July 21, 2003
President George W. Bush has shown that he brings sensitivity and a levelheaded, pragmatism to world problems. His effective, no nonsense approach is encouraging after the hollowness and hypocrisy of the Clinton years.
Thus the president’s recent visit to Africa was seen as an important first step in bringing hope to a continent where, in too many nations, hope sank in a sea of corruption and human misery.
It’s hoped that the president’s talks with certain African leaders, including South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, will lead to increased cooperation between Africa and the United States. It’s hoped, too, that the firsthand looks and up close talks with African leaders will lead to a Bush-inspired “roadmap” for sub-Sahara Africa.
The most prominent feature on that roadmap should be aimed at stamping out the “African Leader Disease” (ALD), the corruption that infects virtually every sovereign government in sub-Sahara Africa.
The lone exception is South Africa, the continent’s showcase of open government and economic development. This industrious nation is the world’s largest producer of gold, and is a world leader in the production of many other valuable metals.
But in other African nations, until the spread of the ALD is reversed, a truckload of policy initiatives won’t help peoples oppressed by corrupt looters who wangle or fight their way into power.
The ALD has brought misery to millions. Corruption in high places is rampant. Illiteracy rates in places are the world’s highest, except perhaps in the most backward, repressed areas controlled by Muslim extremists.
After the ALD is controlled, the roadmap should guide African nations to develop their natural resources for the sole benefit of their people. A sound economic development plan will require much money and prayerful resolve.
Africa is a vast, resource-rich continent, with many talented people, but few who know anything about representative government. And fewer still who have both the know-how and the character for honest government.
Some will call for the United Nations to restructure Africa. But Africans deserve better than the United Nations, which hasn’t rebuilt a single nation, much less a whole sub-continent of nations where stable, honest government is a rarity.
Representative government won’t spring up naturally where freedom and order haven’t been allowed to take root in the hearts and minds of citizens. But many Africans do have the talent, knowledge, and sense of fairness to make representative government work. But only if they’re not hampered by corrupt dictators like those that have brought destruction to places like Liberia and Zimbabwe.
Africa’s cupboard is not bare. Its natural resources aren’t yet fully developed. The region has large oil reserves in West Africa, with Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea leading the pack. Other areas have world-class reserves of important minerals, including diamonds and valuable metals.
New initiatives in Africa should first be aimed at rooting out corrupt officials. And if military “rooters” are required, let it be. Call it the “War on Inhumanity to Humans.” Only when the corrupt, self-enriching “leaders” are ousted can the people have relief from malnutrition, disease, and oppression.
One president or one nation can’t solve the huge, complex problems of sub-Sahara Africa. The African community of nations must help each country help itself. And if Africans are freed from dictators, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, they can do much to help themselves.
Still, substantial aid from developed nations will be needed. However, that help should not consist of throwing aid dollars at risky governments, where aid funds can be siphoned into the pockets of corrupt leaders
President Bush has made a start. He knows that Africa is a mess. He no doubt knows that the mess is centuries old, and is partially rooted in the old colonialism.
It would only be right if former colonial powers, such as Belgium, France and Great Britain, pitched in and helped the people they exploited for so long.