One of the questions thrown at our Foreign Minister and International Co-operation His Excellency, Bernard Membe during the London Diaspora conference in May came from a student. Amidst applause the UK based young fellow charged that money from the poor tax player is squandered by corrupt leaders who then send their children and families to foreign countries.
Mr Membe (above) started by asking if among present hundred plus delegates were any children of rich politicians. No-one raised a finger. The Foreign Minister then explained that these days there is so much transparency involved in putting money overseas that it is getting harder for African leaders (or any leaders from other parts of the world) to stash millions in overseas banks like the old days. There was no further questions regarding the matter, but then grievances across the continent continue growing.
Disgraced leaders during yesteryears continue finding ways back into power in many poor developing societies. Meantime as the old 1970’s Portuguese saying goes, A Luta Continua, i. e. “the struggle continues.”
In Tanzania the issue of our leaders misusing and stealing government funds has been attracting everyone’s attention since Mwalimu Nyerere resigned in 1985. It is common knowledge that at the time of death, in October 1999, Mwalimu Nyerere had no extraordinary riches (i.e. compared to his mates); actually one of his children is on record admitting how he struggled to study in Italy let alone make ends meet. It is an historical and obvious testament to the man’s credibility. Their father did not steal. Nyerere himself mocked leaders who use government premises as villas to spin money.
He said in an emotional speech in 1991: “The State House is stressful place; not a place to run to. The State House is not a business premise. Clean, honest people do not rush to be in Ikulu. If you see someone rushing there especially if he is buying votes and spending money to be there; fear that person like the leprosy disease.”
Mwalimu Nyerere in one of his typical down to earth modes....
Post Nyerere times have seen so much revulsion that a new word to describe this calamity is now part of Swahili’s political dictionary.
“Fisadi” which literary means a sleek, seducer and an evil lecher has had other similar words in the past like “Bwanyenye” (political capitalist) and “Wabenzi” (used in Kenya in the 1960’s when the new African political class bought Mercedes Benz as political status quo). Such words are associated with political distrust and irresponsible leadership.
In our neo colonial climate, such stealing is actually bad for international business to an extent that rich countries are getting concerned as pressures within developed world mount. Campaigns to help crisis ridden areas e.g. ongoing Kenya-Somalia famine make overseas citizens question whether “help” money will reach the intended. We are living in times of careful accountancy.
In 2002, BBC reported that Switzerland had returned $140 billion stuffed in their banks by former Nigerian leader, Sani Abacha and his family members.
Three years ago President Jakaya Kikwete announced 53 Billion Tanzanian shillings ($40 million) were to be recovered after vanishing during late Governor Daudi Ballali tenure.
African leaders are slowly, getting apprehensive. In April this year, Angola’s President Eduardo Dos Santos strongly denied that he had been stashing $20 billion in foreign banks. He allegedly asked for proof of the allegation that had been scattered around the internet.
And speaking of proof last week an outcome of an investigative dossier was announced in Paris. Prepared by the anti corruption group Sherpa and Transparency International the document has exposed several African leaders for squandering millions overseas.
The allegations include reports that President Robert Mugabe and his entourage of 70 personnel blew £12 million (approx Tshs 31 billion) in foreign travel in just 6 months this year. He is said to have surpassed his annual budget of £9 million (approx T shs 23). Zimbabwe’s “Daily News” charged that £12 million could have been used to fund 6 months of 600,000 HIV patients.
The anti-corruption group also named President Denis Sasso Nguesso of Congo (DRC) to own 16 houses in Paris. London’s Daily Mail filed a report from Peter Allen in Paris questioning how UK government’s foreign aid is being misused by these leaders. Others cited Ali Bongo (Gabon) who owns at least 39 properties in Paris and Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Nguema Mbasogo with houses worth £15 million in Paris. Mbasogo’s residences are used by family members while on shopping trips in France, it is alleged.
The claims also mentioned leaders in current, ongoing conflicts in Middle East as possessing properties in France. These are Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Bashar-Al Assad (Syria) and Muammar Gaddafi (Libya).
Reporter Allen says the main accusation of the dossier is that: “Money flooded into blighted African states was used to fund extravagant life styles of unelected leaders.”
Published in Citizen (with a difrferent headline) Friday 5th August