Hilal Ahmad Wani
Introduction: Since the end of the 1980s the issue of good governance is dominating the international discussion about development and international assistance to Africa. However, governance is a broad concept, not easy to define, and many related concepts are attached: the issue of democracy and development; popular participation and development; corruption and development; and also the issues of state capacity and development.
The late 1980s and 1990s were characterized by concerted struggle for democratization and the clamor for good governance on the African continent. The thirst for freedom and justice, the political fallouts from the structural adjustment programs and the entrenched autocratic and repressive political systems dominant in the larger part of Africa’s post-colonial history provided the incentive and legitimacy for popular democratic struggles in Africa.
The democratic struggles triggered constitutional and political changes and reforms in many countries compelling the holding of elections and granting of civil and political freedom. Between 1996 and 2006, 44 elections were conducted in Sub-Saharan Africa, and between 2005 and 2007, 26 presidential and 28 parliamentary elections were held in Africa.
According to an assessment by the African Development Bank the importance of the concept for African development is related, first of all, to the necessity to create the basic extra- economic conditions that are important for the growth of African economies, as for example, an effective public administration, a functioning legal framework, efficient regulatory structures, and transparent systems for financial and legal accountability. In this context, it is the issue of the quality of the public goods supplied at country level that makes good governance such an important concept.
Secondly, the concept of good governance refers to the developmental potentials of the democratic challenge in Africa as accountability, rule of law, freedom of expression and association and public choice of government are important elements of Africa’s renewal.
Thirdly, good governance refers also to the consolidation of market reforms although quite different development paths are possible within the context of market-oriented economic systems; good governance therefore requires an adaptation and continuous improvement of market oriented systems in a specific socio-economic context, especially in Africa.
Hon. Paul Muite so aptly described:
“The African Continent is a true political and social mosaic. There are countries that are making a real move towards democracy. There are others in which the democratic experiment started off hopefully but are now sliding back into the old ways of autocracy and repression. In others, the political, social, and State infrastructure has collapsed. Yet, in a few others, chaos, genocide and terror are predominant”.
Africa is a continent on the margins of world politics. This is even more the case today, with world public opinion and policy makers more turned into developments in the Middle East and elsewhere. Over the last few years, donor’s aid to the continent has declined markedly, due to the international economic crisis. Still, the continent struggles to address its developmental challenges tirelessly. Since its establishment in 2002, the African Union (AU) has spearheaded common African efforts to this effect.
Indeed, the real conundrum in Africa is not lack of resources, but rather lack of good governance. Africa is rich in natural resources, but cannot exploit them adequately and properly, in spite of recent achievements. This is first and foremost due to governance problems such as weak institutions, absence of rule of law and rampant corruption. Democracy requires more than free elections. Beyond elections, the quest for democracy and good governance in Africa often snags on structural problems, including state fragility, institutional weakness, tribalism, and conflict and ethnic discrimination, vested interests, crime networks, corruption and lack of democratic culture. These are all demanding problems that need concerted action.
At the national level, wars, civil strife and the proliferation of light weapons militate against the efforts of some countries in the establishment of sustainable development. Some countries are still handicapped following current conflicts and others by the challenges of recovery following the termination of conflicts. The challenges following these include the consolidation of national capacities for the prevention of governance crises, conflict and natural emergencies and taking initiatives on peace-building. Furthermore, relating to national security, there are challenges in the capacity to manage cross-border population movements and coping with drug and small arms trafficking, epidemics, and human trafficking, to mention a few.
African countries have taken a number of necessary and bold initiatives on governance as one of the essential factors for sustainable economic growth and development for the alleviation of poverty. But these initiatives are still constrained by a number of critical challenges that should be tackled to enhance the prospects of governance and if development objectives are to be attained.
Africa was also the cradle of human civilization and a cultural center of great importance, a fact that was ignored by the colonial masters and imperial powers. It is pertinent to understand that the African continent had its own civilization, with its own traditions and value system, political systems, organizations, religions, languages, and different means of managing and resolving conflicts. These all reflect the spirit of solidarity, harmony and peaceful co-existence for which the African people were renowned. All this was neglected and destroyed under the process of colonialism and imperialism era. Indeed, the manner in which the colonial administrations governed their colonies virtually ensured the failure of Africa’s transition to independence, especially their common policy of ‘’divide and rule’’ and their effective use of tribalism, racism and assimilation to promote their policies and just fragment this great African nations for securing their political means.
Good Governance for Stability and Prosperity: The deep rooted desire for unity and development will be best served by good governance, manifested through the promotion of democratic principles, popular participation, human and people’s rights and the rule of law. The concept of good governance was once defined by a number of international institutions like the World Bank, as the capacity of a country to establish a ‘’framework of order and stability, formulate and implement effective policies and create an environment durable for economic and social development.’’ The idea of good governance has attracted the attention of most African leaders now.
Over the past few years, however Africa has also experienced some obstacles to and failures in the promotion and maintenance of democratic principles that were required by the 1990 declaration of the OAU. There have been examples of legitimately elected governments being overthrown by military juntas. The misuse of power is manifested in arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings in many African countries, which create a massive displacement of millions of Africans. These continued violations of human rights and internal armed conflicts have caused the exodus of countless Africans as refugees to neighboring countries.
Africa is currently host to over six million refugees and nine million internally displaced people. African leaders recognized that the resurgence of the coup d’état as a phenomenon in Africa represented a serious threat to peace and security and the process of democratization in the continent. Coup d’états are also unacceptable because they contradict the joint commitment of African leaders, made at the 26th ordinary session in July 1990, to promote a democratic environment and principles. The 2000 Declaration was a historic and imaginative measure on the part of African leaders, which provided Africa with the mechanism for an immediate response to any illegal intervention in the democratic process of an African country. This mechanism helped to isolate the regimes which came to power through coup d’état in Guinea Bissau, The Comoros, Niger and La Cote d’ Ivoire in 1999.
Africa as a whole had tried a lot to come out from the challenges of bad governance, poverty, leadership crises, conflict and corruption but still there is much more needed to be done for the creation of successful, progressive and developed Africa. Good governance is the main instrument and tool which could be used for minimizing conflict situation in the African region.
Africa needs good leaders like Nelson Mandela who fought against racial discrimination which is called in international politics (apartheid movement), a leader who always talked about peace and cooperation for the African region and other parts of the world. He always stressed on peace and harmony. He joined the people of Africa and created in them courage, discipline, obedience, and independent attitude and sense of integrity, that type of leaders are needed to be given power who will be ready for changing Africa towards enlightenment and development.
Culture of Peace & Good Governance: The end of the Cold War brought to the fore a fresh upsurge of conflicts and domestic tensions that have arrested Africa’s development in almost every respect, and jeopardized the unity of the continent. In Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the world has witnessed the near disintegration of African nations. In Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo the international community has watched helplessly as the destruction of property, massacre and even attempted genocide have been inflicted on African people.
The quest for tolerance, a culture of peace and unity has been at the center of political endeavors in the African continent. Africa has to learn lessons from its past mistakes and follow some developed countries as model for their development. Especially Africa as a whole can learn a lot from the Asian countries in the field of development and advancement.
Major constraints and impediments: Poverty affects civil society in many ways including the undermining of democracy. Democracy can hardly work in conditions where the people are poor and ignorant. Based on our experiences with past elections in Africa, the poor and illiterate may be influenced to sell their votes for a mere pittance.
As [one of the not so articulate nor democratic African leaders Colonel] Acheampong once said,
“One man one vote is meaningless unless accompanied by one man with bread”.
Apart from the subversion of the independence of the voter, poverty and ignorance do not provide a fertile ground for advocacy and the promotion of rights. The people are either too concerned with the practical details of where the next meal would come from, or are steeped in apathy. This works against the emergence of a robust and pro-active civil society that would work for the consolidation of democracy.
Corruption: By its very nature, corruption is an abuse to all internationally acknowledged human rights. It creates a vicious circle where human rights awareness is constantly paired with and undermined by harsh realities of poor economic and political performance. Corruption is both the cause and the consequence of political turbulence, human rights abuses and under- development. Corruption is a challenge to everyone, and therefore action must be taken in various areas of society. The role of hard working pressure groups, such as civil society, and vigilant individuals cannot be emphasized enough.
Despite promising trends of democratization and stability in the last two decades, corruption and conflict remain a serious barrier to development in many African countries. Experts estimate that African states lose as much as $148 billion annually to corruption, amounting to approximately one quarter of GDP. Corruption in many sub-Saharan African countries has been entrenched for decades, often through systems of patronage and nepotism. Donors can sometimes unwittingly play a role in perpetuating the detrimental cycle of corruption through support to corrupt governments based on strategic interests, failure to regulate multinational corporations and permitting the shelter of stolen assets in banks and non-cooperative offshore financial centers, some of them in developed countries. The value of stolen assets held by banks in developed countries is estimated at $20 billion to $40 billion per year—a figure equivalent to 20-40% of flows of development assistance.
Corrupt leadership: Leadership involves goal setting or visioning, the capacity to motivate and/or inspire and mobilize efforts, energies, and talents to reach set goals. As Pat Utomi noted, leaders act as agents of their followers.
He further said:
“It is clear that Africa has a crisis of leadership because we can see clearly that a sense of service is in short supply. It was not always so. The independence struggle produced men who were willing to sacrifice for the common good. In the transition from colonial rule, as they moved from the outhouse to the Government reserved areas, the emergent leaders of Africa saw the tyranny of colonial agents as their model of leadership without recognizing, that leaders and tyrants are polar opposites. For Africa to be renewed, it has to rethink leadership.”
Africa has to learn lessons from the Asian countries in terms of development and advancement such as, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore etc. The African countries need strong political institutions which must be just in policy making and policy implementation process. The African countries need also strong judiciary which could be a check on the misuse of power and corrupt politicians. Besides, credible, efficient, accountable, inclusive political institutions are the need of the hour in Africa.
Moreover, civil society could play an important role in changing the nature of the criminal and corrupt politics. Therefore, Africa needs a vibrant and robust civil society which can safeguard public interests. Public opinion is very important in any country so public opinion can be cited as one of the check on corrupt political institutions. Media can also play an important role in checking the dysfunctional political institutions. Religious leaders and organizations could play role of peace building if they will come on the commonalities. People must show active participation in the field of politics so that they should understand what their rights and privileges are in their countries. It is only possible when they will be politically active. These all above examples are the examples of civil society as whole.
Lack of Vibrant and Robust Civil Society and Governments Constraints on Civil Society Organizations: Civil Societies are catalysts for development and defenders of public interest, and their non- alignment with government efforts provides them a clear and constructive perception of issues. A constructive oversight function of civil society keeps the government on its toes and in some localities is the only source of opposition to the government. The role of civil society is not just in confronting government but also in complementing government role. However, a lot is yet to be achieved in this regard, as the mechanisms required for the good fight have not been effectively utilized. Various recommendations and declarations aimed at addressing civil society organizations’ institutional problems have been made in recent years. Mobilizing the action required has, however remained a daunting challenge, as civil society organizations have operated under severe constraints, notably the detention of their members, interference with foreign travel, public vilification by government, surveillance by security agencies, and the obstruction of their legal
Unresponsive government: Civil society organizations have no political power to affect policies; they can only act as a pressure group. As such, a responsive government is needed to give effect to the activities and efforts of the civil society. What is objectionable in Africa is that State authorities most times view third sector institutions with mistrust. They are treated worse than opposition parties. This antagonistic attitude does not allow civil society to constructively engage government.
According to Professor Ihonvbere:
“The main human rights issue in contemporary Africa is what to do with the non- hegemonic, unstable, repressive and exploitative postcolonial State. The State has been more a weapon of intimidation and abuse than one with a sense of nation and mission designed to revolutionize the social formation, protect the citizenry and promote an enabling condition conducive to popular participation in development. In fact Africans relate to the State as an arrogant, wicked, aloof, violent, and biased force that must be avoided, manipulated, cheated, and dismantled as opportunity permits. Its total failure to improve on the conditions of the people, effectively mediate conflicts, protect the rights of the citizenry, and articulate a viable consistent agenda for growth and development has reduced the worth of the state in the eyes of the people. The State is simply an enemy of the people with structures that are biased – – “.
Examples abound in Africa where government goes out of its way to stifle the voice of civil society organizations. Cases of political prisoners in Africa are largely stories of civil right activists who dare to challenge government.
One can say that the greatest problem of civil societies in Africa stems from government intolerance. The primary focus of civil society in this kind of environment is survival. This affects drastically their input to Governance. As Professor Ihonvbere also pointed out, to the vast majority of people in Africa, the State, its institutions and custodians are largely irrelevant to their quest for survival.
Thus, human rights discourse and activism cannot be initiated without a direct and strong attention being paid to the nature, composition, legitimacy and relevance of the State. The truth is that if the State were transparent, accountable, sensitive, and democratic, human rights would not be violated. There is therefore a direct correlation between a badly constituted and structured State and human rights abuse. An unstable, uncertain and undemocratic State cannot protect human rights.
Countries, in Africa, also needs strong commissions for controlling corruption and misuse of power, like other countries in Asia and America governments they use for controlling corruption. Africa can learn a lot from America and Asia in the field of good governance and development.
The condition in most of the countries in African continent is very terrible in terms of good governance and development; this worst condition can be changed when we really apply good governance for rejuvenating, reconstructing and reforming the entire African continent. People must learn lessons from past mistakes they have to give power to those who are honest and effective leaders, not vote on the basis of caste, colors, region, religion, and community interests rather people must vote on the basis of national interests.
Conflict: The story of Africa is a story of a diverse culture and people who are always in conflict. There are always stories of civil unrest in one part of Africa or another. Ethnic distrust and rivalry has continued to slow down the pace of development and realization of good governance in Africa. The nations’ wealth is most times spent in quelling one uprising or another. From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, Rwanda to Sudan, Liberia to Democratic Republic of Congo, cases of ethnic conflict and civil unrest are reported. These nations are the more impoverished and human rights are trampled upon. In this kind of conflict, human rights issues are not properly addressed and a lot of abuses are recorded. In most cases civil society organizations are co-opted into the conflict and the chain of distrust widens. In some cases, the human right communities lack the capacity to intervene and their work in the area of human rights protection suffers. Again violence in Africa destroys the economy and the people are all the more impoverished. Economic and social rights are reduced to mere theories and the continent is worse off for it.
Conflict also continues to hamper African development. Although there has been a decline in the past two decades, in 2006 almost half of all the world’s high-intensity conflicts were in sub-Saharan Africa. The costs of these conflicts, both direct and indirect, are numerous. The cost of armed conflict in 23 sub-Saharan African countries between 1990 and 2005 has been placed at $284 billion. This is an average of $18 billion per year and represents an average annual loss of 15% of GDP, which is one-and-a-half times the average African spending on health and education combined. These macroeconomic impacts are massive, but do not tell the story of the dramatic human impacts in affected regions. Compared with peaceful countries, sub-Saharan African countries in conflict have, on average 50% more infant deaths; 15% more undernourished people; 20% more adult illiteracy; and 2.5 fewer doctors per person. In addition, government spending, which could otherwise have been directed to social sectors, goes into military spending during times of conflict.
Denial of Human Rights: In most of the African countries the army and police are really misusing their powers and violating the basic human rights and fundamental rights of the people in most of the places in Africa. Human rights protection is the main debate in today’s Africa. Security and respect to human dignity is the major duty and function of the state. Today everywhere a massive violation of human rights is taking place, especially in underdeveloped and developing countries of the world.
The African Development Bank cites following elements of good governance in Africa:
1- Accountability: Elected individuals and organizations charged with a public mandate should be held accountable for specific actions to public from which they derive their authority. In a narrow sense, accountability focuses on the ability to account for the allocation, use and control of public assets in accordance with legally accepted standards. In a broader sense, it is also concerned with the establishment and enforcement of rules of corporate governance.
- Transparency: The policies of the government should be publicly available and confidence developed in its intentions.
- Combating Corruption: Assistance should be provided to fight the abuse of public office for private gain.
- Participation: Stakeholders should exercise influence over public policy decisions and share control of resources and institutions that affect their lives, thereby providing a check on the power of government. This process occurs at various levels: at the grass roots, local government and regional and national levels through flexible and decentralized forms of government.
- Legal and Judicial Reforms: A pro-governance and pro-development legal and judicial system should be created in which the laws are clear and are uniformly applied through an objective and independent judiciary. 18
Conclusion: Good governance being an adjective expression connotes certain value-assumptions, whereas governance as a process denotes a value-free dispensation. Good governance is associated with efficient and effective administration in a democratic framework. It is equivalent to purposive and development oriented administration which is committed to improvement in quality of life of the people. It implies high level of organizational effectiveness. It also relates to the capacity of the center of power of political and administrative system to cope up with the emerging challenges of the society. It refers to adoption of new values of governance to establish greater efficiency, legitimacy and credibility of the system. Good governance, is thus, function of installation of positive virtues of administration and elimination of vices of dysfunctionalities. In short, it must have the attributes of an effective, credible and legitimate administrative system- citizen-friendly, value-caring and people- sharing.
The concept of “good governance” derives its relevance in the context of misgovernance which includes malfeasance. In many countries, the democratic form of government has proved to be ineffective for checking swindling of public funds for private gains by the elected leaders as well as permanent -bureaucrats. Misuse of power, fraud, chicanery and embezzlement of funds are systematically perpetrated by the leaders of government and their sidekicks. Misgovernance is found all around the world, especially in developing countries, in rampant degree. The concept of good governance becomes attractive as a remedy against this state of affairs.
African policy makers and the people of Africa have to change the condition of Africa and they have to strive for achieving a shining and progressive Africa. The peaceful, prosperous and developed Africa could be achieved once all the stakeholders are ready to go for a change. And for changing Africa one needs to have good governance mechanism which could play a role of stabilizing the entire African region. The challenges and constraints which the African continent is facing could be managed and transformed by establishing the good governance mechanism in true sense in Africa. A dream of peaceful, progressive and developed Africa is not far from us, one day it has to become true but we all have to be well prepared and strive for this goal.
Dr. worked in the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and recently moved to University of Malaya where he is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia