Kenyan academic, Professor Patrick Lumumba, says Africa is cursed with poor political leadership and that Africans should voice their displeasure and demand more.
“The rank of many political leaders in Africa are thieves. Let’s call them by their names. They are thieves. They are individuals who are not interested in the interests of their countries.
“As long as we continue electing such individuals into positions of power they are going to be manipulated. What then is the responsibility of the citizenry? It’s to make demands,” he said.
He called on Africans to be more aggressive in their demand for better leadership.
He added: “We must keep on shouting without being diplomatic because diplomacy is lulling us into a false sense of security.”
Lumumba was speaking during a panel discussion at the 10th National Security Symposium in Kigali, Rwanda, which brought together some of Africa’s foremost Pan-African scholars, civic society activists and politicians.
The event was jointly organised by the Rwanda Defence Force Command and Staff College, and the University of Rwanda under the theme “Foreign Interference in Africa: The Enduring Destabilising Factor”.
“Interference in Africa started with slavery. When slavery lost its value it graduated to colonisation. That’s the context in which the Berlin Conference (15 November 1884 – 26 February 1885) must be seen,” he said.
But when African countries regained their independence from the West, they did so by mimicking governance systems of the West. Thereafter, neo-colonialism set in and it’s the most dangerous stage, he warned.
He said: “We are now in a neo-colonial stage, when the European powers are at their most diabolical. When the Americans are at their most diabolical.”
This, he said, as global powers were due to meet for the Group of 7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan.
Lumumba also said the G7 in Africa was interfering with the military on the continent and “ensure that you in the military are trained in Sandhurst (Royal Military Academy) [and] West Point (a US military school).”
“They affect your mind,” he said.
While top African military personnel continue to attend these schools, some graduates have gone on to execute coups in their home countries.
Four of Africa’s youngest leaders are aged between 34 and 42 and came into power through military coups.
They attended military schools in France, Germany and the United States.
Lumumba also spoke about the West’s diplomatic interference in Africa, the debt trap and how African leaders were treated as second class to their Western counterparts.
He said: “They have interfered diplomatically, sometimes through gunboat diplomacy, and that is why sometimes you see your typical European ambassadors treat our heads of state in a condescending manner.”
“They interfere through institutions such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank. They interfere by ensuring that our economic infrastructure is beholden to theirs. They interfere through dollarisation, through education, by influencing our processes,” he said.
According to the World Bank, the debt of low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa increased to about R15.70 trillion (about US$789 billion) in 2021, from about R14.04 trillion (US$702 billion in 2020).
Since the beginning of the year, debt owed by African countries to China and the US has been a source of a geopolitical tug-of-war between the two powers.
“By [foreigners] lending us advisors who tell us what to do, the neo-colonial project is alive and well and it is at its most dangerous and we Africans must smell the coffee,” he added.
Lumumba added that Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) were “trojan horses” introduced to infiltrate African societies and institutions.
He also had reservations about the ownership of the African Development Bank (AFDB).
As of 2021, Japan is the largest shareholder with a 15.6% stake, followed by the United States (15.6%), China (6.4%), India (6.3%) and Australia (5.8%).
Lumumba added that the continued influence of the British on Africa was through the Commonwealth.
France on the other hand, he said, maintained its hold on former colonies through the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.
Quoting one of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which evolved into the AU, Lumumba said: “Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana’s first president) warned us. He said, ‘If we are not united, they are going to interfere with us militarily, they are going to interfere with our economy, they are going to interfere with our agriculture, they are going to interfere with our health.’
“I hope that when heads of states meet in Addis Ababa next week it will not be another jamboree at which proforma speeches are read.”
He added:”I hope it will be an occasion to give meaning to Africa’s Agenda 2063; I hope it will be an occasion to give meaning to the African Continental Free Trade Area and an occasion to revitalise the Malabo Declaration.”
The Malabo Summit reaffirmed that agriculture was a crucial policy initiative for African economic growth and poverty reduction and that it should stay high on the continent’s development agenda.
Lumumba said it would only be possible to deal with the new scramble for Africa, which has seen the US, China, Turkey, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries want to control a stake in Africa, if African leaders spoke through one voice and not as individual nations.
“At times I wish, we too had a nuclear weapon because that is what Europe and Americans understand,” he said.
Lumumba urged the AU to move towards self-sustainability and fund itself because it’s at the mercy of foreign powers who detect what should be done.
That’s why, instead of the Sudan crisis being solved in Africa, meetings are being held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – an African problem being solved by non-Africans, he pointed out.
Africa Day is on 25 May, and the African Union will be celebrating 60 years in existence.