Fighting graft in Africa. Or not.
A little while back, we asked who is and isn’t fighting corruption effectively in Africa. This week, a number of examples bring us back to the subject.
In Tanzania, two former ministers have been charged with flouting procurement rules over the award of a tender for auditing gold mining back in 2002. The pair, who deny wrongdoing, served in the government of President Jakaya Kikwete’s predecessor Benjamin Mkapa. One of them also served under Kikwete himself.
Tanzania’s pledge to fight corruption is under close donor scrutiny and given the level of aid that Tanzania gets – more than one tenth of GDP by 2005 figures – it has little choice but to show willing. There have been doubts in the past, however, about how serious the government really was about going after the most senior and the best connected.
“By hauling the long-serving politicians to court, the Government has dispelled the rumour that some influential personalities are being shielded,” commented The Citizen newspaper of the charges against the former ministers.
Is Tanzania’s anti-graft drive now fully on course or will these two turn out to be scapegoats while others are ignored?
In Nigeria, the troubles of the former head of the anti-corruption agency are back in the headlines.
Nuhu Ribadu was sacked by President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration despite winning favour from many Nigerians, foreign investors and western donors as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. He had targeted some senior politicians and was widely credited with doing more than anyone had previously, although critics accused him of pursuing only those out of favour with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Ribadu’s position has been getting ever rockier since he was sacked and demoted. At the weekend, he and his family were bundled out of a graduation ceremony from the government institute where he was sent after being fired from his top post – although the presidency later intervened to say he would get his certificate after all and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
“The entire Ribadu family must by now be wondering, as are millions of other Nigerians, if it’s a curse to serve this country with all one’s heart and whether it’s a country worth dying for,” wrote Thisday’s Funke Aboyade after the ceremony.
Ribadu may now face a police disciplinary panel next month. Meanwhile, a top official of the anti-corruption agency has resigned after failing to report suspicious payments, another setback for the troubled body.
The very different examples bring up the issue of how politics complicates the fight against corruption – something in no way exclusive to Africa. Is it possible to fight corruption without truly independent and trustworthy police and courts? And if not, how is it possible to put those in place when leaders promise to stamp out graft but fail to live up to their words?
As one Nigerian leader remarked not so long ago: “This administration will mobilise all resources at its disposal to fight the menace of corruption.”
President Yar’Adua? His predecessor President Obasanjo? No. That was General Sani Abacha, who died in suspicious circumstances a decade ago with billions of dollars thought to be stashed in foreign bank accounts (If you still get emails from people purporting to be his relatives, it’s probably best not to reply).