Special Feature

Legitimatizing the illegitimate: Another Game in Politics

Premised on the interplay among actors in the theatre of both domestics and international politics involving decision, humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, foreign policy and interest, many people interprets their actions or behaviours as a games. 

Some of the games according to research that depicts political interactions are: Political simulation; a game that attempts to simulate the government and politics of all or part of a nation. This game may include geopolitical situations (involving the formation and execution of foreign policy), Double standards, conspiracy of silence etc.

Having read copious literatures involving the interplays among political actors, the caption of this article was conceptualized as another game that deserves attention.

Yet to be captured in the glossary of Politics, the phrase legitimatizing the illegitimate can be conceptualized as actions or decisions when analyze would show a complete contradiction of a nation’s political philosophy that align with the pillars of its foreign policy, the manifesto of a political party, etc. regardless of whatever justifications. Deriving from analysis, it is high level of inconsistency driven or motivated by interest. Moreover, legitimatizing the illegitimate is a conscious attempt that ignored reaction from political observers or analysts in as much as interests are involved.

Let’s look at some actions or decisions that may convince you to accept the conceptualization of legitimatizing the illegitimate.

In 2009, the U.S. President Obama delivered what could be described as a compelling speech in Ghana. In his speech, he emphatically asserted that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” Bearing in mind liberal democracy as a strong pillar of the U.S. foreign policy that derived from its political philosophy, it is safe to interpret President Obama assertion that figuratively, Africa doesn’t need authoritarian or dictator characterized by prolonged regime that suppress civil societies. As we speak, researches have categorized prolonged regimes in Africa as dictators that can be equated to what President Obama described as “Strongmen” that many Africans will never refute.

In August 2014, the U.S. government hosted the first Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. that focused on trade, investment and security of the continent.

Bearing in mind the U.S. disapproval of human right abuses, political repression, electoral frauds, abuses of press freedom, prolonged regime inimical to canon of liberal democracy, one could argue that some of the leaders such as Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo from Equatorial Guinea, José Eduardo dos Santos from Angola since 1979 in power, Yaya Jammeh from the Gambia since 1994 in power; President Museveni from Ugandawith 23 years in power; former President Blasé Compare from Burkina Faso;King Mswati from Swaziland1986 in power etc. that bear the semblance of “Strongmen” according to President Obama could have been denied invitation. Ironically, each of these leaders received red carpet welcomed by the White House. Inversely, Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and President Omar Bashir from Sudan that also fits into the same “Strongmen” definition were denied invitation.

The let’s look at the African Union recent decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as Chairman.

In its effort to institutionalize good governance and democracy in Africa, the AU adopted a framework “The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance” (ACDEG) that came into force 15 February 2012. The core of the framework specifically Chapters 7 and 8 containing Articles 17-26 that deal with elections and threats to democracy and the constitutional order, prolong regime and what can be done to deter or reverse such actions.  In other words, the ACDEG considered human rights abuses, electoral fraud, political repression etc. as illegitimate.

Given the leadership profile of President Mugabe evidenced by his prolonged regime (since 1980) characterized by allegation of using widespread violence to win several disputed elections according to human rights groups, political repression and hyperinflation that forced many Zimbabweans to South Africa despite xenophobia, how could the AU appoint such a President whose leadership credentials aloof from the Union quest for institutionalizing good governance in Africa?

Let’s look at the fight of corruption in Liberia. As evidenced by existence of the lower house Committee for Good Governance and Government Reform, the role of our national legislature is very crucial in fighting corruption. Following the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) allegation of leveled against speaker Alex Tyler surrounding the US$25,000 scandal, some lawmakers demanded that the speaker recluse himself to submit to the investigation. Other in support of the speaker counter argued that the speaker submission will usher in bad precedence.

By way of analysis, it is cleared from all indications that the U.S. interest (trade, investment and security of the continent) as the focus of the summit was more important than its political ideology that frowned on human right abuses, political repression, electoral frauds, abuses of press freedom, prolonged regime inimical to canon of liberal democracy.

As for the African Union decision to appoint President Mugabe as Chairman, whose leadership credentials aloof from good governance, it shows a complete contradiction of the African Union determination for democratizing Africa.

As for the actions of some Liberian lawmakers in the lower house that opposed the Speaker submission to the LACC allegation, it shows a complete contradiction of the fight against corruption.

Regardless of whatever interests that arguably justify the games played by actors in the theatres of politics as explained in this article, it conveys a wrong sense of rightness and at the same time discourages or weakens the urge of others to disengage from their actions. This could be one of the reasons why Africa continues to face the challenge of overcoming bad governance and prolonged regime despite protocols and normative frameworks.

By Ambrues M. Nebo

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