The Role of Civil Society and Governmental Agencies in the Fight against Corruption, Poverty and Terrorism in Africa

by Roy Chikwem

The continent of Africa has undergone momentous political changes and transformations since the preceding decade. Throughout the continent, non-elected and dictatorial regimes of both civilian and military have been replaced by elected and democratic regimes. Whereas the former drew their legitimacy and creditability from oppression and intimidation, the latter draw their legitimacy and creditability from persuasion. The governance process in Africa is reflective of the current democratic wave and to this extent; it is abundantly evident that increasingly the continent is shifting away from the pervasive trend of “bad” governance towards “good” governance. On the other hand, the role of civil society organizations is key in ensuring the eradication and obliteration of corruption, poverty and terrorism in an endeavor to safeguard, preserve and prevent the derailment of the latest growth and development in Africa.

As global terrorism continues to gain grounds in Europe and North America, African countries are beginning to face increasing terrorist activities on national and foreign infrastructures including deadly attacks on the life and properties of foreigners. Gradually, Africa is becoming a safe sanctuary for terrorist organizations and this development is directly related to the fact that corruption and poverty has fuelled the fast growing advancement of terrorism in Africa. Today, terrorism is succeeding because several lawless and stateless areas in Africa have created a favorable atmosphere for terrorist organizations to supposedly recruit and train from among the starving, hungry and displaced Africans who have been victimized by powerful warlords and governments that are fighting over Africa’s spoils. Militant Islamic organizations are thought to prey on vulnerable, defenseless and powerless communities as these militant organizations continue to expand and build their outreach and recruit the next generation of suicide bombers from the ranks of the poor and underprivileged Africans.

The continual trend of corruption poses a serious threat, risk and challenge to the continent of Africa because it undermines democracy and good governance by flouting and even subverting formal processes. Africa is no stranger to frequent hostile regime changes and massively rigged elections which has created a level of distrust and disaffection amongst the people. Corruption in Africa has managed to reduce accountability and distort representation in policymaking and the judiciary system has significantly been pretentious, consequently leading to the compromise of the rule of law. Corruption in public administration has also yielded an unfair provision of services and has eroded African institutional capacity of government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned and public offices are mortgaged to the highest bidders. Consequently, corruption has undermined the legitimacy of government and the economic development of Africa through generating considerable distortions, incompetence and inefficiency.

The African private sector has seen its own share of corruption and has led to an increased cost of doing business in Africa through the price of illicit payments to management for cost of negotiating with officials and the risk of breached agreements. Some people claim that corruption reduces cost of doing business by cutting red tapes but in truth, the availability of bribes can also induce officials to contrive new rules and delays. Openly removing costly and lengthy regulations are better than covertly allowing them to be bypassed by using bribes. Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Many African countries have seen the effect of corruption on low standards and non-compliance with construction, environmental, health and other regulations, which in the long-run increases budgetary pressures on government and reduce the quality of government services and infrastructures. The direct consequence of corruption in Africa is the low quality of life because quality of life does not correlate with a nation’s wealth. Nigeria, for instance, reaps large sums annually from its oil and gas exploration but conditions there remain poor. The poor remain poor and elite and the rich get richer.

The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) International, New England USA chapter has organized a symposium in Boston that would congregate a cross-section of intellectuals and academicians to seek and find ways to address the problems that militate against the attainment of a just African society. This symposium is part of the annual NAS zonal celebration called the “Feast of Barracuda” and the symposium theme is titled “The Role of African Civil Society and Governmental Agencies in the fight against Corruption, Poverty and Terrorism”. NAS International is an international fraternity also known as the Pyrates Confraternity, which began as a university campus confraternity in 1952 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and has grown into an international organization with branches in 36 states of Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, South Africa, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, USA, Japan, The Netherlands and Canada. Its goal as enshrined in their pyratical creed remains the pursuit of a just and egalitarian society in which the strong protects the weak and all have equal access to opportunity for the realization of each person’s potential. NAS International is dedicated to humanitarian and charitable endeavors within Nigeria and whatever society the members find themselves.

The symposium is scheduled to be held in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) on April 25th, 2009 and the event will be chaired by Melvin H. King, an American educator, activist and writer. King has been active across the landscape of neighborhood and politics of Boston for over fifty-five years while also being an educator, social activist, community organizer, elected politician, author and an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Also, the co-chair of the event is Dr. Ola Soyinka, a World Health Organization (WHO) representative and the son of Professor Wole Soyinka, the Africans most distinguished playwright, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honored, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and one of the seven founding fathers of the Pyrates Confraternity. The special guest of honor is Prince Omorogbe Erediauwa, the son of the Oba of Benin, Oba Erediauwa. The speakers include Josh Rubenstein, the Director of the northeast region of Amnesty International and Okey Ndibe, a visiting professor at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut.

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