Letter from Poland

I recently visited Kraków, Poland, with nine of my writing colleagues, for a ‘writing retreat’ and some minor tourism.

We arrived 10 November, the day before an important national holiday, National Independence Day…

… a national day in Poland celebrated on 11 November to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Empire. (Wikipedia)

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One of the celebrations early on November 11, image taken from our hotel room

In pursuing the tourism, I went to the English language Massolit Bookstore. The fellow at the cashier and cafe desk is interested in the Beat Poets, as I am. He and I struck up a conversation and I promised to send him a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

After returning home, I sent him the poem, along with some personal comments and links to my writing. I received from him a most unexpected response. Here it is:
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I am happy to read that you enjoyed your stay in Kraków. It is my favourite Polish city and I am happy to have moved here for good. You found it much settled in history and past. The city was lucky, very lucky not to be destroyed much by any war. Even the Communist  regime didn’t crush its beauty and spirit. And seriously, to me Kraków is an escapist city.

In any other Polish city I always feel some destruction. Warsaw was paved to the ground and awfully rebuilt after 1945. Lublin, which I came from is a God-forgotten place suffering from the consequences of a too rapid switch from communism to capitalism. Wrocław, which I lived in is a German town made Polish fifty years ago and still struggling to reinvent it’s identity, a continuing process. Only in Kraków do I feel at home, without all the damage that has been done to this country.

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I am writing this at age thirty-four, in the generation that grew up seeing the old being replaced by the new Poland after 1989. I was eight when it all happened. My parents would tell me “how it’s been” and why the Regime should “never repeat”. They raised me with this warning. Their parents raised them with the warnings against war. I am happy to notice twenty-year-olds not influenced with this kind of perspective.

My grandfather lost all his family during the war. He never came back to Lviv (today’s Ukraine, yesterday’s Poland). My mother tried to look for our relatives, didn’t meet anyone when she came there. I don’t feel like going there at all. Let past be the past.

This might sound cruel, but… I am sick and tired of war literature, especially the Holocaust kind of literature still being “mass produced” by yet another Jewish person coming to Auschwitz as a part of their “identity trip”. With masterpieces like Ellie Wiesel’s “Night” we don’t need any more Shoah books to understand the trauma.

I spent one year volunteering in Israel, which was a great lesson on complexity and diversity of life in all kinds of meaning. I walked a mile in someone else’s shoes and it was the most precious experience so far.

I came back to Poland and got close to Judaism again. I acted in Jewish theatre groups. I think that if there is any space in which we can work out the demons of all kinds it is art. Only in art and only on the non-personal but emotional and spiritual level of metaphorical language we can “speak with the ghosts.”

Some people now say: “If they chose Trump it means that humankind didn’t learn anything”. Well, a bit overstatement I would say, but I find an answer in Walter Benjamin’s “The Angel of History” essay. He said that all the answers have been given a long time ago and that if there is something like the Messianic times it IS the time of now, and if we can recognise ourselves and recognise our calling in the calling that has been left to us by the late generations to be accomplished, then it means we are doing right at life.

But why am I writing all this actually? Well, I believe life is a journey and I am trying to learn from all the passengers I happen to be travelling with. Sometimes I feel like explaining myself. Maybe that was one of these moments. We, Poles, have an idea of “The Polish complex,” which is an old fear of not being appreciated or never being understood by outsiders. Maybe this is also my complex that keeps me trying to tell this story again and again, come back to past, tell the identity and keep on checking if I have really told “the whole” story…

jakub-wydrzynski

— Jakub Wydrzynski

These Fourteen European Countries are Disappearing

[See end notes for sources, inclusions and exclusions]

These countries are currently losing population (sorted by population growth rate):

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[Note: Fertility Rate is the ratio of ‘total children born’ to ‘all women’ in a given population. In order for a given population to remain constant (not counting net migration) the ratio needs to be 2.0 to 2.1.]

What can we intuit from correlating these figures with what we see happening in the world today?

Intuition No. 1: Germany needs to increase the number of its permanent immigrants in order to maintain or grow its population, despite that it already has a relatively high net migration rate: 1.5 net new migrants per 1000 population. But, politically, there is currently a movement away from increased immigration which has created a problem for the current leadership of the country. Note that Germany records the highest median age and the largest percent of the population over 64, in the list above.

Intuition No. 2: Greece’s high net migration rate (2.3 per 1000) is barely adequate to keep its population stable. But the ability of Greece to accommodate large numbers of new residents and citizens is problematical, given its current economic distress. What is not known at this point, is the long term effects of the tens of thousands of refugees who have recently arrived in Greece. Despite recent waves of immigration, the age measures for Greece are only slightly under Germany’s.

screenhunter_453-oct-16-09-36Intuition No. 3: The three, small Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are seriously losing population (0.5% to over 1% annually, currently). Further, their fertility rates are low (1.5-1.6), and immigration from elsewhere is not occurring. What can be the future of these countries if they continue to fade away? [Note: they all share a border with Russia.] Despite different cultures and ethnicities in these three countries, their age measures are almost identical. In that they were dominated and occupied by the Soviet Union, I wonder if there is a uniting thread resultant from this. There are no separate measures available for the entity named ‘Kaliningrad’, a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, around one-third the size of the neighboring Baltic States. According to the 2010 Census, its population was 431,902

Intuition No. 4: The neighbor countries of Bulgaria and Romania, like the Three Baltic states, are losing population and are not gaining immigrants. Their current populations are much larger than the Baltics, so it will take longer for them to “disappear.” In that they border the Black Sea, Russians flock to these countries during the tourist season and have bought many properties along the coast. Russians are a palpable presence in these two countries, which unofficially affects national politics. Their net migration rates are only slightly negative, but their fertility rates are very low, below 1.5.

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Intuition No. 5: Five of the six former provinces of the united Yugoslavia, which have reverted to their former independent states, are losing population: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. The other, Macedonia (not in the above chart), is slowly growing due, apparently, to positive net migration, despite its fertility rate being 1.6. The bottom line: the former Yugoslavia is slowly fading away, as are Bulgaria and Romania, above. [Note: The present day state of Kosovo was, until recently, a province of Serbia. We have no data for Kosovo, other than population: 1,883,0189]. The population of these five seems to be slightly younger than others on this list, but they are not reproducing. Their fertility rates are at or near the bottom of the list.

Intuition No. 6: The remaining two states in the above chart are Hungary and Poland. Both are currently aligned politically to resist immigration from non-European countries. But, unless they reverse this position, they will fade along with the others mentioned here. Hungary’s fertility rate is 1.44 and Poland’s is a very low 1.34.

On the other hand: These 13 countries in Europe are currently growing at an annual rate between 0.5% and 2.0% (sorted by population growth rate):

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Why are these countries not fading away like the others?

The quick answer is: immigration. The Net migration rates for all are relatively high, ranging from 2.5 in the United Kingdom to 16.3 in Luxembourg. The highest fertility rates are in Sweden and Ireland; the are lowest in Austria, Cyprus and Spain. In the latter three, if their current fertility rates and immigration rates continue, the native born ethnic Austrians, Cypriots, and Spaniards will be in the minority within a lifetime. Is this a problem? I guess it depends on the person viewing the situation. Such things have happened many times in the past, peacefully and otherwise.

Not Reproducing

Only two European countries in the forty studied have a positive fertility rate:

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I intuit that France is the picture of the future for most European countries. France has had waves of immigration of people from North Africa in the past and, more recently, from the Near East whose birth rates are higher than the indigenous population.

rvxnf4bujdek3kcm2dwdq6jy These people, in my intuition, are responsible for France’s high fertility rate, compared to other European countries. Nonetheless, France’s annual population growth rate of 0.41% is not remarkable or significantly different from other European countries. The non-immigrant residents are reproducing at a much lower rate than the immigrant population. The accompanying chart was for the year 2004, and the ensuing twelve years have seen a significant rise in the immigrants from ‘Asia.’

Iceland seems to be a special case about which I have no useful remarks.

WHY are European countries Not Reproducing?

The answer is given by Col. Robert de Marcellus (Ret.) in an article “Falling Fertility: The World at the Tipping Point,” in the online magazine of the Population Research Institute:

  • The great increase in the number of wives who must work in the paid economy to help support the family due to the loss of the “family wage” concept
  • The increasing cost of raising children
  • High taxation that reduces family disposable income
  • Educational debt
  • Lifestyle changes that increasingly cause luxuries to be considered necessities
  • More years spent by young people in higher education. delaying family formation
  • Older average marriage ages, which greatly reduce wives’ childbearing years
  • Less family support as young couples relocate at a distance from family members

Please read the entire article for a lucid discussion of these and other factors.

My Final Intuitive Statement

The spirit of ‘Europe’ is depressed. Depressed spirits decline to reproduce.

Perhaps there is no more ‘Europe.’ It seems to be an idea, an abstraction, without a basis.

We can point to European Culture, starting from its putative origins in Ancient Greece and Rome, then The Renaissance, then The Enlightenment, and so on—Art, Music, Literature, Philosophy, Science… and the relationship of the Church to any of these.

It seems all a museum now.

The European ‘Union’ is reeling, nationalism on the rise, tribalism more evident.

Popular arts are declining, public figures ever more ridiculous.

BUT…

Perhaps the above is necessary for a rebirth of something more beautiful?

“Without mud, there can be no lotus,” Thich Nhat Hanh, renown Buddhist teacher.

The data are taken from the current listings, by country, in the CIA World Factbook.

I analyzed all countries in Europe (40), not just those in the European Union (28)

I excluded Russia and Turkey, even though some parts of these nation-states are in what is recognized as Europe, geographically.

I excluded five other “European” countries because they are dominated politically and/or economically either by Russia or Turkey: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.

“… at last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”

The words in the heading for this article are those of President Woodrow Wilson, given to an audience in Portland, Oregon, 1919, referencing the USA’s role in the establishment of the League of Nations after the end of World War One, “the war to end war.”

 <<This is the first part of a series on “Democracy”>>


Declaration of War

woodrow-wilson-postage-stampOn April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a Declaration of War against Germany in order that the world “be made safe for democracy.” Four days later, Congress voted to declare war… By the time the war ended a year and a half later, an entire generation was decimated—France alone lost half its men between the ages of twenty and thirty-two. The maimed bodies of millions of European men who survived bore mute testimony to the war’s savagery. (Source)

The Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919

After four years of warfare, the conflict ended in Versailles in 1919. It was “peace” for one side, but a “diktat” for the other side. The treaty contained the germ of the causes of a second world war 20 years later.

The negotiations had been difficult. A peace conference had met in Paris since 18 January to prepare the treaty. The Allies alone took part in the debates. But they were not in agreement. France wanted to remove the German danger definitively and bring Germany to its knees. Great Britain, in contrast, wanted to let Germany keep its rank. The United States looked forward to a world pacified with the Society of Nations. Italy wanted the territories promised to it in 1915. The treaty was finally submitted to Germany on 7 May. All Germany’s counter-proposals were rejected and it refused to sign the treaty. On 17 June, the Allies gave it 5 days to decide. Germany finally accepted this “diktat.”

Germany lost 68,000 km² of its territory, including Alsace and Lorraine annexed in 1870, and 8 million inhabitants. Part of eastern Prussia was dismantled to the benefit of Poland which gained access to the sea via the “Danzig corridor”. Germany had to pay 20 billion gold marks in reparation to France. It lost most of its mineral resources and agricultural production. Its colonies were confiscated and its military power was annihilated. Humiliated, Germany aspired for revenge. A new war, which the Allies thought they were avoiding, was soon to be prepared.

After the Versailles conference Wilson claimed that “at last the world knows America as the savior of the world!” [ President Woodrow Wilson speaking on the League of Nations to a luncheon audience in Portland OR. 66th Cong., 1st sess. Senate Documents: Addresses of President Wilson (May–November 1919), vol.11, no. 120, p.206.] (Source)

Almost 100 years later, the USA is still trying make, or at least encourage, the world to be “democratic,” while not explicitly advocating that it be “safe for democracy,” as President Wilson enunciated.

The US Department of State has the job of encouraging the spread of democracy. Immediately below are excerpts from the official sites of the department, all accessible at http://www.state.gov/I warn the reader that he or she will encounter the turgid bureaucratic language of large organizations, of which our government is certainly one, and plead with you not to be discouraged by it. Bland and abstract words and phrases contain obscured meaning. If you are a citizen of the USA, this is your government talking to the rest of the world. If you are not a citizen of the USA, this is America talking to your government and the people of your country. (I color with red font all words in the body of State Department articles which are derivatives of the word ‘democracy’).

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Department Mission Statement

“Shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.” –From the FY 2013 Agency Financial Report, released December 2013

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor leads the U.S. efforts to promote democracy, protect human rights and international religious freedom, and advance labor rights globally.

Democracy

Democracy and respect for human rights have long been central components of U.S. foreign policy. Supporting democracy not only promotes such fundamental American values as religious freedom and worker rights, but also helps create a more secure, stable, and prosperous global arena in which the United States can advance its national interests. In addition, democracy is the one national interest that helps to secure all the others. Democratically governed nations are more likely to secure the peace, deter aggression, expand open markets, promote economic development, protect American citizens, combat international terrorism and crime, uphold human and worker rights, avoid humanitarian crises and refugee flows, improve the global environment, and protect human health.

With these goals in mind, the United States seeks to:

  • Promote democracy as a means to achieve security, stability, and prosperity for the entire world;
  • Assist newly formed democracies in implementing democratic principles;
  • Assist democracy advocates around the world to establish vibrant democracies in their own countries; and
  • Identify and denounce regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in elections that are free, fair, and transparent.

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) is committed to supporting and promoting democracy programs throughout the world. As the nation’s primary democracy advocate, DRL is responsible for overseeing the Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF), which was established in 1998 to address human rights and democratization emergencies. DRL uses resources from the HRDF, as well as those allocated to Regional Democracy Funds, to support democratization programs such as election monitoring and parliamentary development.

Over the past quarter-century, a large number of nations have made a successful transition to democracy. Many more are at various stages of the transition. When historians write about U.S. foreign policy at the end of the 20th century, they will identify the growth of democracy–from 30 countries in 1974 to 117 today–as one of the United States’ greatest legacies. The United States remains committed to expanding upon this legacy until all the citizens of the world have the fundamental right to choose those who govern them through an ongoing civil process that includes free, fair, and transparent elections.

Advancing Freedom and Democracy

“We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.”  – President Barack Obama

The Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report describes efforts by the U.S. Government to support democracy and human rights in nondemocratic countries and countries undergoing democratic transitions worldwide. The U.S. Department of State submits this report in accordance with the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007.

Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies

Tomicah Tillemann was appointed as the Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies in October 2010. In collaboration with department bureaus, Dr. Tillemann and his staff are responsible for helping to develop and operationalize the civil society agenda and strengthen emerging democracies.

One of S/SACSED’s key initiatives is the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. The office also orchestrates engagement with the Community of Democracies and generates strategic partnerships to advance democracy abroad.

Goals

  • To elevate the role of civil society in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
  • To support emerging democracies as they work to complete successful transitions.
  • To engage multilateral organizations that advance democracy and civil society.
  • To promote the independence of civil society globally.

— (End excerpts from the US Department of State web pages) —

I infer that the USA initiated the formation of “Community of Democracies” to further the mission and goals of the US State Department. Here is about this organization:

Community of Democracies

Our vision The Warsaw Declaration

glowna-box1-communityAccording to the Declaration, these are the core principles and practices that the member states of the Community of Democracies agree to uphold:

  •  The right of citizens to choose their representatives through regular, free and fair elections, with universal and equal suffrage, open to multiple parties, conducted by secret ballot, monitored by independent electoral authorities, and free of fraud and intimidation.
  • The right of every person to equal access to public service and to take part in the conduct of public affairs.
  • The right of every person to equal protection of the law, without any discrimination as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • The right of every person to freedom of opinion and of expression, including to exchange and receive ideas and information through any media.
  • The right of every person to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • The right of every person to equal access to education.
  • The right of the press to collect, report and disseminate information, news and opinions, subject only to restrictions necessary in a democratic society and prescribed by law.
  • The right of every person to respect for private family life, home, correspondence, including electronic communications, free of arbitrary or unlawful interference.
  • The right of every person to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, including to establish or join their own political parties, civic groups, trade unions or other organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to allow them to operate freely.
  • The right of persons belonging to minorities or disadvantaged groups to equal protection of the law, and the freedom to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and use their own language.
  • The right of every person to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention, to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; and to receive due process of law, including to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
  • The right of those elected to form a government, assume office and fulfill the term of office.
  • The obligation of an elected government to refrain from extra-constitutional actions, to allow the holding of periodic elections and to respect their results, and to relinquish power when its legal mandate ends.
  • That the aforementioned rights will be enforced by a competent, independent and impartial judiciary open to the public.
  • That elected leaders uphold the law and function strictly in accordance with the constitution and procedures established by law.
  • That government institutions be transparent, participatory and fully accountable, and take steps to combat corruption.
  • That the legislature be elected, transparent and accountable to the people.
  • That civilian, democratic control over the military be established and preserved.
  • That all human right (sic) be promoted and protected.

glowna-box2-visioningThe Warsaw Declaration acknowledges that democratic development is a process, in which each country is at a different stage- no country has reached perfection, and all should work together to meet these objectives, supporting each other while respecting each other’s sovereignty. The best way to help strengthening these democratic institutions and principles is by promoting discussion, exchanging experiences and identifying best practices, together. This is what makes us a community- we cooperate, learn together, focus on the common values, and encourage each other to uphold these values.

On a practical note, the Warsaw Declaration suggests the ways to achieve these goals: to promote civic education, including education for democracy; to support civil society and independent media; to work with relevant institutions and international organizations; to assist each other in economic and social development, including eradication of poverty; and to collaborate and form coalitions in existing international and regional institutions aimed at the promotion of democratic governance. All these, says the Warsaw Declaration, will help to create an environment conducive to democratic development.

Our mission

The Mission Statement of the Community of Democracies is built upon the democratic values agreed in the Warsaw Declaration (of 2000). The Community seeks to support democratic transition and consolidation worldwide and help bridge the gap between principles of democracy and universal human rights and their practice by assisting societies in the development and strengthening of democratic institutions and values, identifying, alerting and responding to threats to democracy so as to assist states to remain on the path to democracy, supporting and defending civil society in all countries, advancing broad-based participation in democratic governance, and giving a voice to those working peacefully for democracy in all countries. (Source).

Countries not included in the Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies (Several small island states are not included in this list):

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In researching the countries not included in the Warsaw Declaration, the French Republic stood out as unexpected. Here are France’s objections, as reported by the Associated Press, Wednesday, June 28, 2000:

WARSAW, Poland – Upsetting the celebratory mood at a global democracy conference, France excluded itself from a newly formed “community of democracies” Tuesday after skewering other Western powers for evangelizing.

France stunned the other 107 participants by refusing to join them in endorsing a declaration setting universal standards by which mature and developing countries alike can measure their progress – an effort to consolidate the dramatic gains democracy made in the 20th century.

The dispute was largely philosophical and centered on French criticism that the conference was a prod to get non-democratic nations to adopt democracy – a policy French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday said usually backfires. He cited ineffective sanctions against Yugoslavia and Iraq.

“The bottom line is that in Western countries the thinking is that democracy is like religion and that all you have to do is convert people,” Vedrine told reporters in Warsaw on Monday…

France said it didn’t back the document because it amounts “to a diplomatic pledge for the democratic states to act as a group.” In particular, France objected to general agreement at the conference to convene a caucus of democratic states, possibly at the next meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in the fall.

Such a caucus creates a new bloc, in effect replicating the Cold War divisions by excluding nations who have not yet achieved democracy, said the French ambassador to Poland, Benoit d’Aboville… (Source)

—-
To end Part One of this series on “Democracy,” I ask these questions of myself and the reader:

  •  Is the US State Department’s mission to encourage the world-wide development of democratic institutions a continuation of the values and dreams of President Woodrow Wilson, or is it something different?
  •  Can the USA successfully export democracy?
  •  Should it?
  •  What is democracy?
  •  Is the USA a “democracy?”

The next article will look at the history of democratic concepts and governments, starting around 500 B.C

 

The Dismal Record of African Leadership…

 

…and the Past Role of European Countries

Who am I to say this, and how dare I say it?

I am merely responding to the announcement made by the prize committee of The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership that no prize will be awarded this year. Here is the press release. The main web page of the parent organization describes the nature and origin of the prize:

The Ibrahim Prize recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership. The prize is awarded to a democratically elected former African Executive Head of State or Government who has served their term in office within the limits set by the country’s constitution and has left office in the last three years.

The Ibrahim Prize consists of US$5million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. It is the largest annually awarded prize in the world. The Foundation will consider granting a further $200,000 per year, for 10 years, towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the winner.

In October 2006, Dr. Ibrahim launched the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to support good governance and great leadership in Africa. In 2007, Dr. Ibrahim stepped down as Chairman of Celtel International to concentrate on this initiative.

Founded in 1998, Celtel International has brought the benefits of mobile communications to millions of people across the African continent. The company operates in 15 African countries, covering more than a third of the continent’s population, and has invested more than US$750 million in Africa. In 2005, Celtel International was sold to MTC Kuwait for $3.4 billion.

Before I tell you of the past winners of this prize, I want to draw a picture for you of the grievous state of governance and leadership throughout the continent of Africa by calling attention to a few historical and present facts and factors.

Facts on Africa

There are 53 internationally recognized countries in the continent of Africa, including the six island states of: Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles.

Of these 53 states, 52 are former colonies of, or protectorates of, or were occupied by, one or more of several states in Europe: Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. The only country not so colonized or dominated, Liberia, was settled by freed slaves from the USA, its territory having been expropriated in 1822 from the many local tribes who had not formed a nation state.

[Image Source. Please click on the image for greater clarity]

To get a notion of the relative poverty of living even at the world average GDP per person per year of US $10,400, here are the figures (in US Dollars) of the top 20 countries and the European Union, which has 27 countries in its membership:

[Please click on the image for greater clarity]

  • Fifty-two of the world’s 192 countries have a GDP/person below $2,300 per year. Thirty-six of these countries are in Africa. Think of it: on average, the 689 million people in these 36 African countries subsist at a level approximately 7%, and less, of that enjoyed by the average person in a European Union country. The savagely-led country of Zimbabwe is at $200 per person per year. Zimbabwe’s dictator, President Robert Gabriel Karigamombe Mugabe, has been in power for almost 30 years, ever since the predecessor country, Rhodesia, was overthrown.

As mentioned above, every one of Africa’s countries, except Liberia, has been, at one time or another and in varying degrees, a vassal state of one or more European countries. It is well known that, with some exceptions, these states, while under foreign domination, were stripped of natural resources and essentially plundered. The stripping of natural resources continues in most of these countries today, with relatively few examples where a diversified economy under true democratic rule obtains.

Of the six countries currently at a GDP level above the world average, most are still extracting minerals from the soil as the major part of their economy: oil, diamonds, manganese, timber.

It is well known that the world’s major economies have poured money and aid into Africa, to no lasting effect, again with a few exceptions. This, in my view, shows the futility of sending money and goods into countries to help people who are ruled by despots and thieves.

Dr. Mo Ibrahim has the better idea, in my view. As can be seen above and under the links provided, his foundation will reward with significant money and recognition those African leaders who turn away from pillage and one-man rule, toward democracy that is not merely in name only; and, toward raising the standard of living for the people through good husbandry of resources and in diversifying the economy.

The prize has been awarded since 2007. Here are the awardees (text and photos taken directly from the foundation’s website):

Joaquim Alberto Chissano, 2007—Mozambique

In 1992, President Chissano helped to end Mozambique’s 16-year civil war and reconcile a divided nation, working tirelessly to negotiate piece with the RENAMO (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana) rebel group. To cement the reconciliation President Chissano offered 15,000 places in Mozambique’s 30,000-strong army to former opposition RENAMO soldiers.

President Chissano implemented a deliberate shift from Marxist-Leninist ideology to multiparty democracy and a mixed economy. He successfully negotiated a reduction in Mozambique’s debt repayments and oversaw reforms that have led to sustained economic growth. During his time in office, Mozambique began the journey of reconstruction and development, with improvements in healthcare, increased access to education and greater empowerment of women.

Between 2003 and 2004, President Chissano served as Chair of the African Union. During his presidency he was a powerful advocate for Africa on the international stage, particularly in promoting the debt relief agenda.

Festus Gontebanye Mogae, 2008—Botswana

At his inauguration ceremony in 1998, President Mogae vowed to address poverty and unemployment. His time in office was characterised by programmes to develop education and health infrastructure, and to privatise parts of the economy, notably the airlines and telecommunications industry.

Under President Mogae’s stewardship of the economy and careful management of the country’s mineral resources, Botswana experienced the steady economic growth that has characterised its post-independence history. Having been one of the poorest African countries at the time of independence, President Mogae consolidated Botswana’s place as one of the most prosperous countries on the continent.

After decades of enforcing strict anti-corruption measures, Botswana is regularly ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in Africa. Describing the principles that guided his time in office in his final State of the Nation address, President Mogae said that “prudent, transparent and honest use of national resources for your benefit has been my guiding principle and code of conduct”.

Following the Botswana Democratic Party’s victory in the October 2004 General Election, President Mogae was sworn in for a second term in November 2004. He again promised to fight poverty and unemployment, and pledged to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS in Botswana by 2016.

In April 2008, in accordance with Botswana’s constitution, President Mogae stepped down as President, having served two terms in government. He was succeeded by Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

Addendum

In the face of massive aid in money and goods perennially provided African people by other countries and NGOs through the governments of their respective countries, small and direct-to-the-people efforts pay off at least equally well. In the above photo showing orphans in Kenya, you will see Jacinta Njoroge Lahti, a native of Kenya and a resident of Sweden, who founded the depicted orphanage and school. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Stockholm International, which club continues to be a major supporter of the school.

Note on figures used in this article

All figures were derived from The CIA World FactBook