Volume 19 Number 5
Integrity and Integration
01 October 2006

Ibrahima Fall, UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, talks to Themon Djaksam about the themes of the conference.

What is the most important question for this African conference on corruption and good governance?

It is a theme whose time has come, because with the end of a bi-polar world and the triumph of liberalism, there is no longer the fundamental need to compete which could be fuelled by corruption. If corruption exists it is because there are corrupters and corrupt people. We have to be thorough and identify both.

To what extent do you think this can be achieved?

Caux is a place for exchanging viewpoints and sharing ideas. The debate then needs to be taken to national, regional and local settings where questions of corruption and good governance can be practically addressed. In the Great Lakes region, we have put specific regional projects in place to deal with corruption.

Countries with great natural resources, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville, are particularly liable to corruption. What are your thoughts on this?

With corruption, the global aspect feeds the particular. If you look at international sale contracts for aeroplanes, for example, some big outfit will promise you an extra plane if you buy a certain number. Why not denounce this as corruption? The same is true of oil—often the producer country receives barely 30 per cent of the oil revenue in financial terms.

Corruption can also be encouraged by injustice. Some countries with strong oil revenues pay pathetic salaries to their officials. Meanwhile the country's resources are largely monopolised by the leaders. If the army, police and customs officials are underpaid, it encourages them to pay themselves in kind. It is an incitement to corruption.

Do you see a solution to this problem?

There are several levels. First, there is the personal level. People need to be trained in values of honesty and integrity either in religious terms or as citizens. There is no better answer to corruption than the capacity of the individual to resist it in the name of the values in which he has been educated. Individuals can be satisfied with what they have: to see those who are without rather than those who have more.

The second level is society. This requires training in citizenship. It means relativising the importance of money and wealth. People of integrity used to be respected and those who had stolen, been corrupted or had corrupted others were shamed. Today, people are impressed by wealth: he has a big car, a beautiful house, he gives his money away. They fail to question the source of his money, and that is extremely serious. When it comes to presidents, people say he is generous because he gives money to certain visitors. But the money he is giving away is tax-payers' money which is to the detriment of the nation's needs. This must be stopped and there must be a return to honesty. Moreover, people of integrity must be rewarded. There must be a positive sanction alongside negative sanctions for those involved in corruption.
Unfortunately, today these values are reversed.

How might this be applied? At a national or international level?

At national level, because corruption is first of all at the individual level, the family level, the society level, the national level. The international dimension follows but it is intrinsically linked to the different internal dimensions. It is difficult to advocate integrity and honesty at family level if these values are not being applied at national and international levels. It is a whole.

You have doubtless observed the way leaders in some African countries have sought to continue in office beyond the number of terms permitted by their constitutions. What do you recommend to stop the abuse of power at national level?

It is a global problem, which must be addressed at the constitutional, legal and statutory level. We have to stop tampering with the law books according to what suits the head of state. We have to respect the principle of national interests coming before the interests of certain individuals and make it clear to these leaders that they cannot continue to tamper.

But, and there is a but, we have to settle the fate of former presidents. There are countries where the president is pursued the day after he comes down from his pedestal—even accused of not having the country's nationality, as was the case with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. Others have been imprisoned. This does not mean that we must grant amnesty for corruption and other crimes. It is normal that those guilty of corruption be prosecuted. But how many former heads of state have been prosecuted for nothing at all?

This situation creates a psychosis among former heads of state who say to themselves, 'I might as well be president for life because when I am gone they won't be able to attack me.'

So, on the one hand, there is a democratisation process which needs reinforcement but at the same time we must find ways to ensure the security of presidents in general, but not those who steal. In Senegal, there have been two former presidents; in Cape Verde, they are onto their third former president; in Tanzania, there has been a succession of four presidents who
have never had any worries. Perhaps it was because they were honest, but it might also have been because their successors did not try to nitpick. It's a complex problem.

What are Africa's other main challenges?

In Africa there are three problems: 1 integration; 2 integration; and 3 integration. As long as we are not economically strong, we will not count.

And when will that be?

We have to reinforce the five regional economic communities to create pillars of the African economic community, as envisaged in the Treaty of Abuja. Everything else is secondary in economic terms. The fact is, once Africa becomes a significant partner in world trade, Africa will count. Look at China: what has not been said against China? Ten years ago, people questioned human rights but not now. Everybody is begging for succulent contracts with China. That does not mean there are no problems with human rights. There certainly are. But a two-figure growth index like China's is what gives strength to a country's negotiations on the world scene. Africa must accept the price of hardships for the sake of economic integration.

What is your assessment of the African Union's four years of existence?

It is a bit soon to say because the four year period focussed on working things out on the institutional front, with the creation of the Commission, the Economic and Social Council and the Pan-African Parliament and other institutions including those concerned with human rights.

The change from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU) was designed to create a new dynamic called African Renaissance. The AU's President, Alpha Omar Konaré, has contributed greatly to the foundation of this organisation. He works in conditions which are not easy and I am only sorry that he does not plan to renew his mandate.

NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) has also been a strong element in all this. It is involved with difficult issues and I think our heads of state have decided to restore its effectiveness.

There has been no progress on integration and the economy. President Konaré believes the regional economic communities should be reinforced but there are a number of factors which have prevented him going as far as he would have liked.

Africa can advance but it must have the will to sacrifice in order to advance. Several generations of Chinese have sacrificed to get where they are. Europe may have come out of World WarII as impoverished as Africa but the Europeans seized the Marshall Plan to rise up, develop, reinforce, unite and form a world power through the European Union. It is Africa's duty to draw lessons and to commit itself along the road of achievement.

Translated from French by Mary Jones.