WikiLeaks Africa: Corruption, cocaine and chaos

Source: Pambazuka News

Shell’s infiltration of the Nigerian government, cocaine trafficking through Ghana and Kenya’s strategy for dealing with the chaos in Somalia are among the topics this week’s selection of bloggers are talking about, following WikiLeaks’ release of US diplomatic cables on Africa.

Naijablog comments on WikiLeaks revelations about the infiltration of the Nigerian government by Shell:

‘From a Nigerian perspective, we find little we didn’t already know, save for details that add some fiscal spice to the talk in the beer parlour: the actual amounts a smuggler-thug kingpin charges for allowing uninterrupted passage of a container from Niger into Katsina; the price of a former (now disgraced) Attorney General’s ink. The bigger picture remains unchanged and is known to all. The history of post-independence Nigeria is intimately connected with Shell. Nigeria and Shell are twins someone forgot to separate at birth. No one is at all shocked to hear of the former head of Sub-Saharan operations Ann Pickard’s boast that the company has infiltrated government to the core. There’s little point Shell trying to deny it at this stage. It might be better to go legit and create a Ministry of Shell Affairs. All other multinationals are at least one tier below Shell in terms of their complicity with official misappropriation: Julius Berger, Pfizer, Halliburton, Siemens and so on. Again, the diplomatic cables do little more than reassure and refine our cynicism. Quite how Berger has escaped the diplo-gossip relatively unblemished so far is a minor miracle. Perhaps in the next few days of releases another national laptop recall will be circulated.

‘The lesson for those looking in at Wikileaks from a Nigeria perspective is clear. Those that dismiss Nigeria as the home of 419 and the submarine vent of originary corruption with a tired flick of the hand fail to see the enduring handiwork of the transnational corporation, attacking a fragile state like an opportunistic virus against a weakened immune system. The dismissive ones have yet to listen to Fela and allow his words to make sense in their heads. As it was in the 1960s and 1970s, so it is today, it seems.’

Myweku comments on revelations that Ghana had become a transit hub for trafficking cocaine:

‘The spectre of WikiLeaks befell Ghana this week, with the revelation that President Mills of Ghana wanted his entourage “to be checked in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs” on travels abroad… The President was also quoted to have said that “he knows elements of his government are already compromised and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there”…
‘These point to factual and incontrovertible evidence that suggests that Ghana does have a drug problem. One that it has to be made clear revolves around trafficking and not necessarily usage of drugs…

‘As proud Ghanaians the association of any negativity to our country understandably is an emotive issue, especially for a country that is seen as a beacon of hope for West Africa. Democracy, the rule of law and free press are arguably entrenched in Ghana. Visitors to our shores never fail to sing our praises so we are understandably shocked, embarrassed and “defensive” over what we have suspected but have never really been able to prove – the menace of drug trafficking sanctioned to some extent by corrupt officials.

‘As my dear friend pointed out, perhaps there are other ways of “seeing” local drug barons. Perhaps that makes us turn a blind eye to some of their “activities” especially when those “activities” do not, well for now anyway, translate into drug use in Ghana on the scale that is found in the West. Perhaps even though we are desperate to build a model country we could not do so without operating in the grey area sometimes. The West after all can NEVER claim they built their countries without operating in the grey area!’

Ken Opalo analyses WikiLeaks’ revelations about Kenya’s strategy for dealing with the chaos in Somalia:

‘According to the leak, Kenyan security chiefs are considering the creation of an autonomous buffer region in Jubaland – the area of Somalia that borders Kenya – kind of like the ones in Somaliland and Punt land. The capital of the autonomous buffer region would be in Kismayu.

‘Kenya has a sizeable Muslim Somali population and is afraid of fundamentalist Islamism on its doorstep in a lawless Somalia. A stable buffer region in Jubaland would guard against radicalisation of Kenya’s Somali youth in the northeast, on top of checking the proliferation of small arms in the country.

‘Kenya also might be thinking long term. A divided Somalia guarantees less chances of success for a greater Somalia irredentist movement if peace ever descends upon the entire country.

‘Ethiopia is not a fond of the idea. The last thing Addis Ababa wants is an autonomous region that can fund Somali separatists in the Ogaden. The region would also have a demonstration effect on Ogadeni Ethiopians who for decades now have fought for real political and economic autonomy from Addis Ababa.

‘I don’t think this is a bad idea. At this point anything that would bring order to any region of Somalia is acceptable. I have argued before that the Union of Islamic Courts should have been allowed to establish order and then bought off with aid in exchange for a more sober interpretation and application of Sharia law. The whole debate about how bad they were for women’s rights was horse manure. The Saudis aren’t any better.’

Pipeline Dreams writes about the unfulfilled promise of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline which was supposed to transform Chad into an economic Eldorado:

‘Chad’s oil, to the surprise of no-one really, has hardly worked miracles. The country is no better off than it was before oil production began. Most economic indicators are down. The people in the oil-producing region are much worse off than they were before the oil boom. Farmers for the most part, many in the Doba Basin area are no longer able to access their lands, now dotted with drill pads and crossed by pipes and high tension cables. In 2010, the World Bank admitted that “in reality, close to 50 percent of expenditures has gone to the military.”

‘Chad, once the “model” for oil development (although one can argue that Chad was only a “model” until oil began to flow), has now joined the ranks of examples to avoid. The resource curse strikes again. Ghana is next, with its first oil shipping on December 15th. Will Ghana go the way of Chad or will the country get it right this time? Although the Ghanaian government has made pledges and promises, recent news suggests that there is some cause for concern (read a few of the latest articles posted on Ghana Oil Watch to get a sense of the troubles on the horizon).

‘Ghana, Uganda, Chad, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan — sometimes it seems like there’s a new oil discovery every day in Africa. And with each country the recurring question: blessing or curse, boom or bust. Even if all goes “well,” oil drilling is a dirty, risky business. So what can be done to minimize the risks and maximize the chances that oil revenues will be used wisely, benefiting the population at large?
It is easy to point to corrupt African despots, but as the WikiLeaks cable from Nigeria ago indicates, Western companies that enable corruption are a huge part of the problem.’

Aidwatchers reviews a study which compares colonial legacy in the British and French Cameroons which reunited in 1961:

‘Comparing communities close to but on either side of the colonial border, Alexander Lee and Kenneth Schultz of Stanford discover that rural households on the British side are wealthier and have access to better water sources than those on the French side…
‘This new study on Cameroon is among many that find British colonial institutions (as compared to those of their French, German, Belgian, Portuguese or Spanish colonial competitors) lead to better development outcomes today. Lee and Schultz note that the Anglo edge comes from a combination of characteristics generally common to British colonial regimes: ‘lack of forced labor, more autonomous local institutions…common law, English culture, Protestantism’ but stop short of telling us which of these were most responsible for the differences observed in Cameroon.

‘For some relief from the oppressive conclusion that today’s development outcomes are all pre-determined, the researchers find that post-independence policies matter too. The positive effects from British rule don’t hold for urban areas or for centrally-provided public goods, showing that post-independence policies, which have generally favored the former French side with greater infrastructure investment, can overtake colonial legacies.’

Image Nations reacts to a New York Times article in which Nigerian writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani complains that today’s African writers would rather imitate the styles of Achebe and Soyinka than create new styles:

‘Who then is the problem if young writers ape the established ones? Publishers always want things that sell and if one has already been established why not follow them? For instance, if one is writing about Africa and it is not mundane, morbid, atrocious, despicable, political it won’t sell. Should writers then be blamed if they copy those who are already established?

‘Besides, I am not comfortable when the article seems to suggest Africans would only recognise a great writer only when Western establishments have honoured him or her with a great award such as the Man Booker International (Chinua Achebe) or the Nobel (Wole Soyinka). I believe Ngugi’s oeuvre is as impressive as any other Nobel laureate… He is and has been a great writer even before his name came up for the Nobel award. Hence, Nobel or no Nobel Ngugi, would be loved, emulated, and improved by writers.

‘And who said there is a writer who has never been influenced by another writer? Show me one such writer and I would boldly show you a liar. Unless one is John Nash, an Economics Nobel Laureate, who refused to attend lectures while studying for his Doctoral thesis for fear of influencing his original idea, unless one is him, one cannot hit his chest boldly and say ‘I have not been influenced by any writer’ including the likes of Soyinka, Ngugi, and Achebe. The key is, learn from them, add onto them, express your writings with your unique voice, and perspectives of issues.

‘Yes, we need variety and on this I have written about. Yet, I believe that Tricia herself, Tendai Huchu, Myne Whitman, Ngozi Achebe and others are doing greater exploration by charting a different path in terms of genres and issues to write about.’

Scribbles from the Den reviews a talk that former South African president FW De Klerk gave recently to a group of senior executives in Chicago, USA:

‘De Klerk began his talk by emphasizing that the ability to adapt to change was one of the key distinguishing features of humans. He said that when humans or institutions are confronted with change, they deal with it in three ways. They can resist change, let themselves be swept away by that change, or accept the change and harness its transformative power. He said these were the choices that South Africa faced when he took office in 1989; the country was isolated internationally, was facing a downward spiral of violence and repression, and its economy was going downhill. The Apartheid regime therefore had to decide which of the three options it would adopt.

‘According to De Klerk, when he first advocated change, many within the National Party wanted to resist simply because the Apartheid regime had the capacity to hang on to power against all odds; not only did it have the most powerful army on the continent, it had the tools to deal with internal dissent and also weather economic sanctions. “However, we concluded that the greatest risk that we faced was to refuse the risk of change,” said De Klerk. So rather than make piecemeal concessions or play games in order to get the international community off its back, National Party decided to accept the challenge of change, to manage the change and control its outcome…

‘For De Klerk, the vision which he outlined in 1990 is now a reality: South Africa is now a multiracial democracy, has reintegrated the community of nations, and had steady economic growth until the world recession of 2008… De Klerk however points out that there are new challenges that South Africa has to contend with in order to move forward:

‘The 1996 constitution still has to take root in all communities and become a living document;
The relationships between South Africa’s 11 nations is still fragile and has shown severe signs of strain in recent years;
The country is dealing with serious and unacceptably high levels of crime, the AIDS pandemic, high unemployment which is about 25%, a poverty rate of about 46%, and a poor education system that is ill equipped to produce the next generation of South Africa’s leaders.’


* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.