ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Reform must start with intellectual freedom and freedom of the press. Reform must come from withinmade
by the people themselves, not by Western governments or financial institutions. Internally-initiated reform is
far more sustainable and enduring. The self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi started the Arab Spring.
His was the ultimate and extreme form of freedom of expression.
Books by George Ayittey
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George Ayittey Defeating Dictators
Interviewed by Thor Halvorssen
22 June 2011
Ghanaian economist George Ayittey recently spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway about how to get rid of dictators, a process already underway in north Africa. A chat he had with Thor Halvorssen, President of the Human Rights Foundation, is food for thought.
Thor Halvorssen: How pervasive is dictatorship in Africa today?
George Ayittey: Africa has more dictators per capita than any other continent. In 1990, only four out of the 54 African countries were democratic; today, 21 years later, it is only 15. Fewer than ten can be deemed economic success stories and a free media exists in only ten African countries. Some people call this progress . thats not what I would call it.
Thor Halvorssen: That means at least 39 countries in Africa are still ruled by dictators.
George Ayittey: And we are fed up. Fed up! Angry Africans are fed up and are taking the heat to them. Dictators cause the worlds worst problems: all the collapsed states, and all the devastated economies.
All the vapid cases of corruption, grand theft, and naked plunder of the treasury are caused by dictators, leaving in their wake trails of wanton destruction, horrendous carnage and human debris.
But guess whos always cleaning up their mess?
For decades, the West has spent trillions of dollars trying to persuade, cajole, and even bribe them to reform their abominable political and economic systems. The West has even tried appeasement in their rapprochement. Enough!
Thor Halvorssen: But shouldnt the West pressure dictators with other measures like cutting off IMF loans and international aid packages and threaten to stop recognizing them diplomatically?
George Ayittey: The West has to understand that dictators never have and never will be interested in reform. They are stone deaf and impervious to reason. Period.
Dictators are allergic to reform, and they are cunning survivors. They will do whatever it takes to preserve their power and wealth, no matter how much blood ends up on their hands. They are master deceivers and talented manipulators who cannot be trusted to change.
Thor Halvorssen: What kind of resources do they need in order to maintain their survival? Surely the loss of Western funding would hinder them?
George Ayittey: After a mere four-and-a-half years in office, the late dictator of Nigeria, Sani Abacha, managed to accumulate a personal fortune of 5 billion dollars. Omar Al-Bashir has siphoned 7 billion out of Sudan. And Hosni Mubarak of Egypt managed to accumulate a personal fortune of 40 billion dollars! All stolen from their own people.
Let me put that into perspective. The net worth of all U.S. presidents, 43 of them, from Washington to Obama, amounted to 2.7 billion. That means that Africas kamikaze bandits each stole more than the net worth of all U.S. presidents and then more.
Thor Halvorssen: How does a human rights activist fight against 40 billion dollars of bribe money?
George Ayittey: This is exactly what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. Fed up with their corrupt antics, angry street demonstrators started pushing dictators out: Ben Ali fled, Mubarak was shoved aside, and more coconuts will tumble
But caution: Noisy rah-rah street demonstrations alone are not enough.
Three cardinal principles must be followed for a popular revolution to succeed. First, a united coalition of opposition forces is essential. Second, the dictators modus operandistrengths and weaknessmust be studied in detail. Lastly, getting the sequence of reform right is crucial; there are several steps that must be followed precisely in order.
Thor Halvorssen: The sequence you just described should perhaps be named Ayittey’s law. By a coalition do you mean a political alliance? Wouldnt that be difficult in most of these countries suffering under dictatorships or one-party rule?
George Ayittey: A small group of pro-democracy activistscall it an elders councilis imperative to serve as the nerve center, plan strategically, and coordinate the activities of the various opposition groups, civil society groups and youth movements.
For example, The Gathering in Sudan in 1985, The Danube Circle in Hungary in 1988, Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the Alliance for Change in Ghana in 1995, in which I participated. If the dictator schedules an election, the council must rope all political parties into an electoral alliance.
In 2010, dictators won elections because of a divided opposition field. For funding, the council should rely on its own diaspora community, not on Western donors.
Thor Halvorssen: Why should reformers depend on their community as opposed to Western donors?
George Ayittey: Reform must start with intellectual freedom and freedom of the press. Reform must come from withinmade by the people themselves, not by Western governments or financial institutions. Internally-initiated reform is far more sustainable and enduring. The self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi started the Arab Spring. His was the ultimate and extreme form of freedom of expression.
Thor Halvorssen: OK, so first a coalition, second we find the dictators weaknesses
George Ayittey: The modus operandi of all dictators is essentially the same: Besides parliament, if there is one, they seize control of six key state institutions (the security forces, the media, the civil service, the judiciary, the electoral commission, and the central bank), pack them with their supporters, and debauch them to serve their interests.
To succeed, a popular revolution must wrestle control of at least one or more of these institutions out of the dictators clutches. The game was over for Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak when the military refused to fire on civilians. Ditto in the Philippines in 1986 and Georgia in November 2003, where the security forces were charmed with roses (hence, the Rose Revolution.) Ukraines Orange revolution of November 2004 won the Supreme Court to its side and Pakistans Black Revolution of March 2007 had the full support of the judiciary.
Let me give you 3 more ways of toppling a dictators stronghold:
First, get the media out of their hands: create pirate radios, use social media. Thats what will unleash the reforms we all cherish so dearly, not Western sermons, sanctions, or appeasement.
Second, hit them with their own constitution. For example, Article 35 of Chinas Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. In Ghana, we used the Constitution and the courts to free the airwaves, leading to a proliferation of FM Radio stations, which were instrumental in ousting the regime in 2000.
Third, a dictators weakness is exploited by s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g its military geographically. Shut down the civil service and any military regime will collapse. It will not have enough soldiers to replace civil servants across the country; we saw this in Ghana in 1978 and Benin in 1989. We also saw the same thing this year, as street protests in Tunisia and Egypt erupted simultaneously in several cities and towns, straining security forces
Thor Halvorssen: But, thats not the end, is it? Toppling the dictator is just the beginning
George Ayittey: Getting rid of the dictator is only a first step in establishing a free society. The dictatorship must also be disassembled. We didnt do this in Africa in the 1960s. We removed the white colonialists and they were replaced by black neo-colonialists, Swiss bank socialists, crocodile liberalists, quack revolutionaries, and briefcase bandits.
Africans will tell you, we struggled very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat came to do exactly the same thing. This is because we did not disassemble the dictatorship state.
To disassemble a dictatorship you have to do things in order and steps. This is like overhauling a vehicle where repairs must be made in order: you dont fix the transmission when the battery is dead, nor do you install a new sound system when the battery is dead.
Disassembling a dictatorship requires first intellectual reform (a push for freedom of expression and the media); second, political reform (democratic pluralism and free and fair elections); third, constitutional reform (limiting the powers of the executive); fourth, institutional reform (independent judiciary, electoral commission, efficient civil service, and neutral and professional armed forces); and fifth, economic reform, or liberalization (free markets and free trade).
Thor Halvorssen: What happens when revolutions don’t follow this sequence in that order?
George Ayittey: Reversals of revolutions occurred in several countries because the reform process was out of sequence or haphazard. For example, premature economic liberalizationlike the shock therapy in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia in the early 1990sproduced vampire capitalists.
The institutional reforms and legal framework needed to make economic liberalization succeed had not been undertaken. The nomenklatura remained firmly entrenched, frustrating reforms. A few (eight) oligarchs used inside knowledge and political connections to gobble up state assets at rock-bottom prices and became instant billionaires.
Most disastrous for Africa was economic liberalization ahead of all other types of reformlike the Washington Consensus. To be sure, economic liberalization engenders prosperity but dictators never level any playing field. They implement only those types of reforms that benefit themselves, their families, and their cronies.
Those African countries that pursued economic liberalization eventually failed the political test and imploded: Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe. In Egypt, the street protesters who ousted Hosni Mubarak now seek to roll back his free-market reforms and hold its beneficiaries accountable.
And Ivory Coast, once described as an economic miracle, now lies in ruins. China currently faces this quandary. If it opens up politically, the Communist Party will be swept away; if it doesnt, it may disintegrate like the former Soviet Union.
Thor Halvorssen: So, in your speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum you will provide a roadmap on how to defeat a dictator in three principles and five steps.
George Ayittey: Thats right. Mikhail Gorbachev started with glasnost; Africa needs to start with blacknost.
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By George Ayittey
Reviewed by Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta
After publishing Africa Betrayed (1992) and Africa Unchained (2005), intellectual gadfly, Professor George B. N. Ayittey has crafted yet another masterpiece, Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World (2011) in which he adumbrates the deceptive habits of highly defective despotic regimes in Africa and beyond. Ayittey contends that a dictator is a dictator. He further points out that The only good dictator is a dead one (218). The crux of the argument in his book is that Africans and other people chaffing under the yoke of despotism should steer clear of confusing ideological with systemic dictatorshipdictatorship that emerges from faulty institutions and systems. Any political system that concentrates power in the hands of one person, he argues, will inevitably degenerate into a dictatorship. The culprit is the systemnot ideology or culture.
Defeating Dictators is a vitriolic lampoon on abuse of power, electoral gerrymandering and rape of democracy in the developing world. Ayittey observes that modern dictators come in different shades; races, skin colors and religions, and they profess various ideologies (7). This notwithstanding, despots have a lot in common: they are leaders who are not chosen by their people and, therefore, do not represent the peoples aspirations. As opposition mounts against them, they refine their tactics and learn new tricks in an attempt to stem the tide of pro-democracy forces. Despotic governments are highly deceptive regimes that are recognizable from distinctive traits.
Unyielding grip on power is the hallmark of every dictator in Africa. Elections are farcical and always won by the despot. As Ayittey would have it, dictators fix the rules of the game and secure 90 percent of the vote all the time (201). Dictators grow senile, and then they start to groom their sons, wives, and half-brothers to succeed them. African despots are notorious for these treasonous acts of insanity: Paul Biya of Cameroon, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Colonel Qaddafi of Libya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Idris Deby of Chad and more.
Dictators have the knack for looting the nations coffers. More often than not, the country is broke because the dictator and his henchmen have looted the treasury unashamedly and stashed their loot in foreign bank accountsthe safe haven is Switzerland. The dire consequence is that the country is saddled with a mountain of foreign debt. Ayittey laments the fact that Paul Biya, the dictator of Cameroon, who has been in power for 29 years, has received a long series of loansknown as Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities from the IMF (181). When the same poor Cameroonians in whose names he had received the loans protested in 2008 against skyrocketing food prices and a constitutional amendment that was intended to extend Biyas rule to 2018, Mr. Biya ordered his brutal security forces to fire live bullets at protesters. One hundred people died instantly. Ayittey notes that many of the victims were apparently shot in the head at point-blank range (181).
Dictators are impervious to reason. The only voice a dictator listens to is his own voice. Political repression is an effective weapon in the hands of African despots. Opposition parties are either outlawed or accorded very little political leeway. Key opposition leaders are arrested, intimidated, hounded and even killed. Cowed into submission, some intellectuals in the opposition tend to switch camps. In other words, they become political prostitutes. Though highly educated with PhDs, a multitude of them have sold off their consciences, integrity and principles as they kowtow to the diktats of barbarous dictators. To borrow words from Ayittey again, as prostitutes, they have partaken of the plunder, misrule and repression of their people (185).
The pet aversion of all dictators is press freedom. Censorship is imposed; journalists, newspaper editors, and columnists are harassed and arrested for telling the truth. Newspapers, radio and television stations that are critical of the despot are shut down. Ayittey points out that it is important to keep in mind that a despotic regime can always block or shut down a critical media outlet and that the remaining ones are often state controlled (180). Although freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 9 of the Banjul Charter of Human and Peoples rights, and the constitutions of many countries in Africa, this has not deterred Africas dictators from violating this fundamental human right of citizens. The reason for this state of affairs is simple: dictators love to hide their failures; they want to keep citizens and the international community in the dark about the heinous crimes they have committed and continue to commit. Free media exposes their lies, bloopers and gross incompetence. That explains why President Paul Biya of Cameroon took it upon himself to imprison Mr. Pius Njawe, owner of the Le Messager group of newspapers more than 100 times for reporting on corruption and other sensitive topics before his premature death at the age of 53 in a car accident near Norfolk in the United States not long ago.
The grim reality about all this is that despotism and tyranny have socio-economic ramifications. Autocracy depletes human conscience and dignity. It exacts a heavy toll on human and economic capital. Infrastructure such as telecommunications, roads, airports, bridges, schools, hospitals, and seaports begin to crumble because contracts are awarded by the despot to his cronies, close friends, and family members. Ayittey notes that commercial properties of businessmen alleged to be anti-government may be confiscated or seized for distribution to the poor masses in the name of social justice (19). He further points out that such was the case in Zimbabwe, where the despotic regime of Robert Mugabe (in power for 29 years) organized ruthless thugs to grab white commercial farmlands.
In a similar vein, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (in power for 10 years) seized rural estates, and factories, including some assets of Lorenzo Mendoza, Venezuelas second wealthiest man, and of H.J. Heinz Co., the worlds largest ketchup maker. Such contempt of property rights undoubtedly scares off potential investors who nurse the fear that they may be the next victims in the hands of a predatory regime. Foreign investors have fled from Venezuela on account of Chavezs dictatorial policies. Inane diktats and reckless mismanagement of state funds inevitably engender economic doldrums.
Africa is replete with tin god dictators whose deleterious governmental modus operandi has brought untold hardship upon their people. A handful of despots on the continent have inflicted misery, despair, hopelessness, and death on millions of citizens who have protested against tyrannical rule. Hundreds of thousands have been jailed. Women have been gang raped by security forces in open day light on account of their affiliation to opposition political parties (Guinea and DRC). Some more have fled their homelands to become refugees in foreign lands.
Dictatorial leaders are self-seeking and insensitive to the plight of the governed. They take over and subvert key state institutions (civil service, judiciary, media, etc) to serve their interests. They are poor at governance given that good governance entails not only cognitive wherewithal but also the ability to compromise and bargain successfully with a plethora of competing groups. They are terrible at economic management. Hence the demise of domestic industries.
Interestingly, Ayittey does not handle Africas political opposition parties with kid gloves. Although he does not paint the continents tyrants and the opposition with the same brush, he finds fault with the modus operandi of most political opposition parties struggling to unseat dictators in Africa. In his own words, It takes an intelligent or smart opposition to make a democracy work (4), not the rah-rah noisy type that simply chants Biya must go! He maintains that dictators have triumphed mainly because the opposition is fragmented, lack focus and prone to squabbling.
All too often, opposition parties that set out to liberate their countries from tyranny wind up selling out, fighting among themselves, and sowing seeds of discord. Some opposition leaders are themselves closet dictators, exhibiting the same dictatorial tendencies they so loudly denounce in the dictators they are eager to replace (164). Ayittey sounds a note of admonition to Africas opposition political parties: No single individual or group by itself can effect political change. It takes a united opposition or alliance of democratic forces (165). The prime objective of any bona fide opposition group or groups should be to get rid of the dictatorial regime. Once this task has been accomplished, the opposition can then establish a level political playing field. All other issues such as who the new president should be, what the new flag or national currency should look like are distractions; they are irrelevant and secondary. These issues are divisive and nothing delights a despotic leader more than a divided opposition. The opposition has to be conscious of the fact that the dictator may infiltrate their ranks by planting moles among them with the intention of destroying the opposition. Such moles, Ayittey suggests, need to be tracked down and squashed (181). A smart strategy would be to identify the props of the despotic regime and sever them methodically, one at a time.
Last but not least, to defeat a tyrant in an election, a coalition of opposition parties must field only one presidential candidate. Once a coalition of opposition forces has been cobbled together, the second imperative should be to lay down the rules of combat (168). The first rule is to know the enemythe type of dictator (civilian or military), how he operates, his strengths and weaknesses. Then, it is incumbent on the oppositional coalition to devise effective counter-strategies and modalities for defeating the despotic leader. Most importantly, the language of the opposition must be devoid of zealotry, incensed ideology, ethnocentrism and elitism.
In a nutshell, at time when the entire world is agog with expectations about what the Arab spring portends for countless people gripped by stifling fear and apprehension under dictatorial regimes in Africa and around the world, Ayittey has produced a work that may fulfill the crucial function of a blueprint for oppositional militancy, a veritable modus operandi for undoing dictators in the contemporary world. Defeating Dictators is the handiwork of an academic virtuoso. The language is lucid and free of sophistry. This book is a treasure trove of information that deserves to be read meticulously by every student of Africas political economy. Students, researchers and casual readers would find Ayitteys new brainwave a fascinating book to read.
Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta is professor of Modern Languages at the Department of Defense Language Institute, Monterey-California, USA.
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple. We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”Lisa Adkins, University of London
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 24 October 2011