UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan chided African leaders for their penchant to clinch to power through fraudulent elections in a paper addressing African leaders.
He instead admonished them to invest in their country’s youth and build strong systems to deliver justice and development to their people.
Delivering his ‘treatise’ during a lecture on leadership and public service during dubbed ‘An afternoon with Kofi Annan’ organized by the alumni of his alma mater Mfantsipim College, the renowned Ghanaian international statesman who has spent more than five decades in public service also called on African citizens to contribute their quota towards the transformation of Africa.
He reproached African leaders saying “a growing number of Presidents are changing their constitutions and subverting elections to remain in power indefinitely. According to international watch dogs, democratic freedoms seem to be in retreat on our continent. Although governments organize elections, many lack integrity.”
He further decried the divisive politicking of ‘unscrupulous African leaders’ noting, ‘elections with integrity confer legitimacy on the winners and offers protection to the losers. But many elections have paradoxically exacerbated identity politics as unscrupulous politicians banded to ethnic and religious cravings and prejudices to mobilize voters in their favour.”
Ticking time bomb
‘These developments’ he warned ‘are all the more serious given the size and expectations of our youth population. African population will grow to 2 billion by 2050 and 4 billion by the end of the century. This demographic boom can be a blessing or a curse depending on the policies we adopt. But on current trends, there are grounds for concern.”
Death of African youth in Mediterranean is hurting and shocking
Even though African youth are ‘better educated, more connected with higher expectations as compared to previous generations’ Kofi Annan is worried their perspective are bleaker. ‘Every year, it hurts me, it hurts me and it shocks me to see thousands of young people drown in the Mediterranean in search for a better life because they do not think it is possible to have that life at home’.
Call for quality leaders
“No society can long prosper without respect for the rule of law and human rights. The key to our continent’s ability to chart the turbulent waters ahead will be the quality of our leadership. Africa needs courageous persistent and compassionate leaders who will tap into the continents vitality to create a better future,” he charged.
“We need true democratic leaders who understand that they are at the service of the citizens and not the other way around. Leadership is service. Leaders must understand that they hold power in trust of the people and it can also be taken away.”
Too few enlightened leaders in Africa
“Unfortunately, Africa has had too few of enlightened people of this kind. Part of the problem is that many countries have for too long invested too much power and hope in strong presidents. Others have been misled by leaders who use by leaders who use this argument to prolong their stay in office often aindefinitely” he regretted.
“A leader must listen’ he intimated continuing thus: ‘he must listen to what he said and above all what is not said. A good leader must also be a good follower. When leaders fail to lead the people will lead and make them follow. In addition, we also need strong institutions to buttress our system. We also need to think beyond the state. Strong businesses, strong civil societies to hold governments’ to the promises they make to the people will be just as important.”
Development not a one man show
Here called on all, to put their shoulders to the wheel to drive Africa’s development agenda. ‘This continent’s development cannot and will not come from a single leader. But from the collective ground swell of change and transformation. We each have a role to play.”
Enlightened Africa youth rooted in African values
He also called on African governments to invest in the youth and give them to opportunity to lead.
“We must offer our growing population, the opportunity for employment. We must allow African youth to lead us into the future with enlightened modernity rooted in African values. As we look to the future, we must remember the youth of the past leaders. Kwame Nkrumah was 48 when he became the first leader of Ghana in March 1957 and Gamel Abdul Nasser was 38 when he became Egypt’s second president in 1956. We must remember that one is not too young to lead nor too old to learn.”
Nuggets to chew on
“Today’s leaders must ponder important questions, is the welfare of the people the paramount occupation? Have we invested our revenues in areas that will benefit the people, particularly the young? Mfantsipim, after all, means a host of scholars for change. So many of us here were educated at a time, illuminated by the hope of liberation and African revolution. It is our responsibility then and our privilege as Mfantsipim Old boys to serve our people and make progress towards our vision of a successful Africa.”
“Both the years of Ghana’s independence when I graduated from Mfantsipim and decades later when I stepped down as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I found myself full of hope for Africa and our global home. I am less optimistic today although the pessimism of the intellect must be tempered by the optimism of will power.”
“Dear friends, we are at cross roads. The period of fast growth is over for the foreseeable future. Many of our countries squandered the opportunities that this period of what some call the super cycle for commodity prices provided. Today we have no choice but to pursue reform in straightened circumstances.”
Masters of our own destinies
“The decisions we take today, both in government, in business and civil society will determine whether the continent can ride the fourth wave successfully. We cannot fail to meet our youth’s aspiration with opportunity. More than ever, out future is in our hands. A bright African future is one that requires Africa’s people as central agents. We must ride the wave that begun long ago at independence to come together to affirm the way forward for the continent.”