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AFRICA NEEDS MORE OF PATRIOTISM NOT NECESSARILY DEMOCRACY

April 1, 2009

AFRICA NEEDS MORE OF PATRIOTISM NOT NECESSARILY DEMOCRACY

I have been asking myself what the continent endowed with the world's highest and best mineral resources needs to come out of the doldrums of underdevelopment. This has been making me reflect on so many things and I do not want to go into the details of saying we only need to fight corruption, be hard working, creative, innovative etc.


All other countries in the world need to fight corruption as well as be hard working. I am not at all, undermining the fact that fighting corruption or impunity at the helm of the state (continent) which has generated to lost of hope and aggravated corruption at grassroots level is not of prime importance too.

After due reflection, I want to state here and defend it below that Africa and African governments and its people do not necessarily need be more democratic to witness development or progress. Democracy in the current dispensation in Africa is a want not a need, neither is ruthless dictatorship any solution.


Africans need to develop the spirit of sacrifice for their countries. In the words of John F Kennedy; ask what they have done for their country not what their country has done for them. However, at the current rate of poverty which has been aggravated by mismanagement, to be sincere, it is very difficult to tell most of my compatriots to ask themselves what they have done for their country. They will immediately retort, what has their country done for them too? Because of the growing discrepancy between the rich and the poor, everybody want to survive and safe his family, even if it means selling the country or privatising all what would have guaranteed future development for generations to comes.


Again, let me corroborate the views of Thabo Mbeki , South African former president that, Africa’s greatest problem has never been AIDS, it is poverty. However, Africans are very hard working reason why they are successful both in the formal and informal sector, despite the challenging hurdles(discrimination) , for those who are able to make it to what is referred to as developed countries, provided they are living there as legal immigrants.

This does not cancel the fact that they can’t make the money at home. No. This is because the climate in their various homes countries is much more favourable to foreign investors who pay almost nothing as wages for employees but can afford to fill their pockets and those of government officials and do every other thing with impunity.

A few studies in point

The case of two banana plantations firms in Njombe Penja in the Littoral province of Cameroon is glaring. The working conditions for the over 6000 workers are terribly pitiful. They are paid almost nothing (ranging from Fr CFA 15 000 to 130.000) by their French employers for more than 8 hours of work.


Worst still, the complete payment of taxes by these companies is doubtful reason why the former mayor of the town, Eric Paul Kingue who dared challenged the deals between the company and past administrations had cooked up charges framed against him during the February, 2008 strike in Cameroon and was later remanded in jail. He was accused of embezzlement during his 6 months stay in office. More to that, he stood for the people when he also condemned and confirmed on a private television, the killing of armless youths by trigger happy police. He could be termed a patriotic man of the people not an accomplice to extortion and suffering of the masses. Of course, he paid a bitter price. Quoting a letter he wrote while in detention in 2008 he accused the French businesspeople of wanting him down.


Mr. François Armel the expatriate and General Manager of PHP, who swore to behead me at the cost of millions. A few days later Mme Caplain and the General Manager of SPM threatened me in their turn with assassination or imprisonment after having done everything possible to obtain my revocation as Mayor”

In a related development, a report released by Network for Fighting Hunger in Cameroon; RELUFA in 2005 which I possess a copy also accused the said companies and government of terribly treating the 43 families expelled from their land for the sake of these companies.

 

The Cameroon government has virtually auctioned the country’s economy to the hands of its foreign accomplices or called them business men. This is also the case with the Bollore Group in our country. A report revealed by a French newspaper (eco.rue89.com) recently, indicates that they control about 85 percent of the activities at the Douala Sea Port. This was not really any major revelation as such because Cameroonians know that so well but any attempts to investigate any details will meet stiff resistance that is why some of the dirty deals are again still revealed only by western media in our own country.


During President Nicholas Sarkhozy's recent visit to Togo, he is said to have frowned at some resistance to give Bollore group access to Lome Port. He told Faure Eyadema to make sure that French business interests are protected. The question is, at whose expense? Is it for the sake of Togolese or the sake of French business men or selected government officials?


When the erstwhile General Manager, of Douala Sea Port, Emmanuel Etoundi Oyono protested against privatisation of some basic facilities like drainage at the Douala port, he was sacked from his post and transferred to MAETUR. The French newspaper report also affirmed this.


The same chain of neo colonial ceding of sovereignty in the name of business deals applies for AES Sonel, CAMRAIL, CAMWATER and a lot more. Cameroon still has the highest rates of mobile telephone charges in Africa despite its users being far superior in numbers than countries like Senegal, Benin, Cote D’ Ivoire where the same operators exists. Unconfirmed reports talked of how the dirty deals take place at the helm of the country to prevent any other operator who may come to challenge the monopoly of the two main mobile telephone companies in the country. All these are done at the expense of Cameroonians by a government considered democratic.


Recently, one of Cameroon’s leading daily La Nouvelle Expression revealed how French, TOTAL “expatriates” in Cameroon’s lone refining company, SONARA, were angered and threatened to quit their jobs as a result of General Manager, Charles Metock’s resolve to modernise Cameroon refining company so that it could begin refining its own fuel used in the country. This has been the prerogative of TOTAL. We do not know if he would also be sacked too for doing this. Such acts by regimes perceived as democratic are far from being patriotic and that has been the prime cause of suffering of most African countries. These unpatriotic regimes lack vision, are corrupt, they irrationally open our markets and dance to the whims and caprices of those who do not have the interest of Cameroonians (Africans) at heart.

Let me come back to the issue.

The best definition of democracy which I learned in school and which seems to be the best if implemented fully is when “a government is of the people for the people and by the people”.

Many governments in Africa, even the tyrannical and neo-colonial regimes can as well argue that they were or are governments by the people because they were “elected” by these people. But many like the case of my country Cameroon, have never had a government for the people and of the people.


Democracy, however, good as it can be in an advanced stage, is also a very dangerous concept in any terribly poverty stricken environment. The most important thing is first; to empower people economically and educationally. Good economic, educational reforms are not exclusive to democrats, even so called “tyrants” can as well do it provided they have the love for their country and its people.


Democracy, a western concept though good as it may be, is a want and not actually a need in most of African countries at the moment. Many scholars may be stunned by my stand but I hold firm to it. Democracy is a failed concept in environments eroded by poverty and lack of hope. When people face terrible poverty as the case in most of Africa including Cameroon, people turn to think of their survival for the next day or minute, not necessarily the future.


When people are poor, they can easily be tormented. They can easily be manipulated, they can easily be fooled, and they can easily be divided and ruled. That is the exactly what is happening in most of African countries. In an effort to develop with democracy, many African countries have found themselves poorer today than they were 60 years ago. They failed to develop with patriotism and pragmatic education.


Democracy in Africa must not be a means to an end; it should be more of an end to a mean. Developing people intellectually and economically is the mean to an end.


It is unthinkable to believe that hungry people will vote for a veritable party of change that may bring about positive change in the near future. In most cases, they vote for those who have a few “cubes of magi” to offer during assemblies or campaigns. They vote for the party which is able to distribute a food and beverages. They vote for a party which has secured a “business deal with a foreign government and has led to erection of a pipe born water tap which will flow for just a few months. They vote a party which is ready to offer a few coins and bank notes. They vote for a party which will guaranteed the appointments of their son to a ministerial post (I wonder what developments have been brought by these sons because the South, Centre and East provinces of Cameroon which have had highest of such appointments still remain some of the most undeveloped in Cameroon). As a result, their consciences are bought and the party which has the most resources to spend emerges victorious for people to acclaim that democracy has taken place.


Patriots will build the educational system of their country to match ever changing needs in world, they will prefer meritocracy to mediocrity and favouritism. They will place the interest of their country and their citizens first before any other thing, and they will ruthlessly fight capital flight and embezzlement.

 

Experiences of people loosing hope

During the 2007 twin municipal and legislative elections in Cameroon, I was sent by my then media organ (Radio Veritas and L Effort camerounais) to cover elections in Bonaberi, a neighbour hood in Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. While there, I was tipped that multiple voting was going on at the Grand Hangar’s chief palace, as the ruling party militants had created a ghost station there in contravention to good laws which our country has on paper. Coincidentally too, I lived in that area whose unemployment rate is over 90 percent.


When I approached the area, the youths who had been paid to keep watch and bring in voters and prevent suspected opposition members or elections observers or journalists, heartily welcomed me. My pen and paper as well as microphone were in my pocket. I was taken to the room and one of the youths remarked that I am a journalist and said in French

comment faire entrer un journaliste dans la maison de quel'un? Why do you bring a journalist into somebody's private house?

Another retorted in pidgin…. “Na journalist...” It is a journalist.

The other came in “Est ce que c'est ici qu'on vote? On ne sait pas qui ce gouvernement represente”  

“My brother, is it where voting is going on?”


The atmosphere changed immediately and I was given marching orders out of the room.

However, again in February 2008 when youths in Cameroon turned out en masse to protest against general frustration, rising unemployment, skyrocketing prices of basic commodities among other grievances, these same youths in Bonaberi were the same people saying

On ne sais meme pas qui ce government represent” etc.

We do not even know who this government is representing”

 

They terribly looted stores and shops during the 4 day strike. In essence, they had voted that fateful election day July 2007, and prevented any body from stopping multiple voting because they wanted to fill their stomachs. They actually got a few bank notes “FCFA between 500 to 2000) which were handed to them for that day.

Due to the endemic poverty, people do not think at the level of the survival of the country, talk less of future generations. But that is where USA and Western Europe have developed their strength. That is why China is coming up so strong.


Let us not be fooled. It is not about democracy. It is the love for their country and the zeal to protect the interests of their countries even if it means ignoring the whole world or doing so at the expense of the whole world.

In poverty stricken set up, people think of surviving for the next day. Veritable democracy cannot work in such a state.

Common discussions in Cameroon and most of Africa

In Cameroon people sit everyday in bars or in the job places or in “idle parks” discussing about the situation of their country. Many have lost hope. During one of such discussions, this is what transpired. Most of them boldly told me that I should forget about my nonsensical patriotism. All French speaking, one of then uttered in reference to the wave of privatisation.

“ils peuvent tous nous vendre. A quoi nous servent ils? Les corrupteurs et les detourneurs ont tout pris..”

“They can sell everything. What are the uses of the things to us” Corrupt people and embezzlers have taken everything.”


Another said “Meme les entreprises dites privatisées contribuent au mal être du pays avec la complicité de ceux qui sont au pouvoir. ” Ils se partagent les richesses et tu nous parle de patriotisme.

“Event the privatised companies are only exploiting us with the complicity of those in power. Nothing has changed. They have enough to eat and you come here telling us about patriotism.

The eldest in the group said to me

“Agendia ce que tu dis est juste mais le cas du cameroun est different. Chacun réflechi à son sort et si tu ne te bat pas pour ta famille, c'est ton problème.”


“Agendia, what you are saying is true and good but the case of Cameroon is different. Everybody has to think of how he will survive with his family. If you do not want to think about your family, then that is your problem.

This is just what most Cameroonians all over the country would tell you. The only difference is that Cameroonians unlike some African countries are peaceful and have refused to take arms against the government. Some also argue that the government has been very vigilant to make sure that no such thing enters the country.


In the Diaspora, when discussing with friends, one in the UK said people should stop wasting their time. According to him, all he was trying to do was to remove his family out of Cameroon for good. The story is the same with Cameroonians and many Africans in the US, and other parts of Europe, and Asia.

The failed leadership at the helm of countries in Africa has degenerated to a lost of love or any feeling for their country by the common man. Some Kenyans, Ugandans and Burundians whom we spoke to in Sweden also confirmed this.

Even unpatriotic state sponsored professionals

Statistics hold that there are over 300 medical doctors who have graduated from Cameroon School of Medical Science at the expense of the tax payers’ money but have left the country for greener pastures. Malawi also has a terribly high number of self exiled or indirectly chased away medical doctors.


The paradox in Cameroon is that most of them wrote examinations which were believed to be competitive and supposedly without giving bribed before being admitted there. After working for a few months or years, many go to US, Europe etc for greener pastures.

Many have also left because of the feeling of frustration, bad working conditions, embezzlement of working equipment, poor wages etc. In some cases, mere administrative assistants in the ministries would earn better. They receive all sorts of “tips”.


Though this is wrong, it is also unacceptable for people whose studies have been financed by tax payer’s money to think they can just leave the country for greener pastures like that. The government should have imposed a kind of penalty, certainly in hundred of millions for those who want to leave to pay before leaving so that the state has no regrets training other medical doctors. Those who illegally leave should be tracked down with the help of their host countries.


I took the medical field because it is alarming and Cameroon desperately lacks medical doctors. This practice is not limited to the health sector. Teachers trained in government Teacher training institutions, technician, engineers, administrators etc have also vamoosed and some even still have their salaries flowing while they work or live abroad.

The same also applies for those who have been sponsored by government to study abroad and have refused to return home because of better offers in Europe or America. These in my opinion are unacceptable and such people ought to be charged.

 

Present leadership mostly a relay of colonial leadership

Colonialists never came to Africa to develop Africa. They came to extract their resources and gain cheap labour and that is just what has continued up to now. It is funny, though somehow a truism for people to argue that Africans should stop blaming people for its underdevelopment. That notwithstanding, it will be dishonest not to admit that present day problems are inextricably linked to the neo colonials acts and agreements signed and which continue to be signed especially in the filed of trade and politics. These acts have only been aggravated by leaderships which have been far below expectations.


I therefore strongly believe that for Africa to reawaken and make use of it abundance resources and wealth, the culture of patriotism needs to be seriously developed by its people and in some cases, I will not shy to say it should be imposed on them. With the disturbing rate of poverty, democracy will not lead us any where because those who have the money and resources will be able to twist the votes or consciences of the people who are thinking of surviving for the next day or hour.


It is therefore matter of force. That is why I strongly believe a technical, should I say “patriotic dictator” is needed in most African countries among which, my country Cameroon. Relying only on votes to actually know the party the people want may not be the best. This does not imply that meeting the people and getting their views will be disregarded.


Embracing democracy “a la western” will take us nowhere until economic, educational growth and political development for the sake of Cameroon/ Africa and decided solely by Cameroonians/Africans are taken into consideration.


We need leaders who will fight impunity, capital flight, neo colonialism, corruption and embezzlement. Leaders who will revolutionised our educational system and base everything on merit. The level at which leaders show their determination to fight these ills, will be translated by the populace will to stamp out corruption and other ills at the lower level. Inasmuch as the bottom-top approach is not neglected, this must first take the top-bottom approach.

 

Where it really gets complicated

There is one thing. The so called sanctions which are supposedly meant to punish so called “tyrannical leaders” have ended up terribly punishing the population. Peoples' lives ought not to be sacrificed by sanctions which at times are based by racial lines especially on leaders who seem to stand for the interest of their countries.


Analysing the ongoing scenario, a leader who dares bring about dramatic changes in foreign and economic polices and want indigenous development of our country and our continent will certainly be term “funny” by some of us, to be candid.


The geo graphical and the ideological west that is controlling the world economy as of now, will certainly not like it. Unfortunately too, due to the growing poverty, even adversaries’ will be recruited from our own countries. In that case, it becomes really difficult because working a hundred percent for our continent will be declaring an indirect war on people who are already economically so strong and who are relying on our neo-colonial leadership for resources and economic survival. Engaging in such a deal is then a mammoth task though it is risk worth trying.


Such a leader must be “very technical” in the way he deals with western institutions amongst which is the poverty aggravating Bretton Woods institutions.


Furthermore, it would again be difficult for us to have “good dictators” because sanctions would be slammed on us by institutions which are in themselves very undemocratic like the United Nations Security Council. Many African leaders, members of AU who are themselves are more a heritage of, and a relay of neo colonial leadership, will also slam sanctions.


But the bitter truth is that, with the current dispensation where poverty has really been implanted in the continent, many things are difficult though not impossible. What is “imposed” on us in the name of democracy is not really in the interest of the continent but, just a desire to satisfy one or two days needs of a population which will triumph in more hunger and poverty in the years to come.


It therefore takes extra courage, and it is high time for good technicians to take over leadership in African countries and work for the true interest of Africa. It is risk worth trying.

 

Listening to a Nigerian singer

When I listened to the Nigerian comedian and singer Nkem Owoh popularly known as “Ukwa” release a con-fey mania, 419 glorifying song title “I go chop ya dollar” I was really devastated by what could prompt him into such kind of songs. After due reflection and discussing the issue with colleagues we concluded that the song was to be condemned.


That not withstanding, room was created for such type of songs by the kind of leadership our countries and his in particular have had for generations. Successive leadership have been accused of ensuring personal wealth aggrandisement, impoverishing its people, the auctioning of their national resources to imperialists etc.


The repercussions have been disastrous. There is disturbing underdevelopment, skyrocketing frustration, hostage taking of oil workers (oil is Nigeria’s main sources of wealth). It is due to these kinds of unpatriotic leaderships which are not necessarily undemocratic; that some of our fellow Africans have resorted to all kind of means to earn money among which are 419 and the trafficking of drugs. I am not saying 419 and other ills could totally been unheard of if Africa/Nigeria resources were principally used for the right interest and purpose. There is no gainsaying that the ills would have been kind of minimized. The irrational immigration and brain drain would have reduced.

 

Conclusion

Current African leadership has refused to make African be controllers of their own system; from education to sports, politics, economy, etc. They have prevented others who have initiated such moves.

Africans are put in front but the neo-colonial complicated set-up, makes it almost impossible to spring up with veritable leadership. Quacks appointed to lead various services and schools.

Neo colonial ghosts keep hunting most African leaders to the extent that they do not value anything in their own compatriots. This is what we have to break and this is our challenge.

It is also a matter of conscience. As the Nigerian clergy, T. B Joshua said in an interview posted on Eden newspaper online on March 30, 2009..

“If we want to practice democracy in Africa, our conscience too matters. ……We should also regard our culture and put it in our democracy and it would work. We cannot use a foreign culture to run our democracy. The west may be contented, but we are not contented”

The rebels, opposition leaders and governments who know so well that they are serving neo colonial interest to destabilise the various countries in the continent must change.

We need patriots not necessarily democrats. Patriotic leaders will then open up for economic and technological developments which are indispensable for the growth of any country. Patriotic leaders through their gesture will inculcate patriotic spirit on citizens and with its multiplier effect, this will lead to a mass positive transformation of the society.

Go Back

Good work Mr Agendia.Well thought of and analysed.In my opinion u pointed out the critically disturbing issues of Africa and Cameroon in particularwhich, if critically addressed, will get Afica out of this partetic mess."Patriotism" as u said is what is needed.Anyother thing can come later.President Robert Mugabe is a patriot."I Go Chop Your Dollar" is AGUEABLY a glorification of 419 and NOT NECESSARILY a parody and artistic depiction of the phenomenon.God bless us all. Robert Ngu

Hello Aloys,It is an inciting commentary on development in Africa. Before I proceed, I'll comment that Cameroon is one of the very few countries in Africa where there seem to be someone in control but in reality, no one is in control.I start my comments based on the last segment of your observation - the 419 issue. I do not totally agree with you when you say '419 and other ills'. It sounds very much like the language of the upper class who try to set morals in societies by defining good and bad. Yes, 419 may overtly look evil, but I think it is a spirit of capitalism which can be compared to neocolonialsm. In this sense, the one practicing this con artistry wants to get everything at your expense. Compare this to the outsider who wants to get his resources from africa for (alomost)free. What I essentially mean is that 419 should be seen as working alongside capitalist principles which a layman defines as the exploitation of man by man.I'll add that besides patriotism, there need to be some respect for laws (both from inside and from outside) and knowledge that outsiders can never help to improve the livelihoods of the indigenes in cameroon.For now, western democracy in many African countries is a luxury for the established. Institutions of democracy do not make sense to ordinary citizens who are far detached from leadership and may never know that the parliament allocated sumpsuous amount of money for the improvement of their livelihoods.I think economic improvement of many Africans may come when leaders start acknowledging to their people that the western insitutions and way of business are partially causing their misery. In this sense, the people may stand behind their governments to oppose the rule of the game as dictated by the IMF, WTO and World Bank. I'm most of the time inspired by Karl Marx's assertion that seek ye the economic kingdom and everything shall be yours. I wish Africans were practically very free to seek their economic kingdom.tazanu

I applaud your write-up, it realy analysed the problems facing us Africans and Cameroon in particular. But I have hopes that things will one day change for the better and it is not very far awayAnjoh George

Hi Aloys,That was well thought of. I share with your views that democracy like it is curently practised by some of our political neophytes would lead us nowhere.Even the west too is having trouble coping with their own systems but what makes them succed is their common value and commitment as a people (putting their citizens first).Patriotism is good but again this is not a concept that has been developed and well researched.Patrioti sm to me at this time comes close to the likes of Patrice Lumumba, Nkwameh Nkrumah, Malcom X, Ghandi, Mandela, which again stands as the backbone of the wests' resolve to weaken us.The way forward lies within identifying common grounds within our own culture, and building strength from within. Chineses scholars studied in the west but when they returned home, there was this huge cultural revival that saw the Chinese revolution and prosperity.We sit in Africa and pay for expatriate advice on policy that only helps to entangle us the more. Africa too needs to be educated on strategic studies and policy research to advice their own governments, security and intelligence that has always made us to be lacking and vunerable and play us into the hands of our predators.Igwacho Peter

I Go Chop Your Dollar was NOT a glorification of 419 but a parody and artistics depiction of the phenomenon. And a country that allows such a parody to exist is the one where democracy exists and one where there is a belief that the citizens are sensibly enough to distinguish between comedy and reality.



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