“It is not hard to find fault with Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his government. The overall stability of the country he has led since 1982, often from the luxury of the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, has crumbled over the past three years.” Reads Foreign Policy https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/10/the-u-s-should-bid-biya-goodbye-cameroon-security-foreign-policy-yaounde/
This is the major threat, in fact, great tragedy of African politics.
I have constantly and consistently argued that the major security threat to peace, stability, development and the sustainability of all that has been achieved in Africa is, and in fact, lies in the political mindset of those who seek political power and the control of government, such as President Paul Biya and many more like him, past and present.
Their real mindset to politics and power is quickly manifest in their conspicuous extravagance and the insatiable need for all [the] symbols and trappings and lifestyles of western opulence. Their mindset is to seek to imitate those they claim to be their erstwhile colonial oppressors and their way of life – lifestyle – of opulence predicated on wanton oppression, exploitation and fatal brutality of those they colonise[d] and their natural wealth.
The sad irony is that, although African politicians claim to be “independent” from colonialism and – as if on a naive flight of fantasy – refer to their colonial masters as “erstwhile“; the reality is that Africa is still, today, tied, hands and legs together, by colonialism. And African politicians who – by virtue of their political activities and influence, consequently command political as well as, by and large, economic power, constitute political leadership in Africa – are and act as mere agents of their colonial masters and the oppressive and exploitative colonial machine; broadly viewed and henceforth referred to, today, as the western political and economic [capitalist] machine.
The imitation of their colonial oppressors and their way of life – lifestyle – symbolises liberation and freedom in both the eyes and minds of African politicians who, once they acquire and are in power; and for fear of losing power, inevitably become brutally authoritarian as a way to protect, preserve and perpetuate their rule[rulership] and amassed ill-gotten wealth but also continue to plunder their national wealth and treasuries to amass more personal wealth.
It is worth noting that the majority, if not almost all, of African politicians, even those who go on to occupy high government offices in their countries, come from extremely impoverished economic backgrounds.
This is an extremely important and defining factor, because it reveals a lot in their outlook to politics and power. It thus, shapes, defines and significantly influences their conduct in politics and how they are willing to and therefore, largely and almost as a rule, use power once acquired.
African politics suffers from its colonial heritage and/or origin.
It is important, for critical and analytical purposes, to put African politics in and therefore view it from its colonial context and origin, to help trace the motivation for African politicians into politics today or rather from “Independence” on.
The entire African political structure or body politic is a relic of the colonial structure; from the way administrative structures are arranged and organised, to ideological as well as socioeconomic and political orientation , influence and aspirations.
Nothing in that regard seriously ever changed as a result of “Independence”. If anything, and due to the agent-client state approach the colonial powers adopted – as a control mechanism and hence effective replacement of the more conspicuous presence and direct involvement – to maintain their grip and influence in Africa with Africans in power and as heads of State – in and of itself, a colonial construct of power and control, things took a rather more difficult and violent course. History can generously attest to this!
But not to digress, the colonial structure symbolised power and wealth. Admittedly, it was oppressive and violent; but it is through that oppression and violence that it maintained its grip on[to] power that was vital and thus used to plunder African resources to feed its economic and capitalist machine and amass wealth with impunity.
It is not far-fetched nor is it exaggeration to argue that, part of the motivation for social agitation for political “Independence” in Africa, was deeply rooted in the envious desire for colonial wealth; and, rightly, the deep seated anger in the knowledge that it was extracted [created] from the wanton plunder and exploitation of both African human labour and natural wealth. And therefore, the only way Africans felt and figured they would have access to that wealth, was through acquiring political power which would give them access to and the control of the means of power, that is, the monopoly of the means of State [sanctioned] violence. The same means used by the colonial machine to plunder and exploit Africa and its natural wealth.
So, agitation for political “Independence” made more sense and even more urgent by the oppressive nature of the colonial system. It was made inevitable by the oppressive and exploitative nature of the prevailing socioeconomic and political circumstances.
That the colonial system in Africa had denied Africans access to economic wealth and subsequently and systematically condemned them to extreme impoverished economic circumstances; politics and power in Africa was viewed and thus treated as an escape route from such grinding poverty and extreme socioeconomic circumstances.
That attitude to power and politics has since not changed. In fact, if anything, it continues to be the central motivation for people to go into politics in Africa today.
This is because, on a more fundamental level, the general socioeconomic welfare and circumstances in Africa remain largely the same, if not worse; of extreme and dehumanising economic poverty for the majority ordinary Africans. The economic circumstances of the majority ordinary Africans have not [been] improved by and/or with so-called political “independence” from colonialism and its exploitative economic and capitalist machine.
In stark contrast, the economic and political power structure (system) – the entire political economy – is arranged or rather deliberately skewed in such a way that it functions majorly to serve and excessively benefit the political class; a handful of people, mainly those in power – the political elite, who live in extreme and scandalous opulence.
They are reputedly known for using [abusing] their political power and positions, with the help of all possible and available State means and the machinery of violence at their disposal, to appropriate, control and monopolise access to, and therefore decide who benefits from what is otherwise collective national wealth.
This is because when those who go into politics are in power, and have access to and control of national wealth, they work to keep others away from it, impoverish almost everyone but terribly more so, those who challenge their access to and control of national wealth. So, this creates a vicious cycle of conflict and violent struggles for political power, to gain, primarily and squarely, access to and control of [over] national wealth and treasuries.
When African politicians acquire power.
Once most African politicians have acquired power and are in government, which gives them control and access to national wealth and treasuries; and coming from extremely impoverished economic background, 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 allows.
They come to power and into government with an extremely impoverished mindset to wealth. Such impoverished mindset influences and therefore sets and dictates not only their subsequent conduct whilst in power and government but, arguably, also heavily influences their attitude to government policy.
This mindset explains their uncontrolled urge for primitive accumulation of wealth and why they act with impunity. Government, to them, is a vehicle and thus a means to an end; and the end is, obviously primitive accumulation of wealth through the monopoly of national by the use of State [government] power and its instruments. Consequently, government policy must work to benefit them, mainly with the acquisition of more and consolidation of State [political] power. If and what doesn’t work, whether policy or person, to such end; is treated as an obstacle that must be removed with urgency.
We have many examples of African politicians who came to power and into government with nothing, but within no time, were living a palatial lifestyle, with great wealth and all the opulent possessions usually symbolised by western business billionaires such as fleets of expensive limousines and private planes.
The likes of Mobutu Sese Seko, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Paul Biya are the apotheosis of this impoverished mindset to power and the primitive wealth accumulation by African politicians, once they come to power and have control and access to what is otherwise collective national wealth. There are, of course, many out there today.
However, they all have one thing in common; they all make a common but nonetheless false claim that they are in power to “serve” who they condescendingly refer to as “the[ir] people“, that is, the rest of the ordinary citizens in the countries and they treat and run like their private property, and the citizens, their subjects – enslaved servants.
According to “foreignpolicy.com/2019/07/10/the-u-s-should-bid-biya-goodbye-cameroon-security-foreign-policy-yaounde” President Paul Biya has amassed a fortune of around $200 million
But this is a man who presides over a country where “At least 8 million Cameroonians live below the poverty line, with less than XAF931 per day” according to www.businessincameroon.com/governance/1212-8679-at-least-8-million-cameroonians-live-below-the-poverty-line-with-less-than-xaf931-per-day-ins
Arguably, how African politicians come to power, that is, into government, speaks volumes about their mindset to power and therefore reflects greatly on how they intend to use it; and will, usually, ultimately use it.
They use their political power and influence primarily to gain access to and control of national wealth. Once access and control of national wealth is secured, they work to appropriate and privatise it, that is, personalise it. It becomes their personal wealth and property; and it’s thus treated as such – for personal use and gains.
It is this mindset and subsequent privatisation [personalisation] of national wealth and its use as a power bargain – as the proverbial carrot and stick – to win over support, that is at the centre of political conflicts and instability in Africa, and therefore, the threat to Africa’s political peace and stability.
Once in power, many African politicians use their power to pamper and lavish with privileges – carrot – a small group that makes up their criminal inner circle and an extended but strictly controlled web of cronies who help and support them in the[ir] systematic and extensive theft of national wealth. At the same time, they ring-fence, as punishment – stick – everyone else who do not submit to their rule[rulership] and whims – often marked with brutality, out of access to collective national wealth.
This situation creates [the]need from those who, rightly so, feel not only denied access to collective national wealth and left out, but also systematically subjugated and dehumanised and are, as a result, aggrieved, to fight them by any means necessary and within their possibility. Thus, and inevitably, this usually results and breaks into political conflicts and instability.
We do not need history lessons to know and understand that much of Africa’s political conflicts and instability are largely, if not squarely, caused by the desire [need] and the fight to acquire power, to have and control access to national wealth. Not necessarily the desire to fight and redress the prevailing socioeconomic and political injustice; and to do social good and improve general social life and welfare.
Too often, the fight for freedom and the liberation of the people – the masses – promoted by many power ambitious Africans as the motivation and justification for political fighting and conflicts are, to a great extent, false claims except only for the liberation of and freedom for a small group – those at the forefront – to gain and control access to and steal what is otherwise collective national wealth. Other than that, the reality is that these are mere pretexts that soon get flushed down the political gutters as personal interests, of the powerful – no more or less than a notoriously greedy and ruthless clique at the top of the power structure – take priority.
Government [sanctioned] corruption motivated by the desire to maintain power.
“Cameroonian President Paul Biya has been accused of paying American lobbyist billions to influence US perception of his regime and helping the regime to evade US sanctions and sustain Biya’s hold on power, the National Times said on Wednesday. “ https://www.journalducameroun.com/en/news-in-brief/biya-accused-paying-american-lobbyist-billions-influence-us-perception/
This is increasingly becoming a common occurrence in Africa and an approach many authoritarian political figures in Africa, like President Paul Biya, are using to extend their lease and grip on power.
Hiring expensive foreign PR firms, in excess of millions of US dollars, to sanitise and whitewash their brutal reputation at home and shore up their international image, by creating and painting a human and humane face on their ruthless and brutal authoritarian regimes.
We’ve seen this most recently from the current embattled Sudanese Military junta hiring Canadian lobbying group for $6m.
But this is also not uncommon, in fact, it is typically very African to have and demonstrate so much faith in and shamelessly favour foreign expertise over their own, in any field.
It is not something just unique to authoritarian regimes in their desperate quest and attempt to create a humane face and/or paint a democratic approach to governance to appeal to and win over international support.
It is a common, in fact, acceptable norm in Africa and the mantra seems to be: if you are foreign and preferably “white” North American or European, you are an expert, that is, you have superior knowledge and skills – technical or otherwise. On the other hand, as an African, you cannot and are not expected to be an expert professionally.
Even if you are, you are not expected to be, and it becomes hard to believe you’re or can really be superior to a foreign expert, more so, a “white” North American or European one. There’s no way an African can have superior knowledge and skills – technical or otherwise, in the same field of expertise or not, than a “white” North American or European.
Consequently, you see many Africans falling over for so-called “white” North American or European experts and/or consultants and willing to pay handsomely for their expertise while denying their own such opportunities. Where Africans are allowed in and seen, they are simply token faces, in African institutions; precisely the same way African token faces are seen in western (North American and European) corporations and institutions.
So, Africans suffer and are victims of TOKENISM both at home, at the hands of their own kith and kin; and outside [of] Africa, at the hands of foreigners.
The only expertise that foreigners, as it is in the West – even for western nationals living in African countries – seem to recorgnise in Africans and where Africans are visibly dominant is the janitorial expertise. It is as if Africans have a natural aptitude to [for] janitorial services. Although, and not surprising given our reverence for all things “white” European/American (western), many Africans would rather and much prefer to hire janitorial services offered by “whites” to those by Africans.
Still even where Africans seem to demonstrate a natural aptitude, Africans stand at a disadvantage if and when a “white” person or foreigner shows interest. Africans will most likely lose out to them!
But this foreign attitude by Africans towards their own, is internalised self-hatred – a mental sickness that is a direct consequence of the colonial indoctrination and socialisation process called “education” in Africa. A European indoctrination and socialisation process no less, designed to Europeanise [westernise] Africans – often in the false and misguided pretext and draped with the garb of “social and human development“; a nice euphemism used in lieu of ‘civilisation‘ to bypass and avoid accusations of “racism” and the emotional furore it draws – and prepare and make them more easily controlled and governable.