0%
Aid for Development? Not in Zimbabwe

Aid for Development? Not in Zimbabwe

Introduction

The aid for development narrative has outlived its relevance in most African countries considering that even after two decades they are still “developing countries”. Zimbabwe is one country with abundant aid, poverty, corruption, high rates of unemployment, and food insecurity among a host of issues. The question therefore is why has aid failed to promote development? This article’s key hypothesis is that Zimbabwe’s dependency on aid is not entirely helpful and that there is need to craft alternatives to ensure development. The focus of the article is Lean Season Assistance (LSA) food aid in Matobo and Mangwe districts of Zimbabwe. Focus is also given to the impact of LSA on the indigenous communities and ultimately anticipations on food security and development.

Lean season assistance and food security

Lean season assistance (LSA) is a routinely emergency response to drought related food insecurity in rural Zimbabwe during the period August to March. Households are selected through a participatory community led targeting process facilitated by the implementing organization after mobilizing communities through the local leadership. During these gatherings, the villages establish local household food insecurity indicators which they use as a basis of ranking and selection of the most food insecure households. Registered households receive monthly food rations of 7.5kg cereal, 1.5kg pulses and 0.75 kg vegetable oil per individual in the household. In January 2022, the Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme scaled up its response at the peak of the program to support 648,718 people in 12 districts until March. This was an increase from 542,352 people supported in December 2021 (World Food Programme Situation Report: 2022). These figures are proof of the magnitude of food insecurity in the country and the tremendous contribution of food aid yet low returns in overall development.

Relatively, the LSA has infected indigenous communities with dependency syndrome and indirectly contributed to the low yields in the two districts. It is not denied that climate change has affected yields and food aid has saved communities from hunger yet the negatives outweigh the positives. Communities rely more on food aid rather than farming as households with high yields from recent farming season are exempted from the program. Hence, they would prefer food aid than toiling on their farms to the extent of killing each other for food. Incidents were being reported by communities of threats to kill, others made to lose insanity and actual deaths as a result of the programs. This side of food aid is rarely documented as implementing organizations make a living out of the programs. It is therefore difficult to implement development initiatives in such divided and aid dependent communities. Moreover, the government social services have reduced due to overreliance on donor funded food aid with the elderly, child headed households, and people with disabilities (PWDs) bearing the brunt as they have no access to the distant ward centers during food aid registrations. 

Image source: Unsplash

According to World Bank 2018, The State of Social Safety Nets.  Zimbabwe spends only 0.4% of GDP on social protection, which is far less than 1.5% of GDP regional average for Sub-Saharan Africa meaning that the vulnerable individuals in the communities remain food insecure and poor. Recently, the Deputy Minister of agriculture, Douglas Karoro revealed that the drought experienced during the 2021/22 farming season has adversely affected the country’s food security situation. It is devastating to note that even with the abundant food aid, communities are food insecure. Thus, evidence that eroded indigenous farming communities and traditional systems, and over reliance on food aid cannot replace the practicality of agriculture to food security.

Nokulunga Ndlovua, a citizen of Zimbabwe, is a member of the Future Africa Fellowship 2022 cohort

Vital Kamerhe:  20-Year Sentence, A Dead Judge And a Waltz With the Law

Vital Kamerhe:  20-Year Sentence, A Dead Judge And a Waltz With the Law

When does corruption start? Does it start with the first call to an offshore bank, the first transfer of illicit funds or does it start some time before – during a sleepless night – and in the depths of the mind where no law reaches?

Vital Kamerhe was the Chief of Staff to Felix Tshisekedi, the President of the cobalt-rich Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). When the President came into office in January 2019, one of his goals was to provide improved infrastructure and affordable housing to the Congolese people through his ‘100- day program’. However, soon after funds were disbursed, construction stalled whilst costs rose.

The players in this murky game are not hard to spot. First, we must have a government official with power to disburse funds and the willingness to look away. This was Kamerhe. As Chief of Staff, he could sign off on contracts and release funds. Second, we must have the pseudo-credible middlemen – the ones who make the show, by working to deliberately stall projects and inflate prices. These are the Lebanese businessmen Jammal Samih, CEO of Husmal and Samibo – two companies involved in the construction of social housing – and Jeannot Muhima Ndoole, who heads the Import-Export Department for the President.

On the other hand, there were members of civil society, such as the NGO Government Spending Watch, which reported that 80% of the contracts were awarded without tenders submitted. The president was also a key player – permitting the law to take its course. This may not have been done for altruistic reasons as there had also been reports of a rift between the President and his Chief of staff.

For the first time in a long time in Congo’s history, a high-ranking political official seemed to dance to the beat of the law. This was regardless of the fact that Judge Raphaël Yany, the judge overseeing the corruption trial, was murdered in May 2020.  The police had earlier reported that he died of a heart attack, but an autopsy report revealed that he died from knife-like injuries to the head. This happened even though he had six policemen guarding him during the course of the trial.

Notwithstanding Judge Raphaël Yany’s murder, both Vital Kamerhe and Jammal Samih were sentenced to 20 years of hard labor in June 2020 and faced millions of dollars in fines. Beyond this, Kamerhe was also disqualified from running for office in Congo for the next 10 years. Jeannot Muhima was sentenced to two years of hard labour. The impact of this ruling has brought some hope to the Congolese people – a glimpse of what is possible if the law is allowed to take its course.

Reflection

Arguably, this hope was short-lived. On 14 April 2021, Kamerhe, from the relative comfort of his hospital bed, congratulated his ‘comrades’ for appointments as ministers and deputy ministers in the government. In fact, they got positions in areas, such as Budget, Land affairs as well as the Justice Department.

This case is familiar. Similar plays and players can be found across the continent. In this game, the law is a web through which birds fly unscathed, but flies are caught. The consequences of the actions of a few are left on the many. Whilst their politicians and those associated with them continue to misappropriate public funds – $304M was initially budgeted for infrastructure building and a large percentage of this remains unaccounted for –  the people of Congo remain as poor as ever – with the majority living below the poverty line, spending less than $2/day to live.

Silencing the Guns in Africa: How Feasible?

Silencing the Guns in Africa: How Feasible?

The fourth aspiration of the African Union Agenda 2063 highlighted the establishment of a peaceful and secure Africa, characterized by conflict prevention means that are centered on dialogue alongside conflict management and resolution with the end goal of silencing guns. However, there is minimal visibility on member state programs that ensure the effective implementation of efforts towards silencing the gun, on a national and regional scope . As most of the small arms and light weapons are currently found within the Chad Basin, Central African Region, Eastern Congo, the Horn of Africa, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya, this calls upon inclusive collaborative and coordinated endeavors by both peaceful and conflict prone states.

The African Union declared 2020 as the year of Silencing the Guns

EXPECTED OUTCOME

Through outlining enhanced realistic, practical and time bound implementable steps towards silencing guns, member states can further increase their campaign efforts and meet the target date of 2025. Furthermore, it is anticipated that national governments will commit to taking ownership of the silencing the guns initiative and the realization of subsequent national plans.

PROPOSAL

The Silencing of the Guns initiative contains the following aspects that obliges the consideration of:

  1. The Formulation of relevant monitoring and evaluation mechanisms on a national level by member states, especially those in the conflict areas. These will take the form of national commissions on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) that will offer a crucial oversight function on their illegal proliferation rate within the state. Therefore, acting as a national focal point that offers advice on strategies and methodologies to be used by governments to eradicate SALW within the state and effectively hinder any trade or spillover.
  2. The Encouragement of thematic relevant sensitization and outreach programs to be carried out by non-state actors, such as civil society organizations, private sector organizations and local non- governmental organizations, on a national level. This will be a community-based approach targeting conflict prone zones that offer conducive conditions for illicit inflow and trade in SALW.
  3. A Commitment and compliance with relevant Africa Union instruments on peace, security, democracy, elections, and governance by signing, ratifying and domesticating existing normative frameworks on peace, security and governance. This is to be done by the relevant AU organs such as the African Union Commission, the Peace Security Council, and relevant member states.
  4. The Strengthening of institutional capacities to undertake post-conflict stabilization, peacebuilding, and reconstruction. This will tackle the problem of the weak implementation of post-conflict reconstruction and development programs. This can either be on a local communal basis or a regional basis through economic communities.
  5. The Promotion of national ownership of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration, in addition to security sector reform programs in member states. This is to be implemented by member states, the Peace Security Council and regional economic communities to ensure strategic planning processes and relevant clarity on allocated obligations.
  6. The Strengthening of cross-border cooperation in conflict prevention, terrorism, violent extremism, piracy and trans-national organized crime, such as drug and human trafficking. This is to be undertaken by member states, regional economic communities, and Africa Union Commission.

RISKS

The following risks occurred during the course of implementation and continue to threaten overall inclusivity of member states;

  1. Incessant underfunding of the AU, in terms of financial and human resources that are unable to match the multiple demands, thus leading to an over reliance on external actors. Admittedly, in 2015, the AU initiated discussions with the UN over a proposed arrangement for funding UN-sanctioned AU-led peace operations. In theory, the UN covered three-quarters of the necessary funds while the AU provided a quarter of the remaining funds through the Africa Peace Fund. However, the agreement fostered doubts in the AU’s capability to adequately meet this agreement due to concerns of the dormant continental Peace Fund that is yet to meet its annual target.
  2. Inadequate cross border cooperation between member states that resulted from porous borders and lax border control security systems. In addition, member states are unable to monitor and patrol their long borders without assistance. For example, Cameroon, which shares long borders with Nigeria and Chad, faced a long history of being a source, transit and destination country for arms trafficking. Consequently, the ungoverned border areas linking Cameroon, Nigeria and Chad, often known as the ‘Triangle of Death,’ acted as a safe haven for weapons traffickers to reside and unscrupulous activities to take place. Hence, reinforced the need for a joint administration of borders from Nigeria and Chad to curb the illicit arms influx within the region.
  3. Prolonged process of signature, ratification and accession of  relevant regional instruments and treaties. Foremost amongst these is the landmark 2014 Arms Trade Treaty which seeks to prevent arms exporters from supplying weapons to war criminals and human rights violators. As well as, mitigating the risk of diversion of legitimately-purchased state-owned arms. currently only 14 states have ratified the African Arms Trade Treaty that aids with implementation of the initiative. Thus, establishing the need to mobilize and sensitize member states on the accruing benefits that accompany domestication of AU treaties.
  4. Increased foreign interference in African conflicts has exacerbated insecurity within the continent. Their activities continuously undermine regional efforts to mitigate conflict and have further entrenched social and political polarities. For instance, the civil war in Libya was fought on a proxy basis, whereby despite a UN arms embargo, foreign states- including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan- have been implicated in the channeling of arms and ammunition to both sides. Consequently, this led to an ever-increasing humanitarian crisis whilst sabotaging any likelihood for conflict resolution or preventive diplomatic efforts by the AU.T

PROJECT BENEFICIARIES

The project will have a direct impact on the following target beneficiaries:

  1. Civilian livelihoods aspects will improve especially those within conflict zones who were part of the main stakeholders to be engaged during implementing the crucial elements of the initiative such as Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Programs. Their input aided in designing context specific DDR programs that informed planning on a national level and a mission level. It considered elements that are often overlooked within these programs, such as tending to the needs of former female combatants, war widows, veterans wives, youth, children associated with armed groups, and disabled former combatants.
  2. Member states displayed their dedication and commitment to the initiative which further impacted their national capabilities and institutions. In addition, they reformed national legislation and well targeted financial measures that were required to fully implement and contribute to the initiative.
  3. Regional economic communities reviewed and improved crucial capabilities and mechanisms to fully implement the initiative while enhancing collaboration and coordination within their respective regions. For example, the Kinshasa Convention of 2017 formulated by ECCAS, focuses on the control of small arms and light weapons, ammunition, parts and components that can be used for their manufacture, repair or assembly.
  4. Consolidated long-term partnerships with International Organizations, such as United Nations, that have further boosted joint initiatives with the AU. As both organizations have acted to counter the ever-rising challenge of security within Africa through detection, conflict prevention and resolution. Therefore, the partnership succeeded in some conflict cases, like the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in South Sudan. It was mediated through a joint effort by the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the UN, the European Union (EU), China, the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway.

PART 2- OBJECTIVES

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The current dilemma that impedes the realization of a peaceful and secure Africa according to the fourth aspiration of the AU agenda is conflict. Conflict is propagated by the illicit inflow, proliferation and circulation of small arms and light weapons within the continent. In addition, failure of member states to accept national ownership of the initiative, and its subsequent implementation of national and regional action plans and mechanisms, has further facilitated the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. This is also due to a deficit of political will and the appropriate, well-structured leadership needed to support the initiative and its activities.

  1. IMMEDIATE OBJECTIVES

The project succeeded in initiating the following changes within the relevant target beneficiaries:

  1. Implemented critical components of the African Peace Security Architecture, giving special attention to the Full Operational Capability phase of the African Standby Force.
  2. Advanced early warning and early response mechanisms at national and regional levels with the aim to advance structural conflict prevention in conflict zones.
  3. Encouraged prevention of illicit inflow of SALW into Africa.
  4. Curtailed illicit proliferation and movement of SALW on local and regional levels.
  5. Increased adoption of human security and community inclusion approaches to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism.
  6. Promoted state ownership of national Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Programs and Security Sector Reforms

APPROACH & METHODOLOGY (PROJECT ACTIVITIES)

Immediate objective 1: Implemented critical components of the African Peace Security Architecture, giving special attention to the Full Operational Capability phase of the African Standby Force (ASF).

Activities undertaken:

Image source: African Union

Encouraged the approval of regional legal agreements that emphasize the importance of pre-emptive deployment of the ASF. This required member states, the Peace Security Council, the Africa Union Commission and regional economic communities to implement strict measures to ensure legal agreements are finalized and permit the deployment of the African Standby Force. For instance, the implementation of the African Standby Force Maputo Work Plan legal framework. This enabled the African Standby Force to function as a means of protection of civilians and provided deterrence function.

In 2017, to ensure its further implementation, the AU heads of state and the Peace and Security Council deployed a team to verify the ASF’s operational readiness while identifying gaps and challenges. the teams overall conclusion displayed significant progress made within the Western, Southern and Eastern standby forces, however, the Central and North Africa regions had lagged behind.

One recommendation to ensure equal and enhanced operationalization is through bridging regional gaps between member states. For instance, through the creation of ad hoc regional instruments such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force in the Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) tackling Boko Haram, whereby each contains members from both ECOWAS and ECCAS.

Immediate objective 2: Advanced early warning and early response mechanisms at national and regional level with the aim to advance structural conflict prevention in conflict zones.

Activities undertaken:

Established constructive early warning response capacities for member states and regional economic communities. It commenced on a national level, enabling member states to establish and enhance pre-existing capacities and link them to their respective regional economic communities. An example of this is, IGAD’s unique pursuit in conflict prevention management resolution through the conflict early warning response mechanism (CEWARN). An institution that investigated peace and security at a lower level in member states. Furthermore, sensitized on the importance of the use of the African Union structural vulnerability assessment tool as a means for identification and proper evaluation.

A recommended approach is through the enhanced operationalization of the continental early warning systems (CEWS) Through ensuring coordination of the overall observation and monitoring center (Situation room) at headquarter level has better and clear communication channels with the regional observation and monitoring units within the respective regional economic communities. This alongside bolstering political will amongst member states to be proactive on early warnings while enhancing normative frameworks on a continental and regional level.

Immediate objective 3: Encouraged inhibiting of illicit inflow of Small Arms and Light Weapons into Africa.

Activities undertaken:

Member states collected, verified, and provided information to the Peace Security Council on those involved in the trade. They also, established inquiry groups within the regional economic communities whenever intelligence surfaces regarding country of origin, transit and destination of the weapons was disclosed. In addition, member states upgraded national capacities to identify, subjugate and destroy illicit weapons. The AU encouraged naming and shaming suppliers and recipients of illicit arms at a summit level alongside imposing bans on member states discovered to be engaged in illicit inflow of weapons, in line with the Arms Trade Treaty.

A recommended method to further achieve this is reinforced and expansive research on illicit arms flow in different regions. This can occur through cooperating to generate assessments that fill knowledge gaps and are adaptive to the evolutionary nature of illicit flow of small arms and weapons. The research should cut across thematic areas such as multiple gender dimensions, driving factors, and roles played by border populations and armed groups in illicit inflow of arms. Consequently, this kind of data collection and sharing will provide valuable insights, supplement intelligence gathering and information sharing between member states.

Immediate objective 4: Curtailed illicit proliferation and movement of Small Arms and Light Weapons on local and regional levels.

Activities undertaken:

Prevented access to small arms and light weapons by non-state armed groups, such as rebel groups and insurgent groups alongside warring communities. In addition, ensuring the Peace Security Council incorporates and draws attention to the emerging trends and flow of small arms and light weapons in conflict zones. As well as, ensuring member states focused on necessary capacity building to establish and support national institutions that were tasked with illicit arms recovery and detection. Moreover, guaranteeing the state has concrete capabilities to secure confiscated arms stockpile.

One recommended approach, is through development of practical tools and guidance by improving for management of state owned weapons in accordance with the international standards, such as the Modular Small-arms-control Implementation Compendium (MOSAIC) and International Ammunition Technical Guidelines (IATG). As well as, developing joint border commissions and enhancing sub regional cross border security strategies. For instance, Chad and Sudan formed a Joint Border Force that focused on populous areas on their shared border and were able to build trust through continuous provision of medical and educational assistance. Consequently, it led to information gathering that unraveled and decreased the rate of arms trafficking in the region.

Immediate objective 5: Increased adoption of human security and community inclusion approaches to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism.

Activities undertaken:

Facilitated faith-based organizations active engagement with the cooperation of religious leaders. This occurred through encouraging inter and intra-religious constructive dialogue to build religious tolerance with the goal of preventing terrorism, violent extremism, and radicalization. As well as, initiating a platform for gathering religious leaders and engaging them on the importance of counterterrorism as a means to curb the illicit proliferation of arms.

A recommended approach is through community policies that are context specific and have multiple gender dimensions that highlight the potential role of women and girls in preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism. Thus, enhancing their role in raising awareness in their communities and control measures such as risk education sessions amongst their communities.

Immediate objective 6: Promoted state ownership of national Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Programs (DDR) and Security Sector Reforms (SSR).

Activities undertaken:

Developed national mechanisms to assist in implementation of the DDR and SSR initiatives. The regional economic communities assisted in attaining and sustaining technical and operational assistance by recruiting experts. Furthermore, regional economic communities implemented the AU-UN joint call for declaring September the Amnesty month that allows for continuous voluntary surrender of illegal SALW. In addition, the Regional Centre on Small Arms worked in unison alongside global donor support to aid in substantial activities such as raising awareness, capacity building of security sector, weapons collection, safe storage and destruction. it has been done in seven African states including Ethiopia, Cote d’ Ivoire, Cameroon, Kenya, Central African Republic, DRC and Burkina Faso.

Some recommendations to further enhance these efforts could be through identification and disposal of larger caliber material including light and heavy weapons, related ammunition, and explosives. Alongside this, the establishment of strong national legal and institutional DDR frameworks and the adoption of standards of procedures which will inherently guide weapons and ammunitions management.

CONCLUSION

In summary, the project displayed the target beneficiaries at all levels from local, national, regional and continental levels, thus, demonstrating its capability to directly and indirectly impact the concerned actors. In addition, the project has significantly highlighted problems that hinder the initiative’s successful implementation such as proliferation of small arms and light weapons, violent extremism and inadequate disarmament demobilization and reintegration programs. As a result, it has offered recommendations to be considered by the relevant stakeholders. For example, the project formulated recommendations that mostly targeted the integral components of the African Peace Security Architecture such as the continental early warning system, the African Standby Force, and the peace fund, based on identification of gaps in their respective policy implementation.

Moreover, the initiative requires enhanced continental diplomatic outreach and building of partnerships in the pursuit of peace and security in Africa. Hence, the project is targeted towards improvement of continental frameworks and institutions for responding to insecurity and efforts to curb the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Alongside this, some cardinal points to be mindful of are the overall need for dialogue centered conflict prevention, and the management and resolution of existing conflicts.

Undoubtedly, noteworthy progress continues to be made with the realization of the initiative. however, there is still need for more consolidation of efforts by member states to enact it fully. Inevitably, this heavily relies on member states discretion, political will and cohesion to ensure they play an equal and active role to its realization. Particularly, when the gruesome reality displays numerous African states still consumed by a ruthless cycle of violent conflicts and are subject to its fatal consequences. Undoubtedly, as the Sierra Leone Ambassador to the AU candidly phrased: “If we fail to silence the guns on the continent, then, even Agenda 2063 will remain a myth.”

Anita Mugo, a citizen of Kenya, was a member of the Future Africa Fellowship 2021 cohort. This policy proposal was written in partial fulfilment of the completion requirements of the Fellowship.

Through My Eyes: Zambia’s Democratic Elections

Through My Eyes: Zambia’s Democratic Elections

Zambia is currently experiencing what could be one of its biggest defining moments since the re-introduction of political pluralism in 1990. This is because to many Zambians this change of government feels like freedom, hope and an opportunity for them to raise their standards of living after what felt like decades of suffering under the administration of the Patriotic Front led by former president Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

Mr. Hakainde Hichilema is the president of the new ruling party, United Party for National Development (UPND). UPND was formed in 1998 by Anderson Mazoka who died in 2006 and was succeeded by Mr. Hichilema who led the party to winning after 21 years of losing.

On the 12th of August, the Zambian citizens showed up in numbers to exercise their right to vote. This has been the biggest voter turnout since the ballot in 1991. This was due to the large number of young people that registered to vote. Despite having to stand in long queues for long periods of time just to cast their vote, one thing was unanimously clear: the Zambian people wanted change from a government that had failed them as a country.

The 2021 general elections were one of the most peaceful elections the country has ever experienced, however, not the most fair ones. During the election period, opposition parties were not allowed to campaign freely, there were unequal campaign conditions, and one-sided media coverage – whereby the media only covered the campaigns of the incumbent government. There was no freedom of speech. Those that took to the road to protest against political injustices were arrested and new cyber laws that restricted people on social media were enforced. All of these things created an uneven playing field for the opposition parties to compete against the incumbent.

Campaign poster for Hakainde Hichilema. Source: facebook.com/hakainde.hichilema

Despite all of these injustices, this election was the embodiment of what democracy is: power to the people, the people spoke and they were heard. The youth made their voices heard, demanding for employment, education, good economic policies, reduced costs of living, the fall of political cadres, free press and the incarceration of politicians that plundered state resources, among other things. This election saw the rise of the youth determination to ensure a time for change, the Zambian youth understood the power they had, and made it clear to the president-elect that they were not loyal to a person but to their country. As a Zambian, I echo these sentiments, as we are loyal to the development of our country, to education for all, to youth inclusion and participation, to equal market share, gender equality and good governance with transparency and accountability; we are not loyal to a person. Mr. Hichilema was widely endorsed by many youths, he had the backing of a not-so-silent, silent majority, who campaigned for him using social media platforms. The youth took up the role of educating voters, making sure that they brought awareness on how to vote, reminded people of the oppression, the high costs of living and the violence that had been experienced during the rule of Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu. They reminded people to vote wisely encouraging them not to be swayed by the incentives given to them by “corrupt” politicians.

As a result of the huge social media reach carried out by many Zambian youth, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema gained momentum and sailed through the election, winning with over 2 million votes. Amidst the counting of votes former president Edgar Chagwa Lungu declared the elections not free and fair, but this was invalidated by the EU election observers that pointed to the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission of Zambia in carrying out the elections, and the biased campaigning conditions. Soon after the pronouncement of the winner on the 16th August 2021, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu conceded defeat and agreed to a smooth transition of power. From these elections, one can learn from the resilience of the youth, they united and voted out what they termed a dictatorship. They practiced the power they had, the Zambian youth and the entire population at large are a reflection of what it looks like to practice democracy, to stand up to violation of human rights, corruption and the lack  political freedom.

Yande Changala, a Zambian citizen, is a member of the 2021 cohort of the Future Africa Fellowship.

Royal Gifts or Corruption: Analysing Omar Al-Bashir’s Corruption Scandals

Royal Gifts or Corruption: Analysing Omar Al-Bashir’s Corruption Scandals

Some consider Omar al-Bashir as the most oppressive ruler Sudan has had since independence. Omar al-Bashir came to power in 1989 after overthrowing an elected government. Since he was young, he was active in the military. In the 1980’s he went to war against the rebels in the south and in the same decade, al-Bashir dissolved an elected government after staging a coup and appointing himself chair of the Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation which was ruling the country. He adopted Islamic or Sharia law, which caused a lot of tension with the Christian South. This later became highly problematic to the point that South Sudan seceded.  

In 1993, al-Bashir was appointed president and ruled Sudan for almost 30 years until 2019. Although, al-Bashir is facing multiple charges, the first time he was convicted of any crimes by the Sudanese government was due to corruption.  The case brought up against him initially stated that there were unknown foreign currencies found in his home that amounted to almost over USD 90 million. Al-Bashir has denied this stating that it was “a gift from Saudi royals” and that it is not public funds. In addition, it is believed that he had GBP 9 billion in a private account in Lloyds Bank in the UK. This too al-Bashir has denied and the spokesperson of Lloyds has stated that transactions done with Sudan has been through legal means. Although, in 2009 American authorities fined Lloyds USD 350 million for assisting and hiding wire transfers originating from Sudan, Iran and Libya to avoid sanctions that were placed by the US on those countries.  

However, to others including his defence team consisting of 96 people, this is nothing but a political stunt to strengthen the transitional government. In addition, he was also convicted of human rights violation by the ICC due to crimes committed in the Darfur region in 2001.  

He was found guilty of money laundering and was sentenced to two years in prison. However, due to Sudan’s law, a person above 70 cannot serve in prison; therefore, al-Bashir was exempted from prison and instead was given detention (a facility for elderly). This may not have satisfied a lot of people who especially think not only is he a war criminal, but also the person who looted Sudan. Financial crimes were the least of al-Bashir’s convictions.  

In this case, there are a lot of parties that are at stake. The local stakeholders include those loyal to him at all levels; in the political, administrative, and societal levels. Sudan’s system has been laid bare by al-Bashir and that there are those who are as corrupt as him. After his conviction and as the anti-corruption agency continued to investigate, ministers and close relatives of his have been found owning properties that were acquired through illegal means.  

On an international level, these types of accusations can lead to strained relationships with foreign constituents. Gulf countries are highly tied to Sudan’s aid, this aid can linger in the form of political and economic output, becoming a breadbasket for Sudan.  Although, Saudi is not to be questioned about al-Bashir’s corruption case, it is still important to clear out if he did receive that money as a “gift”.  

Another foreign constituent is Lloyds Bank. As one of the oldest and biggest financial institutions in the UK, it may seem to have a tint of neo-colonial pursuit. The $9 billion that is supposedly stashed in the UK comes from looted money of the Sudanese people — although Lloyds have stated that all of the transactions done with Sudan are through legal means. 

In African politics, it is rare to see a person of high influence come to justice in a legal matter. More than that, for them to stand trial domestically is rare. The case of al-Bashir did give hope to the people of Sudan that justice can be served. Part of the impact of this case, and a strength, is the sheer fact of seeing an ex-president stand for trial and be judged like a normal citizen. Owing to this case there has been an anti-corruption team created within Sudan to investigate. These are the small steps needed to dismantle the negative legacies left by al-Bashir. To some this can be seen as Sudan going towards a transparent state. I do believe that al-Bashir’s money laundering conviction is somehow politically motivated and is a way of keeping him close by before convicting him on a bigger scale—as recently he was given to the ICC.  

Corruption in Africa is prominent and it is believed that more than anything what is plaguing Africa is not the lack of resources, infrastructure, stability or money, it is corruption. Corruption in Africa is not only labelled as cancerous but also ‘AIDS of democracy’.  We are at a point where we have to accept a bare minimum for corruption as a step to eliminate it.  

All in all, cleaning corruption in Africa is like cleaning an ocean—it is massive and takes time but, no matter what the step is (small or large), it can be done. For this to succeed a lot of people have to be on board—social responsibility is a must.  Accountability, transparency and the rule of law is key for a “democratic” country to function properly and for corruption to be eliminated. Most African countries plagued by corruption are usually missing one or two if not three of the factors mentioned above. Therefore, minding the time given, African countries can eliminate corruption as long as there are willing participants. In the case of al-Bashir, although his conviction can have a different intention, the outcome can and is favourable to the people of Sudan—justice can be served. 

Yordanos Woldesellassie is a member of the 2021 cohort of the Future Africa Fellowship.