Political Power Struggles in Africa

Power, in social science and politics, is defined as “the capacity of an individual to influence the conduct (behaviour) of others”.

With that in mind, political power struggles in much of Africa, as is similar in the rest of the so-called ‘developing’ world – unlike in many although not all of the so-called ‘developed’ world – is, by and large, about the acquisition of power so that once power is acquired, it can be and more often than not, is used for the control and ‘personalisation‘ of government, national treasuries and all other valued national resources.

By ‘personalisation‘, this means and thus refers to a situation in which an individual at the top of a fundamentally and systemically corrupt power structure, of course, with the help of and/or in collusion with a handful of morally decadent opportunistic loyal cronies, basically usurps and treats State structures/organs and all national resources as personal/private property and subsequently uses them for persona interests. So, the term ‘personalisation‘ is applied in this sense.

It is this kind of political power struggle that is fundamentally at the heart and therefore the major cause of much of Africa’s sociopolitical instability; at the back of which, ever more self-styled so-called ‘freedom‘ [fighting] movements, one after the other, come up claiming to fight for ‘freedom‘ and ‘democracy‘. And yet, once in power, they rule and act to suppress and/or, in many instances, completely take away people’s freedoms, subjugate and condemn them to a reign of terror and authoritarianism.

Most, if not all without exception, of African politicians, be it those who go on to occupy the highest offices, largely by usurpation through the use of force and violence and the power of the gun, come from extremely impoverished socio-economic backgrounds. That’s an undeniable fact!

With such background, politics and [acquiring] political power to them, becomes a means – a vehicle – through which to escape their impoverished circumstances. One might ask: what or where is the problem in that? Indeed, there’s, in that approach alone, no problem at all. However, they consequently – and herein, lies the problem – come into politics with an impoverished mindset towards, and an uncontrolled quest for acquiring material wealth. Hence, once in power, primitive accumulation of wealth, through their now acquired political power and positions, becomes their number one preoccupation. This, more often than not, gives way to and is the motivation for what is usually called ‘corruption‘.

So, once they have acquired and are in power, theirs becomes a race for becoming insanely wealthy by all means necessary and available within and as much as their political power, positions and authority can possibly allow and/or accord them irrespective of the social and economic cost on [their] people (society), countries and national economies. These people [fools] act as if they – and indeed, because, by virtue of their monopoly on the use and application of force and violence, through their total monopoly on State instruments of coercion and violence and the guns – own the countries they preside and wield power over with impunity.

I have constantly argued and maintain[ed] that Africa’s political instability and insecurity is largely and fundamentally an economic problem, where and one in which the basic motivation for and thus violent sociopolitical struggles is not so much the struggle for freedom, liberation and/or indeed, democracy; these are mere gimmicks. But it is the struggle for political power to control the economic means and resources so as to ultimately acquire economic power by and for the political class; not the masses, as is the lie usually told.

This, of course, is usually exacerbated, beyond any shadow of a doubt, by the impoverished mindset towards material wealth of the so-called political class who, due to its [their] impoverished [material] background, after acquiring power, act and use it inappropriately by all means, to enrich themselves to the hilt while ring-fencing and, in the process, ‘personalising‘ all sources of wealth – usually national wealth – which is otherwise collective wealth, but concentrated and controlled in the hands of the few with State power and its instruments of force and violence at their disposal.

This attitude and behaviour, therefore, creates a situation where and in which those deprived of access to national wealth by the actions of those in and with [State] power, who monopolise it through the use of their monopoly of [on] the State [national] instruments of force and violence, are forced into having to look at and treat and as a result, seek to use force and violence as the only means through which to acquire political power to take away and thus give them access and control to national wealth from those currently in control of it.

Examples abound, but it is from this background that we can start to unpack and analyse and help us understand what is at the heart of the cause of political mayhem in the Sudan which, as its victory so far, ended the repressive regime of Omar al-Bashir. A man who, arguably, came to power – for the most part – with barely nothing; as we say in my Wakanda native “without fingernails to scratch his scrawny poor ass“.

However, within barely five years of his repressive regime, he and his close cronies who helped him usurp power and the control of State structures/organs such as the government, the treasury and other valued national resources through the barrel of the mighty gun, had amassed wealth, living in opulence only familiar in fairy tales. The kind of wealth and opulent lifestyle one can only dream of until one, of course, usurps power either by the gun or other, usually violent means but certainly maintained by the gun and violence, and becomes one of the African so-called ‘heads’ of State with unchecked power and accountable to none.

Omar al-Bashir, and his crime partners, the entire political class and top members of the army, lived a billionaire lifestyle for much of his regime rule while the majority of the country’s population suffered immensely and their circumstances deteriorated further. Omar al-Bashir also used his appropriated national wealth and power to punish everybody he disliked for whatever the reasons, real or perceived.

However, it must be stated that this national [political] tragedy is not a unique experience to Omar al-Bashir alone and his regime in the Sudan. It is a far more common experience and practice by those in power in much of Africa. Which brings us to the point that, despite the democratic posturing by some of those at the top and in control of the political structures such as political parties and governments in much of Africa, the motive is the same across; because the mindset is the same: an impoverished mindset towards material wealth and its acquisition thereof.

So, theirs, deep down, and without any shadow of a doubt, is and becomes to take control of and loot to the hilt, national treasuries and other valued national resources and with unfettered impunity. For, they are everything: the executive, the parliament, the judiciary and the national army and other such instruments of [State/national] coercion and violence. And that, effectively, in many and various ways, makes them synonymous with the[ir] countries (and governments). They and the[ir] countries (and governments) become one and the same and any criticism of them – their own behaviour, actions and/or policies – becomes a criticism of the[ir] countries (and governments), and vice versa. They, at the worst, hold the[ir] countries (and governments) to ransom; and at the very best, treat them – countries (and governments) – and the people as their personal property.

There’s little or no wonder at all, then, that what we see and indeed, a situation we have, in much of Africa, is one armed group after another; or simultaneously various armed groups after the other, fighting the group in power and therefore in control of and looting the national treasuries and other valued national resources at will, so they can take over and have their own turn to do their own national looting and continued total destruction of their own countries and people. All this done, of course, in the distorted and pathetic claim and name of ‘freedom‘ fighting, not to forget fighting for ‘democracy‘.

What this does, is to create a perpetual cycle of recurring violence in which, and is exacerbated by the threat on the existing power structure and establishment, and therefore the desire by the group in power to seek and to ensure they stay [in] power. This desire and with the imminent threat to their power hold, the group in power moves and acts to protect, defend and to maintain its power hold by whatever and all means necessary and available at their disposal. That usually happens to be the State instruments of force and violence and their monopoly on such force and violence. In such circumstances in which their power hold is being challenged and under threat; they usually resort to and deploy force and violence, if it ensures their survival and hold onto power.

They have no problem using excessive force as has been demonstrated by the events in the Sudan, although, admittedly, not comparable to the level of what transpired in much of North Africa during the so-called Arab Spring. As usual and largely, the victims are always the same – ordinary people who have always been victims during much of the rule of such regimes, while their tormentors and families are either highly protected or run to live off large in exile on their massive loot stashed away in foreign, usually Swiss and other western bank accounts. Not the more surprising, with and under the maximum protection of their western masters whose interests they served most whilst still in power and hence, their accomplices, terrorising and repressing their own people in the pursuit of looting their national treasuries and other valued national resources.

This is the kind and extent of political debauchery that is fundamentally at the heart of [the] political struggles and subsequent instability and insecurity in much of Africa.