The Devastation and Destruction Wrought By Africa’s Dictators – Prof. George Ayittey

One of the remarkable facts in the terrible history of famine is that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a country with a democratic form of government and relatively free press. They have occurred in ancient kingdoms and in contemporary authoritarian societies and in modern technocratic dictatorships, in colonial economies governed by imperialists from the north and in newly independent countries of the south run by despotic national leaders or by intolerant single parties.

But famines never afflicted any country that is independent, that goes to elections regularly, that has opposition parties to voice criticisms, that permits newspapers to report freely and to question the wisdom of government policies without extensive censorship.
• Amartya Sen, recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics (1998) in the Washington Times, Oct 20 1998; p. A12)

The act of repression not only assails our human dignity and sensibilities but also exacts a toll in terms of human lives and economic activity. Despotism wreaks such economic, social and human devastation that is impossible to measure. Consider the impact on economic activity for example. Generally, countries laboring under despotism perform less well economically. A government run by a despot cannot make decisions which millions of people must make. If two heads are better than one then certainly a million heads are better than two.

To be sure, impressive rates of economic growth are possible under authoritarian or despotic regimes. China and the Asian Tigers are often cited as examples but there is a caveat. Exceptions do not make the rule. A final day of reckoning eventually arrives. In an interview, Korea’s former President and late Kim Dae Jung, hit the nail right on the head:

“Many of the leaders of Asian society have been saying that military dictatorship was the way and democracy was not good for their nations. They concentrated only on economic development and building a government around a strong leader who controls economic policy. I believe that the fundamental cause of the financial crisis, including here in Korea, is because of placing economic development ahead of democracy . . . If we had true democracy in Korea, then the collusive intimacy between business and government and corruption would not have been as great here. And the wealth would not have been allocated to only a few people. Usually the dictatorship or authoritarian style of government lies to the people” (The Washington Post, Jan 9, 1998; page A1).

Economic Under-Performance and Collapse

In a dictatorship, the normal order of things and even common sense have been turned completely upside down. There is no freedom of speech, no rule of law and state institutions are packed with sycophants and praise-singers. Professionalism disappears from the security forces and the civil service. Fealty to the despot counts more than competence or efficiency. Promotions and job security depend upon who can shout the loudest praise to the despot.

Infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, schools, telecommunications and ports, begin to crumble because contracts are awarded by the despot to family members, cronies and loyal supporters. To sustain the heavy patronage doled out to supporters, the despot may impose heavy taxation and tariffs.  Prices – especially food and fuel prices — start to shoot up. The public might vent its outrage in street protests. The despot may brutally clamp down on these street protests and take drastic measures to prevent future price hikes. The hikes are blamed on foreign saboteurs.  Property rights are scoffed at. Commercial properties of businessmen alleged to be “anti-government” may be confiscated or seized for distribution to the poor masses in the name of social justice.  Such was the case in Zimbabwe for more than a decade (2000 – 2010), where the despotic regime of Robert Mugabe organized ruthless thugs to violently seize white commercial farmlands. To be sure, inequitable distribution of land in Zimbabwe is a legitimate issue, where whites, who comprise about 10 per cent of the population own about 90 per cent of the best farmland. But the issue is not resolved through barbaric and violent invasion of commercial farmlands.

Africa has more dictators than any other continent. But dictators have left a trail of wanton destruction, collapsed states, ruined economies and human debris in their wake in Africa:

• ALL the collapsed, failed and failing states in African have been caused by dictators: Congo DR (Mobutu, Kabila), Central African Republic (Kolinga, Patasse, Bozize), Chad (Habre, Deby), Eritrea (Afwerki), Ethiopia (Mengistu, Zenawi), Gambia (Jammeh), Guinea (Conte, Camara), Ivory Coast (Guie, Gbagbo), Kenya (Moi, Kibaki), Liberia (Doe, Taylor), Niger (Mainassara), Nigeria (military dictators), Sierra Leone (Momoh), Somalia (Barre), Sudan (al-Bashir), Togo (Eyadema), Zimbabwe (Mugabe), etc. It will cost at least $15 billion to rebuild Liberia. Estimate how much it will cost to rebuild the rest. And where is the money going to come from? Foreign aid?

• ALL the civil wars have been caused by dictators, along with the destruction of countries, economic collapse and the production of massive flow of refugees –Angola (1975), Mozambique (1975), Uganda (1979, 1963), Ethiopia (1985), Angola (1986), Mozambique (1987), Algeria (1991), Sudan (1991, 2003), Liberia (1992), Somalia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Zaire (1997), Sierra Leone (1997), Congo DRC (1998), Ethiopia/Eritrea (1998), Angola (1999), etc.

The economic costs of Africa’s senseless wars and conflicts are incalculable.  First and foremost is the wanton destruction they wreak. Infrastructure is reduced to rubble. Roads, bridges, communication equipment are bombed by combatants, houses and building destroyed.

Second, the conflicts uproot people, forcing them to flee the general atmosphere of insecurity and war. Most of the refugees are women and children but women constitute about 80 percent of Africa’s peasant farmers. Refugees fleeing conflict do not produce food crops. Since 1970 agricultural output has been growing at less than 1.5 percent — less than the rate of population growth. Consequently, food production per capita declined by 7 percent in the 1960s, by 15 percent in the 1970s, and by 8 percent in the 1980s. Over the postcolonial period 1961 to 1995, “per capita food production in Africa dropped by 12 percent, whereas it advanced by leaps and bounds in developing countries in Asia” (The Economist, 7 September 1996; p.45). Thus, conflicts have a direct impact on Africa’s agricultural production and are partly explain why Africa, with all its rich natural endowments, cannot feed itself my import 30 percent of its food needs or $20 billion a year. Back in the 1960s, Africa not only fed itself but exported food as well.
Third, conflicts create an “environment” inimical to development and deter investment. Up until 2000, Africa was not an attractive place to invest. Between 1990 and 1995 the net yearly flow of foreign direct investment into developing countries quadrupuled, to over $90 billion; Africa’s share of this fell to only 2.4 percent.  According to the World Bank, in 1995 a record $231 billion in foreign investment flowed into the Third World. Singapore by itself attracted $5.8 billion, while Africa’s share was a paltry 1 percent or $2 billion — less than the sum invested in Chile alone (The Economist, 9 November 1996, 95). According to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s civil war that started in 1991 has “killed 100,000 and caused $20 billion in economic losses” (The Washington Times, July 14, 2001; p.A5).
The crisis in Zimbabwe, for example, has cost Africa dearly. Foreign investors have fled the region and the South African rand has lost 25 percent of its value since 2000. According to The Observer [London] (Sept 30, 2001), Zimbabwe’s economic collapse had caused $37 billion worth of damage to South Africa and other neighboring countries. South Africa has been worst affected, while Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia have also suffered severely.

• ALL cases of MASSIVE looting and plunder of treasuries have been committed by dictators. The MEGA-BANDITS: Khaddafi (over $60 billion); Mubarak of Egypt ($40 billion), Ben Ali of Tunisia ($14 billion); Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire ($10 billion); Babangida of Nigeria ($9 billion); Omar al-Bashir of Sudan ($7 billion); Abacha of Nigeria ($5 billion); Eyadema of Togo ($3 billion), etc.

• The MASSIVE plunder of Congo’s riches has ALL been orchestrated by dictators: Mobutu of Zaire, Kabila of Congo DR, dos Santos of Angola, Buyoya of Burundi, Kagame of Rwanda, Museveni of Uganda, Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Surprised that the Congolese are among the poorest in Africa and at the bottom of the UNDP Human Development Index?

• ALL the flagrant cases of human rights violation have occurred under dictatorships: Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana (Rawlings), Sudan, Uganda (Idi Amin, Obote), Zimbabwe, etc.

• ALL the 20 countries at the BOTTOM of the UNDP Human Development Index for 2012 are ruled or have been ruled by dictators. Here are the countries:
167 Benin                                               168 Gambia                                             169 Sudan
170 Côte d’Ivoire                                   171 Malawi                                              173 Zimbabwe
174 Ethiopia                                           175 Mali                                                   176 Guinea-Bissau

177 Eritrea                                           178 Guinea                                                179 Central African Republic
180 Sierra Leone                                 181 Burkina Faso                                     182 Liberia
183 Chad                                               184 Mozambique                                     185 Burundi
186 Niger                                              187 Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Despite its immense wealth of mineral resources, Africa remains inexorably mired in abject poverty, misery, deprivation, and chaos. When the World Bank adjusted its yardstick for extreme poverty from $1.00 to $1.25 a day, it found that,

“While most of the developing world has managed to reduce poverty, the rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, has not changed in nearly 25 years, according to date using the new $1.25 a day poverty line. Half of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa were living below the poverty line in 2005, the same as in 1981. That means about 389 million lived under the poverty line in 2005, compared with 200 million in 1981” (The New York Times, Aug 27, 2008; p.A7)

Back in 2003, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) warned that at the prevailing rates it would take sub-Saharan Africa another 150 years to reach some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agreed to by UN members for 2015. (Financial Times, July 9, 2003; p.1). Former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, declared at the African Union Summit in Abuja in January, 2005, that Africa was failing to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This was echoed by the United Nations’ African Development director, Gilbert Houngbo, in Congo-Brazzaville: “The [African] continent will fail to reach the goal of slashing poverty in half by 2015” (The Washington Times, April 26, 2007; p.A14).

• ALL the cases of mass deaths and horrific slaughter of the African people were committed by dictators. Get this: Post colonial African leaders have caused the deaths of more than 19 million Africans since 1960:

• 1 million Nigerians died in the Biafra War (1967)
• 200,000 Ugandans were slaughtered by Idi Amin in 1970s,
• 100,000 were butchered by President Marcias Nguema in Equatorial Guinea in the 1970s,
• Over 400,000 Ethiopians perished under Comrade Mengistu Haile Mariam,
• Over 500,000 Somalis perished under Siad Barre,
• Man-made famines claimed over 2 million between 1980-2000,
• Over 2 million have died in the wars of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast,
• Over 1 million died in Mozambique’s civil war,
• 1.5 million in Angola’s civil war
• 800,000 perished in Rwanda’s genocide,
• 300,000 in Burundi
• 4 million have perished in Sudan’s civil wars,
• 6 million have died from Congo’s wars,

The rough total is 19.8 million and this does not include deaths in Chad, Western Sahara, Algeria and those who perish at refugee camps. There is something maddening about these figures. Historians tell us that the total number black Africans shipped as slaves to the Americas in the 17th and 18th Centuries was about 10 million and Africa lost another 10 million through the trans-Saharan and East African slave trade ran by Arabs. This means that, in a space of just 50 years after independence in the 1960s, post colonial African leaders have slaughtered or caused the deaths of about the same number of Africans than were lost to both the West and East African slave trades. Think about it.

It takes DECADES to fix the devastation and destruction wrought by dictators. Two examples from Ghana and Nigeria. When Fte./Lte. Rawlings seized power in 1981, Ghana’s income per capita was $410. Insane Marxist policies sent it down to $265 and a million Ghanaians fleeing to Nigeria in 1983, only to be expelled a year later. Income per capita recovered to $410 in 2003.
Nigeria was flying high in the early 1980s. Income per capita hovered around $800. The currency, naira, was strong – even stronger than the US dollar. But all that was obliterated by a string of military coconuts. Today, income per capita hovers around $300 with 60 percent of Nigerians living in poverty, earning less than $1 a day.
How long do you think it will take to fix Chad, Cameroon, Guinea? Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, etc.?

Want sustainable development in Africa? Get a dictator. Name 5 dictators – out of the total of 222 heads of state since 1960 – who have brought LASTING prosperity to their countries.

No sane person, government or organization – in or out of Africa – would EVER support or defend a dictator on the continent, period.

RT: The wise learn from the mistakes of others while fools repeat them. Idiots, on the other hand, repeat their own stupid mistakes.

George Ayittey  is a Ghanaian economist, author and President of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC.He is the author of best selling book “Africa Unchained :  Defeating Dictators”.


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