Nelson Mandela: In Memoriam

Excerpt from African Expectations: Musings From Where I Stand

AFRICA NEEDS RAINBOW LEADERS

Many African leaders have perfected the art of leadership by distraction. Unable to provide solutions to the challenges facing their countries, they take political shortcuts. They hide incompetence behind divisiveness. They pit race against race, ethnicity against ethnicity, and “indigenous” people against “foreigners.” Charlie Chaplin, the famed English comic actor once said: “Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people.” Yes! A number of our political leaders are dictators who have perfected the art of political prestidigitation. These leaders have either refused to walk in the giant footsteps of illustrious predecessors such as Nelson Mandela or they used to be inspirational leaders who now entrench themselves in power through all sorts of artifices.

Nelson Mandela’s party – the African National Congress (ANC) has been in power since the end of apartheid but Mandela’s legacy continues to be dragged through the mud by leaders who came after him. It is quite appalling that over the years, the leadership style of the post – jail Mandela that has proved successful at uniting South Africa has been all but completely discarded by leaders who could be considered his heirs. It appears that in current South Africa, nepotism, cronyism, and corruption are creeping into governance culture at alarming rates.14 Take for example the brouhaha generated by the ArcelorMittal South Africa, Kumba mine rights dispute and the related contentious Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deal involving ArcelorMittal, President Jacob Zuma’s son, and businessmen close to the president.15

The president’s son is alleged to have acquired a stake in steel giant ArcelorMittal’s South Africa unit in a sweetheart deal reached under the BEE legislation. The BEE legislation seeks to reverse the inequalities of the apartheid system by transferring ownership stakes in companies to disadvantaged groups.16 BEE is reminiscent of the “indigenization law” in Zimbabwe. There is a perception in South Africa that the BEE legislation is a guise for the ruling elites of the ANC to acquire wealth. Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki has even argued that the BEE legislation was in fact the creation of the country’s white economic oligarchs to co-opt black leaders and was never intended to advance the masses.17

Following the sharp criticisms and the media backlash generated by the ArcelorMittal deal, Duduzane Zuma – the president’s son vowed to donate 70% of his share in the deal to charity by spreading it among other South Africans who are needy and disadvantaged like he once was.18 The notion that nation building will occur when the ruling elite use their connections to amass wealth with the intention of sharing among poor people is quite laughable. Charity has never lifted a people permanently out of poverty. Perhaps, Mandela’s successors have run out of ideas to lift the millions of poor South Africans out of poverty. As such, it has become common practice for leaders of the ANC to use South Africa’s Apartheid past as scapegoat for today’s problems. Rather than vigorously fight crime, corruption, and nepotism, ANC leaders resort to racial politics to whip up tensions in order to galvanize the black community in the hope of securing their votes.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” But his dream of racial harmony in South Africa seems to be morphing into an illusion as even his respected contemporaries such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu appear to now speak in racial terms. In response to a call by the respected Archbishop for a wealth tax on white people, many have argued that white people already do more than their fair share. They argue that white people are responsible for more than half of all personal income tax which the government currently collects.19 It is evident that Apartheid skewed education levels in favor of white people resulting in a wealth gap. This explains the higher number of white South Africans who pay personal income tax compared with black South Africans. As such, the post-apartheid black empowerment and affirmative action policies are justified. However, these policies will have success only when the education gap is bridged. After decades of ruling South Africa, the ANC cannot continue to blame Apartheid for current problems. Is it fair to claim that black people in South Africa are still fighting for freedom in the face of white oppression?

Radicals suggest that white South Africans ought to leave South Africa because the country belongs to black people. That is total gibberish, pardon my French! In the new South Africa, white folks have a role to play. After all, the majority of white people were born in South Africa. Their families have been South Africans for generations. Those who propagate the idea of a black only South Africa ought to remember the legacy of Nelson Mandela. The new South Africa is not called the rainbow nation for nothing. White people are an important cultural, economic and political force that should be harnessed for a better South Africa. I do understand that black people may still be reeling with pain over the brutal psychological and physical abuse they endured under the apartheid system. Under such circumstances, healing occurs slowly. The legacy of Apartheid is painful but South Africans cannot afford to be bitter. The people of South Africa must not forget but they must forgive. Forgiveness will not change the past but it is the key that will open the door to brighter days.

As long as unresolved issues such as economic inequalities, crime and discrimination remain, there will be opportunistic politicians to capitalize on the sense of anger and despondency in order to further their own parochial interests. While a bright future is on the horizon, this new dawn – a rainbow nation is still a night away. The deeply ingrained sense of historical persecution cannot be easily erased but the ideal of a rainbow nation is worth fighting for. South Africans must disown race baiting politicians and choose politicians who will approach issues from a pragmatic, all-inclusive angle. Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” In a country where poverty is still largely defined by skin color, it is imperative for leaders to work to lift the lowest tier out of impoverishment through better education and more opportunities for employment.

It is time for the African National Congress to put the black in the rainbow. Given the history of South Africa, I think it is more constructive to forsake racial rhetoric and focus on the new South Africa envisioned by Nelson Mandela. I define the Mandela legacy as one that conceptualizes South Africa as a nation of multiple yet harmonious colors. The people of South Africa need to forget about race because it fuels disunity. Race is not the problem in South Africa right now; unemployment is. In its first economic survey of South Africa, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) asserts that South Africa has an extreme and persistent low employment problem, which interacts with other economic and social problems such as inadequate education, poor health outcomes and crime. Vulnerable groups are most affected by unemployment, and in South Africa the problem is most extreme for black youth.20

There was a lot of noise in the media about the jobs that will be created by the 2010 world cup hosted by South Africa but the post-world cup reality appears not to justify the hype. The world cup may have put South Africa in the spotlight but I doubt that it has had a significant impact on South Africa’s economy. Some regions may have experienced improved infrastructure while others inherited stadiums which are white elephants with high maintenance costs. A long term increase in tourism may help offset the billions invested in the world cup. But, the true rewards of hosting the world cup may yet be felt for a number of years. There is undeniably a growing chasm between the rich and the poor in South Africa. The post-apartheid dreams of economic empowerment for the black majority are not being realized at a satisfactory pace. And, South Africans are increasingly frustrated. Unequal societies create instability irrespective of racial composition. One cannot help but wonder whether the sporadic xenophobic attacks21 on immigrants are not but the symptoms of the deep malaise that disenfranchised South Africans feel.

The biggest challenge facing the post-apartheid leadership is how to create jobs to lift millions of South Africa’s youth out of poverty. Poverty is an insidious disease that can result in the sort of mindless xenophobic attacks against fellow African refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers as witnessed in 2009.22 In South Africa, there are simmering tensions between the haves and the have-nots. It just so happens that the majority of the have-nots are black which is quite predictable given the history of South Africa. Also, the majority of have-nots are young people. This combination of strained race relations and youth unemployment presents a daunting challenge. President Zuma once stated that 70% of the South African population of some 49 million is younger than 35 and 50% of people in the age group 18 to 24 are unemployed.23 Having achieved non-racial democracy, it is imperative for South Africa to lift its millions of unemployed out of poverty into a vibrant middle class. South Africa must exorcise the demon of joblessness in order to reach the Promised Land. The millions of unemployed youth pose a national security question that must be answered convincingly. Else, the frustrated youths’ anger and misdirected energy will naturally result in excesses such as riots and xenophobic attacks.

The dawn of post-racial South Africa was pregnant with the promise of economic empowerment for the millions of blacks who were second class citizens. However, the high expectations of the people seem not to be met. The introduction of National Service by the South African National Defense Force certainly provides an opportunity for the unemployed youth to learn discipline and leadership but this is only a temporary measure. I humbly suggest the provision of incentives – monetary or otherwise for the youth to stay in school for as long as possible. Epictetus once stated: “Only the educated are free.” The better educated South African youths are, the more feasible the dream of economic empowerment. Under the Apartheid system, white South African children received quality education virtually free of charge, while their black counterparts had only gutter education. The decades of systematic denial of the pursuit of higher learning ought to be reversed by affirmative action. In South Africa’s 2012/2013 budget, the biggest slice of the social services cake went to education (R207.3 billion).24 This is remarkable but I reckon the country may have to spend even more to rectify the imbalances of Apartheid. There are millions of South Africans who have only been exposed to low quality education.

Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore once stated: “It is essential to rear a generation at the very top of society that has all the qualities needed to lead and give the people the inspiration and the drive to make it succeed. In short, the elite. Every society tries to produce this type”. The new South Africa cannot consistently produce this elite group if millions of black South Africans continue to lack access to good quality education. The ruling elites on the continent are key determinants of accelerated development. The better educated they are the better. Unless the education gap that exists as a result of years of oppression under Apartheid is bridged, South Africa may soon suffer a leadership crisis in addition to its youth unemployment problem. Racial politics and indigenization to which our leaders resort will not resolve these challenges.

Indigenization is a concept that gives me indigestion. There is nothing wrong with the word itself but it is one of those politically expedient buzz words that dictators use as a smokescreen to hide ineptitude and incompetence. In Zimbabwe, the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act passed by parliament in 2007 requires businesses valued at more than $500,000 to “cede” a 51% share to indigenous Zimbabweans. An “indigenous” Zimbabwean is defined as any person who, before 18th April, 1980, was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such person, and includes any company, association, syndicate or partnership of which indigenous Zimbabweans form the majority of the members or hold the controlling interest.25 Given the history of Zimbabwe, it is understandable for the Zimbabwean authorities to seek to redistribute the wealth of the country but one must not put the cart before the horse.

It may be politically expedient to satisfy the masses with such a radical proposition but the fundamental problem with the indigenization concept is that a lot of these companies may be forced to cede controlling stakes to people who are not qualified and/or trained to successfully manage these businesses. It is troubling that this law appears to be targeted at white Zimbabweans. The owners of these businesses have been Zimbabweans for many generations. Zimbabwe is probably the only country these owners know. So to force them to give up businesses they have built through hard work for the most part may be counterproductive. Empowerment of the “indigenous” people of Zimbabwe can be achieved while preserving somewhat the outcome of the hard work of business owners.

President Mugabe is an example of the kind of leadership that keeps the people of Africa in underdevelopment. The history books tell me that he was a great freedom fighter. Fair enough but taking businesses from white people and giving it to black people is a one dimensional approach to the problems of Zimbabwe that shows a lack of strategic vision. There is a Ugandan proverb that says: “If a leader loves you, he makes sure you build your house on rock.” Giving businesses to people without first training them is certainly not building a house on rock solid foundation. When the rains come in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against Zimbabwe’s economy, the country will collapse because its people are not trained to navigate these challenges. A country’s economy cannot be built with such ad-hoc measures. In the interest of the greater good, the first step in the indigenization law ought to be requiring foreign-owned businesses to hire a certain quota of the most qualified “indigenous” people and train another quota of the least qualified perhaps through internships for eventual employment. This kind of affirmative action could be backed with tax incentives for these businesses. This is a more sustainable approach than state sponsored spoliation. In its current form, all the indigenization law does is to kill the Zimbabwean economy softly.

There are many other political shortcuts that our vision deficient leaders like to take. And, chief among these political sleights of hands is ethnicity. Sadly, electoral politics in Africa is often fraught with the anomaly of ethnicity. I have always been puzzled by the unwritten agreement in Ghana that there needs to be an ethnic and/or regional balance in government. Political discourse in that country when it comes to the formation of governments often centers on the regional or ethnic balance in government appointments. Perhaps this arrangement is intended to keep the peace but it is best government appointments be made based on qualifications and experience. In Nigeria, the highest office in the land is often rotated based on ethnic and/or religious identity instead of competency.

I am not one of those who in the 21st century will continue to blame slavery and colonialism for sowing the seeds of division and ethnic hierarchy in African societies because I believe that the blame game must stop at some point. After half a century of independence, we cannot afford to continue to partake in this futile distraction. I believe that political parties must be built on advocacy for policies that address the most pressing short, medium, and long term needs of African people. Whatever happened to merit? Political leadership must be awarded to the best and brightest not the most identifiable to an ethnic group. Is it not obvious that there are many drawbacks to ethnic politics? For one, political leaders’ kith and kin usually expect a big chunk of national resources, jobs and infrastructural development in their communities at the expense of the rest of the country. Political adventures based on ethnicity lack vision and leaders who encourage such small-mindedness must remember that the seeds of division they sow while seeking political office will grow into trees of ethnic conflicts when they do gain political office. And we all know the end result of ethnic conflicts: chaos.

At this point, I would like to make an impassioned plea to African youths to resist all attempts by dirty politicians to appeal to their ethnic loyalties. These kinds of tactics will not result in a better society for us and our children. Our continent will develop only when our leadership selection process is based on meritocracy rather than aristocracy. Dagoberto Gilb, an American writer once stated: “My favorite ethnic group is smart,” and so should our favorite ethnicity be. We must encourage the best and brightest of our societies to contribute to the development of our continent to the fullest of their abilities and potential. Let’s not follow in the footsteps of our elders who have fanned the flames of inter-ethnic rivalries to achieve their dark designs.

Tribalism is the tool that incompetent so called leaders use to keep us in our place while they loot the wealth of the nation. Leaders who resort to tribalism are at best irresponsible and I urge African youths to forsake tribalism – an artificial construct that undermines nation building. You don’t need to belong to any particular tribe to be the best qualified for the job but people who see politics as their only path to riches often push the idea that political leadership must be driven by ethnicity. We all know better! We know that ethnicity has brought nothing but pain and suffering to the people of Rwanda and Burundi.

I am not advocating for the loss of identity as our tribes or ethnicities are intrinsic to our being. I am because I belong! However, my ethnicity cannot be the sole basis for deciding whether I qualify to run for president of my country or not. Injecting ethnicity in the political discourse only results in stereotyping and conflicts. I daresay that ethnicity is part of the reason we are still poor. Ethnicity encourages the “us against them” mentality that essentially disintegrates our societies. Our elders may be beyond saving but as young people we ought to rise above such base concepts. We need to realize that we are one and the same. Our destinies are bound together by the thread of poverty that plagues our nations.

We do not have the luxury of dabbling in politics of ethnicity. We share a common inheritance – Africa and the experience of being born in Africa, living in Africa, and tracing our roots back to the continent. As such we must not drink from the same cup as our elders. Malcolm X once said: “We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.” I urge African youths to be blind to ethnicity when it comes to political leadership. We must encourage and support the best and brightest among us to lead us out of poverty. Our favorite ethnicity must be Smart. Perhaps we should feel a kind of patriotism from being citizens of Africa over and above any ethnic affiliation. As for me, I feel a strong kinship with my kind – Africans. Miriam Makeba, the Grammy Award winning singer once said: “I look at an ant and I see myself: a native South African, endowed by nature with a strength much greater than my size so I might cope with the weight of a racism that crushes my spirit.” I say our leaders must forsake racial politics, indigenization, and ethnicity for policies which foster unity. Each country on the continent must become a rainbow nation.

Africa needs rainbow leaders.

 

Excerpt from African Expectations: Musings from Where I Stand by Mafoya Dossoumon. Copyright © 2012 by Mafoya Dossoumon.

Excerpt by permission of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Lrg edition (July 21, 2012). All rights reserved.

Notes

14 Herskovitz, J., & Tladi, M. (2011, November 21). FACTBOX-Corruption in South Africa. Retrieved from TrustLaw – A Thomson Reuters Foundation Service: http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/factbox-corruption-in-south-africa

15 Flak, A. (2011, August 14). Q&A-The ArcelorMittal SAfrica, Kumba mine rights dispute. Retrieved from TrustLaw – A Thomson Reuters Foundation Service: http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/qa-the-arcelormittal-safrica-kumba-mine-rights-dispute

16 RNW Africa Desk. (2010, September 13). Zuma’s son to give his cash to the poor. Retrieved from Radio Netherlands: http://www.rnw.nl/africa/article/zumas-son-give-his-cashpoor

17 Nieuwoudt, S. (2009, August 26). South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment Has Failed. Retrieved from Inter Press Service News Agency: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48224

18 Marais, J. (2010, September 12). Dad is not relevant to my businesses – Zuma. Retrieved from Times Live: http://www.timeslive.co.za/business/article653254.ece/Dad-is-not-relevant-tomy-businesses—Zuma

19 Kriel, K. (2011, August 26). Whites already pay wealth tax. Retrieved from Politicsweb: http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71639?oid=252928&sn=Detail&pid=71639

20 OECD. (2010, July 19). Economic Survey of South Africa 2010. Retrieved from OECD: http://www.oecd.org/document/20/0,3343,en_2649_33733_45637781_1_1_1_1,00.html#information

21 IRIN. (2011, July 5). South Africa fails to stop rise in xenophobia. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/jul/05/south-africa-risexenophobia

22 Rulashe, P. (2009, April 30). UNHCR supports efforts to counter xenophobia in South Africa. Retrieved from UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency: http://www.unhcr.org/49fab2466.html

23 Engelbrecht, L. (2010, May 29). Is national service a good idea? Retrieved from defenceWeb: http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8214%3Ais-national-service-a-goodidea&catid=61%3AEditor+Column&Itemid=119

24 SAPA. (2012, February 22). South Africa’s first R1 trillion budget. Retrieved from Sowetan Live: http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/business/2012/02/22/south-africa-s-first-r1-trillion-budget

25 Veritas Trust. (2010, February 15). This is Zimbabwe – blog. Retrieved from SOKWANELE – ZVAKWANA – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/archives/5468

Django Unchained: Slavery a la Tarantino.

Django-Unchained-Poster-Jackson

Samuel Jackson

I just saw Django Unchained and Quentin Tarantino did not disappoint.

There was generous use of gratuitous violence, gore, and the n-word. If you can’t stand gratuitous violence, gore, and the n-word, this movie is not for you. If you want a serious and historically accurate depiction of slavery, this movie is not for you. I doubt such a horrendous event as slavery can be satisfactorily treated in movie form. If you are looking for serious education on slavery, I suggest you take a class or read a book. Prior education on slavery will make your viewing experience of Django Unchained more informed. That being said, I did find Tarantino’s depictions of the brutality of slave-masters eerily close to reality. From whippings to hot iron branding, there were many shockingly evil moments in this movie to make me squirm in my seat.

If the notion of a slave who kills slave-masters and blows up plantations to exact revenge and rescue his wife makes you uncomfortable, this movie is most definitely not for you. This is a vengeance film where a slave kills and blows up slave-masters.

Django Unchained is not all violence and gore. It is also a story of black love. I call it “iridescent black love”. Tarantino’s treatment of the love between Django (Jamie Foxx) and Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) could be developed into a whole movie on its own. The film treatment of Django and Broomhilda’s love story creates a beautiful cinematic experience which can be removed from the violent universe of Django Unchained. Yet, the romantic love between Django and Broomhilda – two of the main characters is a central part of the narrative. Django is literally the black knight in shining armor. He would go through hell and back to rescue his queen.

The genius of the script writers and the director becomes self evident when Django effortlessly transitions from being Dr Schultz’s (Christoph Waltz) sidekick to being the hero of the movie. Dr Schultz is a bounty hunter who “buys” Django from his original owners and strikes a deal with him that ultimately makes Django a free man. Dr. Schultz is no white-savior character. He is Django’s mentor and business associate. Let this suffice! To explain further how Django emerges a hero instead of being just a sidekick is to give the whole plot away.

Django-Unchained-Poster-Washington

Kerry Washington

Oscar judges have a dilemma on their hands. In my opinion, Leonardo Di Caprio, Samuel Jackson, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Chritoph Waltz all give Oscar worthy performances in Django Unchained.

Between Leonardo Di Caprio and Samuel Jackson’s characters, I can’t decide the true villain. Their characters outshine each other in pure evil. Kerry Washington’s character is a delicate and beautiful black flower in a world of violence and gore. She gets repeatedly stained yet retains a certain iridescent quality. Jamie Foxx’s character is the quintessential hero who shoots his way back to love. As much as Jamie Foxx’s character is a knight in shining armor, Kerry Washington’s character is no damsel in distress. Christoph Waltz’s character is the most intriguing character in my opinion. His character undergoes a subtle yet dramatic shift during the movie.

I recommend Django Unchained. It is highly entertaining and could possibly be cathartic despite the unrestrained use of violence and gore. Judging by the packed theater and the sustained applause at the end of the movie, Quentin Tarantino managed to entertain his audience with his treatment of slavery.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

On Saturday August 18, I had the privilege of speaking at the University of Illinois Chicago about my book African Expectations. Whenever I speak about my book, I usually tell my story which includes tales of my birth in Benin, my life in Ghana, and my coming to America for graduate studies. I proceed with presenting the reasons why I wrote the book, how I wrote the book, and what the reader will get from reading the book. At this point, I read excerpts from the book and seek interaction from the audience in the form of questions or comments.

In Chicago, a member of the audience felt passionately that no matter what good leaders do in Africa, the continent will remain underdeveloped because the global economic system is skewed so that western economies profit from Africa. This member of the audience gave the example of corruption spoils versus terrorism funds. The West is able to quickly trace and stop the flow of funds linked to terrorist organizations yet the West lets corrupt leaders from Africa stash their stolen loot in western banks. In this audience member’s view, the continent’s loss is the West’s gain. Any leader who attempts to change the status quo gets killed.

Having listened to this audience member, it occurred to me that he had accepted the notion that development in Africa is dependent on what the West does or does not do. Nothing Africans do individually or collectively will ever change the situation because the all-powerful West always gets in the way. In my book African Expectations, I discuss at length how it is too easy to blame the West for all of the continent’s woes. After 50 years of independence, the elites ruling countries on the continent must start taking some of the blame for the plunder of Africa.

To my audience members in Chicago who wished to make a difference but may have felt powerless, I offered this simple solution: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. When we do what we can do with the resources at our disposal at any given time, we inspire others to make a positive difference.

All too often, good people get paralyzed into inaction when they realize the enormity of what is required to change things around. But, a shift from blaming external entities to taking action immediately with the tools available often goes a long way in moving society closer to self determination.

Why athletes from Africa disappeared after the Olympics.

Cameroon Delegates

Cameroon delegates at the opening ceremony (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Right after the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, stories began to emerge that a few African athletes had disappeared from the Olympic village.

First, it was reported that 7 Cameroonian athletes had vanished. While we were still trying to understand this mass magical disappearing act, in came the news of athletes from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Congo also absconding from the Olympic village. Two officials of the Congolese delegation have also disappeared along with their athletes.

At this point, the missing athletes would not be infringing immigration laws until their visas expire in November. But, one cannot help but wonder about the motives of the missing athletes. They would not have left the Olympic village if they intended to return home after the closing ceremony. If they left the Olympic village surreptitiously, it is certainly not just to take in the sights of London. And, with the kind of security at the Olympic village,one may assume that there were no kidnappings. There is only one option left: immigration.

First of all, I must congratulate the athletes who trained hard and were good enough to qualify for the Olympics. Also, I commend these athletes for getting to Europe on a red carpet. However, I must point out that their subsequent behavior (vanishing into thin air) is intolerable and unpatriotic. The taxpayers who foot the bill for these athletes to travel to London and represent their countries deserve better.

Come November, I urge the London police to round up any athletes or officials who may be in the United Kingdom illegally and send them home. Of course those athletes that may be in genuine danger if they return home may have to be given asylum.  It is reported that a few members of the Eritrean delegation are seeking political asylum.

Now that I got this off my chest, let me state unequivocally that I put the blame for the athletes’ behavior squarely at the feet of African leaders. Cameroon is one of the world’s poorest countries and relies on foreign aid to survive. Yet, President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982. Poverty rates are estimated to stagnate close to 40% in the country. Yet, Paul Biya, a dictator in every sense of the word is known to spend ludicrous amounts of money gallivanting in Europe. No wonder the athletes representing Cameroon waited their turn to enjoy the pleasures of the Schengen community.

As I write this blog post, there is a raging controversy about the Sullivan Summit being hosted in Equatorial Guinea. Critics have indicated that the IX Sullivan Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea is an attempt to whitewash an African dictator. During a radio interview, in defense of the summit, Hope Sullivan Masters, the CEO of Sullivan Foundation stated:

“The Leon Sullivan Summit is a celebration of all of Africa. We switch venues every few years. It is not a celebration of the country where we are gathering–however, the president of this country was also the President of the African Union, elected by the leaders of Africa, to be the president of the African Union. And so from my perspective, when Africans support a president, and when Africans support a nation, its not right to judge, or for anyone else to judge that country. But Equatorial Guinea is a country in good standing, a member of the African Union, which is the only criteria which is important for the Leon H. Sullivan Summit.”

See Full transcript of radio interview here: Embattled Sullivan Foundation CEO Meltdown During Radio Interview.

There you have it! This kind of logic is the principal reason why athletes put patriotism aside and walked out of the Olympic village into foggy London. The average African citizen knows that the African union has in its midst dictators who do not represent the people. Over 70% of the population in Equatorial Guinea falls below the poverty line. Yet, the country’s oil wealth is used to finance the lavish lifestyle of the president’s family. Early in 2011, it was reported that the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo commissioned the building of a luxury personal super-yacht worth almost 400 million dollars.

Hope Sullivan Masters claims that the president of Equatorial Guinea is in good standing with the African Union. That is correct! In fact, the president of Equatorial Guinea appears to be in good standing with many world governments such as the United States who do brisk business with President Obiang. Regardless, I suggest that Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is not in good standing with Africans. We do not support dictators.

Can one really blame athletes for seeking greener pastures somewhere else when they see so much wealth being wasted by their so called leaders? Some of these athletes trained in very difficult conditions to get to the Olympics. The 400 million dollars being wasted by the son of the Equatorial Guinea president could be used to build and operate world class facilities for African athletes.

As long as countries such as Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Congo, and Eritrea fail to create the conditions that allow their citizens to self-actualize, there will always be candidates for illegal immigration and such embarrassing acts as those perpetrated by the disappearing athletes. One cannot expect the average citizen to be patriotic when leaders by their actions show that patriotism in Africa is all but meaningless.

Thank God for patriots such as Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda who show Africans that individually, we can achieve greatness against all odds. Where our leaders fail, such heroes give us hope. Stephen Kiprotich won his country’s first gold medal at the Olympics in 40 years.

African Expectations Book Launch is a Success!

African ExpectationsIt has been barely two weeks after its release and I cannot do much aside from being grateful for the overall positive feedback heard about African Expectations: Musings from Where I Stand. Every day I am more proud of the positive feedback earned for African Expectations.

I wrote the book over a period of two years when I put my thoughts to paper with the objective of sharing my opinion on various issues of importance to the development of the African continent. I hoped that the book would inspire other Africans to share their stories or views on the state of Africa.

Today, I had a conversation with a reader who to the best of my knowledge is the first person to read the book in its entirety since publication. The reader, an African-American woman of a certain age told me that African Expectations was a very informative book that enlightened her on matters related to politics in certain African countries. She wondered how my book was going to be received in Africa and advised that I send a copy of the book to the president of each country in Africa.

African Expectations Book Launch Audience

African Expectations Book Launch Audience

In her opinion, African leadership needed to read the book because they had power to deal with the issues I discussed . Her sentiment was quite similar to the general thrust of a question asked by a member of the audience at the launch of African Expectations who wanted to know how I planned to get the book to Africans in Africa.

About African Expectations

The book is a collection of essays about how political, economic, and socio-cultural issues retard Africa’s development and how the most important factor for this failure is the lack of good leadership. The book offers tentative solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our times based on the author’s worldview and life experiences.

Purchase the Paperback and Ebook Editions of  African Expectations on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.