“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’ve 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.
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 their erstwhile colonial oppressors and their way of life.
That imitation of their colonial oppressors and their way of life, symbolises liberation and freedom in both the eyes and minds of african politicians who, once they are in power, and for fear of losing it, inevitably become brutally authoritarian as a way to protect, preserve and perpetuate their rule[rulership] and amassed ill-gotten great 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 an extremely impoverished background.
This is an extremely important and defining factor, it reveals a lot in their outlook to politics and power. It thus, significantly influences their conduct in politics and how they are willing to use power, once acquired.
African politics suffers from its colonial heritage and/or origin.
It is important to put african politics into 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 orientation and influence.
Nothing in that regard seriously changed as a result of ‘Independence’, if anything, and due to the agent-client state approach the colonial powers adopted to maintain their grip and influence in Africa with africans in power and as heads of state, things took a rather more difficult and violent course. History can attest to this!
But not to digress, the colonial structure symbolised power and wealth, yes, it was oppressive and violent but it is through that oppression and violence it maintained its grip to power that it used to plunder african resources to amass wealth, with impunity.
It is not far-fetched to argue that, part of the motivation for social agitation for political ‘Independence’ in Africa, was the envious desire for colonial wealth and the only way africans would have access to that wealth was through acquiring political power. So, agitation for political “Independence” made more sense and even more urgent by the oppressive nature of the colonial system.
So, given 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 treated as an escape route from such grinding poverty.
That attitude to power and politics has since not changed, in fact, it continues to be the central motivation for people to go into politics in Africa today. 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 access to and control of national wealth.
When african politicians acquire power.
So, once african politicians have acquired power and are in government, which gives them control and access to national wealth, and coming from an 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 sets the tone, the pace and their conduct under and with power. This mindset explains their uncontrolled urge for primitive accumulation of wealth and why they act with impunity.
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.
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
I have argued elsewhere and maintain that how african politicians come to power – into government – speaks volumes about their mindset to power and how they intend to use it, and usually, ultimately, use it.
They use their political power and influence to primarily gain access to and control of national wealth. Once access and control of national wealth is secured, they work to privatise it, that is, personalise it. It becomes their personal wealth 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 denied and left out of access to collective national wealth and are, as a result, aggrieved, to fight them by any means necessary and within their possibility and thus inevitably result into political conflict 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] to acquire power and control and access to national wealth. Not the desire to do social good and improve general social life and welfare.
Too often, the fight for freedom and liberation cited and promoted as the motivation for political fighting and conflicts are, to a great extent false claims, except only for the liberation of and freedom for a small group to gain access to and control 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 their brutal reputation at home and shore up their international image, by creating and painting a human and humane face on their ruthless 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 and 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. There’s no way an african can have superior knowledge and skills – technical or otherwise, 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 dearly for their expertise while denying their own such opportunities. Where africans are allowed in and seen, they are simply token faces, 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, especially in the West – even when western nationals live 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 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 africans.
Still even where we seem to demonstrate a natural aptitude, we stand at a disadvantage if and when a “white” person or foreigner shows interest. We will most likely lose out to them!
But this similar attitude by africans towards their own, is a mental sickness that is a direct consequence of the colonial indoctrination and socialisation process called “education” in Africa – a European socialisation process no less, designed to europeanise [westernise] africans (often in the false and misguided pretext and draped with the garb of ‘development’) and prepare and make them more easily controlled and governable.