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Prescription for Ending Corruption in Africa

People protest following the removal of fuel subsidy by the Government in Lagos ,Nigeria, Jan. 9, 2012. Labor unions began a paralyzing national strike in oil-rich Nigeria, angered by soaring fuel prices and decades of engrained government corruption in
A veteran U.S.-based African journalist said ending corruption in Africa is becoming more elusive because there is no incentive for government officials and others not to engage in corruption.

Chika Onyeani, publisher and editor-in-chief of the New York-based African Sun Times newspaper, said part of the solution would be prosecution and lengthy prison terms for those implicated in official corruption.

Onyeani was reacting to a study by the independent research firm Afrobarometer, which found that Africans are unhappy with efforts to fight corruption, and found that many still pay bribes to get basic services.

The report said Nigeria, Egypt and Zimbabwe got the worst ratings, while Malawi, Lesotho and Botswana got the best.

Onyeani said that while not surprised by the report’s findings, he wishes the researchers had focused on some of the positive things happening in Africa.

“It’s really not surprising that there is more attention being paid to the corrupt practices in different African countries. But, you know, sometimes I get very annoyed that these reports are always about the bad things of Africa, and nobody seems to pay attention to the economic improvement, for instance, that Africa growth is on the average about 5.7 percent. But, there is always a lot of attention when something bad like the corruption index poll that was conducted,” he said.

Onyeani said Africa appears to be losing the fight against corruption because government officials most often do not keep their promises to end graft.

The Afrobarometer reports said the police are the most corrupt public officials in Africa.

Using the example of a former inspector general of the Nigerian police who got a lesser jail term after being found guilty of embezzlement, Onyeani said only aggressive prosecution and stiffer jail sentences will help in the fight against corruption.

“You remember, some years ago, the inspector general of police in Nigeria was arrested for having embezzled more than $250 million. But, he was sentenced to six months in prison and asked to pay about $2.5 million restitution. This was the chief of police. So, when people see that this guy did not get even a year in jail, there is no incentive for them not to get into corruption,” Onyeani said.

Onyeani said those who conduct polls in Africa should appreciate, for example, the efforts that Africa is making toward democracy.

“That is where I disagree with something like the Afrobarometer Index or the Transparency Index. Why is it that it only focuses on Africa? I think we have to begin to see something positive in our continent. Moreover, the people who are always doing the studies are foreigners. You don’t see this kind of report being compiled by Africans. I think there is a cultural divide between how the Europeans see Africa and how Africans see themselves,” Onyeani said.
Butty interview with Onyeani
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