Dec 9, 2011, 1:41 PM
In a recent address to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, Dr. Mo Ibrahim emphasised the need for US Africa policy to shift from a focus on individual heads of state and on naming and shaming, to a focus on institution building and incentives that encourage good leadership.
He said initiatives such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Natural Resource Charter were invariably more constructive than policies that blame and isolate individual leaders.
The chair of the Sub-Committee, Senator Christopher Coons, convened the hearing to examine the US policy response to entrenched African leadership.
Speakers included Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson, USAID Deputy Administrator for Africa Earl Gart and the National Democratic Institute’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Christopher Fomunyoh.
In his opening statement, Senator Coons said that African leaders who stay in power for decades, some by manipulating their country’s constitution or governing institutions “challenge U.S. values and objectives, including the promotion of democracy, transparency, and rule of law.”
This, he said, contributed to corruption, economic stagnation, a lack of accountability, and an inability of the government to effectively represent and respond to the needs of the people.
Dr. Ibrahim cautioned that “democracy and good governance are not American values; they are universal values”, and said it was important for the US to approach its support for national and regional governance efforts from that perspective.
In a pre-hearing exchange with Senator Coons and his colleagues, Dr. Ibrahim emphasised the importance of “creating a life after office” for Africa’s former leaders.
“Retired heads of state have vast experience and networks that could be brought to bear on some of the challenges facing the continent,” he added.
He pointed out that the Foundation’s Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership had been instituted not only to set examples for the continent, and prove that excellence in African leadership was indeed possible, but also to begin to address the problem of life after office for former presidents.