Perspectives

January 7, 2010
West African leaders pledge to battle corruption


Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson

Ayo Johnson is a contributing blogger for Worldfocus. He writes about how West African presidents are taking the lead in the fight against corruption.

The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana are raising the bar for the continent by declaring publicly their commitment to fight corruption.

The Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma became the first head of state to declare his assets to the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia went one step further,  offering financial incentives for whistleblowers to expose corrupt officials. The Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills has refused to accept gifts from anyone.

All three presidents have sent the vitally important message: corruption will not be accepted in any form.

The issue of corruption has long been a cancer and a shameful scourge on the African continent. It is estimated that corruption cost the African continent over $150 billion a year. That is money that could have been spent on health education and building up the rural economy.

As awareness of issues surrounding corruption has intensified in the world, some African nations like Sierra Leone are now beginning to change their laws to make it harder for corrupt officials to stash stolen money in foreign banks.

The presidents of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana have shown great courage and exemplary leadership by leading the fight against corruption for the rest of Africa to follow.

Developed nations in the West now have a positive role to play, in promoting good governance and monitoring poorer economies.

- Ayo Johnson

An editorial in Sierra Leone’s Daily Mail echos that sentiment.

‘Cor­rup­tion in Africa ranges from high-level polit­i­cal graft on the scale of mil­lions of dol­lars to low-level bribes to police offi­cers or cus­toms offi­cials. In as much as polit­i­cal graft imposes the largest direct finan­cial cost on coun­try, petty bribes have a cor­ro­sive effect on basic insti­tu­tions and under­mine pub­lic trust in the gov­ern­ment…. Africans must demand trans­parency and account­abil­ity in gov­ern­ment. Inde­pen­dent Cor­rup­tion watch­dogs free from gov­ern­ment con­trol and influ­ence must be estab­lished to inves­ti­gate, pros­e­cute and severely pun­ish offi­cials who engage in cor­rupt prac­tices. The peo­ple should be given access to state rev­enue sta­tis­tics in all its form through pub­li­ca­tion in local media. We must take con­trol of our country’s finances and end this era of cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment of our wealth and resources.

With the recent discovery of oil in Sierra Leone, investors are pouring into the country looking to get a piece of the liquid gold. This article from the Daily Nation reports on the oil discovery and its link to corruption.

Sierra Leone’s anti-corruption commissioner has a simple message for foreign investors coming to his country for its mines and oil — offer bribes and you could find yourself in prison….The former human rights and insurance lawyer said his commission would have no compunction about prosecuting corrupt foreign investors in court in the capital Freetown, and that could land them in a Sierra Leonean prison.

Still, anti-corruption efforts face serious challenges in Africa.  Among them, as Forbes columnist John Hooker argues, are traditional practices that worked well in different settings in many non-Western countries.

In a traditional village context, African leaders earned respect by judiciously bestowing gifts and favors on their subjects. That wasn’t simply a patronage system; it was also a form of rational redistribution. The chief channeled wealth where it was most needed, increasing the community’s survival advantage. With the coming of colonialism and Western-style institutions, men frequently left villages to take government jobs in the capital. They continued to use gifts to obtain influence, but they left behind the social context that had structured and guided the practice. Responsible generosity became irresponsible influence peddling.

Business executives operating in Africa today should try to earn the influence they need through responsible generosity. They might build infrastructure or schools instead of paying off officials or political parties. There–and in general–the key to avoiding corruption is to understand what makes the local business culture work, and to stick to practices that reinforce the system, not ones that tear it apart.

- Stephanie Savage

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Comments

26 comments

#26

Great piece Ayo, but facing reality, corruption does not end with a mere stand or comments by the Heads of State.Corruption is endemic in Africa and will take a while to eradicate. The notion of a corrrupt free country must be inculcated into the mind of the kids in pre-school and this notion be maintained till they graduate from college. If the mind set of the young people is not geared towards this, then the eradication of corrupt practices is far fetched.
Great moves by the leaders, but are other civil servants working towards this.
When kickbacks from contractors are a thing of the past, then we are on the way to eradicating corruption. Keep up the struggle bro.

#25

I keep noticing people are writing “Africa” and not specific countries in the continent. Rwanda is doing a wonderful job in providing healthcare for 99% of its people (national healthcare), building roads, hospitals, and schools, and increasing the importance of sex education. There are other African countries that are developing just like Rwanda. I wish people would be specific about African countries and not the continent as a whole. The Dominican Republic (DR) and Haiti are two nations on the same island, but the DR is outshining Haiti in economic development, health and wellness, and everything else. And yes, the DR’s population is over 90% people of African descendent (the indienous people died decades before the Black slaves came to work on the island). Let us make sure we seperate nations and not lump them together as if they are the same.

#24

I pray to God that we are definitely on the road to eradicating corruption from Africa but being a realist, I will reserve my jubilation until such time in the next few years when the evidence is there for all to see.

#23

Interesting and fascinating article. I’m happy Africans are increasingly aware of corruption lately and we must all join forces in eradicating this ‘cancerous’ disease in our society at whatever cost. We must also be aware of companies based in emerging economies, giants such as China, India and Russia spreading their influence in Africa and are perceived to routinely engage in bribery when doing business abroad(According to Tranparency International, Bible Prayers Index). Some of us may think that these so called companies are going to places like SL, Liberia or Ghana to help; our governments should think carefully before engaging with theme. Ultimately, their aim/mentality is ‘what is it for them’; not necessarily in the best interest of our people.

#22

Yes Ayo, i believe Corruption is impeding all the developmental aspirations of the People of Africa. If ever Afica has to act, it most be radical and spontaneous. i don’t trust African leaders. they themselves are part of the problem. In Most countries today, the people don’t deserve the kind of leaders they have. Gaining leadeship in Africa is … See Morenot about having a proven scientific and statistically proven manefesto, but belonging to a cabal that is remoting the hem of power for there own self interest. I hope and pray that we do not resort to wars if the aims and aspirations of the people are not translated into realities. we should be realist and not traditionist and fashionist( fantasist). we need that synergy to pull together, giuded by the rule of law. No bogus statement can change the situation for the better. LONTA

#21

lord i thank you…it has been a long time coming…let’s keep the faith,i can assure you that this time around there is a vibrant and concious breed of up and coming young men that are going to work towards changing the face of Africa…and this is a welcome relief to all…i have taken investors to Sierra Leone…and just coz we refuse to follow the usual bribery and corrupt practices we were treated like foreigners…so we suspended all projects that could be creating employment and improving the economic condition of the country…i went on further to ask that the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington D.C remove the notice you first see as you walk in the building….asking for folks in the diaspora to invest in the struggling economy….because it is a travesty and very hypocritical…i have spoken to few upright officials in Freetown and they are ready to turn their back to favouratism and corrupt practices that has seen the fabrics of our communities stripped and Sierra Leone as a country is been casted away to the doldrums of yester years….thanks Mr Johnson…it for sure brings a glimmer of hope to my flegging passion towards a better Sierra Leone. LBJ

#20

Well done to these leaders for being proactive and leading by example, Ernest did this whilst I was in Sierra Leone but how much change has it made?

The other ministers still have not declared anything and anti-corruption is still corrupt.
I do not want to sound negative as I understand that development takes time. But will it make a difference?

Another comment I would like to make is, how corrupt is Africa? Look at Britain the ministers get paid thousands more and are now being investigated for staff expenses on 2nd homes! Is not 1 home enough? Corruption is everywhere but some hide it better than others.

#19

Developed nations in the West now have a positive role to play, in promoting good governance and monitoring poorer economies.—– They should not monitor us. We should monitor ourselves…

#18

I dont think Africa can do much to help. The problem of terrorism has no roots in Africa. Its roots are in conflict between (holy books), injustice (Israeli policy), geo-sentiments and general defective, non-universal thinking.

#17

Happy new year Ayo,corruption has been our greatest problem in africa,when are the leaders going to rise against it?it won’t be easy.we are still praying that.God will help us to rise up against these leaders we looking up to set example.

#16

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#15

No doubt these leaders are doing a good move. Africa’s main problem is curruption. However almost all of the leaders come to power with the same message- fighting curruption. They all know that is the main paralysingly thing to our development. Like a saying in my language “if you ask the mouse to behave, then you should also tell that good smelling food to reduce its smell.” So like Ayo said It is also a responsibilty on other nations especially the west to help promote this fight against curruption.  Remember most of the stolen money end up in the banks in the west. Also like J E Casely Hayford said the failure of African leaders, is taking advantage of, by the very people who preached to them moral excelence. For sometimes narrow minddness is the sickness of our leaders, not forgeting that power mentality often leads to that. I don’t think accepting gifts is a bad thing, but how that give is used and for what purpose it was given can be bad. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that these African leaders stay people conscious and keep fighting the perpetrators of this insane enemy- curruption and that other nations follow them.  

#14

Fighting corruption in Africa is an up hill task.See my recent publications on
http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/spip.php?rubrique6

#13

Africa need such initiative to move ahead.

#12

It is not the garrulous aspect that matters but the symbolical symbolism said one African politician.It is not talk, talk and talk that matters but what you do after the talk. Other African leaders in the past pledged similar thing de facto they were the perpetrators of what they pledged to do and they continued to be the perpetrators with nothing in effect. In a country like Sierra Leone where the pay of government officials does not match the level of inflation how is this going to work? Inform us please Ayo about where these three leaders are going to start what they have pledged and how they are going make it work. If they do not know where to start bearing in mind the sensitivity of man to changes this will spark the unthinkable.

#11

corruption would continue until those in power follow the rule of law. the attorny general follows rule of law in tryign to persecute those accused. and those accused have a free and fair trial and it does not become a political witch hunt on either side. but until our leaders hold those accountable in their camp all the talk would be to no avail.

#10

My dear Celeste, it would be unfitting to compare or rate the actions of our leaders with a solitary icon. Each of them must bear the burden, or reap the glory of being a precursor to a new era. We must set for them standards, higher than Mandela attained. Mandela did what they are doing now, and as democratically elected men and women…….their time is horribly limited!!!!! African tradition has a saying, that is generic to the ethnic groups of Africa “a son, or daughter, must improve on the achievements and good deeds of the father”, we must demand nothing less and expect much more of them.The leaders of the present are in a unique position to offer more information, and a better quality of life to the African than ever before. But it gladdens my heart that you say this, because you have set for them, the highest standard of the recent past. They must better that!!!!

#9

“Well and Good, Grandiose and Appropriate” i have no intentions of casting gloom on the noble venture of the Three. Yet i cannot help but pose this question………Will the integrity displayed, and the new culture promoted by these leaders permeate the general leadership culture of the continent and trickle down to their underlings in government and local corporations, or is this a proverbial flash in the pan, evidenced by similar eras in the continent’s past?..i prefer to be selfish and offer my inadequate contribution to an answer….. that,”until the continent’s leaders (not a single one excluded, from local government to private investment, to education),offer a concerted approach, and give the citizens of Africa access to their Right- unfettered access to information, and accountability in the execution of their duties….. the task will always remain in the offing. The independent “good governance” commissions in Ghana, Sierra Leone and a host of others across the continent, must be strengthened and replicated, to cover and have greater access to the mechanics of government/private enterprise function. Our “leaders” in my opinion are not inherently corrupt, they simply exist in a bubble filled with a lack of accountability to the people they serve, which of course deadens their political morality….but suffice it to say, we are headed in the right direction. ………..

#8

hope it will work. I think that as long as they won’t show any examples of a powerful man being penalised for corruption, they won’t understand. some are reallt arrogant and think they will never get punished. but at least it’s good to know that some Politicians are against it and speak out. thanks Ayo and keep us updated with the follow-ups on this story ok?!

#7

By Gods Grace they will succeed!!!

#6

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#5

Thank goodness SOMEONE out there not only possesses the ability to actually DO something about themselves, their country, and the people they lead, but that they are willing to and actually ARE DOING something about it, gives us hope that our future generations DO have something to look forward to in life! :) THANK YOU Mr and Mrs Presidents!!!! I can now rate you on the same level as our own honorary icon… Nelson Mandela!!!! :)

#4

Ayo Johnson sent me here & all I have to say is that God is good all the time and I am so happy things are changing for our beautiful beautiful people. Love is the answer always!

#3

My beloved brother i think its high time african as a whole fight this negative trade of corrupation and bribery and it was very pleasing that the head of state of sierra leone Ernest Bai Koroma and eileen johnson and the ghana leader are right on track concerning thisn issue as the so called corrupators within these states will be afraid to steal our national resources as the government is stamping out corrupation on a large scale to eradicate it, it must first be from the top and right down to the bottom. As a whole thank God our african leaders have started to see what they can do form their beloved countries. May it continue in the mighty name of Jesus.

#2

Thank you for this read - It is important for the world to know that there are African leaders ready to create an environment of integrity and transparency within their countries - these actions can only impact positively on their political growth and development and foster greater social change and hope for their peoples..

#1

It’s been a long time coming. This is exactly what we need. Africa shall Rise! Thanks Mr. Johnson! Keep up the great work!

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