No Tears for Africa’s Intelectual Prostitutes

OPINION – The most painful and treacherous aspect of Africa’s descent into tyranny and economic decline has been the willful and active collaboration by Africa’s own intellectuals, many of whom are highly “educated” with Ph. D.s, and who should have known better.

Yet a multitude of them sold off their conscience, integrity and principles to serve the dictates of barbarous regimes. As prostitutes, they partook of the plunder, misrule and repression of the African people. Some of their actions were brazen. In fact, according to Colonel. Yohanna A. Madaki (rtd), when General Gowon drew up plans to return Nigeria to civil rule in 1970, “academicians began to present well researched papers pointing to the fact that military rule was the better preferred since the civilians had not learned any lessons sufficient enough to be entrusted with the governance of the country” (Post Express, 12 November 1998, 5).

The Prostitutes

One such prostitute was Kokou Koffigoh who joined President Gnassingbe Eyadema as Togo’s Prime Minister in 1992. New African (January 1993) wrote that “the opposition thinks Koffigoh has sold out the gains of the Togo National Conference by not carrying out its decisions and by allowing President Eyadema to return to power” (19).

Another was Gwanda Chakuamba of Malawi, who was appointed the chairman of the “presidential council” by former Life-President Hastings Banda in 1993. As The Economist (20 November 1993) reported: “Chakuamba was an old Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and ex-minister, who was jailed in 1980 for sedition and released in July 1993. He then flirted briefly with the opposition United Democratic Front, but, while Dr. Banda was in hospital, suddenly emerged as secretary-general of ruling party and acting head of state” (47).

Chakaumba’s move was roundly denounced “as a betrayal to the opposition, who had tirelessly campaigned for his release following local and international pressure on the MCP government’s poor human rights record. “Reliable sources reported that whilst he was in prison, Chakuamba was subjected to immersion in water and was chained hand-and-foot for months on end” (African Business, December 1993, 29). How could an educated man, whose basic human rights were viciously violated in detention, suddenly decide to join his oppressor?

In February 1994, the MCP announced that Banda was to be the party’s presidential candidate in the forthcoming general election; Chakuamba was the vice-presidential candidate. In Malawi’s first multiparty elections, held on 17 May 1994, Bakili Muluzi and his United Democratic Front party defeated Banda and the Malawi Congress Party. Banda retired from politics in August 1994 and Chakuamba succeeded to the MCP party leadership.
After unsuccessful alliance with other opposition parties, he suffered a defeat at the polls in 1999. In May 2004, he left the MCP and created the Republican Party (RP). The RP joined forces with six other parties to form the Mgwirizano Coalition. Chakuamba was selected as the coalition’s presidential candidate. They lost the election to Bingu wa Mutharika of the UDF. Chakuamba denounced his victory as fraudulent and threatened to challenge the results. In June 2004, he dropped the challenge and was subsequently made Minister of Agriculture in Mutharika’s government.

In September 2005, Chakuamba was sacked from Malawi’s cabinet for allegedly buying a limousine with government funds, amid rumors of an internal power struggle. He labeled the president as a “drunkard and a brute” and was hauled to court though was subsequently freed. Such has been the fate of a political chameleon. His burning ambition was to become the president of Malawi. He retired from politics in May 2009 without achieving that ambition.

When Captain Yahya Jammeh overthrew the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Jawara on July 24, 1994, the only minister from the Jawara administration enticed to serve the military regime was the finance minister, Bakary Darbo, a very well respected economist — even in international circles. He was instrumental in getting the World Bank to resume aid to The Gambia. On 10 October 1994, he was fired by the military junta: He was no longer useful to them. Then on 15 November, he was accused of complicity in the 11 November abortive coup attempt. He fled to neighboring Senegal with his family.

Next to assume the finance ministry portfolio was Ousman Koro Ceesay. When he became no longer useful to the military junta, “they smashed his head with a baseball bat,” said Captain Ebou Jallow, the number-2 man in the ruling council who defected to the United States on 15 October (The Washington Times, 20 October 1995, A15).

Time and time again, despite repeated warnings, highly “educated” African intellectuals throw caution and common sense to the winds and fiercely jostle one another for the chance to hop into bed with military brutes. The allure of a luxury car, a diplomatic or ministerial post and a government mansion often proves too irresistible. Nigeria’s Senator Arthur Nzeribe once declared that General Babangida was good enough to rule Nigeria. When pressed, he confessed: “I was promised prime ministerial appointment. There is no living politician as hungry for power as I was who would not be seduced in the manner I was to invest in the ABN, with the possibility and promise of being Executive Prime Minister to a military president” (The Guardian, 13 November 1998, 3).

So hordes of politicians, lecturers, professionals, lawyers, and doctors sell themselves off into prostitution and voluntary bondage to serve the dictates of military vagabonds with half their intelligence. And time and time again, after being raped, abused, and defiled, they are tossed out like rubbish — or worse. Yet more intellectual prostitutes stampede to take their places.

African countries that have imploded in recent years were all ruined by the military: Algeria, Burundi, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, and Zaire, among others. In country after country in Africa, where military rule was entrenched, educational institutions (of the tertiary level – universities, and colleges) all decayed — starved of funds by the military. Although the official excuse is always lack of funds, the military predators always find the money to purchase shiny new pieces of bazookas for their thugs. But the real reason? “It is not in the best interest of these military governments to educate their people,” says Wale Deyemi, a doctoral student at the University of Lagos. “They do not want people to be able to challenge them” (The Washington Post, 6 October 1995, A30).

In Nigeria, the sciences have been hardest hit. Science teachers have been vanishing with such alarming frequency that Professor Peter Okebukola, the president of the National Science Teachers Association of Nigeria, lamented at the association’s thirty-sixth annual conference at Maiduguri that “good science teachers are increasingly becoming an endangered species” (African News Weekly, 13 October 1995, 17).

In spite of all this evidence, some African intellectuals still vociferously defend military regimes while their own institutions — the very places where they teach or obtained their education — deteriorate right under their very noses. One would have thought that these professors and intellectuals would protect their own institutions, just as the soldiers jealously protect their barracks and keep them in top shape. But no! For small change, the intellectuals have been willing to help and supervise the destruction of their very own university system.

Another expendable intellectual prostitute was Abass Bundu of Sierra Leone — the former secretary-general of ECOWAS — though his fate was less horrible. When he was appointed by the 29-year-old illiterate Captain Valentine Strasser to be Sierra Leone’s foreign minister in early 1995, he left home to grab the post in a cloud of dust. In August 1995 he was tossed into a garbage bin in a radio announcement. He claimed in a Voice of America radio interview that “he never applied to join the junta” (African News Weekly, 8 September 1995, 12).

“We just discovered that he’s an opportunist and one cannot trust such people. So we kicked him out,” said spokesman of the Strasser’s National Provisional Ruling Council. “When we appointed Abass Bundu through a radio announcement, he didn’t complain but when we fired him though another radio announcement, he wants to make noise” he added (The African Observer, 8-21 August 1995, 5).

Another case was that of Sierra Leone’s fearless human rights lawyer, Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie. He was a vociferous critic of the ruling NPRC over human rights abuses and was reported to have a personal dislike for the military. He was hailed on student campuses as a young radical barrister and was invited to student conventions, giving lectures on human rights and negative consequences of military rule. On several occasions he called for a national conference to prepare the way for civilian rule. Then suddenly in April 1995 he joined Sierra Leone’s military-led government as secretary of state in the Department of Youth, Sport and Social Mobilization. His detractors never forgave him.

Then there was Paul Kamara of Sierra Leone — a fearless crusader for human rights and ardent advocate of democracy. He published and edited the widely respected For Di People, whose circulation exceeded 30,000 copies a week. In January 1996, he joined the military government of Brigadier-General Maada Bio — a decision that by his own admission, “disappointed many people” (New African, May 1996, 14). On election night, February 26, five men dressed in military fatigues with guns waited for him at his newspaper offices. When he left his office and got into his official four-wheel-drive car, the soldiers chased him and opened fire. “We’ve got the bastard at last,” one of them shouted. But luckily, the “bastard” escaped death and was flown to London for treatment.

In Burkina Faso, Clement Oumarou Ouedraogo was not so lucky. He was the number- two man in the barbarous military dictatorship of Blaise Compaore. He later resigned and launched his own Burkina Labor Party. On 9 December 1992, he was killed “when unidentified attackers threw a grenade into his car as he was returning from a meeting of the opposition Coalition of Democratic Forces” (West Africa, 16-22 December 1991, 2116).

In neighboring Niger, when Lieutenant-Colonel Ibrahim Barre Mainassara seized power in the January 1996 coup, overthrowing the civilian regime of President Mahamane Ousmane, the first civilian to join the new military regime as prime minister was Boukary Adji, who was deputy governor at the Central Bank of West African States in Dakar (The Washington Times, 1 February 1996, A14). Do Africa’s intellectuals learn?

In Nigeria, Baba Gana Kingibe, a career diplomat, was the vice-presidential candidate of Moshood K. O. Abiola in the 12 June 1993 presidential elections . Abiola won the election fair and square, but the result was annulled by the military government of Geneneral Ibrahim Babangida. Baba Kingibe then accepted the post of foreign minister from that same military regime. Nor did he raise a whiff of protest or resign when his running mate, Abiola, was thrown into jail. Neither did Chief Tony Anenih, the chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party, on whose ticket Abiola contested the 12 June election. In fact, Chief Anenih was part of a five-man delegation, sent by General Abacha to the United States in October 1995 to “educate and seek the support of Nigerians about the transition program.” At an 22 October 1995 forum organized by the Schiller Institute in Washington, “Chief Anenih and Colonel (rtd) Emeka O. Ojukwu took turns ripping apart the reputation of Abiola. Anenih took pains to discredit Chief Abiola, whom he said was being presented by the Western media as the victimized President-elect. Some of the Nigerians in the audience denounced the delegation as `paid stooges’ of Abacha” (African News Weekly, 3 November 1995, 3).

More pathetic was the case of Alex Ibru, the publisher of The Guardian Group of newspapers in Lagos who became the internal affairs minister. On 14 August 1994, his own newspaper was raided and shut down by the same military government under which he was serving. He did not protest or resign. After six months as interior minister, he too was tossed aside. In October 1995, his two newspapers, shut down by the military government for more than a year, were allowed to reopen after Ibru apologized to the authorities for any offensive reports they may have carried. Then on 2 February 1996, unidentified gunmen in a deep-blue Peugeot 504 trailed him and sprayed his car with machine-gun fire. The editor-in-chief, Femi Kusa, said that the car was bullet-ridden and Ibru was injured. He too was flown to Britain for treatment.

After the annulment of Nigeria’s 12 June elections, General Babangida was eased aside by the military top brass and Ernest Shonekan became the 89-day interim civilian president until he too was removed by the military despot, General Sani Abacha. On 19 September, Shonekan accompanied Nigeria’s foreign minister, Tom Ikimi, to London to deliver a “confidential message” to British Prime Minister John Major. Nigeria’s military junta told Westminster that it would pardon the 40 convicted coup plotters if British would help with the rescheduling Nigeria’s $35 billion debt, and support its transition program to democratic rule, its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and its attempt to gain U.S. recognition of its effort to fight drug trafficking.

First of all, how could Ernest Shonekan act as an emissary for the same barbarous military regime that overthrew him? Not only that, he accepted an appointment from Abacha to a committee of experts to plan for “Vision 2010.” Second, who thought that 35 years after “independence” from British colonial rule, Nigeria’s government would be holding its own citizens as hostages, demanding ransom from the former colonial power? It did not occur to any of the “educated” emissaries that their mission sank the concept of “independence from colonial rule” to new depths of depravity. Mercifully, the British refused to capitulate to these terroristic demands.

Dr. Tom Ikimi was the activist, who, in 1989, formed the Liberal Convention party to campaign for democracy in Nigeria. In June 1989 he launched a branch in the United Kingdom, where he made glorious speeches about participatory democracy and denouncing military regimes. In 1994 he became Nigeria’s Foreign minister under the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. He even appeared on The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, on 3 August 1995, and strenuously defended Nigerian military government’s record on democratization, calling General Abacha “humane.”

Ghanaians would point to a swarm of intellectual prostitutes who sold out to join the military regime of Fte./Lte. Jerry Rawlings: Dr. Kwesi Botchwey, the former minister of finance; Totobi Kwakye, minister of communication, who as a student leader battled the former military head of state, Col. I.K. Acheampong; Dr. Tony Aidoo, a presidential adviser; Dr. Vincent Assisseh, a press secretary; and Kow Arkaah, the Vice-President who was beaten up by President Rawlings in December 1995.

Vile opportunism, unflappable sycophancy, and trenchant collaboration on the part of Africa’s intellectuals allowed tyranny to become entrenched in Africa. Doe, Mengistu, Mobutu, and other military dictators legitimized and perpetuated their rule by buying off and co-opting Africa’s academics for a pittance. And when they fall out of favor, they are beaten up, tossed aside or worse. And yet more offer themselves up. Shed no tears for them.

Punishing the Prostitutes

One poignant lesson that can be drawn from Africa’s disastrous postcolonial record is the fact that sycophancy and collaboration seldom pay. The sycophants often delude themselves into thinking that, should their country blow, they would always escape to the West to enjoy their booty. But angry Africans have vowed to punish the traitors, sycophants, leeches and intellectual collaborators. During the 11 May 1995 “Kume Preko” demonstrations in Ghana, the tires of some deputy ministers were deflated. “Escape now,” the angry mob seemed to be saying. Kabena Kofi of Tema warned: “I would like to remind Messrs E.T. Mensah, Prof Awoonor, Obed Asamoah, Harry Sawyerr and others, that if the unexpected happens as a result of their sycophancy, they and their families would be the first to bear the anger of Ghanaians” (Free Press, 10-16 April 1996, 2). In Nigeria, Zaire, and several African countries, the houses and cars of intellectual collaborators were burned down.

In Liberia, the following people, who served under Samuel Doe of Liberia, met rather untimely deaths: Senate President Tambakai Jangaba; Justice Minister Jenkins Scott, Information Minister J. Emmanuel Bowier, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Elbert Dunn, Finance Minister Emmanuel Shaw, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Kekura Kpoto.

In Senegal, after President Diouf’s ruling Socialist Party “won” a huge majority in parliamentary elections in February 1993, violence broke out amid charges of vote rigging and Babacar Seye, the vice-president of Senegal’s Constitutional Council, was killed. African News Weekly (4 June 1993) reported that: “Seye was found dead in his car, apparently the victim of an ambush . . . investigators said. According to the independent, Sud Quotidien a group calling itself the “People’s Army” claimed responsibility for Seye’s murder, the first political assassination in Senegal’s history . . . This is a warning for the other judges in the Constitutional Council, so they really respect the people’s will, it quoted the anonymous caller as saying.” (13). Seye’s killer was never found.

In Sierra Leone, a judge condemned 16 civilians, including five journalists, to death by hanging for collaborating with Sierra Leone’s ousted military regime of Capt. Paul Koroma. “Justice Edmond Cowan allowed the defendants 21 days to appeal the sentences, which he handed down after attorneys for the condemned made last-ditch appeals for leniency” (The Washington Times, 26 August 1998, A13).

Nigerian writer, Adebayo Willams, has warned: “Depending on how General Abacha leaves, all those who have contributed to the economic and political adversity of the country in the past twenty years must be ready to face some retribution as a way of laying a firm foundation for the future. In the case of those who have looted the treasury, all efforts must be made to trace and repatriate the ill gotten wealth” (Tell, 1 June 1998, 33).

In fact, the Secretary for Commerce in the defunct Interim National Government, Mrs. Bola Kuforiji Olubi, was forced to apologize to student activists who kept vigil at the Ikeja home of Chief M.K.O. Abiola when he died on July 7, 1998. “She was accosted by the angry students to explain her role in the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan. Sensing trouble, she responded by apologizing to all Nigerian students but her apologies were largely unheeded” (The Vanguard, 16 July 1998, 5).

Elsewhere in Africa, civic groups and the private press are playing a key role in bringing these scoundrels to book. In August 1994 The Campaign for Democracy, an alliance of 52 human rights and political groups, urged the European Union to repatriate the men who annulled Nigeria’s 1993 president election. Former military president Ibrahim Babangida and his deputy Augustus Aikhomu were both believed to be in Europe. “The popular opinion in Nigeria is that these elements must be tried for the untold hardship inflicted on the nation,” the group said in a letter to the European Union. “We therefore, with a high sense of responsibility, request their expulsion from Europe where they are currently domiciled” (African News Weekly, 26 August 1994, 29).

“Over 80 percent of Rwanda’s 700 judges and magistrates, many of them guilty themselves of the genocide, died or fled in the 1994 fighting” (The Economist, 23 March 1996, 37). Colonel Theoneste Bagosora of Habyarimana’s presidential guard, Marc Rugenera, former minister of finance, and many others fled into exile. The information minister, Eliezer Niyitegeka, who incited Hutus to kill Tutsis, fled to a refugee camp in Goma, Zaire. According to The Washington Post (19 February 1995), “Eliezer said in an interview in Zaire that he was so depressed that he was asking France for political asylum” (A46). Now he was depressed? At another squalid camp in Bukavu, Zaire, the former president, prime minister and cabinet ministers were holed up. Some settled in Cameroon which refused political asylum to several Rwandan Hutu officials accused of having played a significant role in the genocide there in 1994. One of them was Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of the state information office and a founder of Radio Mille Collines, the Kigali radio station whose inflammatory broadcasts egged on Hutu soldiers and ethnic militia to kill Tutsis.

On April 1, 1996, Cameroon went further, rounding up eleven of the masterminds of the 1994 Rwanda genocide and throwing them into jail. And on June 11, 1998, Mathieu N’Garoupatse, a former Rwandan justice minister suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide in his country, was arrested and repatriated to Rwanda (The Washington Times, 11 June 1998, A17).

Caeser Zvayi was one of President Robert mugabe’s henchmen. He was the editor of the government propaganda mouthpiece, The Herald. WhenZimbabwe’s economy collapsed, he fled to Botswana and took up a teaching position at LimKokWing University in Gaborone. He was teaching, among other the courses, Writing for Print and News Writing and Reporting 1 in the university’s Faculty of Communications and Media.

Zvayi, in the past, openly called for the alienation of the opposition and celebrated the violent crackdown on the opposition in Zimbabwe. He is well know for bastardizing the MDC acronym to mean Movement for the Destruction of our Country, sometimes with the ascetic ‘movement’ for ‘morons’. He became the first journalist to be added to the European Union travel restrictions on Zimbabwe.

Pro-democracy activists tracked him down and blew his cover to students:

    ‘If he supports Mugabe he must go back, he can be easily replaced by another lecturer from Zimbabwe with morals. How can anyone support Mugabe when people are suffering? After all, why is he in Botswana if he thinks Mugabe is doing the right thing?” said Kagiso Seloma, an 18-year old student at the university.
    Seloma’s sentiments were echoed by Gaborone resident Mary Kokorwe who said “Zimbabweans should stage a demonstration at the university. He should be arrested for promoting hate and Zimbabweans should demonstrate at the university campus, because that should send a message to those who are violating other people’s rights in Zimbabwe right now that they will not get away with it” (Zimbabwe Metro, July 28, 2008).,

In August 2008, Botswana booted Caeser Zvayi out of the country. Recall that Zimbabwe was the country that gave Comrade Haile Mariam Mengistu asylum in 1991.

After Mengistu overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in a 1974 military coup, the ailing emperor was suffocated with a wet pillow, and his body buried in an unmarked grave. Scores of his relatives were murdered or chained to walls in the cellars of the imperial palace. Thousands of suspected counterrevolutionaries were gunned down in the streets. More than 30,000 people were jailed. When a member of his own junta questioned the wisdom of such terror tactics, Mengistu shot him in the head. In 1991, after being routed by a rag-tag army of Eritrean rebels, Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe. How safe was he there?

    “Former Ethiopian dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam panicked and ran yelling for help when a would-be assassin fired a single shot at one of his guards last fall, a Zimbabwe court was told. The Eritrean suspect, Solomon Haile Ghebre Michael, 36, pleaded not guilty Monday in the attack on the exiled Col. Mengistu, given asylum by President Robert Mugabe in 1991 after he fled Ethiopia (The Washington Times, Thursday July 11, 1996; p.A10).

More than 200 former officials of the brutal Mengistu government were tossed into jail. But were Ethiopians free from tyranny? Meles Zenawi turned out to be a “crocodile liberator.” What do you think will happen to him and his henchmen?

It is the same truculent African tale of one perfidious betrayal after another. As Africans often say: “We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to do the same thing. Haba.”

Outside Africa, various groups of African exiles also have vowed to work tirelessly to bring the collaborators to justice and block the granting of political asylum to these “useless idiots.” After the Momoh regime was overthrown by Captain Strasser, the vice president, Dr. Abudulai Conteh, fled to Britain. Did he really escape? According to West Africa (31 August – 6 September 1992): “Dr. Abudulai Conteh has been deported from Britain, following a failed attempt by his lawyers to convince the UK authorities that Conteh was a genuine refugee. The British High Court Judge, Mr. Simon Brown, agreed with the Home Office that Conteh should bear some responsibility for the corruption of the Momoh government which played a major role in bankrupting Sierra Leone” (1496).

U.S. courts now allow foreign victims of atrocities to sue the perpetrators. Ethiopian exiles in the United States have been taking Mengistu’s henchmen who fled to the United States to court to claim damages. On Jan 5, 2005, a major success was achieved when Federal agents arrested Kelbessa Negewo, an Ethiopian national on charges of committing numerous acts of murder and torture in his native country — the first arrest by U.S. authorities of a suspected human rights violator under the recently passed intelligence reform act. “Today’s arrest marks a new chapter in ICE’s long-standing efforts to arrest, prosecute and remove human rights violators from the United States,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who heads ICE. “With the expanded authorities under the Intelligence Reform Act, ICE has a powerful new tool to deny these egregious criminals a safe haven in this country” (The Washington Times, Jan 5, 2005; p.A5).

In New York, Bawol Cabiri, a former Ghanaian diplomat, sued Baffour Assasie-Gyimah. As African Observer (25 April-8 May 1996) wrote: “In a stunning decision, a U.S. judge has ruled that President Rawlings should surrender one of his henchmen to face trial in New York for atrocities he committed against humanity. U.S. Judge Allen G. Schwartz ruled April 18, 1996 that there is overwhelming evidence that Baffour Assasie-Gyimah, who is described in court papers as Deputy Chief of National Security, has committed outrageous human rights abuses and therefore should be brought to the U.S. immediately and tried under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Claim Act. (3)

Then there was Elsaphane Ntakirutimana, a Rwandan Hutu priest, who in April 1994 fled to take refuge in Mugonero Hospital and then participated in a daylong attack on 16 April, in which hundreds of men, women, and children were killed. After Rwanda blew up, he fled to the United States. But Rwandese exiles here in the United States were waiting for him. They fingered him to the FBI and on 27 September 1996, he was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border which he was trying to cross.

The days of Africa’s intellectual prostitutes are numbered.

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The author, a native of Ghana, is a Distinguished Economist at American University and President of the Free Africa Foundation. He is the author of Africa Unchained (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2005) and Indigenous African Institutions (Transnational Publishers, 2006).