Magazine article New African

Rwanda, a Star in Fighting Corruption: Quietly, There Is a Revolution Going on in Rwanda, in the Form of Fighting Corruption. the Zero Tolerance to Corruption in Rwanda Has Made President Paul Kagame's Country a Shining Star. Baffour Ankomah Reports

Magazine article New African

Rwanda, a Star in Fighting Corruption: Quietly, There Is a Revolution Going on in Rwanda, in the Form of Fighting Corruption. the Zero Tolerance to Corruption in Rwanda Has Made President Paul Kagame's Country a Shining Star. Baffour Ankomah Reports

Article excerpt

IMAGINE YOU ARE ARRIVING AT THE major airport of an African country for the first time. You present your passport to the officer at one of the immigration booths. He looks at it and tells you to stand out of the queue. You wait and wait, your passport is not returned! After half an hour or so, you ask the immigration officer what is happening? He tells you to wait some more because your passport is with his senior officer at the back.

After what seems like another half an hour, your patience is running out, and you ask the officer, what in heaven is going on? He looks at you quizzically and says in pidgin English: "You speak your grammar! Na grammar I go chop?"--(meaning roughly, "You speak your Queen's English, you think I eat Queen's English here!"). And true to his word, and despite all the "grammar" you employ to explain that you are catching another flight the same afternoon and if your passport is delayed any further you will miss the connecting flight, your passport only resurfaces after two hours. The officer hands it back, no apology, nothing. But you have missed the connecting flight! This is not fiction. It happened to this writer, transiting through Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, for the first time in 1986. Unbeknown to this writer, the immigration officers at the airport were used to requesting (or getting) $10 and $20 notes inserted in passports handed to them by passengers. The money disappeared into the officers' pockets, and passengers were waved through. But this writer, visiting for the first time, did not know the system, and so he missed his connecting flight!

Corruption of this kind may be at the lower rung of the list of corruption that should worry countries--after all, it is high-level corruption that really sets back the development of countries, as the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon rightly pointed out on the last International Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December 2012. Yet, corruption of the kind described above eats at the soul of a country and affects a lot more people every day of their lives. As Ban Ki-moon puts it: "Corruption destroys opportunities and creates rampant inequalities. It undermines human rights and good governance, stifles economic growth, and distorts markets."

He goes on: "The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that could have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities. As the international community strives to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2.015 and forge an agenda for economic and social progress in the years beyond, addressing the problem of corruption becomes all the more urgent."

It is in this context that What has happened in Rwanda since 2.004 has to be applauded. For all his sins, President Paul Kagame and his government have phenomenally stamped down on corruption to the level where Rwandans can now go about their daily lives without worrying that some official at the Kigali airport would tell them: "You speak your grammar! Na grammar I go chop?" Rwanda's impressive example should be emulated by other African countries. No wonder that the African Union's Advisory Board on Corruption and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) chose Rwanda as the venue for Africa's Anti-Corruption Week in December.

"The choice of Rwanda was deliberate," revealed Prof Said Adejumobi, head of UNECA's Governance and Public Administration Division (GPAD). "Rwanda was chosen for its outstanding track record in the fight against corruption, not only in Africa, but globally. The lesson of Rwanda in its zero tolerance against corruption is that leadership and political will matters; independent and credible institutions are important; and citizens' mobilisation and support is central in fighting corruption. …

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