Lessons for East African countries from “Why Nations Fail”

Posted: October 9, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Columnists, Commentary, Economy, Garang Atem, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Garang Atem Ayiik, Nairobi, Kenya

Fighting in South Sudan

Fighting in South Sudan

October 8, 2017 (SSB) — “Why Nations Fail” provides a very useful insight to understand the ongoing political intrigues in the east African region and what it may mean for the future of the region. The authors, Daron Acemoglu of MIT, and political scientist and economist James Robinson of Harvard University adopted a historical and comparative analysis approach to explaining why countries have different levels of wealth. In their analysis of data across countries and continents for over four hundred years, they found “institutions” as the main cause for inequalities across countries and continents.

In Kenya, the annulled presidential results of 8 August 2017 election put back to the campaign trail the main contenders for the Presidency. While the incumbent, President Uhuru is on a full-blown nationwide campaign, his main challenger, Raila Odinga is on a periodic two-day weekly protest in search for a reform within the electoral body. Evidence of unstable electoral institution.

In Rwanda, a constitutional provision for a presidential term limit has been removed potentially to give way for continuity of President Paul Kagame’s rule. In Uganda, members of parliament allied to the ruling party (National Resistance Movement) are processing an amendment to remove presidential age limit requirement. This is assumed to give room for President Museveni’s life rule who might not contest in accordance with the constitution if no amendment is made. Institutions correlate with rulers, they are not for society’s prosperity but for leader’s prosperity.

DRC Congo, Burundi, and South Sudan are in turmoil over leadership wrangles as ‘gun-class’ search or retain power with the gun. Except for stability in Tanzania, it is a region in chaos. Today’s uprising or chaos are signs that institutions failed to resolve issues of rights and contracts, and, loss of people’s faith in them.

“Why Nations Fail” looks at economic growth and prosperity, not as the one-off event, but rather the confluence of factors and events over time which affects institutions – hence development. Colonialists were the first to establish or reform traditional institutions to serve their interests of extracting and direct resources; whether raw materials, minerals or slaves.

Institutions established during the colonial period were extractive institutions which benefited only colonialists and their African allied elites leaving the majority of Africans in wanton poverty. This didn’t go unchallenged. Uprising happened against the colonialists and independence was granted to African countries. Uprising or protests should be inferred as a sign of injustices.

African liberators who inherited leadership didn’t do away with extractive institutions as these institutions benefited them. Factors of production, business and employment opportunities were given to people connected to them. Coups and civil wars over control of resources became a common experience in the Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Congo. This happens when there is no faith in institutions charge to regulate politics.

Even in South Sudan, a country that fought for over two decade’s war established and refurbished extractive institutions. Fights over control of resources caused current civil war and economic collapse in South Sudan. Current violent search for leadership is a struggle for a control over extractive institutions.

Acemoglu and Robinson provide a very useful lesson for leaders and citizens of this region. Development is impacted by events over-time. The nature of institutions that were inherited from colonialists, played central roles in development’s trajectory that each country took. Events or “critical junctures” riots of 1969 in Kisumu, the coup of 1982 or repeal of section 2A in 1992 in Kenya; expulsion of Asians in Uganda by President Amin or numerous coups in 1980s in Uganda; 1994 genocide in Rwanda; or civil wars in South Sudan in 1980 -1990s; and general mismanagement, all defined how these countries progressed.

At times, a country seems to move in a right direction or some events happen that reverse gains of governance or economic development. The region has enough experience of what war meant. Without stable institutions that pursue the interest of the majority, the region will continue to experience underdevelopment and instability and unhealthy competition for control of extractive institutions and constrained power.

Existing institutions have been captured by political cartels. The liberators turned to be the new oppressors. Police, army, national security, and courts are repressive institutions used to maintain power. At times, cosmetic reforms are undertaken to please the masses. Wars have been fought in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan. But at the end, the interests of the elites override the broad-base majority interests. Wars and events that happened in the last 50 years define the current economic trajectories of economies in the region.

Current intrigues in the regional political scenes are nothing new or revolutionary. These are wars over control of resources and leadership which will fizzle out badly for common men. The ongoing political intrigues will have the long-term impact on the development trajectory that the countries in the region will take in the future.

Tribal animosities in Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan were products of broken social fabric in the past and these animosities, continue to impact development today. Whether it is a consolidation of a rule of one man in Uganda and Rwanda; establishment of tribal dynasties in Kenya; national fragmentation in Congo and South Sudan, their impact will live and be felt for a long time. The earliest the common men know elites’ interests is not their interest the better.

Pluralism, respect for the rule of law, constrained power and broad-based empowerment are the only things that will curtail nations’ failures in the east African region. Academics and men of God must use their positions and knowledge to pursue truth, fairness and inclusive governance. Else, failure is an eternity in the region.

Garang Atem Ayiik, PhD student of Economics at the University of Nairobi. He can be reached at garangatemayiik@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from, plus a concise biography of yourself.

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Comments
  1. SPLA OYEEE says:

    Nations fail because the ones ruling them are very selfish and greedy to the extend that they don’t even understand what they are doing/themselves, leave alone ruling the countries. The best ruler is the one who listen to the complaints/what is being said by the people he/she is ruling. A good and wise leader always listen to the people and not only waiting for the advise, but, he/she continually asking people for their ideas; because the country he/she is ruling is not his/hers, but theirs including every one small or big, rich or poor, general or civilian, religious or pagan, in towns or outside the towns (urban).
    Sitting in a big decorated office plus being guarded by billions of troops doesn’t show being a ruler or good ruler; but, better walking bare footed while doing some schemes and projects for the country to develop and citizens to get employment and to daily put food on the table for his/her children, is the best ruler. Do you know why every soldier and civilians that time love Hitler, Napoleon, Dr. John Garang, and Winston Churchill?. Simply because they didn’t use to eat before their soldiers or civilians ate. So, do you know what your people ate to day? and what they will eat tomorrow?

    Like

  2. SPLA OYEEE says:

    Nations fail because the ones ruling them are very selfish and greedy to the extend that they don’t even understand what they are doing/themselves, leave alone ruling the countries. The best ruler is the one who listen to the complaints/what is being said by the people he/she is ruling. A good and wise leader always listen to the people and not only waiting for the advise, but, he/she continually asking people for their ideas; because the country he/she is ruling is not his/hers, but theirs including every one small or big, rich or poor, general or civilian, religious or pagan, in towns or outside the towns (urban).
    Sitting in a big decorated office plus being guarded by billions of troops doesn’t show being a ruler or good ruler; but, better walking bare footed while doing some schemes and projects for the country to develop and citizens to get employment and to daily put food on the table for his/her children, is the best ruler. Do you know why every soldier and civilians that time love Hitler, Napoleon, Dr. John Garang, and Winston Churchill?. Simply because they didn’t use to eat before their soldiers or civilians ate. So, do you know what your people ate to yesterday? and what they will eat today and tomorrow?


    Like

    Like

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