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Good governance a necessary factor

Jun 29, 2011, 12:33 PM

If the recent protests in Senegal are anything to go by, the people of that country have made it categorically clear to incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade that they have grievances.

The latest protest on Monday over power cuts, came just a week after rioting triggered by a proposal from President Abdoulaye Wade to change the country’s constitution.

Wade had wanted to reduce the percentage of votes needed to win a presidential election - and avoid a run-off - from more than 50% down to a 25% threshold.

Critics said the amendment was designed to ensure that President Wade, 85, would be re-elected next year against a fractured opposition.

This possible eventuality was what dismayed many people in Senegal, most of whom took to the streets.

African leaders must understand that they are only political appointees, that were given a mandate to run the affairs of their various countries, and they must therefore not see or believe that those countries are their personal properties.

From the look of things, once elected into office, most African leaders tend to believe that only they can be trusted in running the affairs of their countries.

Presidential succession in Africa has also become something that is always fraught with crisis, or violence that leads to untold loss of lives and perennial political instability.

Both Kenya and Zimbabwe are still reeling from the aftermath of presidential succession crisis, which all boils down to the governance crises in most of Africa.

The fact that African strongmen invariably become intoxicated by power, has been the main cause.

There is much that is wrong with leadership on the continent. When state resources are plundered with reckless abandon by the very people who are entrusted with their management, a country sinks: infrastructure decays and social and economic obligations are left unattended to.

As a result, poverty takes centre-stage. When leaders are richer than their countries, that is not good governance; it is executive daylight robbery.

In such a situation, the people are left to fight over the crumbs that fall off a leader’s table.

This has given rise to sycophancy as a survival strategy in many an African countries.

The solution, as we see it, is that good governance remains the best policy for all states in the continent.

In this context, leaders have to be faithful to their electoral promises and keep faith with the people from whom they derive their mandate.

They have to govern transparently without recourse to brute force, when they are called upon to give an account of their stewardship.

They have to manage state and national resources for the benefit of everyone, without enriching themselves and their allies at the expense of the masses.

It is only in Africa that people take a public office as a medium to acquire wealth. In other parts of the world, a public position is seen as an opportunity for service to the community.

“Good government could never be a substitute for government by the people themselves”.

Sir Bannerman Campbell