I don’t often find myself saying to Africans, do as we (Americans) do; there are significant reasons I want my kids raised in Africa where they can absorb lifelong African cultural values. But if you haven’t heard, the governor of Illinois has been arrested for corruption.
Points I’d like to highlight about this story:
1. Corruption exists in America; it’s a struggle everywhere – not uniquely an African problem. Some of it, as in this case, is clearly illegal and, if caught, will be punished. But I’d go further and that some of it is legalized, even if there are limits placed on it – some forms of lobbying, soft money contributions, etc. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two.
2. Note the way our “African hero” Obama was personally involved in a way that eventually (if indirectly) led to the corrupt governor’s downfall – even while he was concentrating on his own election:
In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
. . . after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.
Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama. . .
[Then again, maybe it was all a political ploy? I’m sure some would argue that too.]
3. No one is above the law (Don’t forget that many of Nixon’s cabinet went to jail).
4. There is a public culture where this is seen as despicable; it is not tolerated.
5. Good systems are in place for prosecuting corruption.
Until African governments are willing to deal with corruption in this way, and until the people have established viable systems of holding their politicians accountable, the populations will continue to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous politicians – we have our fair share too. Look at any of the recent headlines in the Kenyan papers (Daily Nation; Standard: Parliamentarian tax evasion, Waki, the maize meal cartel, etc.) It’s good to see these issues getting some scrutiny these days. Not so long ago, the Tanzanian prime minister was held accountable and lost his post too. Now for more established systems and popular intolerance to deal with them. I’m with Rombo; let’s keep dreaming for Africa.
Here’s an editorial that role of Western multinational corporations in African corruption.