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Source:  Ghana Leadership Forum

November 10, 2014


Corruption in Ghana - Arab Spring, Black Spring?

Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai

November 10, 2014


Those who have read Africa Confidential (AC) over time would have learnt that the paper is rarely wrong on predicting political winds in Africa. Their correspondents are mainly spies, current and past diplomats with contacts in their posts of service in Africa as well as from local whistle blowers or gossipers in existing or past high positions in the military, civil service, politics, etc. They also have significant connections with British diplomatic intelligence and often reflect its anxieties.


The phenomenon dubbed the Arab spring was well described by Tanzanian MP Hamisi Kigwangalla in an article titled “Why was there no ‘African Spring'? ” at http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/07/why-was-there-no-african-sprin-2014724133730619939.html

In that article, the MP wrote: “Many people had hoped that sub-Saharan Africa would follow suit, and that there would be an ' African Spring'. To the surprise of many, there has been no revolution of any sort so far, or even a protest wave close to what we saw in Northern Africa. Although we have similar circumstances — corruption, embezzlement of public property, unemployment, worsening economic hardship among citizens, and in some countries, overstayed regimes — why have we not had our “spring" as of yet?”

The MP answered as follows why there has not been African spring at the time he wrote the article on 24 July 2014

- “Democratic elections and inclusive parliamentary democracies

- “A much smaller urban middle class than most of the countries in the Arab world where the Arab Spring was experienced”, raising issues of mobilisation

- “Weak civil society and fragmented political scene, which has precluded the formation of a wide, united front against a ruling government in sub-Saharan Africa.

- “Most African countries have not seen organised protests with such frequency in the past decade

- “When Arab revolutions erupted, this immediately rang alarm bells across sub-Saharan Africa, where governments had the time to learn from Arab leaders’ mistakes and take measures to prepare for such an event”.

The MP asked “so will we have an African Spring in the very near future?” and answered: “Although looking back, no one predicted the Arab Spring, many scholars of the African political landscape find it inevitable. We did not witness an African Spring, but that does not mean we are safe. We have our own generation of corrupt and autocratic leaders and bureaucrats, -- There are growing inequities, rising rates of unemployment, and an unbearable cost of living. We also have an active youth that constitutes a huge chunk of our population, as well as a rapidly expanding literate and urbanised middle class.”

Africa Confidential

AC takes up the issue of a Black Spring in its current issue (Vol 55, No 22, 7th November 2014) although too smart to use the Black Spring descriptor.




Titled “Firefighters against an inferno”, AC wrote:

- “ Popular anger at unemployment, political corruption and crony capitalism is now targeting governments across the region”

- “ A new set of economic troubles is assailing the region’s economies. The signs are that the IMF and the World Bank are going to be busy in West Africa; their officials speak of the need for economic reforms as big as those in the 1980s. Ghana is trying to agree a three-year reform programme with the Fund but its officials find the levels of public sector spending cuts demanded politically unpalatable. President John Mahama's government faces a tough choice between deep cuts in recurrent costs – with wage cuts and redundancies on the state payroll – and abandoning some much needed capital investment to develop power and water services, said an official close to the talks. By further reducing foreign exchange earnings, the falling oil price is worsening the budgetary problem.

- "As governments across the region grapple with worsening economic pressures, officials fear that the proposed tough remedies will add to an already long list of discontents: anger at youth unemployment; the increasing cost but unreliability of electricity and water; static or falling wages; rampant corruption and rent seeking by the political and business class. Those political discontents are likely to play out in the sort of street demonstrations seen in the main towns of Burkina Faso last week and, earlier this year, in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal. Across the region, there are an unprecedented number of presidential and parliamentary elections due in the next three years, which could trigger political change or confrontation. The signal from Burkina Faso is that people are no longer waiting for governments to take the initiative”.

The outlook for Ghana

It would be folly to cobble together the conditions that led to popular revolts in the Arab spring and apply to Ghana of today — for reasons I would not delve into at the moment. However the perception and reality of corruption in some state parastatals involving award of contracts — the common denominator of almost all the corruption exposed to date, together with corrupt or inefficient law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, may well be entrenching beach marks to create problems for the Government from which it may emerge only with difficulty.

Corrosionpedia at http://www.corrosionpedia.com/definition/146/beach-marks defines beach marks as: “macroscopic progression marks on a fatigue fracture or stress-corrosion cracking (SCC) surface that indicate successive positions of the advancing crack front. They take the form of crescent-shaped macroscopic marks on fatigue fractures representing positions of the crack propagation, radiating outward from one or more origins.”

I use the descriptor beach marks to liken and dramatize the consequences of not nipping the problem in the eyes and minds of the public.

Unlike some, I happen to believe that the Government can overcome most of the problems it currently faces — economy, energy, water etc. but even success this side of the elections may be overshadowed by the perception that corruption associated with awards, and unmeritorious performance, of mega contracts have gone unpunished. The Government must undertake to step up current corrupt investigations and embark on high profile prosecution of corrupt persons.

The Government must cast its mind on the social media landscape and on internal complaints to understand how every corruption in Ghana is laid at the doorstep of the executive, either directly or by moral responsibility.

There are currently investigations into corruption ongoing. There are audit reports that need be acted upon urgently. There are tax evasion and tax minimization schemes ongoing.

Over 25 years ago, a commission of enquiry was launched into corruption allegations in the Queensland police force. See http://www.ccc.qld.gov.au/about-the-ccc/the-fitzgerald-inquiry

When the inquiry was announced, I who had lived under the wide spread corrupt Queensland Police swore nothing would come out of the investigations. I was wrong! In 1989, a colleague at Queensland University, who had won the Queensland elections and became Premier of Queensland that year, had the onerous responsibility of doing justice to the investigation findings. He did not disappoint and in the process changed the face of Queensland from a corrupt state to a clean state where honour in public service became a virtue. Wayne Goss died today aged 63 and I am sure God would be smiling on him.

President Mahama too can do it. God knows there are so many out there waiting to pounce if he is unable or unwilling to do it. And Africa Confidential has picked up the vibes.

Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai

November 10, 2014



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