Many countries in Africa suffer under kleptocratic and plutocratic greed where the state is controlled and run for the benefit of an individual and his close circle who use their power to transfer a large fraction of society’s resources to themselves.
Even though kleptocracy or a system of governance characterised by rampant thievery of public resources has been largely synonymous with Africa’s immediate post colonial dictators, it is still very much alive in this resource rich continent.
The difference between today’s ruling kleptocratic elites is their adoption of usually rigged “democratic” elections which have helped them mask their horrible kleptocratic characteristics by being portrayed as liberal democratic darlings especially by their equally corrupt western allies and masters who act in cahoots with these rulers to impoverish the continent. Kleptocratic leadership in Africa appears to be very disastrous for economic performance and is continuing to cause the impoverishment of innocent citizens. In most cases success of kleptocrats rests in their ability to use the divide and rule strategy.
This divide and rule is a method used by kleptocrats to maintain power in weakly –institutionalised polities costly to society. Some scholars like Robert Vivian argue that African states were neither capitalist nor communist but have always been kleptocratic. African states exist so that the leaders and other politically empowered persons usually called the elites can enrich themselves personally. Oversight institutions do not work the same way in Africa so as to control corruption. Oversight institutions have not as a rule, up to this point worked in Africa. As a result corruption has continued to hamper both economic and human development. As a foe to transparency and ethical business ambience, corruption in the whole of Africa promotes a trans-lucid accounting milieu thanks to a bunch of irresponsible self-serving kleptocrats and their cronies who shamelessly claim to be the answers to beautiful Africa’s socio economic problems. Kleptocratic leaders in Africa are in full control of states without constraints of institutions preventing self enrichment, states which do not need to have a public purpose for their existence. They exist for the enrichment of the politically empowered persons.
These politically empowered elites steal to enrich themselves and generally have good lives at the expense of the public. Instead of utilising public coffers to improve the socio-economic conditions of their fellow citizens, they instead loot everything at their disposal and stash the ill-gotten loot in offshore accounts in diverse countries like Switzerland and Panama.
Lord Acton posits that the fact that some states especially in the developed world exists where politicians do not steal is because the oversight institutions in those states represents a more “superior power” which prevents theft. Sadly these institutions are either ineffective or totally nonexistent in Africa. This is not surprising if the modern history of Africa is considered. When African states received independence, they did so within a power vacuum, a vacuum devoid of constraining institutions. Even where they were inherited, as in Zimbabwe they were easily ignored or destroyed. Since in most African states there is no meaningful private sector, the route, if only in the short term, out of poverty is not through private sector and industrious work.
The most obvious route is through the political system. As wealth and power is synonymous with political power, political power in Africa has largely been used for self enrichment. As a result groups form, that is the wealthy few and the many poor. The rich are generally the politicians and their patron clientalistic elites who
The tenderpreneurs and politically empowered begin to see the favoured position as theirs, their birth right, something to fight for, something to defend and something which others must be expelled. For these bunch of brutal and merciless kleptocrats losing an election or losing political power is more serious in Africa than in developed countries. This is so because losing the elections is losing wealth and power, that is to be poor. In Africa the loss of political power or exclusion from political power can be a permanent loss.
This means those who are outside political power can be excluded in theory for ever. This is when you will start seeing the callous brutality and political chicanery of an African kleptocrat. He will use all the means at his disposal for political castration of his real and imagined enemies through systematic torture, exiles, detentions, marginalisation, use of bribes, rampant abuse of state media etc. In most occasions constitutions are bastardised with apocalyptic impunity to create third, fourth or life presidential terms for these self-serving kleptocrats.
The logic is to enable the shameless and horrible kleptocrat to sideline politically pivotal groups off the equilibrium path, ensuring that he remains in power against any challenges. It is quite shocking to realise that since independence a total of five kleptocratic maniacs in Africa have a combined total time in power of more than 150 years which is a global record.
It is usually interesting to realise that by the time a kleptocratic leader is removed from power he will likely be in a sorry state, example being Mubarak when he appeared in a Cairo court on his sick bed. His sickness was nothing but a result of depression of being removed from power.
The sickness culminated from a mere simple fact that someone else is now going to be in full control of the ill-gotten wealth some of which has been siphoned to equally corrupt financial institutions of shameless Switzerland. Others like Gaddafi tried to hang on until a bullet from an unidentified rebel fighter put an end to his life, while some like Ben Ali of Tunisia sought refuge outside the continent.
However even though some are removed from power, all their years at the helm often leave the masses or ordinary citizens in a state of dehumanising poverty and a culture of rightlessness. My words of advice to my fellow poor and down trodden sons and daughters of Africa is that kleptocracy and plutocratic elitism cannot be removed through wishful thinking but through relentless fight to claim what belongs to the masses, that is Africa’s riches.