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TRANSCRIPT: Diamond Discusses Democracy, Governance in Africa
Larry Diamond discussed democracy and governance in Africa as part of the Commander's Speakers Series June 29, 2010, at the Kelley Theater. Diamond, the author of "The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the
Larry Diamond discussed democracy and governance in Africa as part of the Commander's Speakers Series June 29, 2010, at the Kelley Theater. Diamond, the author of "The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World," is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy.

The following is a transcript of the event:

GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: (In progress) The good news is you’re going to sit there and you’re going to sweat. You’re going to enjoy it because of the stimulating presentation that we’re about to receive from this absolutely renowned, renowned author, Dr. Larry Diamond.

He comes here as the next in a series of very distinguished speakers that the command is sponsoring to help us with our perspective, our understanding of the continent of Africa and the things that we do and how they are impacted by or how they impact other activities of being conducted.

And as we often say to the degree that we have clearer understanding and these perspectives, we can do our job better because we in fact take into consideration those other perspectives that impact the environment; didn’t say do everything but certainly to understand, to listen and to take into consideration.

And, so for that, I think these distinguished speakers who come to spend time with us, we are indeed very, very grateful to and we certainly appreciate what they bring to our understanding of the continent and in this particular case, Dr. Larry Diamond certainly rises to the very top of the list of folk who we’ve been able to enjoy here for the past now I guess 14 or 15 months or so that we’ve been doing these once every three or four months. So Larry you clearly have blessed us with being here.

Dr. Diamond is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, where he also directs the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, which is a pretty big portfolio there that he has. He’s also served as the senior advisor on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and he did this in 2004.

And he’s also written extensively about that very thing as well, which is for us really, really important. He’s published extensively on our policy in Iraq as well as the wider challenges of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction, which is something that we clearly have a great interest in.

He published a book in 2005 entitled “Squandered Victory”, that describes the American occupation and the, quite frankly, bungled effort in Iraq to bring democracy there; his words, not mine.

But he’s also lectured and advised on governance and development to the World Bank, to the United Nations and to the Department of State. So many folks have called on his expertise to help them better understand the environment, put things in a context that hopefully enabled more thoughtful decisions to be taken.

One of the things that Dr. Diamond is going to do with us this afternoon is talk about democracy and governance in Africa, which is the title of his presentation and its prospects for stability and reform.

I think that’s pretty unique because obviously after all the things that we do and especially that takes into account how we look at what we do primarily in ways of helping to promote stability, prevent conflict, getting ahead of problems as opposed to having to react and respond to problems.

Now how do we do that? Well, we do it hopefully in the most informed way we can and obviously we’ll have some great insights to that as we move forward here.

He has authored over 36 books, so he is a producing machine, cranking them out on all things that certainly make sense to all of us and we’re just so, so happy to have him here. His latest book “The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies throughout the World”, so what better title of a book than that that has implications for each of us, especially those of us who are in our geographic commands and doing what we do around the world.

And so as we listen to him talk about democratic progress and the stress of democracies and the prospects for future democratic expansion and how that’s done and how it’s no done, we will certainly be enriched by what he brings to us. So with that, Dr. Diamond, please, and welcome sir to U.S. Africa Command. (Applause.)

LARRY DIAMOND: Well, General Ward, thank you very much for that extremely gracious introduction and thanks to all the staff of AFRICOM and friends of AFRICOM who have greeted me so warmly and with a very intellectually stimulating set of questions and exchanges over the last day and a half. I think some of the skeptics, rather shallow ones, of AFRICOM might be surprised to know that I was invited to speak here on democracy and governance in Africa.

But it doesn’t surprise me that you are interested in the subject. I thank you all for your interest and it doesn’t surprise me that you see quite readily what I think are the natural links between the quality of governance in Africa and the security issues that are the primary challenge that you’re dealing with in Africa. If you’ll permit me, I get a little restless, so I’d like to wander while I make this presentation to you. Anthony, thank you for advancing the slides for me.

So I’m going to begin with just a little bit of comparative data about governance. I think the most reliable, objective, methodologically sophisticated, quantitative data we have on governance has been assembled by the World Bank, next slide please, in a set of indicators called governance matters, which is now updated on an annual basis.

They measure six indicators. Voice and accountability is roughly equivalent to democracy. Political stability mainly involves absence of violence and ratings by independent experts and political risk consulting firms and so on about political risk in a country.

And then the other four measures, as you’ll see in a moment, I have combined into an aggregate average measure of the quality of the state and its effectiveness in a number of respects which you can see here. All of these items are measured on a percentile index going from zero to 100; next slide.

And so you see here that Africa in the mid-2000s – there’s slightly more recent data now actually, but the averages relative to other regions haven’t changed very dramatically – is frankly better than some regions in terms of levels of political freedom and democracy, better certainly than the Middle East, a little better than South Asia.

In terms of state quality, however, and this is the problem, you can see that in terms of controlling corruption, promoting the rule of law, having a state that has the capacity to do what it intends to do in terms of its broad polities, to execute them, the average African state on these combined four measures of state quality in the mid-2000s stood about the 28th percentile and that was in terms of regions the weakest average level of state capacity in the world.

So I don’t have to say this to you. I think intuitively you know that weak state capacity is one of the problems we confront in sub-Saharan Africa; next slide.

And of course you’re well familiar with these statistics. Actually the rate of violent conflict seems to be going down in sub-Saharan Africa but it is still the most frequent site for U.N. peacekeeping operations by far and by 2007 – I don’t imagine it’s changed dramatically since then – over two-thirds of all U.N. peacekeeping troops deployed in the world were deployed in Africa.

And I was surprised to see this figure, that nearly half of the 48 states in sub-Saharan Africa have suffered civil wars and quite a significant share of the world’s refugees are, again, here in sub-Saharan Africa; next slide.

So these are the parameters of what we’re dealing with. In terms of democracy in the world, I’m now defining democracy simply as a system of government in which people can choose and replace their leaders in reasonably free and fair elections and to have free and fair elections, it really does require that there be some degree of freedom of speech and freedom of the press as well.

And by late 2009 or even the end of 2009, about two of every five African states could be said to be electoral democracies.

It’s a bit hard to make these judgments. Frankly, things get very fuzzy around the borders. But this is not an easy passing grade. I mean, Tanzania has a relatively open society in a number of respects. It has competitive multiparty elections. But it’s not among the countries that fully meet this standard of electoral democracy, although I think it comes close.

On the other hand, Freedom House classifies Senegal as an electoral democracy. I’ve accepted its classification. Many people now question it. So understanding that there’s fuzziness around the border, there’s still an unprecedented critical mass of democracies in Africa. We’ve never before in any previous era had anything like this number and a number of others, like Tanzania, that are at least somewhat close.

On the other hand, if you count the number of liberal democracies, those that have really pretty strong protections for civil liberties, quite good freedom of the press, at least some significant judicial independence, there aren’t that many of those; maybe at most 15 percent of the states in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mainly they’re very small states, like Benin, Ghana is included here and so on, and you can see that, again, there are more democracies as a proportion of all states in sub-Saharan Africa than in Asia and certainly than in the Middle East but fewer than in other regions; next slide.

These are the levels of freedom in the world in each region of the world and again, I’m treating Africa as sub-Saharan Africa and you may know that the Freedom House scale is more democratic as the numbers fall from seven to one.

These are averaging the two scales of political rights and civil liberties and this is to say that levels of both political and civil freedom in Africa, the data show what we know intuitively, improved quite substantially, primarily after the end of the Cold War in 1991 and very few regions of the world other than Eastern Europe and to some extent Latin America, which is the second column from the left, improved as much as Africa did. But the improvement was starting from the very high point of oppression; next slide.

This shows the progress of freedom during essentially the administration of George W. Bush between 2000 and 2008 and here you see during this period, frankly, much more modest overall progress of freedom in the world. Average levels of freedom in sub-Saharan Africa, and again, the lower the score from seven to one, the higher the degree of freedom, the lower the level of repression.

So improvement from 4.4 to 4.2 is – it’s a little, you know, bit of improvement but it’s not dramatic and of course the world was dealing with the challenges of security that we now confront in sub-Saharan Arica after September 11 and a variety of other challenges. This is not easy work to do to encourage the spread of freedom in the world.

Overall, there was slight improvement during these eight years but really not a great deal in sub-Saharan Africa or elsewhere; next slide.

This is my best estimate of some of the types of regimes in sub-Saharan Africa today. You see that among the liberal democracies are Ghana, Mauritius, South Africa, Benin, Cape Verde and so on. This doesn’t mean they’re free of problems of organized crime, drug trafficking, things like this but generally, they have higher levels of freedom than the other states.

There’s a question mark after Botswana. I could address this further in the question and answer period. There are signs of very significant erosion of freedom and the rule of law in Botswana and then there are a number of other countries in Africa that in some cases are emerging out of conflict, in other cases are still quite poor, but at least they meet the test of electoral democracy.

You can see a number of democracies have been lost in Africa in recent years. You might raise your eyebrows at Mozambique. What happened in Mozambique? Well, what happened is Freedom House judged that there was an election that was sufficiently bad in terms of the freedom of the opposition to compete and the existence of a level playing field that they could no longer classify Mozambique as an electoral democracy. But it’s one of those countries on the borderline.

Then there are a number of countries. I think Tanzania is at the upper end in terms of regimes that have multiparty systems but don’t quite meet the threshold of democracy and then you descend down to other countries that are much further away from the standard; next slide.

I thought I’d give you a bit of a global context there as well. I could go on much further about this. But one of the things I really want to underscore in my remarks today is that we are in a period now of not only global economic recession still but I think probably what will turn out to be a more protracted political recession and that involves a retreat of freedom and democracy in the world in recent years.

The last three years have been the first three consecutive years since the end of the Cold War in which the number of countries declining in their levels of freedom in the world significantly outpace the number of countries, as judged by Freedom House, that were improving their levels of freedom, that is political rights and civil liberties.

And you can see – well you can’t exactly see it, but I will tell you that in 2007, almost four times as many countries declined in levels of freedom as improved and in 2008 and 2009, more than twice as many declined as improved and before that, the ratios were inverted in the positive direction; next slide.

Globally, we saw last year the loss of democracy in three African countries and one other by various means. I think Honduras has returned to democracy with its last election but not these other three African countries. There was one country that was judged to have made a transition to democracy but it’s got about 100,000 people. So I think we – there’s a limit to how much cheer we can draw from that and you can see the ratio of decliners to improvers in freedom; next slide.

So why is democracy in retreat in the world and why is it the case that of the 30 reversals of democracy that have taken place since the so-called third wave of global democratic expansion began in 1974, why is the case that nearly two-thirds of these reversals have taken place just in the last decade?

In other words, why does there seem to be now a kind of stagnation in the expansion of democracy and an accelerating pace of erosion of freedom and loss of democracy?

These are the reasons I would offer and I think unfortunately they are highly relevant to sub-Saharan Africa. First of all, many of the democracies that emerged during this period emerged with a high degree of superficiality in terms of a weak rule of law – I’m going to come back to this theme again – with extensive corruption and abuse of power.

And with abuse of power by state authorities, particular executive authorities, frequently went abuse of individual rights and impunity both for the state actors and the non-state actors that were violating individual liberties.

Along with this is the fact that states have been, again, weak in their capacity, including their capacity to restrain and punish the non-state violators of political order and human rights and this could be warlord actors, militias, organized crime, decentralized criminal actors, general lawlessness and so on.

Secondly, in some countries, as the social science theories would predict, democracy didn’t do well enough for the people in material terms. Now, as I’ll show you a little bit later, this often has not been reflected in aggregate economic growth rates. That is the disappointment. In many cases of democratic breakdown, aggregate economic growth rates have been positive and even rather significant for 5, 6 percent or even more.

But often it didn’t trickle down very much to ordinary people and of course in Latin America and also in sub-Saharan Africa, you have historic entrenched inequalities that have left a large proportion of the population marginalized, alienated and therefore contributing to the rise of anti-democratic populists like Hugo Chavez; next slide.

Third, of course, has been ethnic and religious divisions, which also sometimes merge with feelings of relative depravation so that he grievances are intensified and of course these are easily and readily exploited by ambitious political elites who want to ride them to power.

Then two, political institutions, as you are keenly aware from your experience on the ground in Africa, are very weak and ineffective and one reason, it’s not the only reason why we so frequently see executive abuse of power in sub-Saharan Africa is that there is so little to restrain it. The courts are not independent of the president and the executive branch but often are very much personally dominated and controlled by it.

Agencies of what I call horizontal accountability, that is, all the different independent branches and agencies of government – legislature, executive, counter-corruption agencies and so on – I’ll come back to this – again, are largely subdued and compromised, lacking vigorous and independent leadership. Civil society is relatively weak.

International actors, including I will say the United States, often because of the multiplicity of other interests on its agenda, do not confront and seek very much to restrain these authoritarian abuses because of other items on the bilateral and regional agenda and so what you get is a very sad, destructive slide toward worse and worse governance; next slide.

And this slide leaves people very, very disillusioned about democracy and about the legitimacy of their own political system. I have recommended that you bring here to AFRICOM for a much deeper examination the principles, or one or more of them, in the Afrobarometer, which is an amazing periodic survey of public opinion now in more than 20 sub-Saharan African states.

And if you’re interested in seeing the data, which I have at the end of my slides that I’m not going to get to in my prepared remarks for reasons of time, you can simply go to www.afrobarometer.org and see really quite a lot of extremely interesting and in some cases more recent data on how people in sub-Saharan Africa view their political leaders.

But the key point I want to make is that – and this is paradigmatic of a larger story – when the military left power in Nigeria in 1999 after 16 years of extremely predatory rule, Nigerians breathed enormous sigh of relief and had an unprecedented degree of hope and optimism about their new civilian constitutional system.

And you can see this was reflected in extremely high levels of Nigerians who said that democracy was always the best form of government, who rejected military rule as an option for their country, who said they were satisfied with the way democracy was working, who said they had trust in the president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and who believed that the government was working really for the first time in the history of the country to control corruption, which is the thing that Nigerians are, frankly, angriest about with respect to their government because they have, as you know, this extraordinary oil wealth, most of which has simply been stolen by the country’s elite.

And so you can see the downward slide over time as hope gave way to compromise and then a resumption of the old ways. Now, tick back up again for a time when there began to be a crackdown on corruption, but as you know, President Obasanjo then tried to purchase his way into changing the constitution to allow him to run for a third time and Nigerians really turned against him at that point.

The key point I want to make is that there is – you can see – a significant correlation between the percentage of people who believe that the government is working to control corruption and the percentage who are satisfied with the way that democracy is working in their country; next slide please.

And I just want to note again from the Afrobarometer data that this plunge in satisfaction with the way democracy is working in the country is not inevitable.

There was a neighboring African country at the same time, Ghana, which is of course a kind of natural rival politically of Nigeria and in West Africa on the continent more broadly, that started with less euphoria but suddenly improved during this period because government seemed to be working more responsibly and elections were much, of much higher quality than in Nigeria.

I might add parenthetically about Ghana that toward the end of the NPP’s 8 years in power, the grabbing started all over again with much greater vigor and I think it played a significant role in the NPP losing the 2008 election, despite very good economic performance and a rather decent president by African standards and if it hadn’t been for that and the squabbles in the ruling party and so on, they probably would have won by a large margin.

My own view is that I think it’s going to turn out to be a real misfortune for the country that Rawlings’ party has returned to power. But I can speak to that later; next slide please.

Now, I think the greatest misfortune with respect to Ghana’s future is that they have discovered oil and in a really, really big way. I just think they hit it too soon in their development trajectory. What you can see here is I think one of the most stunning statistics that I have found in my work on comparative development and it’s very simple. Count up all the countries in the world that derive the clear majority, 60 percent or more, of their export earnings from oil and gas – I count 23 of them – and then ask how many of those countries are electoral democracies. The answer is zero.

Now in the early 2000s, you could have said three: Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela. But as Tom Friedman has written, and I do think it’s the case, that as the price of oil and gas went up on world markets, the fate of democracy went down and there are a variety of reasons why there is this negative correlation.

Many scholars have written about this. Any kind of external rent that is unearned income that flows in large amounts into a country’s coffers deprive the country of the kind of incentives to really earn its wealth and more importantly, by relieving the state of dependence on tax revenue from its own people also relieves the state of any incentive to be accountable to its own people.

And if the oil really gushes into the coffers of Ghana without very strong institutions of accountability, which frankly, despite Ghana’s status as a liberal democracy, are very far from having been clearly established and consolidated there – and I can speak more about that – I fear, frankly, and I say this with great pain because Ghana has been such a great hope, promise and inspiration for the continent over the last decade or so, I fear that the eventual trajectory will be in this same direction; next slide.

I think you know that the historical experience with democracy in Africa has not been a very happy one prior to 1990. It’s basically been a few attempts at democracy; well, actually quite a number but very few that survived. Botswana and Mauritius, neither of which are very heavily populated and only one of which actually sits on the African continent, are the only two countries that have been continuously independent, continuously democratic since independence; next slide.

So why has Africa failed to develop politically and economically? I need to move fairly quickly here so the colonial legacy I will simply say I think is very tiresomely overused by Africans themselves and by guilt-ridden liberals in the United States and I am a liberal myself, by the way. I’m just not ridden with the same degree of guilt – next slide – as an explanation for these failures.

There were many negative effects of colonial rule, undeniable. You can see them here. The continent was mercilessly, unsentimentally and very arbitrarily carved up. Much of the wealth was simply sucked out. I mean, much of the colonial legacy is a human and humanitarian disgrace. But first of all, it’s not the whole story; next slide.

There were some positive legacies of colonialism in the world, not to justify it. I think it’s not justifiable on balance but if you’re looking as a social scientist you have to look at both sides of the ledger and at least in the British parts of sub-Saharan African in particular there were some democratic values, norms, legacies and traditions that were left; next slide.

And in any case, I’m sorry, we’re now four, five decades past the end of colonial rule and to keep blaming colonialism as the reason for Africa’s woes is I just think not very clearheaded. There is a problem with African politics but it goes beyond, around and to some extent precedes colonial rule and it finds its correlates in other political systems; in Asia, the Xiao Dio tradition, in Latin American and so on.

It is the politics are extremely hierarchical, very much organized into chains of patron-client relations, what’s been called by academics who are fond of unnecessarily long and bloated terms, neopatrimonialism. But it just basically means big man politics organized into chains of very venal, exploitative patron-client relations; next slide.

And of course I couldn’t resist showing you a couple pictures of my favorite African autocrats: Omar al-Bashir and Robert Mugabe; next slide. That’s enough of him. Next slide please. So yeah, let’s hope that – I mean, he’s 86. So it’s time for him to retire.

The problem of bad governance in Africa is not limited to this but I do think it’s the sort of visible wedge of a deeper set of problems, a personalization of power and a weak rule of law and you just can’t get anywhere in terms of understanding the underlying dynamics of politics and governance in Africa if you don’t understand the logic of rule in much of the continent and unfortunately historically the world in general.

I would recommend to you in case we’re in any risk of slipping into ethnocentric generalizations about Africa, an extremely important distinguished new work of social science by the Nobel Prize winning economics Douglass North and two of his colleagues which is beginning to heavily influence the thinking of the World Bank called “Violence and Social Orders”.

And you’ll see that a lot of the dynamics I’m talking about here, which basically reduce down to powerful impulse, to monopolize power and resources, are not unique to Africa, that they’ve basically been, as North puts it, the story of 10,000 years of recorded human history.

And it’s not easy to transcend these and get from this kind of dynamic of extremely monopolistic, clientelistic, rent seeking practices that violate market norms of competitiveness both in the economic and political realms to limited government in the sense of a constitutional order that affirms economic and political freedom.

But even the democracies of Africa have only tenuously begun down the road of evolution toward that path of the organic and enduring institutionalization of limitation of power, not just competitive elections but constitutionalism and a rule of law.

Instead what you get are one degree or another of these dynamics and it’s going to take – we can’t kid ourselves here – very, very powerful incentives and very, very protracted, patient, creative, extended investments in institutions not only to create power and effective government but also to check the abuse of power through these agencies – horizontal accountability, which I’ll speak about in a minute – and through a very strong civil society of educated citizens, of free press, strong nongovernmental organizations to kind of discourage this activity and move it to a different logic; next slide please.

So this is my passion. You can’t spend a year of your life in Nigeria, I think, and not basically wind up at this point; next slide.

I think that we’re not going to get anywhere in terms of development and stable and effective governance in Africa, certainly not get anywhere sustainably, if we don’t tackle this problem of controlling corruption. I don’t say eliminating corruption. I think we’d all agree we haven’t even succeeded at that in the United States. But we can make very significant progress in controlling it.

I don’t say that everywhere, at very moment electoral democracy is essential to do that, though I think it is a very powerful tool for that and I certainly don’t say that it’s a sufficient condition because, as I’ve suggested, there can be extremely corrupt electoral democracies.

But basically, if you want sustainable development and organic foundations for security so that we don’t have to keep intervening in these places, then you need good governance and good governance, it’s very simple.

It means that public resources are going to be used to generate public goods rather than private goods for the rulers, their families, their retainers and so on; next slide.

The problem in much of the continent is predatory rule and the best description I have read of predatory rule, although he doesn’t use this term, is what Robert Putnam, the famous Harvard political scientist, wrote about in terms of the distinction between southern Italy and northern Italy and this is what he had in mind when writing about Sicily and the southern end of Italy by distinction to the north.

Corruption is widely regarded as the norm – part of these words are mine. Political mobilization comes from above rather than self-motivated by below. Civic engagement is meager. Compromise is scarce and nearly everyone feels powerless, exploited and unhappy. Now you look at a country like Guinea and that’s basically the story of the last 50 years.

Let’s hope it changes after the elections; you know, what the country is going through now and the runoff pretty soon. But, you know, if you don’t change this dynamic, we’re putting Band-Aids on all of the rest. Next slide.

So if the purpose of government is to generate private goods for these patron client networks rather than development for the country it’s not going to lead to development, security, protection for human rights or really very much of anything else that we value except maybe short-term alliances with rulers who are not firmly rooted in their societies and not able to deliver the transformative development that would enable us to craft a more sophisticated and enduring set of partnerships with Africa. Next slide.

And these are some of the other features of really badly governed states, including a high degree of ethnicization of politics. And, you know, you can have – we were talking about this a little bit at lunch – a leader like Meleze Sanawi, who looks like he is on top of the world, delivering development; things are politically stable. You know, but if you’ve got a 7 or 8 percent ethnic minority sitting on top of the rest of the system monopolizing power and resources and you think that’s a sustainable bargain, you know, I just think that’s not a very convincing analysis to me, even if he has been there for nearly 20 years.

I mean, when Mobutu was in power political scientists, like me, kept saying, you know, at every kind of five-year interval, this is not – and the shah as well – this is not sustainable; it’s going to come crashing down. And after 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, frankly, people in the government turned to us and said, well, that’s fine but he has been there 15 years and everything is stable. Well, the point is it’s stable until it’s not. (Laughter.) That’s my comparitive best.

Well, I tried to do some data in a very preliminary way to look at groups of states and their performance in terms of development. Next slide. I don’t say this is definitive at all, but the sample that I took to get a hold of some of this data of some countries that were democracies or close to democracies; some countries that have been war-torn or authoritarian, including Uganda, which I think is becoming more authoritarian; and then the badly governed oil states of Nigeria and Angola.

And you can see that the democracies in this sample – I don’t present this as definitive, although there’s some emerging data that tends to reinforce what I’m saying here – obviously, are better-governed. Next slide. But more interestingly, have better rates of immunization, better rates of delivery of sanitary water, slightly higher life expectancy. The more interesting slide is to come – go ahead.

Lower infant mortality, quite significantly – and by the way, one of the most robust statistical findings that I’ve seen in the relationship between democracy and development is not the relationship between economic performance, per se, and democracy, but rather that democracies appear to have delivered, over time, more reduction in infant mortality. Next slide.

And in particular, you can see that the democracies in this group achieved more significant reductions in fertility, which I find very interesting, and therefore, lower population rates than the other two groups. Next slide. Anyway, these will be my final slides because I want to leave a decent amount of time here for questions and answers, your comments and discussion. But my feeling is, you know, one of the things that this continent is really crying out for, in addition to general improvements in state capacity in every realm, is improvements in structures of accountability.

So we begin – it’s not going to happen overnight; it’s not going to be a miracle; obviously, it’s going to be incremental. But so we can achieve really significant and sustainable reductions in corruption and bad rent-seeking, self-seeking governance. Some of these changes, I think, involve the vertical dimensions of accountability, not only through free and fair competitive elections, but through a strong and vigilant civil society, freedom of the press. This is very important – freedom of information.

A number of African countries and civil societies are beginning to look at the Freedom of Information Act in the United States, lobby for similar legislation in their country, use it as a tool, now. As you know, many African civil societies are starting to use information – modern information technology to try and mobilize for greater accountability. There are, I think, over 300 million cell phones, now, in Africa.

I’ve actually been doing separate work on this and would be happy to talk about it more in discussion, but the mobile phone revolution, I think, has enormous implications for the ability of African civil societies to monitor what government does, document and report wrongdoing, monitor elections, monitor corruption, mobilize themselves for accountability. And this doesn’t require, necessarily, high degrees of literacy in the literal sense. I think we make a mistake if we assume that one has to be literate, in terms of, you know, full ability to read and write language, in order to be an active and, you know, reasonably discriminating citizen. Next slide.

I think external accountability is a very important dimension of the process. Frankly, in my view, the international aid agencies and certainly, my god, the international banking system, has been heavily complicit in the looting of the African continent, and in the recycling of much of the wealth of the country back to banks and property and investments in Europe and the United States, and oh by the way, not least presidential election campaigns in France. In addition, I think that we need to do a lot more to enforce the laws we already have on the books against bribery so that they’re not only focusing on the bribe-taker but the bribe-offerers. Well, you can see how radical I am on the subject. Next slide.

But the one thing that I think we’re beginning to see and to really make progress on is the construction of institutions and empowerment of institutions of horizontal accountability. And they are – the entire network, it does form a system, in the end, of institutions that involve monitoring, justification for what government officials do, and enforcement by various branches and agencies of the government, of one another, working on a horizontal plane.

And of course we think of this in terms of checks and balances among legislature, judiciary and the executive branch, but as you’ll see – next slide – it involves more than that – more than, obviously, separation of powers and dispersion not only among multiple branches, but other agencies of the government, as well. Next slide. And so I’m talking about independent institutions – again, not just legislature and judiciary – to monitor, detect, deter and punish corruption and abuse of power.

And some of the key ones that I really think need focus and attention and empowerment and aid and diplomatic leverage to – for executives to appoint serious people to lead involves the counter-corruption commission, if it exists. Usually, in Africa, there is such a thing. It exists on paper. In theory, public officers have to declare their assets and, you know, the rest is just a laughable fiction.

The office of ombudsman can be an important venue for citizens to register complaints against government officials at all levels and have them independently investigated – not only parliament, but parliamentary investigative committees. The prosecutorial authority is an important dimension of this. It really should be professionalized and, to some extent, insulated from political control. Obviously, we’re talking here about accounting, as well, and an autonomous, supreme audit agency, autonomous electoral commissions, human rights commissions, and so on.

I’m going to close with these points about what’s necessary, of course, on an accountability – (inaudible). And these are the reasons why it hasn’t worked in Africa and elsewhere, even when the architecture has been there on the ground. First of all, these institutions have to be autonomous from executive control. What normally happens is, they exist.

Then, you know, you find this in Nigeria some – 80-year-old retired judge who turns out to be the third cousin of the president appointed to head the counter-corruption commission. And the assets declarations sit in some dusty drawer somewhere and nobody ever sees them, nobody ever gets investigated, you know. If you’re lucky, some fourth-tier customs official may be prosecuted every three or four years.

So obviously, you need rigorous independence in the appointment, financing, hiring and standing up of these agencies. Next slide. Adequate resources for them to function – we can help to provide those, but the state has to do its part in an African country. They need the legal authority to move ahead and prosecute on their own if the justice ministry won’t, reciprocal forms of oversight so if one accountability agency fails, another can press the case, to some extent. I think we’ll stop here – and capable, vigorous leadership.

I think we’ve seen, you know, that progress can be made. Some African countries – again, it’s not a miracle. None are doing as well as they could be doing. A number, I think, as they see the heat kind of trailing off with the new cold war on terror and the rising agenda of securities concerns on the part of the West, and China entering with its own generous forms of aid, you know, they see they have more scope to kind of slip back. I believe we’re at a very, very formative, pivotal moment now in Africa’s post-Cold War experience.

We’ve seen very significant progress in some countries, maturations of civil society and some institutions of democracy and better governance. But you can see, you know, the early signs – or maybe even, now, not-so-early signs of erosion, slippage – you know, just the return of easy and familiar practices.

And if we don’t keep up the pressure and sustain the engagement and sustain the partnership with African actors in the state and outside the state who really want to transform their countries, we really will have lost an opportunity to help Africa get on a truly different and more promising development trajectory. Thank you. (Applause.)
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