Corruption in Africa has become a desperate issue as citizens are keen on calling their governments to account because of the effects its having on their standard of life. Dictators like Julius Maada Bio who when he was head of state stole millions from the state coffers in Sierra Leone are still yet to answer to accusations of embezzlement.
Most well-intentioned corruption-busting remedies in Africa fail because the root causes are often poorly understood. Post-independence African countries inherited deeply corrupt institutions, laws and values from colonial and apartheid governments. Instead of changing these for the better, African ruling parties and leaders entrenched these deeply compromised governance systems.
In most African colonies, the colonial elite centralised political, economic and civic power, reserving top jobs in the public and private sector, and education only to fellow colonials. In the colony, the institutions that should traditionally serve as watchdogs against corruption – the judiciary, police, security services and laws – selectively served only the elite. These institutions were more often subservient to the all-powerful colonial administrator or governor.
The colonial private sector, producing in most cases for export to the imperial market, was usually deeply dependent on the colonial government for licences, contracts and subsidies and rarely held the colonial government accountable.
With few exceptions, the colonial media were equally bridled.
At independence the African colonial elite were now often replaced by another narrow elite, this time the independence movement aristocracy – the dominant independence leader and dominant “struggle” families, or the dominant ethnic group or political faction.
African independence movements are often highly centralised or strongly dominated by one leader and his political, ethnic or regional faction. The dominant structural make-up of these movements means that they can seamlessly fit into a similar centralised political culture of the colonial government.
At independence, the indigenous communities of most African countries were relatively poor, unskilled and without any significant holdings in the private sector.
Very few grassroots cadres of independence movements had professional careers outside the struggle. They have to be given jobs after the struggle. This situation is fertile for corruption.
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