Windhoek-The former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, says Namibia, Senegal, Morocco and Nigeria are among 18 countries in Africa where overall governance has improved and described this as good news following the release yesterday of the Ibrahim Index on African Governance (IIAG).
The renowned diplomat was speaking in his capacity as a member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Prize committee, of which he has been a member since 2007. Other members include Tanzanian diplomat Salim Ahmed Salim.
Speaking to New Era in an exclusive interview, the highly respected Finnish statesman – who played a pivotal role in the UN-led transition that ushered in Namibia’s independence in 1990 – said though good governance has stalled in several of the continent’s 54 countries over the past five years Namibia was an exception, together with Senegal, Morocco and oil-producing Nigeria.
“This is good news. Overall, governance in Africa has improved over the last five years (2012 to 2016). Eighteen (African) countries even managed to accelerate their rate of improvement,” among them Namibia, the country where Athisaari was posted to as a UN special representative 27 years ago.
“I am extremely pleased to see Namibia scoring 71.2 (out of 100.0) in Overall Governance, ranking 5th (out of 54) in Africa. This is a positive indication of the Namibian political leaders’ commitment to good governance.
“The scoring also suggests that Namibian citizens have opportunities to pursue a good life. Namibians should be proud of this achievement and ensure equal opportunities are afforded to all citizens,” the 2008 Nobel Prize winner told New Era on Monday.
Ahtisaari observed that Namibia scored higher than the African average of 50.8 out of 100 and higher than the regional average for Southern Africa (58.6) and said this was indeed good news for the country.
On the other hand, he was also of the view there are “warning signs” in 22 African countries, where “progress is slowing or even in decline” and listed Mauritius, Angola and Cameroon as countries where progress was in decline. Countries that have seen a deterioration in good governance based on the MI Index are Libya, Burundi, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Ghana and Botswana.
Asked to give an assessment on the fact that safety and the rule of law and sustainable economic opportunity have also shown decline in some African countries, on the issue of safety and the rule of law Ahtisaari was of the view that the “decline was driven by the deterioration of national security” conditions.
This, noted the tenth president of Finland, was “linked to the widening terrorist threat we pointed out last year in our report: ‘Africa At A Tipping Point’. But it also points out countries still under the radar, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Senegal and Mauritania.”
“Personal safety also remains on the decline, driven by worsening trends in crime and political violence,” said Ahtisaari. Although he alluded to the progress being made by the police in African countries, he felt that the progress made was being rolled back by endemic corruption, bureaucracy and a lack of accountability among those employed in the public service.
On the inclination by some African leaders to cling to power long after they have become unpopular, Ahtisaari was forthright. “The means by which leaders seek to extend their rule are actually often within the legal framework of a democratic system,” he said.
“Constitutional rules are manipulated rather than abolished. In practice, this can mean that constitutional reforms are undertaken to remove limits of presidential terms or electoral boundaries are redrawn to maximise the chances of winning elections.”
He exhorted the African Union (AU) and continental bodies, such as ECOWAS and SADC, to play a meaningful role to assist countries on the continent, where leaders want to stay in power by rigging elections and by using retrogressive undemocratic and unconstitutional means.
“In cases where undemocratic and unconstitutional means are used, regional and international organisations can play a role, for example, by threatening to use economic sanctions or suspend membership unless constitutional rule is reinstated.”
Asked if the western model has failed Africa and if the continent needs another model, Namibia’s famed independence broker said: “There is no distinctively western model of democracy. Democracy is a global value. It is important to remember that all members of the United Nations have committed themselves to promoting democracy when entering the UN.
“When assessing the success or failure of democracy in Africa, it is important to look at how the individual countries, and the continent as a whole, fare in different dimensions of democracy, rather than treating the success or failure of democracy as a binary.”
On the crisis in Zimbabwe, Ahtisaari said: “It is obviously a pivotal moment for Zimbabwe and the [Mo Ibrahim] Foundation is monitoring the events closely as they unfold. The leadership crisis presents a real challenge to governance, which is reflected in the mixed results we see in the Index.
“Zimbabwe remains one of the lowest ranking countries for Overall Governance, placed 40th out of 54. Therefore, I would encourage all parties involved to act in the interest of Zimbabweans,” he said.