The Quest to Achieve African Renaissance: Reflections on NEPAD

By Jonas, Obonye | Journal of Pan African Studies, June 2012 | Go to article overview

The Quest to Achieve African Renaissance: Reflections on NEPAD


Jonas, Obonye, Journal of Pan African Studies


Africa's Problems that NEPAD Must Help Address

We must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in how we govern ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. We know that we have it in ourselves, as Africans, to change all this. We must assert our will to do so--we must say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about an African renaissance--Nelson Mandela. (1)

Africa's woes--social disequilibrium, civil wars, ethnic unrest, poverty, corruption, disease, bad governance, violations of human rights, decrepit institutions, are all public knowledge, and are hardly new to academic discourse. They have been the subject of several studies and analyses by scholars, politicians and policy makers. (2)

Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General, highlighted the gloomy picture of the Africa by remarking that for many people in other parts of the world, the mention of Africa evokes images of mounting political and socio-economic problems (3). Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian Nobel Prize Laureate, starkly quipped, 'we can no longer speak of wars [in Africa] but only of arenas of competitive atrocities'. He continued, 'I do not hear the annunciation of a renaissance, nor read the flickers of its regenerating fires on our ever-receding horizons'. (4) He concluded that it is time Africa to begin 'to stare into the cold eyes of statistics' and tackle its problems with increased vigor and determination. (5)

The raison d'etre of a state is to provide good governance. Good governance is described by Rotberg as 'the delivery of high quality political goods to citizens'. (6) Political goods, he explained, include but are not limited to 'security and safety, rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development'.(7) Africa is experiencing an acute deficit of these 'political goods.' On the prominent expert on governance, Rotberg, provides a disappointing yet accurate account of leadership in Africa. He observes that:

   Leadership in Africa is typified more by disfiguring examples--Idi
   Amins and Robert Mugabes--than by positive role models such as
   Nelson Mandela and Seretse Khama. Other clusters of developing
   nations, such as South East Asia or Latin America, exhibit wide
   variations in leadership quality, but none is so extreme in its
   range. During the past three decades, roughly 90 percent of
   SubSaharan Africa's leaders have behaved despotically, governed
   poorly, eliminated their people's human and civil rights, initiated
   or exacerbated existing civil conflicts, decelerated per capita
   economic growth and proved corrupt. (8)

The 1960s and 1970s may be said to represent the lowest age in the evolution of human rights and economic development in Africa. It was during this era that Africa experienced unprecedented human rights violations of damaging proportions and economic backwardness. The human rights violations included plunder of property, extra-judicial killings, massacres, forced disappearances, torture, official persecutions, corruption, arbitrary detentions and political repression. (9) It is during this era that Ugandan dictator, Field Marshall El-Haji Dr. Idi Amin (who was toppled from power in a coup d'etat in 1979) perpetrated human rights violations which are arguably unequalled in the continent's history. (10) After seizing power in 1971, this 'certified psychopath,' (11) oversaw the extermination of over ten thousand Ugandans during the first year of his nine-year tenure in office. (12) Today, human rights violations and the sickness of bad governance still operate unabated in Africa, albeit on lesser intensity and scale.

Hence, African problems have been associated mainly with institutional inadequacy or failure.(13) For instance when monstrosities of power trampled rights of citizens underfoot as in Uganda, the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) now the African Union (AU), stood by and did nothing. …

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