Home | Comment & Analysis    Sunday 16 June 2013

God must be a white man

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By Steven Wöndu

June 14, 2013 - Africa boasts the dubious distinction of being the least developed continent on earth. This is true whether one is thinking of economic, social or political development. As teenage students in the 1960s and 1970s, we debated the causes of Africa’s stagnation. Two explanations emerged; ignorance and poverty.

Early this month African Heads of State and Governments assembled in Yokohama to deliberate on how Africa can break the vicious circle of underdevelopment. The leaders were accompanied by their respective countries’ economic experts (inter alia). United Nations and Western aid agencies were present. The Vatican and immerging economies like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil sent delegates. The Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development (TICAD) process is the Japanese government’s vehicle for pulling Africa out of its economic quagmire. TICAD convenes to mobilize Official Development Aid (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for Africa and to set new development benchmarks beyond 2015 to replace the elusive Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

From the presentations and interventions of the conferees, neither ignorance nor poverty was accused of causing Africa’s backwardness. Africa was portrayed as a very rich parcel of real estate. It has minerals, water, forests, fish, livestock, land, wildlife, oil, gas, sun and sand - all in great abundance! There is no ignorance in Africa, not anymore. African leaders and officials demonstrated profound knowledge of their countries recourses endowment and how best the wealth potential can be harnessed to boost economic growth and the welfare of their citizens.

Africans articulated the futility of growth without equity. A society of few filthy rich and multitudes of starving depraves is not a developed or even a safe one. Income distribution or wealth spread must be a key fiscal policy consideration. They knew that urban concentration of growth bore no benefits to the majority of the population and led to urban drift, slumps and poor sanitation. African leaders had no difficulty identifying infrastructure, education and gender equality as the three foundations of development. They knew that roads and electricity have direct linkage to agriculture, social services, commerce, peace and security. Roads connect communities and markets. Roads facilitate public administration. Roads unite and define a country. Nobody knows these matters better than the African Heads of State and Government assembled at TICAD.

African leaders spoke strongly in favour of regional integration and the need to remove barriers to free movement of people, capital, goods and services. They elucidated the necessity of public-private partnership (PPP) in speeding economic growth. They discussed the need to mobilize all citizens, including women and youth to become agents of change. Emphasis was placed on the building of resilient economies – ones that are resistant to civil strife. In such an economy, everyone has access to opportunities and responsibilities. In other words, a resilient society is an inclusive one where every citizen has an equal stake in peace and prosperity. Discriminative societies risk fragility. Those excluded would have nothing to lose by rebelling. Therefore, empowerment through the political and legislative processes (call it democracy) guarantees socio-economic stability.
Economic and social stability can be interrupted by natural calamities like floods and droughts. Consequently, attention to issues of environment, climate change and disaster preparedness cannot be overemphasized in the development agenda. Not surprisingly, the Holy See emphasized the relevance and importance of moral imperatives and family values. TICAD dealt with themes like human resources development, land reform, economic diversification, demography, technology, skills transfer, and all the variables in the economic development book.

So if ignorance and lack of resources are no longer restraining factors, why is Africa not growing and developing as fast as Malaysia for example? Why are our educational, administrative and health institutions worse than they were fifty years ago? Why have many parts of Africa deteriorated from good roads to bad roads to no roads after independence? How come some African communities complain bitterly about marginalization? Why is Africa hungry? Why do African mothers have to deliver babies on trees during floods? Why, if we know so much about the prerequisites of a resilient economy do we have so many refugees? Why is the African narrative full of negative nouns like tribalism, nepotism, kleptocracy, censorship, lynching, corruption, plunder, and failed state? Has anyone heard of a European physician referring a patient for specialist care in an African hospital? Check the students’ registers in all the universities in sub Saharan Africa north of the Limpopo and see if there is a single Greek. TICAD did not pose these questions. No monkey sets the forest on fire.

Last month, the Auditors General of English speaking African countries met in Mauritius to discuss…well, auditing the accounts of African governments. The host arranged some tourism and civic education for us. Seeing how Mauritius was stable, well managed, clean and beautiful, some of us used the safety of distance to lament audibly. Mauritius is fine because the majority of the population is Asian. The miserable state of most of Africa is because it is in the hands of Africans. Africans used to be passionate about the extended family. They were minimalists, enjoying life to the full without excessive material belongings. Africans cared about the neighbour. African leaders in years long past used to be givers and protectors of their subjects.

The Africans of today are designed, created and wired to be dirty, disorderly and dangerous (the 3 Ds). When they find themselves in positions of power, they perceive their success in terms of the magnitude of their greed and graft (the two Gs). African ‘big men’ see themselves, not as leaders and stewards but as rulers. They see their positions, not as challenges to serve but as opportunities to receive and take. They see it as their chance to ‘eat’. The term ‘civil servant’ has been inverted upside down in Africa. Where else in the world can you find health officials pocketing the medication of their own patients? Where else do education authorities swallow the budget for curriculum development into their bellies? Where else do citizens hire police to clobber and rob and rape and kill them? Where else do leaders procure obsolete weaponry for their armies? Where else? Where?

Donors beware! The African big man eats without limit. He accumulates without consideration for the needs of others. ‘Enough’ does not exist in the dictionary. Africans in power do not want to consider the fundamental zero-sum concept that the more you scoop from the common pot, the less everyone else gets. They refuse to ponder the life or death consequences of misappropriating resources intended for interventions in maternal care, solid waste management, infant vaccination, and clean drinking water. They do not feel the danger of living in a massive mansion surrounded by tragic slums. In the rare event that an African big man visits a village, he would ‘donate’ a class room, or a clinic or a road that would never exist except in the government’s financial expenditure schedule of that year. The announcement of the fake donation is proof that the big men know the needs of their people. Why they choose not to do the right thing beats imagination. But then, they are modern African big men!

At Sugar Beach (the venue of our meeting), it was accepted that other parts of the world have their own share of economic vices and crimes but that elsewhere in the world, offenders are a rarity. They are the exception rather than the rule. In other words, corruption in the other parts of the world is not as cripplingly rampant as in Africa. That is why, by comparison we are the least able to supply public goods. If you see any bridge or medicines or books in Africa, they must have been provided by a foreign philanthropist who has been smart enough to circumvent our institutional delivery systems.

We are very efficient in taxing our poorest people mercilessly. In Africa, a woman with three chicken eggs to sell because the baby has fever is taxed in the village market. Nobody knows the destination of Africa’s tax proceeds. We only know they do not go to municipal services. Municipal services my foot! In Africa, every upper class household is a municipality with a mayor, a generator, a bore well and a septic tank. In Africa top government officials proudly import 4-wheel drive SUVs duty free.

In other parts of the world, corrupt officials risk prosecution, fines, imprisonment or even hanging. There is a judicial deterrent to graft. In Africa, impunity is the norm. In the best case scenarios, selective justice is applied. Only the ‘small fish’ see the jail house. Reports about major embezzlement in high places only warrant inconclusive investigations. That is why African corruption is not practiced discretely. There is no need to disguise sleaze. Conversely, scruples are equated to stupidity. That is why African auditors have no difficulty reaching adverse findings.

The finding in our informal sharing of experiences over Mauritian rum was that the Creator gave the African an overdose of mediocrity, recklessness, laxity, myopia and insensitivity. The other races were awarded acumen, creativity, civility and vision. In our opinion, God must be a white man.

The author is South Sudan General Auditor



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  • 16 June 2013 11:47, by jur_likang_a_ likan’g

    Wondu, yours is about what a genuine leader is supposed to do to the countrymen however do we really have leaders? They simply do not know the definition of life. They think the filthy earthly life they have acquired through loot, discrimination, human killing is eternal!! what stupid people!!

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    • 16 June 2013 15:36, by Peacocktail

      Ignorance is and selfishness is killing us Steven, few wanted to rich in just a second while majority remain theirs beggars without knowing that the stewardship plays hands in those cases.Our resources shall CURSE them, they shall never go even inch with stolen wealth.Sound of citizens roaring everyday in search for HELPS are heard by God ALWAYS.richness without real sources is DEATH.good articl

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  • 16 June 2013 15:54, by Eastern

    Mr. Wondu’s illustration of African economic problems and poor governance is very brilliant. Where else do you keep money for running the office of the president in metallic boxes in the 21st centaury!! These leaders are used to keeping wealth in kind, in the cattle kraal. Before austerity measures, nobody could discover the losses because the money kept in boxes was in billions USD! Shame

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  • 16 June 2013 15:55, by Eastern

    Mr. Wondu’s illustration of African economic problems and poor governance is very brilliant. Where else do you keep money for running the office of the president in metallic boxes in the 21st centaury!! These leaders are used to keeping wealth in kind, in the cattle kraal. Before austerity measures, nobody could discover the losses because the money kept in boxes was in billions USD! Shame

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  • 16 June 2013 21:27, by Iduol Ahang Beny

    God is probably a black woman, without a suited delegate at events.
    — 
    Great work, Mr. Wondu. Please keep writing. We need it.

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  • 16 June 2013 21:27, by Iduol Ahang Beny

    God is probably a black woman, without a suited delegate at events. Etc.
    — 
    Great work, Mr. Wondu. Please keep writing. We need it.

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    • 17 June 2013 16:45, by Manyok

      Sister Iduol, your comment has confirmed that what one glorifies is what he/she believes in. You have just decided to be a black woman and you believe God is you, deciding to completely ignore the side of your mother who is white. This means it is what you are proud of that matters. You can teach all of us what it means to have the blood of white and black put together in one person. Great.

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      • 17 June 2013 22:34, by Iduol Ahang Beny

        Brother Manyok, like you, I never ’ignore’ my mother. Who in their right mind does? But let’s stick to Wondu’s topic. I wish he were running for President. Then it would get interesting.

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  • 17 June 2013 09:54, by Ambago

    Dear Sir,
    There is nothing to comment on here. The piece is brilliant and offers much to learn.
    We have read it and we have understood it, but what about the one who has neither the time nor the interest to read and yet rules over us?
    Of course God is not a white man. In fact only a few whiteman still believe that God exists!

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    • 17 June 2013 15:49, by Paul Ongee

      I called it a day because this is one of the fascinating articles I have ever read. I think this is a wake-up call to African leaders or as Steven Wondu calls African “big men”, contrasting black African leadership with the white/or other colored leaderships of the mostly Western/developed countries/continents.

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      • 17 June 2013 15:51, by Paul Ongee

        I believe some, if not all, of us Africans are sharing the same feeling of frustration of what Steven is trying to describe in the context of black continent, race, or its divinities. Steven’s appeal is that If Africans leaders were to practically adopt the western system of governance, poverty would have been drastically reduced to the level compared to the western’s or white men’s continent.

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        • 17 June 2013 15:56, by Paul Ongee

          I simply disagree with the author that “In our opinion, God must be a white man”. I don’t want to get involved in theological argument. But what we should realize is that the late Reggae Musician Lucky Dube of South Africa has put it correctly, quote “When I see a black/white man, I see the image of God”. Malaysians and Ghanaians share date of independence but why are they different economically?

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          • 17 June 2013 16:08, by Paul Ongee

            Steven Wondu’s article has answered the above question. And also cited Mauritius though the majority of the population are Asians. Africans do not have to be populationally Asians in order to develop but African leaders should learn how to develop economically since they are human beings like any other homo sapiens on the planet.

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            • 17 June 2013 16:29, by Paul Ongee

              The definition of a white man is only limited to Europeans facial features; straight nose, blue eyes and grey hair color while Asians have similar skin color but black eyes/hair like the Chinese and their neighbors. Russians are more/less similar to European. Most Asian countries are better developed economically thought not democratically like varied Europeans models.

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  • 17 June 2013 14:18, by Tata

    Steven, this is GREAT. However, I maintain that IGNORANCE is the primary cause of our misery. What happens in South Sudan can’t happen in any civilzed society. Take the following examples: (A) A US$4 billion distributed between 0.0009% of 8 million people, and this percentage (0.0009) is statistically neglegent with respect to the total population (8 million).

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    • 17 June 2013 14:32, by Tata

      (B) Few directors safely with confidence distributed among themselves US$14000 & more than SSP200000.00PT. (C) Ministry of Justice registered briefcase companies without verification of their existence and the Ministry of Finance awarded such companies bids to import dura to feed the hungery. (D) The State Governors consciously endorsed fake waybills acknowledging receipt of the dura.

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      • 17 June 2013 14:41, by Tata

        (E) Minsiters & MPs borrowed money deposited by hard working laborers and refused to pay until the bank (NCB) collapsed. (F) Budget for high education institution (IDEAS in Yambio)eaten by administration and their bosses in goverment. WHY ARE ALL THESE HAPPENING WITHOUT REACTION FROM THE PUBLIC? BECAUSE OF IGNORANCE! Leaders are wise and know that the public is ignorant. They imputivelydo anything

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        • 17 June 2013 14:55, by Tata

          S. Sudanese are 95% illiterate, don’t know their right, don’t know law thus remain preys. The government promotes status quo. They build no schools, train no teachers, develop no syllabus and develop no education bill. They behave like a shameless husband who steals cooked meat from a suecepan on a burning stove while his wife goes to fetch water at nearby borehole. Ignorance of people is a cause.

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          • 17 June 2013 21:06, by Nyesi Ta

            I thank Amb. Stephen Wondu for his gainful piece. I am suggesting that the title be changed to "The Eating Chiefs", a book titled by Professor Taban Lo-Liyong. If God is really white, and intentionally gave the Africans an overdose of mediocrity, recklessness, laxity, myopia and insensitivity (Wondu), he (God) must a racist and is not living in Africa.

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  • 18 June 2013 11:16, by jur_likang_a_ likan’g

    Mr Nyesi Ta, Kunyar!! Our public figures have eyes to see but can not. Have brain that is contaminated with wi’di. Their affinity to devour what belongs to the public is astronomical. We know ’Ngun is omnipotent and is nonracial. Wondu was putting a view across he deserves thanks from the public.

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