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19.11.2008 General News

Africa And Obama Lessons

By Ebo Quansah -

images of two different footages on television have been playing out in my sub-conscious mind, since the week-end.

The first, beamed on almost all major television networks in the world, showed the President-elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama, talking to Mrs. Hilary Clinton in what commentators referred to as an attempt to woo his rival in the Democratic Party primaries, to take up the key role of Secretary of State in his new administration.

The other image showed former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has assumed the new role as United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, embracing rebel leader General Laurent Nkunde, after visiting the Eastern Congolese town of Jombo.

The two pictures tell everything about why the United States is a super power and Africa cannot even feed her people.

The meeting between Obasanjo and Gen. Nkunda came amid reports of fresh fighting in Eastern Congo.

At a time most countries are finding ways and means of insulating themselves against the possibility of a global economic recession, Africa's main pre-occupation is with how to minimize the effects of civil conflicts, fanned by power-drunk rebel leaders against incumbent dictators.

The latest Congo crisis has already put over 250,000 nationals on the move to nowhere. They are refugees in their own homeland. Africa is a land where the centre cannot hold.

“Today is a great day for us because we were losing many men and now we have a message of peace. We should work with this mission. We agreed to open humanitarian corridors to open the process,” Nkunda was quoted by AFP as saying.

What this means is that Nkunda is suing for peace because of difficulties encountered by his troops. The moment the danger is over, he is likely to intensify the war.

It looks like in Africa, the shortest route to power is via a bush war.

After the war had raged without control for a while and as citizens bear the brunt with no roof over their heads and no reliable means of livelihood, the international community would jump in and declare power-sharing as solution to the problem.

Those who manage to lead their troops to victory would declare themselves Presidents until defeated by other war-lords.

That was the route Robert Mugabe took to power in Zimbabwe. It has been replicated by Yoweri Museveni in Uganda. In Gongo DR, current President Joseph Kabila owes his leadership of the country to his father, Laurent Kabila's, bush war which defeated ailing Gen. Mobutu Sese Seku.

The conventional wisdom is that if Kabila could come to power on account of a bush war waged by his father, why would another person not take the same route to power?

As you read this piece, Somalia is boiling.

Attempts by the international community to bring a semblance of peace in the horn of Africa, have not succeeded. Instead, the country is controlled by various war lords who have carved areas of influence to themselves.

The situation was worsened by extremists Islamic insurgents who virtually took control of the country.

It needed Ethiopian troops to get them out of Mogadishu so that newly installed President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed could bring a semblance of a unitary government.

Latest report indicates that the insurgents are back with a vengeance, threatening to take over the whole country.

The President of a Government in exile, has almost thrown his arms in the air in despair. A day after forming a new government failed, President Ahmed told the Somali Parliament sitting in Nairobi, that there was no effective government in the horn of Africa.

Last week, as African leaders competed among themselves to praise the victory of Barack Obama in the United States, this column surmised that the US President-elect could not have fought a successful election in any African country.

Apparently, things are even worse than first feared. Just before I sat down this afternoon to write this piece, information filtered through that the Ghana Peace Initiative, a body comprising of prominent members of society, led by Cardinal Appiah Turkson, head of the Catholic Church in Ghana, had called on former President Jerry John Rawlings as part of a programme to broker peace before and after the December 7 Presidential and Legislative elections.

Now, why should a simple event as an impending election warrant special envoys visiting a former head of state? The answer, dear reader, could be found in war drums being beaten by agents of the political party founded by Jerry John Rawlings.

After throwing tantrums about why the Kufuor Administration, touted both in Ghana and in the international community, as fostering an oasis of democratic principles in sub-Saharan Africa, could not be trusted to deliver ; taking the Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party to the cleaners and tacitly inciting his followers to violence, Jerry Rawlings virtually threatened that there would be no peace until what he perceived as injustices in the system, were brought to an end.

He cited the jailing of some leading members of the government he led for causing financial loss to the state as well as the jailing of a Parliamentary Candidate of the National Democratic Congress recently, for double registration as examples of the injustices he has been preaching against.

Pius Opoku Boateng, NDC Parliamentary Candidate for the Kwabre West Constituency in the Ashanti Region, was sentenced to 12 months in jail when he pleaded guilty to the offence at a Circuit Court at Offinso presided over by Mr. Osei Kwame, last month.

The former President, who ruled this country for 19 years with iron hands, claimed that a number of NPP officials were also involved in double registration. He named no names.

This column is of the view that it would be a nice idea for the former junta head to name officials of the NPP who, he claimed, were involved in double registration.

The law must be seen to be without respect for persons. Unfortunately, people cannot be convicted if they have not been identified. I do not think unidentified criminals have ever been jailed anywhere in the world.

Of late, it has become fashionable for leading members of the NDC to make wild allegations against the rival NPP without substantiating them.

Quite recently, the Presidential Candidate of the NDC told a European observer group who had arrived in the country to observe how Ghana was preparing for the December poll, that some unidentified leading members of the NPP had told him that the ruling party had plotted with the Electoral Commission to steal the vote because they claim the ruling party had no chance of winning the vote.

Since making the allegation, Prof John Evans Atta-Mills, a former law lecturer at the University of Ghana, has failed to name the source of his allegation.

I am afraid we are getting to the stage in the elections where followers of the NDC have been prepared not to accept the defeat of the party, even if Ghanaian voters decide so. 

The situation on the ground is volatile. Ghana is not sitting pretty in spite of assurances as the December poll date approaches.

Truth in this country has not returned from exile when it fled to escape from Jerry Rawlings' angels of death in the 1980s. Even then, there is a precedent from which those beating war drums could learn.

In 1992, the then opposition, reeling from what they perceived as the 'Stolen Verdict' of the Presidential election did not contest the Parliamentary vote that year. Remember the rubber-stamp Parliament of the first term of the Fourth Republic?

 It is a reference point for those who are beating war drums. This nation would not go to war simply because Jerry Rawlings and those who claim to believe in him do not believe in free and fair elections. Barack Obama is still a valid reference point for all agitators. Win but fairly!