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An argument for national unity and the preservation of diversity against secession for African states, by Chofor Che


There has been a wave of secessionist tendencies in the world and particularly in Africa prior to independence. Some good examples in Africa include the case of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon which is an ongoing predicament. Another example is the case of Zanzibar and Tanzania which is under scrutiny by the government of Tanzania. Other examples in Europe include the case of the United Kingdom and Spain. Judging from cases like the chaos which has befallen South Sudan after it seceded from Sudan, the question is should Africans continue to clamor for secession or independence rather than find ways to strengthen national unity and diversity? Are there any alternatives to secession which African states should consider?

There is no gainsaying that the issue of secession seems to be en vogue. Recently Great Britain was almost at the brink of secession when Scotland attempted to break away from the union. Had it not been for the verdict of the referendum of the 18 of September 2014 which saw a majority of Scottish voters say ‘No’ to secession, Scotland would have been an independent state.

The issue of secession is also a hot debate in Spain. Section 2 of the 1978 Constitution suggests that the Spanish Constitution is instituted upon the ‘indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible patria of all Spaniards, and guarantees the right to self-determination of the nationalities and regions of which it is composed and the solidarity among them all.’ This has led some scholars to argue that the Spanish Constitution falls short in allowing for national diversity in the case of Spain, because it allows for self determination which to some extent gives room for secession. Presently the Catalonians are using the aspect of self determination as a way to break away from Spain. They claim to be suffering from discrimination when it comes to access to jobs, natural resources and business opportunities. Other authors argue that self determination may not necessary mean secession, but rather a clamor for a more decentralized or federal system of government.

Secession seems to presume that disgruntled groups within a state want to break away, and form their own state. Yet it is not at all clear if secession is the priority of all communities. According to experts like University of the Western Cape (UWC) Associate Professor of Law, Yonatan Fessha, separation may only be a suitable option after investigating on other possibilities and only if there is no possibility of co-existence between different groups in the state. It is therefore agreed that secession should only be considered as the final resort and not the primary option where linguistic and ethnic groups cannot be accommodated in a state.

In the cases of Cameroon and Tanzania respectively major reasons why Anglophone Cameroonians and the people of Zanzibar want to secede is because there is some aura of discrimination which persists against these people in these various states. The distribution of jobs, natural resources, educational opportunities and business opportunities is inequitable.

In the case of Kevin Mgwanga Gunme et al v Cameroon before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), brought in 2003 by the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), an Anglophone Cameroon based pressure group fighting for secession on grounds of marginalization, the SCNC argued that the Republic of Cameroon was an extension of French colonisation. They added that Anglophone Cameroonians did not benefit politically and socio-economically from this union. At the 45th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, between 13 and 27 May 2009, the African Commission adopted the decision on the merits of the communication. The claim for secession was rejected by the African Commission especially on mainly procedural grounds that the applicant was not a legally recognised group fighting for the interests of all Anglophone Cameroonians. However, secession remains a real problem in Cameroon despite the verdict of the African Commission, as the SCNC in Cameroon has not accomplished its aim.

An example where secession has turned out to be catastrophic for national unity and diversity is the case of Sudan and Southern Sudan. Ever since Southern Sudan broke away from Sudan there has been turmoil and bloodshed. Property and families have been lost.

A probable alternative for secession may thus be to give more political and socio-economic rights to the disadvantaged group or groups in a state. This must not be at the detriment of individual rights especially as individuals must be allowed to own property, trade and circulate freely.

Authors like Professor Nico Steytler and Professor Jaap de Visser of the Community Law Centre at UWC argue that adequate decentralization to local government may be a great alternative rather than secession. This would warrant giving more financial and administrative autonomy via various national constitutions, to local government especially to disadvantaged groups. Professor Steytler also argues that a federal system of government can go a long way to protect unity and diversity. Adequate decentralization and federalism may thus be alternatives to secession. Such systems of governance allow disadvantaged groups in a state partake equitably in the opportunities found therein, if rightly applied by various central governments.

This article is originally published at LibreAfrique.org as Afrique : Quelle alternative à la sécession des États ?

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2014 in Africa Development

 

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Recovering Africa’s swindled assets from foreign bank accounts: A daunting task or just bad faith?, By Chofor Che, 07 January 2013


In November 2012, the government of Tanzania asked the World Bank for support to help recover billions of shillings the state has lost via corruption by prominent politicians and statesmen. Tanzania is not the only African state with such a serious problem. Other Central African states like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo are also plagued with the same dilemma.
The leader of the official opposition in Tanzania’s National Assembly, Mr Freeman Mbowe, attested in November that the state had made very little progress in recovering funds hoarded in foreign bank accounts by prominent personalities. According to Mr Mbowe it was therefore high time the state sought for assistance from the Asset Recovery Unit of the World Bank to recover the funds.
“Tanzania has lost billions of shillings through illegal financial flows out of her borders. We have not been able to successfully recover stolen assets. Why can’t we engage global partners to help recover the assets?” asserted Mr Mbowe.
Corrupt individuals, including prominent business tycoons and some top ranking government officials in Africa, continue to secretly stash away tax payers’ money in foreign bank accounts. Following a report from Tanzania Daily News, more than 315.5bn shillings ($196.87 million), has been stashed in Swiss banks.
Following a report released by the Swiss central bank, Swiss National Bank in June, this year, Tanzania is among eleven African states whose nationals have secretly stashed away millions of dollars in the country’s banks. Other states involved in such malpractices include Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Gabon. This explains why African states continue to appear among the most corrupt countries in the World.
Mr Mbowe was bitter on why the Prime Minister of Tanzania was unable to make public the names of individuals involved in malpractices of such calibre. Mr Mbowe asserted that a number of disloyal businessmen, have siphoned shillings to tax haven states including Luxemburg, Dubai, Mauritius Grenada, Switzerland and British Virgin Island. The central government of Tanzania claims that it is still probing into the scandal and once investigations are finalised, findings would be made public and measures will be taken against corrupt officials.
It is time for central governments in Africa to rethink strategies on bringing to book corrupt officials who continue to swindle tax payers’ money and stash abroad. Money illegally stashed abroad has only made recipient states wealthy and impoverished African states in particular. The World Bank has an Asset Recovery unit, and one of the major duties of this unit is to assist states repatriate stolen funds stashed in foreign bank accounts. If the World Bank truly wants to assist African states in eradicating poverty and advancing development as it claims, then it is high time for this bank to stop playing the devil’s advocate and assist African states repatriate these funds. A lot of legal and transparency measures need to be put in place to ensure that repatriation measures are effective. It does not only suffice to rank African states as the most corrupt states in the world, especially as central governments in Africa partner with deceitful banks in the West to contribute to Africa’s dilemma. The West needs to assist Africa in repatriating ill-gotten funds stashed in foreign bank accounts.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Zanzibar and the Mainland: The Shaky State of the Union, By Think Africa Press, 20 November 2012


With the 50th anniversary of the union between mainland Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar on the horizon in 2014, a bewildering number of political problems and sensitivities remain unresolved.

The current ‘state of the union’ debate sees three ideas being posited, all of which involve a degree of autonomy for Zanzibar but with oversight administered by mainland Tanzania. However, despite one recent attempt to discuss the issue openly and amicably in the ‘public sphere’ (an expensive hotel in Dar Es Salaam), worrying patterns of resentment and tension are emerging.

Mainlanders on the island

Anecdotally, many allege that there is a hostile climate developing against those from the mainland on the island.

Emil*, a senior security manager and member of the Masaii people from mainland Tanzania, has lived and worked in a resort on the island since 2001.

“It’s getting extremely tense”, he tells Think Africa Press. “I can say they hate us. We don’t get served in cafes. If Masaii try and set up stalls to sell tourist curios in Nungwi they get chased out and the landowners who rent us the shop get fined.” He continues: “It is very difficult at the moment. Zanzibaris are sick of all outsiders – such as Tanzanians from the mainland and Kenyans who get good jobs in the hotels”.

Read more at Zanzibar and the Mainland: The Shaky State of the Union

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A bone of contention over World Bank Loans of U.S. $255 Million accorded to Local Authorities in Tanzania, By Chofor Che, 5 November 2012


The World Bank has recently accorded a credit of U.S. $255 Million to an average of 18 local authorities in Tanzania to assist them improve financial management and strengthen their ability to deliver urban services to over 2.6 million Tanzanians. Despite Tanzania’s stable macroeconomic performance, poverty and underdevelopment is still a problem.

The urban local governments in to benefit from this loan include municipal councils of Tabora, Morogoro, Shinyanga, Sumbawanga, Moshi, Musoma, Songea, Singida, Bukoba, Lindi and Iringa. The urban councils include Kibaha, Geita, Babati, Korogwe, Mpanda, Njombe and Bariadi. According to East African Business Week, roughly six per cent of the country’s total population of 42 million people live in these areas.

While urban areas in Tanzania have doubled the rate of growth in rural areas, investments in urban infrastructure have not met the expectations of the growing population, resulting to poor urban infrastructure and precarious service delivery.

According to the World Bank, the Urban Local Government Strengthening Program (ULGSP) will utilise these funds known as Program-for-Results (P for R) that directly links disbursement of funds to verified development results.

The program is supposed to be utilised for various urban infrastructural development services, including improvement in waste management, construction of small bridges, installation of street lights, among others, as availed by the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Mr Philippe Dongier to  East African Business Week .

‘The capacity-building component will support urban planning, revenue mobilization, strengthening of procurement practices and improved management of human resources,’ added the World Bank top executive.

East African Business Week reveals that, Tanzania is growing rapidly and 25% of Tanzanians are already living in urban areas, a number that is expected to rise to over 40% of the country’s population by 2030.

‘Urban areas will play an increasingly important role in driving economic growth and meeting poverty reduction targets. Improving access to services in urban areas is critical for improving the quality of life of ordinary Tanzanian citizens and reducing poverty,’ availed World Bank Country Director for Tanzania.

Under the World Bank project, the concerned urban local government authorities will be assessed annually on progress made across a set of institutional and infrastructure implementation indicators. The World Bank executive purports that funds will only be disbursed once results are verified.

The task team Leader of the project, Barjor Mehta alluded that the program is supposed to decentralize responsibilities to the concerned cities including procurement and contract management.

“The Bank will support the implementation of the program to strengthen institutional systems and improve local governance’.  According to Mehta , ‘In this way, the projects seek to build capacity via ‘learning-by-doing’ for urban infrastructure development.’

The new program is intended to address these problems in the overall context of the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction (MKUKUTA II), Tanzania’s decentralization policy, and two of four key fundamentals of the Government’s Vision 2025, namely; the provision of infrastructure and strengthening and establishing well-functioning institutions and markets.

Such programs from the World Bank may look very promising and alluring, especially with the involvement of colossal amounts of funds, but how sustainable are they. For several years the World Bank has been disbursing funds to local governments in Africa, but local collectivities remain poor, especially as these funds have been siphoned and stashed in foreign bank accounts by both central government authorities and local authorities themselves.

In as much as the intentions of the World Bank are good, such intentions are ill placed because the tendency for such a project to improve on the lives of Tanzanians is minimal. Aid especially to municipal executives who are not well trained to manage such funds is a catastrophy to developmental intentions and instead fans corruption.

If the World Bank wants to improve the lives of Tanzanians in particular and African in general, then first of all the capacity of municipal executives, including elected officials like mayors, need to be improved. Most of these officials do not have minimal educational and professional perquisites to manage such funds. There is also a need to curb barriers stopping local collectivities to be involved in business opportunities across the boarders in the wake of globalisation. Twining of local municipalities across the globe, need to be encouraged. These are concrete and sustainable measures that can impact on the lives of local communities in Tanzania and Africa as a whole, rather than World Bank financial assistance.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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