Africa, poverty, corruption and truth before cant.

Being text of the key note address given by Mr. Peter Pacqueens Aisagbonhi, Anti Corruption League, United Kingdom, at the 2006 African night in Kettering. Organised by NAS International UK, Kettering Racial Inter Social Partnership (KRISP) and the Kettering Borough council on Saturday, April 29, 2006. The honourable member of Parliament representing Kettering,
The lord Mayor and Mayoress
The NAS President world wide
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen.

One of the primary reasons why I stand to speak before such a distinguished audience tonight is the fact that I am a humble teacher of African origin who have lived in Kettering for 15 years. In addition to this, I am a member of KRISP, the public relations director for NAS International Charity and Anti Corruption League. These credentials in all humility equips me with a deeper perspective than most would have, vis-a-vis the objectives of this African night.

Over the last few years, I have been opportune to present papers in a variety of forum, addressing the theme of tonight’s event from different perspectives and it is these presentations that I intend to distil and present to you this evening as I believe that the issues raised still remain as relevant and as topical at present as it was in the past.

In September 1994, NAS International in association with the Evening Telegraph organised the first edition of the African night in Kettering and raised £1000 for the Oxfam Rwanda appeal fund. What we were driven by was a desire to place Man at the centre of our words, thoughts and deeds in a manner that was consistent and constant. Thinking and acting for the community of man – whether it be village, city or nation. Always seeking to find what more could be done to create an effective community coexisting for the general good and asking what could be done to enable the community attain the optimal fulfilment.

Noble as they are, these questions can only serve the community when they are matched by actions. It is to this end that the initiative known as the Kettering Racial Inter Social Partnership (KRISP) is highly appreciated, for the potential it has to create the enabling environment for positive action within our community. It is only through such initiatives that our diversity can be utilised to propound effective solutions to problems existing within the community.

Poverty in Africa is one of such problem that we as a community must stand up and face squarely. To quote an extract from a speech by the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, “There is a pain in the belly of Africa that just will not go away. It is gnawing at our development goals and undermining our economies. It is blighting the lives of the young and shortening the life span of the old; yet somehow it is getting forgotten. What is this scourge? A rampant virus with no cure? An insect that pricks our skin and poisons our blood? If it were so dramatic and captivating, it might gather more attention. In fact, it is much more prosaic. It is hunger that is the scourge of Africa. It is advancing rather than receding, and consuming more lives today than ever before.

A hungry person is an angry and dangerous person. It is in all our interests to take away the cause of this anger. There is a saying in my country: when you take hunger out of poverty, poverty is halved. That is why it is crucial we give top priority to ridding ourselves of this blight on development.”

But is poverty the main issue in Africa? In February, this year, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt. Hon. Jack Straw visited Nigeria to deliver the 10th Annual Murtala Muhammed Memorial Lecture and described poverty as a major hindrance to Africa’s development and recommended a new agenda. He listed conditions African countries had to confront in order to succeed.

The conditions included poverty reduction and development; governance; peace and security; conflicts; terrorism; migration; crime and drug; energy security; environment.

Shockingly, Corruption was never at any time mentioned explicitly as a condition in its own right. It was masked by the term ‘good governance’ which made all his conditions seem rather cosmetic and lukewarm.

In Africa, corruption is more than a virus; it is deadlier than cancer or any other disease for that matter. It is as potent if not more, than any weapon for mass destruction. It is a biological, chemical and nuclear bomb all rolled into one, which has been released in every country in the continent by the leaders against their own people.
Amongst the fall outs from corruption are poverty, ignorance and astronomical death rates, amongst others.
Corruption in Africa does not just affect the people within the African continent; it has a global effect as well, notably through mass migration

On the June 25, 2005, at a NAS organised conference In Holland on the theme: Immigration, Integration and the New World Order, I made this point and please permit me to read part of it.
“Migration or immigration may be viewed as a natural and predictable response to differences in the countries of origin and destination. Most significantly, economic, demographic, and socio-political differences between areas prompt large-scale migration.
There is a big difference in the motivating factors between economic migration from Africa and Europe. Economic migration here is compelled by the absence of a choice, usually dictated by abject poverty. This is a self inflicted poverty, brought about by gross economic mismanagement, self-serving governmental policies and high-level corruption.
The consequences include inadequate or poorly formed socio-political structures and weak economic institutions. Because of its distortion effects on resource allocation, entire economies are very often severely weakened and debased. Important decisions are guided not by prudent public policy but by individual greed."
Corruption therefore plays a very big part in influencing decision to migrate, as a result of appalling standard of living arising from bad management and self serving policies, usually embarked on by corrupt leaders. Therefore to eradicate corruption in its entirety is synonymous with transparency and accountability on the part of the government
In this 21st-century, all these should no longer be a problem of unimaginable magnitude. There is a simple solution to all this. Some have suggested that making poverty history will go a long way in. But in the case of Africa, it will not solve the problem. What will solve the problem is winning the war against corruption. It is corruption, at the leadership level, that is the root cause of African poverty and thus migration.
A new world order without corruption, will lead to massive economic development. As a result, we will have more capital flow of investments rather than one-sided flow of migration”.
In recent times the Prime Minister has canvassed for £50 billion aid increment to Africa.
In the same period, more than £25 billion was stolen from the continent by means such as fraud and laundered in Europe with the United Kingdom and Switzerland as major destinations.

In Africa, wars are fought as a result of disagreements over the distribution of resources amongst the elite. Destruction of lives and property is the preferred option using weaponry acquired from outside the Continent. Where do these weapons come from?
Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Congo do not manufacture the weapons they deploy to protect the interests of the corrupt leadership. One could go on ad infinitum

The rest of the world in general and Africans in Diaspora in particular can no longer afford to sit in the comfort of isolation. A keen interest must be taken in the push to ridding the continent of corruption and its siblings by at least utilising the democratic structures and processes in place.

The evils of corruption must be clearly expounded until our voices are heard and the desired action followed. Nothing stops us from acting in the manner a vigilante group will act, in order to make the looting of resources and subsequent laundering an impossibility. Those African leaders that steal from their national treasuries and then come to Europe to keep the loot, are not just corrupt they are criminals and should be treated as such.

As Africans located here, we must meet our hosts, at least half way, by being more positive and proactive in affairs that have to do with Africa through our own ways enhanced by the opportunities graciously made available by a level playing field.

I urge Africans to make our various host countries appreciate that despite some asset recovery successes several African countries are experiencing difficulties in obtaining appropriate mutual legal assistance in their endeavour to trace, seize, recover and repatriate assets and monies illegally appropriated and transferred abroad by their government officials and other collaborators

We must continuously think about our plundered continent. We must demand a sustainable democratic political system to redress issues from shoddy health care, dire educational system and rampant official corruption. It is no longer enough to just send money home through western union and feel that we are doing our bits. As you can see, the situation gets worse, only through organised participation can we really make a difference. Let us redefine the Millennium developmental goals (MDG) to suit our situation. It is only by doing this that we will along the lines espoused by the Rt. Hon. Jack Straw turn Africa around into the miracle of the 21st century in 10 years

Thank you and May God bless you all.

Peter Pacqueens Aisagbonhi