On Monday, 6 February 2023, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) hosted two former Heads of State; President Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. They were the Guest Speakers at a roundtable conference on security in West Africa, jointly hosted by the KAIPTC and the Brenthurst Foundation of South Africa.
In his Welcome Address, the Commandant of KAIPTC Maj Gen Addo Gyane, among others, outlined the expectations of the Centre at the end of the roundtable conference. Also speaking was Prof Kwesi Aning, Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research (FAAR) at KAIPTC.
The Brenthurst Foundation is a South African think-tank established by the Oppeheimer family in 2004 to support the Brenthurst Initiative in seeking ways to fund African development, and organise conferences on African competitiveness. Brenthurst is a town in South Africa. Nicholas Oppenheimer is a South African billionaire, touted as the third richest man in Africa.
The West African Security Dialogue Roundtable titled, “Meeting the African Security Challenge in the 2020s” was chaired by Dr Greg Mills, Director of the Brenthurst Foundation. Participants included the National Security Adviser, CDD and other CSOs, Academia, Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), and the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) of the National Defence University (NDU), Washington DC, USA.
Starting with the economy of African countries, Chairman of the Brenthurst Foundation President Obasanjo said “most of our leaders don’t understand economy/economics!” Referring to a Ghanaian politician the previous night discuss how Ghana got into the current dire economic straits, President Obasanjo expressed amazement at the profligate spending by governments in the midst of poverty after obtaining debt relief from HIPIC status only twenty years ago! He quickly added that his own country Nigeria was in no better situation.
He lamented Ghana’s current debt of $37 billion and that of Nigeria of over $50 billion which he described as unsustainable. His conclusion on Africa’s economies was “if our leader’s don’t understand this, then we are doomed.”
He then spoke of African demographics and how population growth impacts the economy. He said about sixty years after independence, with the exception of Niger, most African counties have had their population multiply by five times. In Niger’s case however, her population had multiplied ten times. By 2050, Africa will have the third highest population in the world after China and India. President Obasanjo said such population surge could be either positive or negative.
Education, Health and Employment
President Obasanjo continued that, if every child in a country can have education, health and employment, then population increase could be an asset. However, where the mentioned are rudimentary or non-existent, population increase would be a liability. He added that nobody is born a criminal. It is the environment or society that spawns criminality when poverty drives people who feel marginalized and neglected to the fringes.
President Obasanjo attributed the feeling of insecurity felt by the majority of Africans to poor leadership and bad governance. While an educated youth with the requisite skills and knowledge will be an asset, the teeming unemployed youth constitute a ticking time bomb, thus a big liability.
He also talked about diversity. President Obasanjo said, governments have not handled diversity as a fact of life well. He stated that “sameness is human, diversity is divine!” We must therefore integrate and collaborate, and not live compartmentalized in silos.
In his contribution, President Koroma started by asking why we were at KAIPTC again to discuss African economic and security issues, something that had been done time without number in the past, at similar conferences. He decried leadership failure in most African countries as the main cause of instability. He stated that, until recently,
“West Africa was the darling of democracy. Coups were a thing of the past but suddenly they are back with us. This is attributed to leadership failure and the absence of the democratic dividend,” he said.
President Koroma stated that, citizens must therefore learn to speak truth to power to check the excesses of governments!
In a submission made by a participant that, his research findings indicated that, African youth were optimistic about the future, the generality of opinion was to the contrary. His research was described as completely academic and different from the reality on the ground. What is seen amongst the teeming unemployed youth is rather despondency and lack of confidence in leadership on the African continent.
A point was made that, Meritocracy is a sine qua non to leadership, particularly in the military. This assertion, together with a submission that the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) was embarking on serious training and orientation and was providing services in the north elicited interesting responses. While it was accepted that training and orientation were good, a more important and better requirement was the enlistment and recruitment process. Selection based on “protocol” slots for politicians, and not on merit is doomed to failure.
It was opined that the current recruitment/enlistment process in Ghana’s security services which is skewed heavily in the direction of family and friends of politicians, did not augur well for the future of the GAF in particular in terms of professionalism. The recruitment process which is not based on merit but on political patronage and family and friends, if not reversed, will be a ticking time-bomb for the future.
In light of the failure of political leadership in the current practice of democracy as the “winner-takes-all” with all the accompanying acrimony in a “two-horse race” between two political parties, reference was made to Nana Dr SKB Asante’s document to Ghana’s revolutionary government before the Consultative Assembly in 1991 commenced its work. The alternative to the current system was Proportional Representation. As the name suggests, it eliminates/reduces bi-partisanship and promotes coalitions and subsequent inclusiveness of all parties, no matter how little proportion they may have in government. The CDD/political scientists were asked why there has been no education on Proportional Representation as an option.
After a summary by the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, the keynote speakers Presidents Obansanjo and Koroma and the chairman for the event Dr Greg Mills made their final observations in their closing remarks.
The current situation in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso where the military has taken over in recent time should be a wake-up call to African leaders, who while making claims to democratic governance in flamboyant speeches, preside over the impoverishment of their citizens, while they lead corrupt and lavish lifestyles with bloated goverments!
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Family Health University College
Source: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd), Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya
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