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Perhaps improved governance will take hold before democracy. Africa is liberalizing, but it will take time, and one must be prepared to persevere for a long haul. Participants identified the major reasons for poor governance and "bad" politics in African countries as the personalized nature of rule, the failure of the state to advance and protect human rights, the tendency of individuals to withdraw from politics, and the extreme centralization of power in the hands of few people.

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It was pointed out also that democracy in Africa has been badly hindered by the state's control of the economy; this has meant that the only way to get rich has been through political office, intensifying the problem of corruption, and inducing leaders to cling to political power. This has been disastrous for the economies in African countries. Thus, economic liberalization, empowering ordinary producers, may well be an aid to political democracy.

Furthermore, in most African countries, the small number of individuals with power have managed to erode any semblance of accountability, legitimacy, democracy, and justice, which has been a basis of considerable disappointment to the planners, economists and policy makers who want African governments to introduce a reasonable and collective attack on poverty, disease, illiteracy, and other challenges to development.

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In the deliberations, certain desperately needed elements of good governance were identified, including popular participation in governance, accountability and transparency, the elimination of corruption, the protection of freedom of information and human rights, and the decentralization and devolution of power. Africans have acknowledged that development must be revamped by a democratic approach employing the energy and devotion of African people—who alone can make development sustainable.

This recognition emerged from the Arusha Conference "Putting the People First" of February , convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and attended by over delegations representing grass roots organizations, nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, and governments. The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation , which was adopted by the plenary, holds that the absence of democracy is a principal reason for the persistent development challenges facing Africa: 6.

We affirm that nations cannot be built without the popular support and full participation of the people, nor can the economic crisis be resolved and the human and economic conditions improved without the full and effective contribution, creativity, and popular enthusiasm of the vast majority of the people. After all, it is to the people that the very benefits of development should and must accrue. We are convinced that neither can Africa's perpetual economic crisis be overcome, nor can a bright future for Africa and its people see the light of day unless the structures, pattern, and political context of the process of socioeconomic development are appropriately altered.

In the three workshops, the importance of popular participation in building democratic society likewise was underscored: "The significance of ordinary people having power is important in any society moving toward democracy. When one examines existing democratic societies, one realizes they have succeeded primarily because they have involved people to help make it work. Also, they have empowered those engaged in democratic projects.

In short, they have succeeded by giving voice to those who have been voiceless. In discussions on the importance of popular participation in democracy, participants suggested distinguishing between "true" and "false" participation. As such, critics of the government either are intimidated or absorbed.

Foreign nongovernmental organizations also tend to work with governments and may be used by them in order to promote government patronage. Furthermore, participants noted that the legal restrictions on participation remaining in some countries would have to be removed. For example, it was noted that "measures that require the registration of civic associations, such as trade unions or student movements, have been used by governments to dissolve associations on petty pretexts. It also was suggested that civic associations become institutionalized and begin to support one another.

Explicit measures to this end have been taken in Zambia since the recent presidential elections. One participant also pointed out that nongovernmental organizations in Namibia were inculcating a sense of participatory democracy in their projects, including in the schools. In discussing the relationship between participation and efficiency, the question of what is meant by efficiency was raised.

Participants suggested that "a technocratic approach to efficiency takes political issues out of the hands of the people and stifles participation.

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One classic example of this approach has been the imposition of structural adjustment programs, under which the entire management of the economy is removed from the realm of participatory politics. If, on the other hand, the efficiency of the government is to be measured by its ability to meet the needs of its people, then a high level of participation can only promote this end. Discussions could have helped people to be prepared for the impact of reforms.

In this manner, perhaps the reforms even could have been softened. If efficiency is measured by the government's ability to meet the needs of its people, they suggest, then "the first task of government is to make sure citizens' lives improve on a daily basis, because if citizens do not see improvement, their enthusiasm for supporting government policies wanes. There was overwhelming agreement among participants that poor governance has adversely affected the efficient use of economic and social resources for development in African countries.

The misuse or diversion of assistance and domestic funds by corrupt officials, which was tolerated during the cold war to receive support in the international system, is being replaced by a new emphasis on good governance.

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In the past, said a number of participants, "aid appeared to be driven by certain political factors without a congruence of interests between givers and receivers. Among some participants, the assumption is that such groups can act as watchdogs, serving as the best deliverers of assistance; a number of participants did not agree, arguing that newly democratic governments should receive and channel such aid.


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In any society, holding citizens responsible for their actions, in public service and the private sector, is significant to ensure some level of accountability. With regard to public officials, participants pointed out that mechanisms must be devised to hold leaders responsible when they use public resources in ways that society considers unacceptable. To that end, they noted that any public accountability system should include periodic competition and a clear set of rules and expectations.

Participants emphasized the notion that the principle of accountability, essential to democracy, requires exposing the truth, with stated and enforced consequences for violating the rules, without exception, even for those in power. The lack of accountability in Africa has led to the gross misuse of public resources. For example, single-party systems in Africa do not allow for much in the way of accountability.

The effect has been rampant corruption and the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions—an indication that people in Africa were governed without being able to control their governors. One participant argued: "Besides financial and economic accountability, there is also a need for electoral accountability, for the right to recall representatives if they do not deliver on their promises and don't govern well. International financial institutions and bilateral donors have addressed their expectations of both economic and financial accountability from African countries.

The economic objectives of public accountability sought by. This not only requires systems of financial accountability, but also the capacity and willingness to monitor the overall economic performance of the government. Another challenge discussed under the rubric of good governance was to achieve transparency in government transactions.

In most African countries, participants noted that it is difficult to find functioning establishments in which government accounts, external procurement procedures, and central bank operations are discussed objectively: "In examining the way the economy is managed and the structure of relationships between government and society, there is need for greater transparency.

The state must be deprivatized [from domination by the few] and a public arena must be created where there would be room for argument and discussions based on what is good for the entire society. Things should be argued in public terms so that everyone can participate on an equal basis.

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Several participants pointed out that government should not conceal information from its citizens. A number of suggestions were put forward by participants regarding the ways in which transparency might be achieved in Africa. These included freedom of the press, donors' insistence that governments make their ledgers and gazettes public knowledge, requiring declarations of assets from public officials, exposing and confronting corruption, and accountability from below.

Some participants also raised the question of whether donors genuinely verify democratic conditions in recipient countries, such as Liberia and Kenya. In the case of Liberia, participants suggested U. With regard to Kenya, participants pointed out the inconsistency in application of the good government policy advocated by the British, compared with other bilateral donors. Despite Daniel arap Moi's initial reluctance to yield to the demands for multiparty politics, Kenya received substantial British investment and was defended by both Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd and Aid Minister Lynda Chalker as having a good human rights record.

One participant argued, "Perhaps democracy is being used as a legitimation of intervention. There is a need for transparency in the advice donors give to African governments. When projects [that have been agreed on behind closed doors] fail, the onus is put on African governments. In this regard, it was suggested that donors also need to apply governance reforms to the way they conduct business. One participant stated, "Having worked for several aid agencies, I will add that the donors need to undertake governance reforms.

I hope that the progressive and democratic forces in Africa both during and after the transition will demand those reforms of the donors. For example, demand the publication of confidential reports of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. They are confidential only in lessening the level of accountability of these agencies to populations and opposition.

I think there should be much more transparency in the policy-making process, especially during structural adjustment negotiations. That lack of transparency has satisfied only the donors and the governments, and it will be interesting to see, after the transition, whether newly democratic governments will open up this process to the press, and I think they should, because it will much improve the structural adjustment process. The issue of corruption was identified as posing a profound threat to all systems of government.

In most African countries, corruption constitutes an important means by which individual wants and needs, especially in patronage-ridden personal regimes, can be satisfied. Although corruption is a general problem for all governments, governments of developing countries tend to exhibit the problem in a particularly noteworthy way.


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  • In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zaire, and the Central African Republic, corruption is so extensive that it is viewed as a way of life. Making or receiving bribes in most African countries is considered a practical tactic to look after one's needs and interests, achieving incomes and security far greater than provided by one's monthly salary. Because of an absence of effective structures with autonomy and strength to check corruption, the governing elites of most African countries have engaged in high and sometimes egregious levels of corruption, increasingly diverting state resources for personal gain.

    In Zaire, for example, one participant mentioned that corruption has been termed a structural fact, with as much as 60 percent of the annual budget misappropriated by the governing elite. Foreign aid, noted the participants, although designed to contribute to development, also has served as an alternative source of wealth for corrupt elites. One commented: "While many African leaders have become rent-seeking and corrupt, there is a corruptor and a corruptee. They then. It was also pointed out that, to the extent that government has been immersed in patron-client relations and in cases in which state office is granted as a means to amass personal wealth, corruption has increased in scale and proportion.

    One significant suggestion advanced by participants in both the Benin and Namibia workshops was that public monies siphoned off by corrupt leaders and public officials and deposited in the West must be returned. They made a plea for donors to suggest steps that African countries could take that might help retrieve the stolen money deposited in foreign accounts by these public officials. One participant stated, "Stolen monies do not belong to the few individuals who perpetrated the thefts.

    The people of African countries were robbed. If donors were to try to help get this money back, it maybe would contribute to democracy and democratization. Although participants acknowledged that corruption in Africa emanated from the lack of democracy and accountability, they emphasized that corruption is not unique to Africa and also may be found in liberal democratic systems.

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