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Good Governance is the Road Map
for Peace and Renaissance of Africa

By Mussie Hailu

Africa is a home for-one-eighth of the human family and the cradle of humanity and civilization. It is a reordered fact that Africa is rich in history, culture, natural resources, and diversity of religions, people, and ethnicities. It is a continent of unity in diversity. Yet it is most often associated, sadly, with crisis and controversy. In most cases western news media have tended to propagate African images of hunger, lack of good governance, corruption, HIV/AIDS, and civil war.

Depicting Africa as a hand outstretched for help, however, is a great disservice to international truth and understanding, and especially to the people of Africa whose reality is far richer, more complex, and more hopeful than conveyed by the media. The other side of the story of Africa that we don't see or read much about in the western media also needs to be addressed. It is with this in mind that I am writing this untold story of the renaissance of Africa and the role the good governance is playing in Africa as the road map of peace, reconciliation, development and democracy among the peoples on the African continent.

This is not to say that there are no problems in Africa. Certainly the continent faces the challenges of the HIV epidemic, malaria, famine, civil war, political crises, lack of good governance, brain drain and desertification, and the prospects for improvement are mixed. The hard facts are that Africa is the only region in the world where poverty is projected to increase over the next decade; its annual population growth rate is the world's highest; and civil conflict continues to increase the human death tool and property damage in a number of African countries.

Even in the face of these challenges, Africans are working hard to change the situation by taking their future into their own hands as evidenced by many positive indicators among the negative signs. Far-reaching economic reforms adapted across the continent have begun to yield positive results in many countries. A climate conducive to increased domestic and foreign investment is being created. Capital markets are being formed and African entrepreneurship is expanding and gaining momentum

By and large, more universities, hospitals and roads are under construction in many countries of the African continent. Wells are being dug to increase access to clean water. Girls' education is improving and more women are taking a leadership role. The first woman president has been elected in Liberia. There are more women commissioners at the Africa Union than ever just to mention some of the major development in the continent.

Moreover, African leaders have addressed the devastating impact of conflict on development, working to strengthen mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of some of the region's most intractable wars, and the accession to power of democratically elected governments in many countries has provided a fresh impetus and a glimmer of hope to the peoples of Africa.

Good leadership and along with it good governance are of paramount importance for the continent_s future as these are at the heart of sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty. Many Africans recognize the value of these essential elements and are considering good governance as urgent priority for the continent's development agenda.

The former executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. K.Y. Amoako, has stated the case clearly:

"The creation of capable states is one of the most fundamental challenges in Africa today. The capable state is one in which peace and security are granted and sustained. Without peace there can be no long-term development. And without good governance there is seldom peace.

The capable state creates an enabling political and legal environment for economic growth and promotes the equitable distribution of the fruits of growth, but growth must also be coupled with policies that deliberately attack poverty and promote education, health, and social safety nets. The capable state also builds an enabling environment for the private sector to generate economic growth, jobs and income. At the core of all this is political and policy stability and a fair and consistent application of the rule of law."

And to add more, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also strongly emphasizes the need for good governance as quoted below:

"Good governance and sustainable development are indivisible. That is the lesson of all our efforts and experiences, from Africa to Asia to Latin America. Without good governance, without the rule of law, predictable administration, legitimate power and responsive regulation, no amount of funding, no amount of charity will set us on the path to prosperity."

Good governance is expanding across the continent and democracy is starting to flourish in Africa. Unlike in the past when African presidents left power and fled to the west with coffers of money, there are now increasing numbers of peaceful power transitions in African countries. A number of former heads of state who have clearly demonstrated their commitment to good leadership and who still have rich experience and wisdom to offer their countries and the continent as a whole not only are remaining in their countries ad sitting idle, but they are positively contributing toward their countries' development. Some have taken the initiative to establish their own foundations or are actively involved in activities that help their people.

In recent years alone, an important development has been theemergence of mechanisms and forums supporting these former leaders in coming together and collectively contributing to the well being of the continent. These include: 1) African Presidential Archives and Research center; 2) The Africa Statesmen Initiative; 3) Africa Forum; and 4) The Council of Former African Heads of State for Peace, Development and Reconciliation.

For instance, the African Presidential Archives and Research center (APARC), which is based at Boston University, USA, is studying democratization and free market reform in Africa. Through a residency program for former democratically elected African leaders and access to their papers and through access to present democratically elected leaders, the center provides a forum for them to share and a venue for others to benefit from their insights and expertise. The center is also providing a necessary and credible forum for these leaders to continue to contribute to the improvement of Africa and the broadening of the world's understanding of Africa's problems and potential. The APRC has done a remarkable job in creating awareness on the role of former African heads of state internationally.

The second and very recently established is The African Statesmen Initiative, which aims to A) encourage democratic former heads of state to continue to play a constructive role in democratization efforts in their countries and the continent as a whole B) highlight their accomplishments and willingness to leave power as positive examples and an incentive for other African leaders who have become an impediment to further democratization in their respective countries C) provide a forum for there select leaders to share experiences on democratization and conflict management initiatives
that they have undertaken since leaving office.

The third is Africa Forum, a forum of African former heads of state and government, was initiated by the former President of Mozambique, H.E. Joaquim Chissano and it is launched on January 11,2006 in Maputo.

The fourth is The Council of Former African Heads of State for Peace, Development and Reconciliation whose aims and objectives are to: 1) Promote Reconciliation and Build a Culture of Peace 2) Play a mediation role in conflict zones 3) Encourage nations in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals 4) Create further awareness in the fight
against HIV/AIDS and stop the stigma attached to it 5) Share their rich experience with the young generation of leaders to inspire good governance 6) Engage Africans in Diaspora in the overall development of the continent 7) Act as a resource to the African Union and the United Nations in times of crisis and promote the aims and objectives of these institutions 8) serve as a platform where former and current leaders can work together for the overall good of their respective countries and the continent 9) Ensure peaceful transitions of power 10) Provide a forum where former heads of state can remain engaged in constructive works for the betterment of Africans 11) Lobby for African issues to be given due attention on the international agenda and build the image of Africa internationally 12) Provide an opportunity for leaders to transition to civilian life by offering a forum which values and utilizes their experience and expertise. The council will address these and other pressing issues as well as harness the collective energy that exemplary former leaders have to offer. A number of former heads of state of Africa already demonstrated their ongoing commitment to peace, security, democracy and prosperity

More than ever, a number of civil societies and faith-based organizations are working together in peace building, reconciliation and bringing good governance to the continent. It is my belief that development cannot take place without securing peace. A number of interfaith groups have emerged in a number of African countries and are actively engaged in peace-building, social development, environmental protection, dialogue among different religions and ethnicities, promoting partnership, addressing gender equity, unemployment, empowerment of youth, and peace education in schools. One such organization, which is very active in different part of Africa, is United Religions Initiative.

One of the fundamental principles that I believe could play a major role in the peace building effort and in the renascence of Africa is the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule, "Treat others As You would like to be treated" is the foundation of Democracy, because the Golden Rule directs us to give the same power to others, as we would like to have for ourselves, namely, the power to make decisions in matters affecting our lives. When it is applied to politics, the Golden Rule leads to policies which create "The Greatest Good for The Greatest Number, with Basic Rights For All" Thus, total good is maximized and none are denied the basic needs of life. This is a good formula for happiness and social stability anywhere! The Golden Rule, which is clearly stated in different religions and sacred texts, is the password and key to a better Africa and the world. In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Golden Rule is also needed for a peaceful co-existence and harmony. Interfaith Peace building Initiative, Ethiopia based local organization which promote interfaith harmony and a culture of peace, is already working actively in making the golden rule as an African agenda and the poster of the golden rule sent out to 53 African Heads of State

The other good sign of Africa renaissance is the establishment of African Union. The African Union is a very important organization as it is representing the collective voice of all Africans. The African Union originated in the Organization of African Unity, or the OAU, was established on May 25, 1963. The main objectives of the OAU were to rid the continent of the remnants of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations. Indeed, as a continental organization, the OAU provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent and to the world, and to defend the interests of Africa effectively. In 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the OAU issued a Declaration calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view to bringing together the continent to enable it play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing social, economic and political problems compounded by aspects of globalization.

The vision of the African Union is first, to promote socio-economic integration of the continent, which will lead to greater unity and solidarity between African countries and peoples; second, to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector, in order to strengthen solidarity and cohesion amongst the peoples of Africa; and third, to promote peace, security and stability on the continent as a prerequisite for the implementation of the development and integration agenda of the Union.

For the African Union to achieve its aims and objectives, there should be a strong collaborative effort between citizens and their leaders. All Africans should be stakeholders in the process of creating a better Africa for all Africans. It's not something, which citizens can leave to heads of state and African Union alone, nor can heads of state and African Union do it alone. It must be a real partnership, understanding, dialogue, trust-building and common vision, commitment and solid action among all Africans. In addition, the international community must pay due attention to Africa as it is morally outrageous to ignore one-eighth of the human family. It is the responsibility of the African Union to keep the critical issues of Africa on the global agenda. Civil Societies also have a major role to play in creating an awareness among their members and policy makers, and to make heard those voices that have not been given due attention by the international community.

The renaissance of Africa should be a collective concern of all Africans including that of African in the Diaspora.

A new wind of hope is blowing in Africa. Africa is rising. Through this collaborative effort, the Africa, which we seek to build, will be self-sufficient and independent, and able to stand as a strong and united continent addressing its challenges so that future generations will inherit, with pride, a peaceful land that is rich with many possibilities and which can further contribute to the global family.

Africa will continue to rise up only when we Africans from all walks of life including Former African Heads of State, The Traditional Rulers and others who are at home and abroad work together, side by side, to give unconditional service to the overall development of our beloved Continent under the banner of African Union. It is a time of the Africa Renaissance.

Inspired by the spirit of the Founding Fathers of Africa, we African need to have the common vision, commitment and action to build a peaceful Africa. Let us all work together toward an African Renaissance.

As it is stated in the new African Union Anthem "Let us all unite and celebrate together the victories won for our liberation. Let us dedicate our self to rise together to defend our liberty and Unity. O Sons and Daughters of Africa. Let us make Africa the Tree of Life"


Mussie Hailu lives in Ethiopia, teaches at the American University in Washington DC, and is active with the United Religions Initiative.

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