It is roundly agreed that the African people who live in this continent are poor, and are as a consequence, badly ruled. It is also a fact that the continent itself is not poor; it has resources which are routinely exploited.
But that is the furthest point the agreement goes. We are not agreed on why we are poor or why we are misruled.
The majority of our people who bear the brunt of the misrule and the dehumanising poverty do not seem to know where to point their accusing finger; they blame it on the devil, as their pastors tell them during night prayers.
At the same time, Africa has a fair crop of its educated people, whose education is to be measured by their ability to express themselves, many of them fluently, either in English or French, even better in both languages.
These are the people that are in positions of leadership. They are supposed to think for their people.
Unfortunately, these “educated” people, though not the real cause of the poverty and misrule, are the drivers of these afflictions.
The sad part of this fact is that most of them do not know that they are unconscious drivers of these miserable conditions that they, sometimes unintentionally, inflict on their own people. Some of them would genuinely wish to help their people.
However, goodwill is irrelevant, if you are not clear about the problem you are trying to solve. Medical doctors say that accurate diagnosis of a disease is 50% of the cure because you know what you are dealing with.
Our educated people do not go for the proper diagnosis of what ails Africa, which is why we can never find the cure for poverty and bad governance.
Today, if you asked an African professor of political science, economics or law or any other scholar, or practising politician, what they think about Africa’s problems, they will without a second’s hesitation answer that it is corruption on the part of the African leaders, dictatorship, absence of democracy or simply leaders who do not want to leave office, as President Yoweri Museveni put it when he was beginning his long journey in power.
They would not give you a functional definition of “democracy”.
These answers are, in their short form, correct but simplistic because they cannot give a full explanation of the phenomenon. And without full answers, you cannot fix the problems of poverty and bad governance.
The short answers do not explain why African leaders are corrupt unless you attribute corruption to race. We have previously in this column discounted the race factor.
It is in the context of these simplistic answers that you will be able to explain why every simpleton holding out as a journalist, analyst or human rights activist derives satisfaction from abusing President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
If you asked any street urchin in Kampala, Nairobi or Lagos to give the name of the worst leader in the world, he will readily mention Mugabe because he has been conditioned to think so.
Unfortunately, it is also the same answer a seemingly informed scholar will give you. If we are to accurately diagnose Africa’s ailment, we must go back to the basics. Africa is endowed with the world’s most strategic resources; minerals, oil, good soils, weather and fresh water.
In Uganda, we suffered misrule of our past rogue rulers, Obote and Amin, but for all their sins, they did not steal the country’s wealth. It is said that during his first exile in Tanzania, Obote lived in poverty and survived only as a guest of the Tanzanian government.
We also know that Idi Amin lived in poverty in Saudi Arabia until his death. On the other hand, Mobutu of Zaire (now DRC) stole massively and hid his loot in banks abroad, but it is unlikely that what he took was even 1% of his country’s wealth.
So, who took or who takes the rest?
We must come to terms with the fact that we are poor because our resources are stolen, and that misrule is a consequence, not the cause.
It is unlikely that what has been stolen from our countries can all be found in our leaders’ wallets or bank accounts. What we see in those places is a good and illegal accumulation for themselves and their families, but not enough to account for everything that has been stolen from the continent.
Someone else is taking a lot more. To that end our leaders are actually well-remunerated security guards whose work is to keep us down as their masters continue to loot, exactly the way they have been doing since the advent of colonial aggression.
Independence was a change of guards. Instead of colonial governors, African rulers are doing the job.
Mugabe is “bad” because he is actually trying to rebel against the master, if only to reclaim at least the land.
For his vilification by Africans supposed to be educated, I feel pressed hard on the wall to concede that the African is a huge mass of flesh devoid of the human brain.
And for that we are meant to live in poverty under the rule of the foreign-tyrants.
The writer is a lawyer in private practice
By JB Kakooza, The new Vision