Coming to America: Is USA deliberately encouraging self-serving politics in Africa?

It was Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, first president of the Republic of Malawi that was the first Malawian President to be invited to the White House by an American President. It was not the current president of Malawi, Joyce Mtila Banda, as she so shamelessly claimed, in a space of five days, during and on return from her trip to the United States. This is the truth of the matter, as verified by indisputable historical record.

But it is not only one falsehood that President Joyce Banda told the American President Barack Obama and his detached and indifferent American public. The humiliatingly false claim that she was the first Malawian president to visit the White House at the invitation of the American president was embarrassing enough in spite of its apparent harmlessness. It was, however, only the tip of the iceberg.

It appears that Barack Obama was quite happy to listen and did not correct Joyce Banda as she made a fool of herself with this betrayal of her ignorance of even her own country’s history. More a matter of concern is the fact that Obama was also quite happy to listen to Banda make the more serious claim that the Malawian economy had improved immensely since she took over the presidency a year ago in April 2012.

It would be naïve to even imagine that the American government is unaware of the daily load-shedding, the water shortages, the daily skyrocketing of prices for basic commodities, the drug shortages in hospitals and the numerous other economic woes that Malawi is experiencing.

President Barack Obama speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 28, 2013, after a meeting with, from left, Malawi President Joyce Banda; Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma; and Cape Verde Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves . (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

President Barack Obama speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 28, 2013, after a meeting with, from left, Malawi President Joyce Banda; Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma; and Cape Verde Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves . (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Barack Obama is a lawyer by training and knows the importance of accurate facts. The American government is therefore very aware that these hardships were not there twelve months ago before Joyce Banda became President.

Twelve months ago, the biggest problems facing the Americans, as Mutharika preserved Malawian sovereignty and refused to devalue, were the question of finding fuel to fill their big exotic vehicles, and frequent enquiries from American institutions as to how they could find forex to export to their homeland. Even though they are paid in dollars and therefore are the ones enjoying most from the devaluation of the Kwacha and the availability of forex, the Americans also know that the economic situation steadily has been getting worse, and that not only is maize scarce, but that the price for the little that people have to queue for overnight to access is astronomical.

The question that must be pursued therefore is why the American government can sit and listen with glee as President Joyce Banda insulted Malawians with her “super-woman” claims. The answer, however, is not that difficult to find when one remembers that the Joyce Banda “policies” that the Americans are apparently applauding are what was clearly stated in Joyce Banda’s own inauguration speech a year ago, that is, “doing everything the IMF will tell us to do”.

America and other rich countries dominate decision-making in the IMF. Voting power is determined by the amount of money that each country pays into the IMF’s quota system. It’s a system of one dollar, one vote. The U.S. is the largest shareholder with a quota of 18 percent. Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, and the US combined control is about 38 percent.

The disproportionate amount of power held by wealthy countries means that the interests of bankers, investors and corporations from industrialized countries are put above the needs of the world’s poor majority. In this regard then, to Obama and the Americans, any president who follows “everything the IMF says” is a brave and courageous president and any lies that she tells about the actual economic state of her country must not only be tolerated, but also actively encouraged.

 

After this curious question of the American naivety is answered, perhaps the real question must then become why African leaders- clueless ones such as Joyce Banda- are happy to maintain the ruse and dance the American tune at the expense of their people. The answer to this question is simple and basic, and rooted in greed. African leaders playing puppets to America and its rich allies are guaranteed to grow rich overnight while their countries’ economies deteriorate and the majority of their people live in poverty.

It is not surprising therefore that under Joyce Banda, Malawi is, sadly, going down the road well travelled by other African countries whose leadership focused on enriching themselves at the expense of their people. There already are allegations against Joyce Banda that after being in office for under a year, she has within the year purchased 300 articulated trucks and 172 Tippers. Although unsubstantiated, it is said that her vehement refusal to declare her assets is because she is afraid that it will reveal the billions of Kwacha that have turned up in her accounts, all within the past year.

The American support and praise of Joyce Banda in spite of the worsening economy and her questionable self-enrichment is reminiscent of the ruler of Equatorial Guinea who was described as a “good friend” of the U.S. by Condoleezza Rice back in 2006. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo continues to enjoy the support of the Obama administration when Human Rights Watch says that Obiang’s country is “mired in corruption, poverty, and repression,” and that his government “regularly engages in torture and arbitrary detention.” The son of the president of Guinea reportedly spent more on luxury goods between 2004 and 2007 “than the country’s annual education budget.” Many similar examples could be cited.

Should it not be very disturbing to Malawians that a President who refuses to be held accountable by her own people in terms of her worth materially is being embraced by America which poses to be the presiding officer of accountability in the world? But as it were, subservience from an African leader will always result in the west changing their goal posts with regard to the definition of transparency and respect of the rule of law. For if the goalposts never changed depending on whether or not one is the puppet Bingu wa Mutharika would not have been roundly condemned by the West for taking the route of making Malawi self sufficient and yet today the same people encourage their puppet to find ways of reducing the dependency of her country on donor support through embarking on trade.

Would the Americans have praised Bingu wa Mutharika if, like Joyce Banda, he had refused to declare his assets, had lied to them that he had sold the ministerial limousines yet they still ply the streets as we speak, had spent K1.6 billion to buy luxury cars for ministers when the country is hurting, was travelling ceaselessly when the country must be pursuing austerity measures?

Why was Bingu wa Mutharika attacked for buying the presidential jet allegedly at a time when the country was bleeding, and yet Joyce Banda is being praised for buying luxury ministerial vehicles at a time when the country is hurtling into the abyss of despondency?

In the final analysis, President Joyce Banda’s trip to America was another begging expedition at the taxpayer’s expense, the fruits of which are most likely going to end up in her pocket. Nevertheless, although amusing, the fact is that the Malawian President does not even know the history of the three presidents before her and is ignorant enough to tell this hopeless self-serving lie to the American people. The fact that American government can encourage this and other more severe falsehoods about Malawi to be perpetrated by Joyce Banda to the world should rebuke all Malawians about their unhealthy obsession with American support and remind them that the underlying issues are serious and by no means a laughing matter.

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