Tuesday, June 9, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya.
June 9, 2009

The just ended Comesa Summit in Harare was once again an eye opener. It displayed to the world once again that democracy talks that we normally hear of from the lips of our heads of state are just that; talks. Most African leaders hate democracy in all its forms, including those who came to power through the barrel of the gun claiming then to be fighting for justice decades gone by.

The Harare Comesa meeting was a double barreled assault on democracy in this continent. The thought that it was being held in Mugabe’s territory, a man who just a few months ago was murdering and starving his people for the sake of political power was difficult enough to fathom. But the worst was yet to come. One Omar El Bashir, the fugitive Sudanese leader who is on a Hague wanted list for genocide and crimes against humanity decided to defy threats of his possible arrest and attended the summit.

El Bashir knew one thing; that since the Rome Statute came into operation six years ago, Harare, like several authoritarian states in Africa had not signed its protocol and therefore had no international obligation to apprehend him and hand him over to the ICC. Never mind that because of Bashir’s flawed governance record, thousands of Darfurians are either dead or dying by their thousands with each passing day.

Of late President Bashir has indulged in some form of political acrobatics since his indictment became public. He has held several rallies in Sudan to marshall his country’s support against his possible arrest. He has successfully lobbied the Arab League as well as the AU to weigh in on the UN and the EU to rescind the ICC decision. And even though there has been no official word from the EU and UN to delay the arrest, his defiant sojourn across the continent in selected countries of Africa may be a pointer that he has the solid support of the majority of the African leaders.

The fact of the matter is; Bashir knows he is not alone. With leaders such as Meles Zenawi, Robert Mugabe and Mohammad Gaddafi of Libya; the last currently doubling up as the AU Chairman, there is no need for the Sudanese strongman to lose his sleep over the ICC little irritation.

In retrospect, one may wonder why we have this pathetic scenario in Africa. Its roots lie in leaders of yester years who founded our continental organizations.

Had it not been for the fatal mistakes made by founders of the OAU and its economic blocks, we would today be enjoying a different mandate from these organizations. It was a fatal mistake to design them as clubs for our already overburdened and sometimes visionless national rulers.

Had we designed these bodies to focus on the continent’s interests as opposed to the interests of political leaders; had we designed them to be manned and managed by professionals and truly eminent Africans completely outside the mandate of our heads of state, we would today be enjoying stronger regional institutions. Then we would have used them to act as watchdogs against rogue leaders in the continent.

We would probably have developed strong institutions with teeth to bite and stiffer membership requirements with punitive penalties for rogue dictators in the continent. We would have made it possible to automatically expel a leader that condones corruption, practices election rigging, massacres his people and punishes political dissent.

As it is, we are busy endorsing bad governance everywhere.

Because we held the last Comesa meeting in Harare, we have now handed over the Comesa chair to Robert Mugabe in reward for hosting the summit; never mind that his country’s economy is on its knees; courtesy of his costly mistakes.

Because Robert Mugabe is now the chairman of the Comesa economic grouping, the region will be obligated to include him on every delegation to any international economic forum including the protracted World Trade negotiations. Yes, uncle Bob will surely represent the twenty plus member states that subscribe to the Comesa trading block.

I am not for a moment subscribing to the notion that Western preached democracy is what should apply to Africa; far from it. However, as Africans we should be able to recognize and condemn what is inherently obnoxious and repugnant to the laws of natural justice. Just because we are Africans is no license for us to fold our arms as our leaders continue to murder our people and plunder our resources for personal aggrandizement.

We must strive to make life unbearable for dictators and corrupt leaders in this continent.