Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Who will Tame Africa's First Ladies?

Azeb Mesfin, the wife of Ethiopia's dictator Meles Zenawi


I do not understand what geared Kenyan belligerent first lady Lucy Kibaki to demand written explanations from a minister for Internal Security, George Saitoti. Mrs. Kibaki wanted to know why many people perished in the Molo inferno when they were self serving from a petrol tanker. To her, this was nothing but negligence and insensitivity! To add an insult to injury, she said that if the minister responsible were a woman, this wouldn’t have happened.

One thing Mrs. Kibaki does not get is the fact that the Molo deaths are but the signs of a very-corrupt-and-rotten country where a gang of goons self-helps and serves on public property. It is the society in which what matters is what you get but not how you get it. It is the society ruled by hyenas-turned rulers whose aim of being in power is to steal from paupers.

The Molo calamity was neither caused by insensitivity nor negligence. It is man-made poverty that has forced innocent people to wrestle to make ends meet. Regarding women in power, there are some living examples whereby women ministers failed their countries. Zakia Meghji, Tanzania’s former minister was booted out after it came to light that she illegally authorized payment to a dubious company known as Kagoda that stole over $ 40,000,000 from Central Bank of Tanzania (BoT). When it comes to graft, gender does not matter but personal integrity and probity.

US First Lady: Mitchelle Obama
If it were not for cliffhanger’s behaviour for African rulers, a good thing for Saitoti to do would be to relinquish his place in protest of the disgrace committed against him. But contrary, in Africa, power is sweeter than honey. The likes of Saitoti are ready to die in shame so as to keep their grip on power. What a shame!

Surprisingly, Saitoti was unable to do the right thing. Even to demand an apology became difficult for him. But again, looking at Saitoti's record when he was vice president in the former autocratic regime, expecting him to do the right thing is as good as telling the ant to lift up the elephant. Indeed, Saitoti’s docility and naivety mark insults to our academic attainment. He was once misled by former dictator Daniel arap Moi and Kamlesh Pattni to ruin Kenya’s coffers. If a professor of mathematics can not calculate such simple political arithmetic, what of the common Kenyan in the street? However, it must be noted. Kibaki showed maturity for standing by his minister.

What Mrs. Kibaki did is not unique and distant in Africa. In neighbouring Tanzania, the former first lady, Anna Mkapa, is alleged to have amassed ill-gotten wealth, thanks to abusing her husband’s powers and office.

While first ladies such as Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hilary Clinton are renowned for helping their husbands, African ones are known for tearing them down. It must be noted that the First Lady crisis in Africa is caused by lack of rule of law and people-geared constitutions.

It is time Africa stopped being ruled by thieves that, along with their families and friends, self-help and serve on whatever they are pleased without facing the music.
SOURCE: The African Executive Magazine February 18, 2009.

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