Updated: March 6, 2021
Influential Nigerian human rights lawyer and activist, Mr. Femi Falana, has called on African NGOs to reject Chinese loans, challenge Transparency International and western media propaganda in Africa and shift attention from rights violations to the fight against devastating corruption.
In remarks he delivered last week at the African NGO Forum held in Banjul, The Gambia, Mr Falana blamed African NGOs for turning a blind eye to corruption while loudly pursuing the fight against human rights.
[read_more id="2" more="Read full article" less="Read less"]
As their focus remains on the fight against rights violations, corruption was having devastating effects on the continent, leaving millions of people in squalor and enriching African leaders and their partners in crime in China and the West.
For instance, he explained, that while “the heads of States of 52 African countries were at Beijing, China last month to beg for a $60 billion loan for the so-called infrastructural development of Africa for the next years”, those loans were totally unnecessary if the African leaders were prepared “to halt the annual illicit financial flow of $100 billion from Africa”.
Mr Falana said African NGOs should stop African leaders “from further exposing Africa to ridicule” by partnering “with progressive political parties, trade unions and mass organizations”.
“Otherwise, the ongoing substitution of European colonialism for Chinese imperialism by African rulers will continue,” he added.
Mr. Falana charged African NGOs to challenge the narrative on corruption by rejecting “the dubious western propaganda peddled by the Transparency International which has continued to paint Africa as the most corrupt continent on earth”.
He wondered why Transparency International has “deliberately refused to classify Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and France as corrupt when the bulk of the billions of dollars stolen from Africa by corrupt rulers has been traced to banks and other financial institutions in these countries”.
He said “the western media and Transparency International have failed to join the campaign for the repatriation of the looted wealth of the African people. According to him, “if the western countries do not warehouse such loot, corruption by criminally minded politically exposed persons will be greatly reduced.”
Mr. Falana said African NGOs should first of all take full advantage of relevant provisions in their countries’ constitutions and international human rights instruments to fight corruption.
The NGOs should also use the Freedom of Information legislations to request information from governments.
They should also encourage citizens to submit petitions against corruption and impunity to the police and other law enforcement agencies.
“If the petitions are ignored, NGOs should not hesitate to approach other judicial fora for redress,” he said last week in remarks at the African NGO Forum held in Banjul, The Gambia.
Delivering his keynote address entitled “How to strengthen African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and NGOs to combat Corruption in Africa”, Mr. Falana advised African NGOs to emulate a Nigerian based NGO, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
He said SERAP has used the above tactics to obtain court orders to compel the Nigerian government to educate every Nigerian child, publish the names of looters, account for the loot recovered since 1999 and account for the money spent on water and electricity.
He also commended SERAP for “exposing the World Bank” for reportedly making “false claims in respect of the Abacha loot”.
He said “in a bid to shield some public officers from prosecution for corruption the Bank had falsely claimed that the recovered loot of $500 million was spent on some projects”, even as SERAP could not locate the said projects.
While acknowledging that African NGOs have done reasonably well in promoting civil and political rights, Mr. Falana said that such “rights have remained a tantalizing reality to the majority of our people”, and urged African NGOs to shift attention and focus to the promotion and defence of socioeconomic rights which are enshrined in the constitutions of African countries and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
According to him “This (is the) only way to seriously wage the battle against the menace of corruption in Africa is to mobilize the masses who are the principal victims of corruption to demand accountability from the governments.”He charged African NGOs to be mindful of the fact that “the human rights that we celebrate and glorify are limited to civil and political rights which have become the exclusive preserve of the members of the comprador bourgeois class and their allies who constitute an infinitesimal minority of the African population. Since our national constitutions have guaranteed equality before the law is guaranteed let us resolve to extend human rights to the masses and other economically disadvantaged people by consciously promoting socioeconomic rights including rights to health, education, development and popular control over the natural resources of our countries which are guaranteed by articles 16, 17, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which have been ratified by the member states of the African Union.”