of corruption.


In some countries, everything is a pretext for the extortion of property and income to the detriment of the state. The systematic appropriation of built and other public property and forced participation in foreign investment contracts is commonplace. Census and registration, an area of ​​sovereignty par excellence and crucial to the security services, is sometimes entrusted to the private sector and not to the National Police as elsewhere in the world. Conflicts of interest become obvious.


The resulting electoral lists, modifiable at will, are full of duplicates. Their reliability is often dubious.


 Recruitment in administrations gives more importance to nepotism and corruption than to merit and competence. According to social networks, "who do you come from?" is a selection test much more common in exams than the question "what degree do you have?"


The recruitment standards of the staff for the most sensitive administrations – security services, health administration and education - essential to the populations and to the durability of the states are thus threatened. It is not only a question of deficiencies due to incompetence or indigence of the services but deliberate corrupt operations aimed at controlling a sector of the national economy. It is now common to see government officials in commercial competition with national and foreign private sector operators.


The perverse effects of these practices, which are often well entrenched, have devastating effects on the Sahel countries, their economies and their institutions. As a result, imitation effects become fully grown and thus many citizens follow that frightening culture of looting while enjoying impunity from justice. That political culture, not only drives away foreign direct investments, but also contributes to national savings migrating overseas for cover.


How to get out?


To continue blaming foreigners with the kind of slogans, '' no corruption without corrupters ‘‘, will not resolve our difficulties. We must fight the cancer of corruption as do other countries around the world. That should be through the Medias, Police and the Judiciary system and of course, through an exemplary Leadership. Former President Senghor of Senegal used to repeat: "in politics, the family is the enemy."


In the long run, corruption impoverishes countries and individuals. Money laundering, various trafficking and impunity are the cocktail that keeps the vicious circle of poverty live and strong. A cocktail that weakens states and makes them vulnerable to civil conflicts, to brain drain and even to …workforce drain.


The nagging issue of the fight against corruption in Africa should stop being a taboo. As elsewhere, and because it cannot be eradicated, confronting it should help, to marginalize it.


Organizations, such as International Consortium Investigative Journalists, European Investigative Collaboration, Transparency International and others should, as they do elsewhere the world over, pursue also their fight against corrupt practices in Africa.


Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 May 2018 10:16 )

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