Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lessons for Fiji from Study of African Dictatorships

by Sai Lealea13 September 2011

George Ayittey has some very useful insight into how to deal with dictatorships based on his study of those in his continent of Africa. In this regard, such insights and learnings are equally relevant to the situation in Fiji with its current dictatorship under Bainimarama. I would therefore recommend reading his books, especially on how to defeat dictatorships with his six step reform approach, and avoiding new dictatorships if reforms are mismanaged.

I would argue there are parallels in what Ayittey has observed for Africa also occurring in Fiji, especially with his so called "cheetah" generation. This in my view would be educated and empowered Fijians now agitating and campaigning for the return to democratic rule without necessarily aligning to one particular political movement or party with a history of involvement in Fiji's governance. The existence of the Internet community or Blogosphere fora to exchange ideas, organise campaigns and co-ordinate opposition to the illegal regime in Fiji is a new and key element in efforts to topple the Bainimarama dictatorship.
George Ayittey

George Ayittey is a Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC. He is a professor at American University and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He has championed the argument that African poverty is a result of modern oppressive native autocrats. He is an advocate for democratic government, debt re-examination, modernised infrastructure, free market economics and free trade to promote development. His most recent book is Defeating Dictators

Read below Ayittey's piece. 

The 2011 “Worst of the Worst” dictators list has been released in an article written by George Ayitteh of Foreign Policy Magazine. The list has shifted since last year, after the dramatic events of the Arab Spring revolutions.

Swapping Dictatorships for Prison Cells

Mubarak, Gbagbo, and Ben Ali have all exchanged their places on the list for courtrooms and cells.
Last year the Worst of the Worst list stretched to 21 tyrants, this year, Ayitteh has reduced the list to a paltry six evil individuals. He gave no explanation for the massive reduction.

“Coconut Heads”
In this year’s report, Ayittey noted that when he published last year’s list of dictators — he called them “coconut heads” — few people “thought the tyrants would fall anytime soon.”

Since then, the dictators of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have been toppled. “The so-called experts in the Western media were caught napping. These people are not ready for democracy, they once told us,’’ Ayittey wrote. “More pathetic and clueless than anyone else, however, were – and still are- the hardened coconuts themselves.”

Under increasing pressures for change, he added, dictators are resorting to “the coconut boogie” — promises of reforms, brutal crackdowns on opponents “and finally, a tumble for a hard landing on a frozen Swiss bank account.”

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey was a voice in the wilderness for many years, crying out against the corruption and complacency that — more than any other factor, he believes — are the bedrock problems of many troubled Africa states. “We call our governments vampire states, which suck the economic vitality out of the people,” he says.

His influential book Africa Unchained has helped unleash a new wave of activism and optimism — especially in the African blogosphere, where his notion of cheetahs-versus-hippos has become a standard shorthand. The “Cheetah Generation,” he says, is a “new breed of Africans,” taking their futures into their own hands, instead of waiting for politicians to empower them. (He compares them to the previous “Hippo Generation,” who are lazily stuck complaining about colonialism, yet doing nothing to change the status quo.)

Ayittey is a Distinguished Economist in Residence at American University in Washington, DC.

"The Cheetah Generation is the new and angry generation of Africans who can see that their leadership has failed them ... They're not going to sit there and wait for governments to come and do things for them. As a matter of fact, they're not going to sit there and beg for foreign aid, because they can see that every social need in Africa is a business opportunity. The Cheetah Generation is entrepreneurial." - George Ayittey, Economist (Ghana)

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey's energy and hope are apparent from his first words on the "cheetah generation," which he believes will take back Africa from the hands of dictators one nation at a time. He cautions, however, that street protests and brave actions are not enough. 

In his presentation, he describes three cardinal principles that must be followed to topple a dictator: 
  • An Elders Council to unify all opposition forces;
  • "know the enemy" (his modus operandi, strengths and weaknesses) and
  • get the sequence of reform correct. It is not enough to oust a dictator.

The dictatorship itself (a system of governance) must be dissembled through a six-step sequence: 
  • intellectual reform
  • political reform
  • constitutional reform
  •  institutional reform and
  •  economic reform. 

If parts are omitted or the order is subverted, the results can be dangerous. They will be left in place and the revolution reversed with one dictator replacing another. For example, premature economic liberalization can actually crush a revolution.

Ayittey is noticeably exasperated when discussing the West's "cajoling" of African dictators to reform their abominable administrations. These efforts are met with what he deems "the coconut boogie," a comical dance in which no real change is accomplished. Ayittey demands penetrating reform that addresses every aspect of society, that leaves no cronies in place, that ensures that future elections are fair. He urges us to not settle for anything less. His final stipulation is that reform must come from within a nation.

Opposition parties should not be funded by the West, and the African people should make demands for the changes they want to see. Only when this kind of internal reform--sparked by intellectual freedom--is combined with a systematic overhaul of all areas of government can real freedom and democracy be achieved. He lays great stress on the free media, which he believes is the most effective weapon against all dictatorships. 

For more, see his forthcoming book, Defeating Dictators, to be released in Nov 2011 by Palgrave/MacMillan.


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