Tuesday, February 7, 2012



The Late President of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
February 7, 2012

Believe it or not; it was my first time to set foot on Zambian soil, travelled as I am all over the world. Interestingly I have in the past been to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique but not Zambia. I guess in Africa, there are no  tourists for the sake of sightseeing. Business trips are more like it in this part of the world.

I was in Lusaka this past week to moderate a meeting of Experts that were invited from at least eleven countries in East and Southern Africa with at least representations from Senegal in West Africa, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

Experts were tasked with the responsibility to critique the Center’s first five year Strategic Plan that had earlier in December 2011 been validated by the Great Lakes Heads of State in Kampala, Uganda.

The Levy Mwanawasa Center has a very interesting rich short history.
The location of this Center in Lusaka , Zambia in itself has very  crucial significance to its mission and vision. First, it is one of the very few African states in the region that has democratically carried out  regime change three times since its independence 48 years ago. It voted out its first  President  through a democratic process. The same process removed President Chiluba from office. And just last year, Rupiah Banda's regime was also  changed through a fair and transparent general elections.

In a nutshell, Zambia is a  leading  light in  democratic and good governance reforms even though it is still  being a long way from being perfect.

Conceived in Dares Salaam in November 2004, the Heads of State adopted a declaration defining a regional vision that would deal with peace and security, democratic governance and sustainable integrated human development.

The action of these Heads of State was informed by their analysis of the origins of conflicts and political crises that characterized the region in the 1990s culminating in the most devastating Rwanda Genocide of 1994.

In their analysis and deliberations, they confronted the ugly truth that these conflicts had their roots in bad governance, failure to respect internationally accepted democratic principles and practices and of course failure to respect and adhere to the principles and practice of human rights.

When two years later the same Heads of State signed a Pact on Security, Stability and Development in Nairobi in December 2006, it was at this point that they decided to create an International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Secretariat as the organ to implement the Nairobi Pact.

High on the agenda was the urgent need to promote Good Governance, the Rule of Law and respect for Human Rights as the first steps to build a strong foundation for Democracy. To do this, the Heads of State undertook to establish and strengthen national and regional institutions and mechanisms to promote the same good governance best practices.

For these reasons, they chose to set up an institution under the ICGLR Secretariat that would specifically handle national and regional actors involved in the promotion of democracy, good governance and human rights practices.

Three years later, they officially launched the Regional Center at the Lusaka Summit in August 2009 reaffirming their willingness and commitment to the principles of democracy, good governance and respect for human dignity. It was on this occasion that the Heads of State chose to name the Center after the late Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa who died during his term as Chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region.

With its operationalization in early 2011, the Center has the bigger challenge to provide credible leadership in the restoration of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights throughout the Great Lakes Region. And if things go according to plan, the region that was once famous for endless conflicts will realize its cherished vision of becoming a region characterized by deeply entrenched values, principles and democratic norms.

The three day Experts’ gathering looked at the Center’s Strategic Vision and Mission statements.

Because its vision espouses an authoritative and autonomous think tank, one expects that the Heads of State will have the humility to listen to the Levy Mwanawasa Center’s voice of reason that though may be difficult to swallow, will in the final analysis make this region a better place to live in.

One thing that emerged at this meeting was the fact that the Center does not plan to usurp the functions of the ICGLR and neither will it act a policeman for the governments of member states.

Its role will be rather to work in tandem with the ICGLR Secretariat as it coordinates, empowers and exploits the individual strengths of  institutions already existing in member states already engaged  in promoting  the same ideals the Center was set up to do.

Being a creation of governments in the region, it has quickly recognized that its success will depend on relying on elder brothers such as the East African Community, the SADDC members, the COMESA and IGAD regional blocks.  

In this direction, it has moved fast to sign MoUs with the EAC  and COMESA trading blocks and is in the process of   doing the same with  the SADDC, IGAD and possibly  the East African Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Proof of these useful alliances was evident judging by the representations of the ICGLR, EAC, COMESA and AfDB at the meeting.

However, the bigger challenge must await the Levy Mwanawasa Center in the manner it handles the thorny issue of democracy and good governance in Africa.  A glaring example was the political turmoil brewing in Senegal as this meeting was in progress. At the center of the Senegal crisis was President Abdullahi Wade, one of the architects of NEPAD and APRM at the turn of the decade yet, at 85 now finds it almost impossible to retire from politics.

The Levy Mwanawasa Center will do much better if it looked at the path the APRM has travelled in the last 10 years of its operation.

With so many countries peer reviewed over time with  Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda taking the lead in opening themselves for scrutiny in the areas of  democracy, good governance, social and economic governance and corporate governance, the Center will be advised  to analyze how much has changed as a result of  the APRM process .

It is these pitfalls that the Levy Mwanawasa Center must avoid if it has to succeed. And with a group of seasoned diplomats and strategists picked from among member states, regional economic blocks, international agencies such as the UNDP and the African Development Bank, the challenge is for the Levy Mwanawasa Center Executive Director, Dr. Francis Oyugi- Okuthe to deliver quick wins for the Center to proceed to the next level.