African Revolutionary Movements and Opposition Politics: Africa’s biggest stumbling block

This blog post sets out to explore the reasons why many African revolutionary movements have failed to lead African states to better living standards and the failure of opposition parties to offer viable alternatives. It will commence by discussing various definitions of revolution, with particular attention given to those in the African context. 

It will then examine and analyse several African revolutionary movements such as the Mozambique Liberation Front and the Kenyan Mau Mau uprising to explain how these revolutions have failed to lead Africa to greater prosperity and security. In doing so, issues such as poor leadership, lack of resources, oppressive dictators and hostile colonial governments, will be discussed. Finally, the essay will examine why opposition parties fail to garner popular support, by looking at various factors such as ethnic divisions, mode of opposition and lack of funding. 

There are three common types of revolutions that I would like to briefly define with examples, in the African context;

1. Political Revolution: 

A political revolution is a fundamental change of political power or structure, usually through the replacement of one government with a new government. It may result in the overthrow of a regime or system and lead to large-scale social and political transformation. In the African context, this has often been seen in the replacement of Western-backed regimes with indigenous ones. Examples include the revolutions in Ethiopia in 1974, Angola in 1975, and Zimbabwe in 1980.

2. Social Revolution: 

A social revolution is a fundamental change of social norms and customs. It may be driven by a sudden and broad-based wave of popular discontent or as a result of deliberate attempts by political leaders. In the African context, social revolutions have sought to challenge deeply entrenched patriarchal and cultural values. One example is the 1979 Revolution in Guinea-Bissau, which brought with it the goal of establishing a more egalitarian society.

3. Economic Revolution: 

An economic revolution is a dramatic and fundamental shift in the structure of an economy. It can include the substitution of capitalist or socialist ideologies, increased privatisation, or a restructuring of production. In the African context, these types of economic revolutions have often been associated with attempts to reduce economic inequality and promote economic development. Examples include the economic reforms of Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta in the 1960s and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in the 1950s.

The African continent has witnessed several revolutionary movements since the 1960s, which aimed at overthrowing colonial powers and oppressive regimes. Despite their noble intentions, these movements failed to lead Africa to prosperity as they were often characterised by corruption, mismanagement, and prolonged conflicts. 

One of the key reasons why revolutionary movements in African politics failed to bring about prosperity is because of the nature of the people who led them. In many cases, these leaders were more interested in maintaining their power and enriching themselves rather than advancing the interests of their citizens. As a result, corruption and nepotism were rampant, and public funds were embezzled, leading to stagnant economic growth and increased poverty.

Many of these revolutionary movements lacked a clear plan for economic development and governance structures, resulting in political and economic instability, and internal conflicts over resources and power. This lack of planning, coupled with resource depletion and environmental degradation, further hindered economic progress in Africa.

The African revolutionary movements of the 1960s and 1970s, such as the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and the Kenyan Mau Mau Uprising, were aimed at overthrowing colonial rule and establishing democracies. However, these movements have not been able to bring about the widespread level of prosperity and security that many of their leaders envisioned for their countries. 

One factor contributing to the failure of these revolutions is the lack of effective leadership. FRELIMO, for example, was only able to rally a small group of less than 2000 militants, while the Mau Mau Uprising lacked any unified internal leadership, perpetuating divisions and restricting it from becoming a cohesive, organised force capable of unseating colonial rule. Consequently, both movements faced severe suppression and were overpowered by the superior military and economic resources of the colonial forces.

In addition, many African revolutions lacked the social, economic and political infrastructure necessary to support a successful transition to democracy. For example, the FRELIMO was largely successful in transforming Mozambique from a colonial state to an independent nation. However, it was unprepared to implement the economic and political reforms needed to create the necessary conditions for lasting prosperity. Consequently, Mozambique has become one of the poorest countries in the world and is beset with persistent political insecurity that has led to frequent armed conflicts. Similarly, the Mau Mau Uprising had limited success in securing the rights of the rural Kenyan population.

Opposition Politics 

Similarly, opposition political parties have failed to offer alternative solutions to the problems faced by the continent because of several factors, including poor leadership and inadequate resources. Many opposition parties do not have clear policies or a vision for economic development, resulting in a lack of public support and limited international funding, which is essential for running effective campaigns.

African opposition politics has long been characterised by western-leaning policies and reliance on foreign funding. This pro-west approach has its roots in the post-colonial period and has widened during the present day. During this time, the African political landscape has seen the emergence of several opposition parties and movements, who espouse liberal-democratic principals and have been heavily funded by both foreign governments and international development organisations. However, despite significant international support, many of these endeavours have failed to gain traction and bring about meaningful change. In order to understand why this is the case and how it can be corrected, it is necessary to delve into the history of African opposition politics and look at the motivations and strategies employed by the involved actors. 

Opposition politics and colonialism

The legacy of colonialism has had a significant and enduring impact on African politics. Post-colonial countries faced the challenge of transitioning to democracies, and the resultant governance often reflected western values and premised on principles of liberalism and individual liberty. As a result, international powers were often willing to support these nascent democracies, particularly through financial aid and by providing technical assistance. This wave of external support also created a political environment in which opposition parties and movements would be heavily reliant on external funding, and this has remained a characteristic of African politics to the present day.

The establishment of multiparty systems further incentivized external support for opposition politics. Through their foreign aid programs and policy initiatives, donor countries and international development organisations have been able to shape the political landscape in Africa.

Opposition repression and intimidation 

Opposition leaders are often targeted and intimidated by incumbent governments through violent repression or legal harassment, making it difficult for alternative voices to be heard.

Throughout African history, we have seen examples of strong opposition leaders facing violence, threats and legal harassment at the hands of incumbent governments. These acts of repression have been used to silence those who challenge the status quo, suppress the popular voices of the people and maintain a stronghold of power.

The first example of such repression can be seen in Gabon in 1988, when opposition leader Jean-Olivier Ayina was arrested, beaten and tortured after Rene Mougo of the PDG (Parti Democratique Gabonais) government threatened a protest rally. Many more Gabonese citizens had also been threatened and intimidated in the lead up to the rally, showing the PDG’s efforts to suppress those voices who opposed their rule.

In 2000, Nigeria experienced another such event when popular opposition leader Muhammed Lawal was gunned down in his home. The assassin was allegedly linked to the then ruling President Sani Abacha, and Lawal’s murder was seen as a warning to those involved in the pro-democracy movement. 

In 2004, Uganda saw the emergence of Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader within the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Besigye became a vocal opponent of then President Yoweri Museveni and was targeted by authorities in an armed raid at the FDC offices in November 2005. He was later charged with treason, though the courts eventually dropped the charges. It was seen as an effort to intimidate and discredit him.

Revolutionary movements and opposition political parties have failed to bring about sustainable prosperity in African politics because of inadequate leadership, inadequate planning, and limited resources. To achieve long-term economic progress and political stability, African countries need to invest in transparent and accountable governance structures, economic planning, and sustainable resource management.

Alternative political leaders should focus on developing evidence-based policies, creating national dialogue and building coalitions in order to gain public support and influence change. Moreover, the international community can provide much-needed support and financial resources to opposition parties and revolutionary movements to help achieve their goals.

In conclusion, African revolutionary movements and opposition political parties have played a significant role in changing the socio-economic landscape of their countries. Some have successfully transformed their nations, while others failed to achieve their goals. 

Examples of successful revolutionary movements include the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, which fought against apartheid and eventually led to the end of institutionalised racial segregation. In Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)  and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) Patriotic Front; which later merged into (ZANU-PF) helped to end colonial rule and promote economic development. 

On the other hand, some revolutions did not live up to their promises. For example, the Arab Spring movements in North Africa failed to bring about lasting change in many countries, such as Egypt and Libya, resulting in instability and conflict. Similarly, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) M23 rebel group failed to establish a viable state that represented the people’s interest.

As we look to the future, it is essential to recognize that there is no single recipe for successful revolutionary change or effective opposition. Still, we must study the successful examples and the factors that led to their success. Investing in good governance and promoting inclusive economic development can increase the likelihood of peaceful, democratic change. 

In summary, change is a slow and difficult process, and there will be setbacks and failures. Still, we must continue to support the efforts of those who seek to promote democracy, human rights, and economic prosperity in their countries. We must also engage in rigorous study and analysis to learn from both successful and failed revolutionary movements and opposition political parties. By doing so, we can help foster a world where people of all nations can achieve their full potential.


Of Good Governance, Ethical Politics and Corruption in Africa

Africa is becoming an increasingly vital region in the global political and economic landscape. Despite its remarkable potential to become one of the leading economies in the world, many of its countries struggle with the problem of good governance and ethical politics. With corrupt leaders and a lack of political accountability, Africa is increasingly in danger of bearing the brunt of the consequences of corruption and bad governance. This blog will explore how good governance, ethical politics, and corruption shape the African continent and how to bring about meaningful and lasting change.

Corruption refers to the abuse of power for personal gain, and it can be seen in various forms, including bribery, embezzlement, and nepotism. The negative effects of corruption are widespread and far-reaching. It undermines democracy, reduces foreign investment, destroys the effectiveness of public institutions, and increases poverty.

Good governance, in turn, is closely linked to economic development. It involves sound public policy and sound public financial management systems. It also entails establishing legal and regulatory frameworks to encourage investment in the country, as well as creating and reinforcing a culture of solidarity and participation.

Good governance is essential for the continent to become a competitive global economy; and ethical politics must be central to this process, particularly in Africa where the region is at a crucial juncture of economic development. 

Ethical politics, on the other hand, is a concept that emphasises the importance of straightforwardness, integrity, and honesty in politics. It involves trusting elected officials to act in the best interest of the people, and for the country as a whole. It also entails upholding the highest standards of accountability and transparency in all aspects of decision-making. By promoting ethical politics at a national level, African countries can ensure that decision-making is both socially and economically responsible and that the interests of citizens are upheld.

In the African context, ethical politics is essential in promoting good governance, democracy, and transparency. Ethical politics encourages politicians to be accountable for their actions and to pursue policies that are in the best interest of their constituents. Ethical politics also promotes the fight against corruption, which has been one of the leading hindrances to Africa’s economic growth and development.

The effect of corruption in Africa is not limited to a particular sector. Rather, it has affected all sectors of the economy. Corruption has created a significant challenge in attracting foreign investors to Africa. The lack of foreign investment has resulted in a shortage of job opportunities, which has increased poverty levels across the continent.

In addition to discouraging foreign investment, corruption has undermined the effectiveness of public institutions in Africa. It has led to a lack of access to quality healthcare, education, and other essential services. Furthermore, corruption has exacerbated income inequality and roadblocks economic growth that takes the country backward.

Several African countries have made significant progress in fighting corruption, promoting good governance, and ensuring ethical politics. The efforts of these countries have resulted in improved transparency and accountability in public institutions. The countries that have taken steps to fight corruption and promote ethical politics have experienced economic growth and development.

Institutional Corruption

Government corruption, the most prevalent form of ‘institutional corruption, has remained a persistent issue in Africa over the past decades, impeding economic growth and stability. However, in recent years, several African countries have made significant strides in combating this problem, leading to increased transparency and improved economic performance.

One country that has recorded remarkable success in the fight against corruption is Ghana. In 2017, the West African country was ranked as the 81st least corrupt country out of 180 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. This was a significant improvement from its 2016 ranking, where it was ranked 70th. This improvement can be linked to the swift and decisive action taken by the government in tackling corruption cases.

For instance, in December 2019, Ghana’s former Football Association president, Kwesi Nyantakyi, was banned for life from football-related activities and fined $496,000 for breaching the FIFA code of ethics in a corruption scandal. By taking such actions against corrupt officials and enforcing the law, Ghana has demonstrated its commitment to creating a transparent and accountable government, which has impacted the economy positively.

Similarly, Botswana is another African country that has been successful in fighting corruption. The country has been able to maintain its position as one of the least corrupt countries in Africa, ranking 35th worldwide. Botswana has achieved this by setting up various anti-corruption institutions and legal frameworks that allow for the prosecution of corrupt officials. In 2019, the country’s former President Ian Khama was investigated for his involvement in a secret government deal that was worth millions. This investigation highlights the country’s commitment to combating corruption, ensuring accountability and protecting public funds.

Improved transparency and accountability have had a positive impact on the economy of both Ghana and Botswana. A transparent government attracts more foreign investment and ensures that funds allocated to development projects are used for their intended purposes. For example, Ghana’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee reported that the country’s improved anti-corruption efforts have led to fewer leakages and increased revenue collection. This, in turn, has had a positive impact on the country’s economic growth and development.

Furthermore, the fight against corruption has improved the reputation of Ghana and Botswana on the international stage, leading to increased trust and confidence in their governance structures, thus creating a conducive environment for foreign investment.

Fighting corruption in Africa is a continuous process, but the success achieved by Ghana and Botswana provides a good example of what can be achieved by creating a transparent and accountable government. It is clear that countries that prioritise good governance and take swift action against corruption are more likely to benefit from a stable and thriving economy. By following Ghana and Botswana’s lead, other African countries can make significant progress in combating corruption and improving transparency and accountability in government.

In conclusion, the role of ethical politics from an African perspective is crucial in promoting good governance, transparency, accountability, and democracy. It is vital for African countries to formulate and implement policies that seek to promote ethical politics and eradicate corruption. With sustained efforts, African countries can overcome corruption, promote ethical politics, and achieve sustainable economic growth and development.

The Human Rights Journey

“Generally when we talk about human rights, from an African perspective, one quickly zeroes in on political gangsterism and political violence against opposition across the continent. This is the common scenario from which human rights organisations seem to be heavily involved. However this is not the only area of human rights.”

Insomnia was wrecking my nights like a weevil in a bag of maize. My mind would often wander and there wasn’t much that I could do. “Well”, I muttered to myself as I reached out to grab my tablet so that I could find something to read or at least watch. Little did I know that I would be up all night. I was reading about one of Africa’s weaknesses, human rights.

Generally when we talk about human rights, from an African perspective, one quickly zeroes in on political gangsterism and political violence against opposition across the continent. This is the common scenario from which human rights organisations seem to be heavily involved. However this is not the only area of human rights.

It is my humble opinion that ignorance of the magnitude of human rights has critically crippled the development of Africa as a continent. Issues such as lack of clean running water in a majority of the metropolitan regions, absence of health care facilities, housing backlogs and so on are all signs of lack of human rights.

Additionally, the lack of willingness from our appointed and elected leaders to acquaint themselves with the basics of human rights is a curse that will need a conscious, collective effort from all stakeholders. The Fundamental Principles of governmental leadership ought to enshrine human rights in their entirety as the yardstick upon which aspiring leaders should be evaluated based on.
Leadership of a ward should take cognisance of the basic human rights of the residence within that ward and those rights, if properly observed, will seamlessly cascade into constituency whereupon the structure of the governing body will self streamline into a more defined structure emanating from the ward based data, the nucleus.

At this point, the data is manageable as a result of three key factors;

Raw data is collected from the people, who are also the electorate as well as the custodians of the nation-state.
Feedback is received in real time through community outreaches and it is manageable both horizontally and vertically.
Coordination and organisational strategies can be formulated with lesser bureaucratic interference as well as based on realistic scenarios rather than hypothetical rhetoric which is commonly used.

Here is a brief chronology on the subject of Human Rights.
Human Rights History

There were many philosophical debates that spanned for over two millennia within European societies on the subject of Human Rights. The motive was to try to find a more acceptable way for the political system to conduct itself with attention and respect for the rights of men.

The earliest direct precursor to human rights might be in the notions of ‘natural right’ developed by classical Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, but Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica better developed this concept. For several centuries, Aquinas’ conception held sway: there were actions or behaviours that were naturally right (or wrong) because God ordained them so. Humans could ascertain what was naturally right by ‘right reason’ – thinking properly. Hugo Grotius researched further on this notion in De jure Belli et paci, where he proposed the immutability of what is naturally right and wrong. A second notable landmark in the emergence of human rights dates back to 1215 A.D when King John of England granted the Magna Carta Libertatum also known as the Great Charter.

The Archbishop of Canterbury drafted the Charter in an effort to make peace between the King, who had become unpopular, and the rebel barons. Among other things, the Magna Carta promised to protect the rights of the church and the widows permitted to choose freely whether to remarry. In the 21st century, Human Rights have become a measuring standard for judging governments’ treatment of its citizens.

The debate on the best way for governments to treat its citizens, the free, the disabled, the incarcerated and the vulnerable is never – ending. Immanuel Kant developed a political doctrine derived from his moral philosophy where he postulated that a state had to be organised through imposing laws that they could apply universally, nevertheless these laws should respect the freedoms, autonomy and equality of its citizenry.

“A true system of politics cannot, therefore, take a single step without first paying tribute to morality. The rights of man must be held sacred, however great a sacrifice the ruling power must make”

Human Rights Theories

Natural Law Theory

The concept of Human Rights has no substantial basis on its own except in terms of natural law. The natural law theory holds that “rightness” and “wrongness” are inherent attributes of human character. The theory revolved around the principle that observed the order of nature entrenched in moral characteristics. This, therefore, makes the Natural law theory an order of values, causes and effects. At this point, the idea of human rights was dependent on the belief in natural law.

Marxist Theory

Karl Marx resisted the idea of individual rights. From a Marxist perspective, the idea of human rights and the concept of liberty were symptoms of a bourgeoisie society facing imminent collapse. He was an absolute opponent of individual rights. He perceived them as a prelude to a disjointed society where individual rights would clash with the personal interests of the individuals who have private aspirations.
Marxism took a radical approach in its dismissal of the Natural Law Theory, moral order, and immutable rights. This motion was founded on the Marxist view that the idea of values and rights was just a collection of opinions of particular classes used to express their interests. For Marx, the right to liberty is an expression of human separation rather than association; the right to equality is little more than a right to equal liberty; the right to property is the expression of self – interest; and the right to security is simply the egoistic assurance that as individuals we can count on all the other rights being inviolate. Human emancipation is not secured by the freedom and right to engage in business, but as a result of freedom from the business.

John Locke and the Natural Rights Theory

John Locke was a critic of the divine right of kings and he was of the opinion that it should be limited and it has to be at the subjects’ consent. According to Locke, the Royals had to respect the rights of their subjects. He advocated for natural rights for humans protected by the government.

John Locke did not support the idea of divine rights for kings, his argument was that human beings have natural rights and no government has the power or authority to infringe these rights. As much as he was a proponent of powerful governments to protect and maintain order, he was wary of government oppression and the threat of absolute power. Absolute leads to tyranny and this would deprive the citizens of their natural laws , liberties , and freedom.

Allan Gewirth

Allan Gewirth observed that the Human Rights subject was beyond being a product of morality rather it spanned beyond and included the protection of the basic freedoms necessary for the well – being of the human agency. In his efforts to support his theory, he proposed three types of rights that address the levels of well being:

1. Basic Rights – responsible for the safeguarding of humanity’s basic well being.

2. Non – subtractive Rights – responsible for the maintenance of the capacity for fulfilling the purposive agency.

3. Additive Rights – responsible for the provision of requisites for one’s development capabilities. Gewirth proposed the principle of proportionality through which he postulated that humans have an entitlement to the rights that are proportional to their capacity for agency. His theory has been criticised because it challenges the universality of human rights. Despite the criticisms, Gewirth’s theory holds the notion that not all humans possess all human rights to the same degree.

John O’Manique

John based his theory on the aspects of evolution and human development and the motivation to find a uniquely universal basis for human rights theory not susceptible to denial or controversial interpretation. He, therefore, suggested that the foundation of human rights should be something inherent to humans instead of moral visions created by human actions. In his arguments, O’Manique argues based on the following propositions:

Proposition 1: I ought to survive
Proposition 2 : X is necessary for my survival
Proposition 3 : Therefore , I ought to do / have X

There was a great challenge in finding an agreed value for P1, a scientific inquiry is used to find X therefore if there is an agreement on the notion of P3 the logic would lead to the conclusion that one must have X in order to survive. O’Manique takes from the evolutionary theories to justify that the goal of humans is the survival of the species. He developed the theory beyond the idea of survival and he explicitly challenged and overrode the idea that the source of human rights is in the need for substance. He would further develop the human rights theory by founding human survival upon the full development of human potential, thus P1 becomes I ought to survive.

Human Rights development

Some scholars have referred to the Code of Urukagina 2350 B.C as the earliest attempt to address the concept of human rights, however, the Neo – Sumerian Code of Ur – Nammu 2050B.C is widely accepted as the oldest legal code. Another section of historians mentions the Achaemedian Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great as the founding empire of the principles of human rights in 6 B.C. In the year 539 B.C when Cyrus the Great’s troops conquered Babylon . Cyrus freed all the slaves and made a declaration that all the people could freely choose a religion of their choice and he established racial equality.

Magna Carta – 1215 A.D

The Great Charter of 1215 became a major influence and a contributor to modern day constitutional law . In the aftermath of the violation of ancient laws and customs by King John of England, the English nobles forced the king to seal the document in 1215 at Runnymede . Up to this date, there are three major constitutional ideas from the Magna Carta that are in modern law:

i. The Fundamental Rights of the individual cannot be interfered with or taken away without due process .

ii. Governance is by the consent of those being governed, this has been agreed and accepted widely by scholars as the inception of the right to a free and fair election

iii. The supremacy of the law to bind the government and those being governed. This idea was the influence behind the Human Rights Act of 1998 that protects the human rights of the citizens from being taken by the state . Although Pope Innocent III nullified the Charter, calling it a shameful threat to the royal rights and privileges, 800 years later, the ideas behind the Charter were being adopted throughout the world and they influenced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , which greatly impressed Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Bill of Rights 1689

On December 16, 1689, the statutory form of the Declaration of Rights was passed by parliament in England. Encapsulated within the declaration were the rights of parliament, guidelines, and regulations for freedom of speech in parliament and it also set forth the limits on the powers of the sovereigns. The ideas of the bill mirrored the thoughts of John Locke and they continue to apply in England, Wales as well as in the Commonwealth jurisdictions. Some notable merits of the bill include the limitation of royal influence and interference with the law and the freedom to petition the crown without fear of retribution.

Declaration of the Rights of Man 1789

100 years after the English had adopted the Bill of Rights, the National Assembly of France approved the declaration of the Rights of Man on 26 August 1789. There was an agreed belief that most of the challenges and problems prevailing at that time in France emanated from the absence of a structured and legally binding legal framework for the protection of the rights of men. The declaration included several articles that covered aspects such as the foundations of social distinctions; placement of the principle of sovereignty on the nation and not on individuals; it also mentioned, “men are born and remain free and equal in rights.”

The biggest challenge with these documents was that when they were translated into policy, they segregated several social and demographic groups such as the women, people of colour and religious groups. There were efforts in the 19th century to put an end to the slave trade and in the 20th century, leading to the establishment of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to uphold and protect the workers’ rights. Further attempts were made through the League of Nations but the efforts were frustrated by the lack of support from the United States of America.

United Nations

Following the failure of the League of Nations, which was created through the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 the United Nations, was established on 4 October 1945. The United Nations is an international organisation that serves to protect and defend the nations of the world from the scourge of War. However, the United Nations does not only seek to protect the world from the Threat of War but they have several aims that were agreed upon in the United Nations charter. These include the robust protection, promotion and defence of fundamental human rights.

United Nations Charter

Upon the conclusion of the United Nations conference organisation in 1945, the charter of the nations was signed on June 26th, 1945 in San Francisco. At the signing of the charter, the nations of the world united in affirmation and determination to accomplish and protect the ideals of the United Nations. Agreeing on the charter and subsequently formulating the articles would not be good enough to ensure that their human rights are observed and protected. There had to be an oversight committee or commission to provide monitoring, evaluation and necessary recommendations about the observation of Human Rights. The inaugural United Nations commission on human rights was set up in 1946. The United Nations Economic and Social Council, which is a principal organ with responsibilities for the coordination of socio economic work of the United Nations’ specialised agencies, set up the United Nations council on human rights under the terms of article 68 of the United Nations charter.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Following the successful establishment of the United Nations in 1946, the general assembly proclaimed the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The declaration was to be the yardstick of human achievement for the Citizens of the world. Leaders of the world were now faced with the responsibility to create awareness through education and promotion of these rights and freedoms enshrined in the declaration. The articles of the Declaration of Human Rights form the foundation from which most non governmental organisations derive their responsibilities. For example , we can look at article 21, which refers to the right to take part in choosing government representatives through elections. Through such provisions of the article several non-governmental organisations that aid in voter education monitoring and evaluation of the observation of the standard electoral processes, protection and prevention of voter intimidation and the protection of democracy.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights (1946-2006)

The United Nations Commission on human rights was part of the pair of functional commissions established within the early structures of the United Nations. The commission held its first meeting 1947 where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the articles and statutes, which were in 1948. Between the years 1947 and 1967, the commission’s main thrust was the promotion of Human Rights and observing the adoption and the practice of the agreed terms; however , no investigations were made into actions taken against violators. The beginning of 1967 marked the commencement of interventionism as a policy for the commission . The thrust of the policy was spearheading the decolonisation of Africa and Asia and much attention was drawn to the one to one violation of human rights in apartheid South Africa. This meant that the commission stair gate and allegations of Human Rights violations reported on such violations.

In 1970, the responsibilities of the commission regionalised with each group specialising in a certain region. Furthermore, the tasks of each region and down to theme oriented tasks and types of abuses. It must be noted that the decentralization of the commission into regional bodies compromised the credibility and transparency expected of a respectable commission. The measures did not yield anticipated results because amongst the members of the commission were perpetrators of human rights abuses and also the activities he politicized. From this moment going forward, the commission went on a downward spiral and eventually their final meeting in Geneva before the Human Rights Council replaced it on March 27, 2006 .

United Nations Human Rights Council

The United Nations human rights Council was a direct replacement of the United Nations Commission on human rights. The 50 signatories and member states of the United Nations gave the council a mandate to reinforce and defend human rights globally. Unlike the commission that resorted to interventionism, the Council could directly deal with cases of Human Rights violations and make recommendations whenever they encountered such violations.

The scope of the council’s influence was broad and it included areas such as sexual violence in Conflict, genocide, indigenous rights of people, the disabled, child soldiers, violence against women and human trafficking. The council operated using a model titled the institution-building package.

Through this model, they could plan and monitor its progress, processes and some of the measures put in place include periodic reviews through which the council assesses the human rights record of the member states including the council itself . The brains of the council were the Advisory committee, therefore making it the Voice of Reason regarding human rights issues.

It is evident that one of our setbacks as a continent is the politicisation of every aspect of life in Africa. The line between governance and politics was long blurred and painted over through greed, ignorance and outright recklessness on the part of our leaders. It is unto us to re-engage the founding principles and uphold them high before we annihilate the little glimmer of civility remaining.

The “redundant bureaucracy” of regional integration in Africa.

My preferred definition of bureaucracy is, “excessively complicated administrative procedure.” It is with this definition in mind, that I bemoan the horrors of regional integration in Africa. When you hear African leaders talk about “regional integration,” it is mostly a case of all talk no action. At the same time it takes a package to move from Poland to France, European Union, a truck driver will  most probably be stuck at Kazungula Border Post,trying to get a passport stamped on one side before queuing again.

The European colonial borders determine the geo-political configuration of Africa with no regard for the nation states. In the mid-1960s, the Economic Commission for Africa proposed the division of Africa into economic development regions. The aim for regional integration was for African development ending up with a European Union model of integration and a single African currency under an African central bank.  

Why does Africa need 50 years to create an ideal environment for development and prosperity, when China did it in under 25 years? The founding fathers of independent Africa, understood the importance of strategic planning which our modern leaders seem to have abandoned. The Agenda 2063 is quite a joke.

In 2018, Aliko Dangote said he requires 38 visas on his passport in order to travel across Africa with his Nigerian passport, yet with a Schengen visa one can travel freely in the Schengen Area. It is only in Africa where tribes are still used to identify people, nationality is used to segregate people and borders are used to limit people.

In the face of globalisation and regionalism, the African leaders are under pressure to hasten the integration processes across the continent. John Ravenhill said, “regionalism is a form of intergovernmental collaboration on a geographically restricted scale. Regionalism reflects purposive action by states.”

However, the politicisation of African regional integration has fuelled rivalries amongst the state actors thereby undermining the progress of the integration process. Instead of pushing for integration from a diplomatic vantage point, political cooperation seems to have hijacked the process. The lack of specialist agencies in African governments to monitor the process exacerbates the challenges to full integration.

It seems that individualism has more dominance in African socio economic matters than the unity of purpose. Year in and year out the presidents converge at the African Union summit, that they cannot even finance themselves, in a Headquarters that they could not build themselves.

In the mid-1960s, the Economic Commission for Africa proposed the division of Africa into economic development regions. The aim for regional integration was for African development ending up with a “European Union” model of integration and a single African currency under an African central bank. 


The leaders agreed to the creation of regional blocs. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for West Africa (1975), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for Central Africa. The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) (1989). The Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 1980.

40 years later, we only show unity when it comes to endorsing disputed elections. With fully functional regional blocs Africa can easily mobilise regional trade, regional infrastructure, regional traffic networks that match 21st century standards. Between 1900 and 1950 Europe was battered by two world wars of epic proportions, Japan was brutally assaulted twice by atomic bombs, yet by 2000 Europe was the richest continent. Japan competes neck and neck with the G7 countries. China was a third world economy in 1980, yet in 2020 it is the leading economy, all in under fifty years.

If only our leaders could institutionalise African development and create sustainable business models to accomplish developmental targets. We have very able human resources within the borders that understand the key areas to develop. If our presidents learn to retire and allow fresh minds to take Africa into the 21st century. We still use Intelligence services as weapons of intimidation and murder whilst some countries use the as resources for data gathering and analysis.

We could use land as a guarantee for food security instead of using it as a tool for political campaigns. A shocking percentage of African families survive on one meal per day and some go for days without food yet the presidents travel in multi million dollar motorcades. We have insufficient Agrarian Universities and agricultural laboratories to educate and research on seed variants to suit the African climate.

With a functional regional system we can successfully manage our resources and stimulate economic growth. Our citizens will not have to gamble their lives trying to cross the seas in inflatable rafts. With a committed leadership our banks can flourish instead of whisking away money to the Cayman Islands.

There comes a time when humans have to stand up and redefine their future and that time is now for the humans in Africa. Integration starts with you and I together with our neighbours. If we can integrate societies into functional communities and communities into nations. We start by learning to elect pragmatic leaders with principles and transformational policies. Leaders who formulate policies driven by national agenda not personal gain. Africa is not poor, it is poorly managed and we are complicit.

The politics of African policy processes: Zimbabwe’s Achille’s heel

With an estimated population of fifteen million and a mineral rich landmass, Zimbabwe could possibly rank amongst the top ten economies in Africa and be a force to be noted on the global scale. Where do we get it wrong? 

To begin with, successful nations are not necessarily a function of “smart” politicians but rather smart policies. Zimbabwe’s predicament is a direct result of a deficiency of smart policies. From the dawn of a new Zimbabwe in 1980, we have never had smart policies. In terms of policy formulation, “policy shapes politics” but in the Zimbabwean case, politics shapes policy. So, instead of having transformational leaders taking over from the colonial rulership, we had combative soldiers taking charge. We hero worshipped and made them demigods. They came into power hungry for respect, and with a devious sense of entitlement. Who could deny them? They had put their lives on the line, left families behind and it was only fair to let them rule.

To them, their war credentials meant they knew what the masses wanted, they knew what needed to be done, suddenly they had become statesmen, diplomats and policy specialists. They struck deals between themselves and other African rulers, yes, not leaders. National policy became a subject of personal views of the rulers and not the will of the people. We had been so used to toi toi and sloganeering so much that all the rulers had to say was, “pamberi nekuzvitonga” and we would all chant pamberi. We never asked what it really meant to be independent as a people and as a Republic. We had fought wars as separate military wings that had different commanders and ideologies, we had no strategy for transformation nor a road map for unification. 

Already, we had started a new page with contradictory points of view. How could we institute transformational departments and policies when we did not have a national mandate? Thus began the political woes. The former colonial governments were well aware of these deficiencies within the newly born republics but they did not care. They subtly foisted “democracy” down our theoretically independent throats and we swallowed both hook and line.

We had fought the colonialists side by side with our African brothers under Pan Africanism ideologies. Freedom fighters could move freely from one region to the other, arms and intelligence flowed through the commanders from East to west, north to south. We had an indistinguishable sense of Africanism. But with independence came segregation, borders, visas, permits and many more barriers whilst in Europe, the colonial masters were doing away with the same restrictions.

We quickly forgot the reasons for the liberation wars as we re-engaged the same outgoing colonial bureaucrats to advise and consult for the new governments. One by one the liberation visionaries were taken out. Thomas Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Chris Hani, Samora Machel to name just a few. We easily let the western governments into our backyards, after all we admired them. Perhaps a subtle case of Stockholm’s. They defined governance for us and they dictated our politics.

One of my go to definitions of governance is, “The system by which entities are directed and controlled. It is concerned with structure and processes for decision making, accountability, control and behaviour at the top of an entity.” On the other hand, and in line with this entry we will settle for the definition of politics as, “the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.” 

So as defined above, Politics becomes “the activities associated with the ‘system by which entities are directed and controlled, including structure and processes for decision making, accountability, control and behaviour at the top of a country.”

Right there, that’s where we lose it in Africa. To begin with, there is no set system in terms of the general politics and governance in Africa, each president comes in with his own policies and modus operandi. The cabinet is hand-picked from a cabal of loyalists thereby undermining the role and duty of checks and balances.

I’ve frequently said, to those within my circle of loyalty, that,  “it is bizarrely amazing how African leaders are quick to weaponise the state security apparatus against any or assumed opposition. The dignity of servicemen and servicewomen is relegated to warlords.” For avoidance of unwarranted “scrutiny” I will  not write my thoughts in detail regarding this issue.

A basic systems integration across the functional arms of administration could easily eliminate redundancy in  leaps and bounds. Things like identity documents, company registration, bank accounts, tax payments and motor vehicle registration can be easily done remotely and swiftly. The efficiency will not only result in expedited turnaround time but also an increase in revenue base. 

My observation with regards to the resistance to change is a perceived threat to the job and a possible disturbance at the “feeding trough”. A system in shambles is a systems auditor’s nightmare but a corrupt bureaucrats’ haven. A smooth flowing system is auditable and can easily be modified to suit the ever-changing dynamics, and this is a function of good politics.

Politics is not a dirty game, no! We’ve let the dirty players scare off the sincere political administrators, political scientists, political strategists, political caretakers alike. We’ve neglected all these political functions and centralised political discourse in the hands of political candidates, who, in a functional system, would have to pass the integrity test first, then aptitude test, followed by a strategic alignment [their compatibility with the political strategy which should be aligned with the national policy framework].

If indeed our leaders love the country and follow the will of the people, they would fear to even steal a dollar from the public coffers. If we clearly understood political governance and political responsibility we would elect individuals who are not only academically, but also morally qualified into positions of power. I have no interests in holding a political position or office, it must be stated for a fact, those within my circle know my position regarding that.

I observed that instead of having independent institutions to manage the affairs of the nation, we have ignorantly politicised every institution to suit the politics of the day. Cultic politics has annihilated both realpolitik and governance. 

What about the opposition framework? Opposition politics by nature is meant to be an alternative to the existing system. It is meant to culture the practice of checks and balances and to ensure accountability from the party in power. In the African sense, sadly, opposition politics means resistance, sabotage and in worst cases vindictive retribution. Both parties claim to have the masses’ interests at heart but their actions seem to be on self interest lines. 

This comes back to the war ideology which assumed that anyone against “our” views is an enemy and all enemies must be “dealt with”. This is what leads to the politicisation of national police, military, intelligence, electoral bodies, et cetera. It becomes more about protecting the cult rather than safeguarding the national policy framework and objectives. It is sad that we celebrate peaceful transitions of power in Africa when it’s supposed to be the norm. 

Our political infrastructure and systems need a complete overhaul from policy to ideology. We fought a common enemy as it were, and when we couldn’t agree amongst ourselves, we turned our guns on each other. It is my desire to one day see a meritocratic government that is not a political cult but rather a nation building machine. It is my desire to see an opposition that can say, “hey, we can assist the nation with building a sound economic, health or education system even though we are not in power.” This requires a leading party that can admit that, “hey, could you please lend a hand to the government. We could use your expertise in these said areas.”

In the case of Zimbabwe, plus or minus fifteen million citizens do not really care who is in charge if they can wake up every morning with taps full of clean running water, plugs and sockets charged with electricity, safe and reliable transport on safe and well maintained roads. Mothers should not fear conceiving, because they know clinics are fully staffed with happy medical staff, and well stocked with medicines. Young men and women are happy to graduate so that they can serve their nation with skills and expertise knowing that they will be able to earn a decent remuneration and start their own families. This is not a dream, it’s a reality that you and I are postponing because of our refusal to Bury the political cultic hatchets and WORK TOGETHER FOR THE NATIONS AND CONTINENT!

Now step back and look at your local political representative and ask yourself if they meet the above criteria? You can shake your head and continue to read. Qualified political candidates are an asset to the state and their loyalty is for all to see. This also eliminates the creation of political ancestors because political office becomes a results based people facing institution that account to the people. The question is, “how do we transform our politics from cultic politics to progressive politics?” The cultic model benefits the elites at the expense of the foot soldiers. I did a quick search for political violence and, oh my goodness, I shudder to even recall the horrific images and videos I saw. 

How could an individual chop another fellow human being with a machete for supporting a different political party? What is the essence of political parties and what is their function? If, indeed, these political gangsters, sorry, political candidates, are truly for the people and for freedom, does that freedom not also include the freedom to choose a party and to openly support that party without fear of retribution and harm, even death? What is it then that they are practicing in Africa? 

What is the relevance of democracy if choices are meted out on the edges of machetes and the curvature of knobkerries? If indeed these politicians claim their love for state and nation, why can’t they accept that indeed the people have chosen there? I’ll concede and support the incumbent.  Oh wait a minute, even the winning is questionable. 

So how then, do we proceed and how do we reinvent and redefine the political ecosystem? I could not believe that we had let things become this worse and were still ignorantly willing to continue on the same trajectory. I scrolled some of the bright minds that were politically assassinated and I was distraught. Such brilliant minds, full of potential to reach dizzying heights, but alas, they had been eliminated for having solutions that could have changed the lives of thousands if not millions, but their crime was that their potential threatened the powers that were.

I hope, someday, I’ll host lectures on post millennial Pan Africanism Ideologies to address the millennial challenges to the African continent.

We, the people, need to broaden our understanding of politics from the narrow scope of t-shirts, sloganeering and freebies. Politics is an everyday function that affects every aspect of the Republic. Voting is merely a cog in the bigger machine, a typical example is the People’s Republic of China. I have personally never seen a campaign advert or poster of any Chinese politician but they have one of, if not, the best run governments in the world. What does that tell us?

Africa’s Regional Integration: An International Relations challenge.

With a population of around 1.216 billion and growing, Africa is the world’s second most populous continent and the second largest, both after Asia. The 30.3 million square kilometre landmass is home to 54 independent nation-states. 

The international relations journey of Africa dates back to the liberation war era when the colonies were forging relations at regional level, in order to facilitate the smooth movement and training of liberation forces. However, it must be noted that these international relations also included relations with international countries like the then Soviet Republic, the People’s Republic of China and Cuba to mention just a few. 

These relations became the foundation for regional integration and the establishment of regional blocs.

The European colonial powers determined the geopolitical configuration of Africa with no regard for the nation states, cultural and ethnic differences. In the mid 1960s, the Economic Commission for Africa proposed the division of Africa into economic development regions.

The aim for regional integration was for African development ending up with a “European Union” model of integration and a single African currency under an African central bank. The leaders agreed to the creation of regional blocs. Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for West Africa (1975), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for Central Africa. The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) in 1989. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 1980. 

In the face of globalisation and regionalism, the African leaders are under pressure to hasten the integration processes across the continent. John Ravenhill said, “regionalism is a form of intergovernmental collaboration on a geographically restricted scale. Regionalism reflects purposive action by states.”

However, the politicisation of regional integration has fuelled rivalries amongst the state actors thereby undermining the progress of the integration process. Instead of pushing for integration from a diplomatic vantage point, political cabals and political gangsterism seem to have hijacked the process. The lack of specialist agencies in African governments to monitor the process exacerbates the challenges to full integration.

It is quite surprising that one would need a passport full of visas just to get across from Tanzania to Nigeria, yet all one needs to travel from Poland to France. It costs less to ship equipment or a car from America to a port in Cote d’Ivoire but it would cost almost triple or more to ferry that car from the port to Ghana or Nigeria, let alone the customs headaches.

From a diplomatic point of view, it would be easier for trade and commerce, to have actionable bi, tri or quadrilateral ties to ease the trade and movement of good and people across borders. What we have are tonnes and tonnes of photo ops from our diplomats with no actionable strategies.

With five distinct regional blocs, it would seem logical to have five passports, each bloc having a standard passport, drivers licence and even Academic Qualifications Board. A lawyer trained in Mozambique should not have to struggle to practice in SADC because the qualifications board would ease the conversion process. 

Our current state is a far cry from the vision our founding fathers had. We are more divided today by imposed borders than we were during the liberation wars.

I pose a question to you, whoever you are, a keen reader, leader, politician, critic or just another thinker;

“Why is it more difficult for Africa to coordinate the management and administration of resources than it is to take up arms against each other?”