APRM whitewashing Zambian problems

By Prof. Michelo Hansungule

Many people in Zambia are obviously not aware that Zambia will be ‘peer reviewed’ under the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) at this weekend’s post-African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government and rightly so. In fact, most citizens are not aware or to put it simply do not know what this animal the APRM is all about? This is not only Zambia’s dilemma but of Africa as a whole. Here in Pretoria, I often ask my South African and African students the most basic of the basic questions ‘where is the headquarters of the continental APRM? Of course none would dare put up their hand. My next familiar question is to South Africans only asking them to tell me and their colleagues in class of the focal point of the South African APRM? No one has previously got the correct answer.
Established by the African Union (AU) way back in 2003, the APRM was part of an ambitious and comprehensive package of political reforms first initiated by then president Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in his rennaissance vision he proposed for Africa in the new millennium. As Mbeki was unveiling his plans to fight African poverty and maginalisatin in world affairs, his counterpart and public critic then president of Senegal Abdulouy Wade was busy unveiling his plan the OMEGA,. Like Mbeki’s New African Initiative (NAI), OMEGA promised to fight poverty and Africa’s maginalisation in the new millennium.

At the AU at the time OAU Lusaka Summit in July 2001, the two plans were merged into one which saw the birth of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Central to the four objectives of NEPAD is poverty eradication and also the fight against the marginaliation of Africa in world affairs especially in trade.

One of the main pillars of NEPAD was the APRM which in a sense was an announcement that there are new kids next block on African leadership in the names of Mbeki, never mind sanitized Obasanjo of Nigeria, Wade, late Melesi Zenawe of Ethiopia, etc.

Though others have criticised the entire concept as new wine in old bottles, these ‘new kids’ publicly promised African people to do things in Africa differently this time round in terms of the challenges of democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic and social development. It is common knowledge that Africans have never really been free in the truest sense of the word from since political independence. As Ugandan Professor Mohamood Mamdani argued in his revealing book ‘When Victims Become Killers’, correctly noted, post-independence African regimes so easily turn out to be oppressive or even worse oppressors once given a chance once given a chance in government.

This is Africa’s experience unfortunately. APRM which became independent of the NEPAD once it was on its feet, was initiated by the new kids next door as means to reverse Africa’s governance barbarism. Besides a modest Secretariat at Midrand in South Africa, APRM is led by a group of seven individuals from across Africa technically known as ‘Eminent Persons’. The first batch of the seven Eminent Persons included personalities like Graca Marcel, former South African Reserve Bank Governor Dr. Chris Stalls, former Vice Chancellor of Yaounde 1 University in Cameroon Dr. Dorothy Njuema, etc. Late Zambia’s former Foreign Minister Dr. Siteke Mwale served briefly in the second batch.

But like most African programmes, APRM is probably not something seriously sick people should put their confidence in. In its structure, APRM is defined as a voluntary mechanism which aims to provide a dialogue in the country about that country’s governance challenges and direction. On the basis of the four thematic areas, namely, democracy and good political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance as well as social development, states that join the APRM undertake their ‘self-assessment’ of their records based on the above themes in the hope to engage citizens and stakeholders about their challenges and how to respond to those challenges.

At a practical level, APRM seeks to address such perennial problems in Africa as why courts are congested so that it takes ages for accused persons to have a bite at justice much against their guaranteed right to a fair trial? A country will review its record delays for the registration of companies and businesses including societies and how these impact on the country’s overall development goals? It is aimed to act as a unique platform for groups like women, children and persons with disability have a disproportionate share of the country’s opportunities yet the constitution will often be singing equality of all.

The climax of the APRM is the Summit of Heads of State and Government such as the one slated for this weekend in the Ethiopian capital city Addis Ababa where following presentations of Country Reports from a country that has successfully undergone a review, the other Heads of States (Peers) are given opportunity to share experiences (experience sharing) on how to address some of the challenges the review may have unearthed.

In terms of the original intent, the architects had hoped the Heads of State would use the opportunity to freely critic fellow Heads of State including throwing missiles at each other if that is what it takes to ensure the aims and objectives of APRM. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened and it bis unlikely it would happen. African Heads of State are still very much shy on taking head on fellow Heads of State.

Rather, most of them stand up only to congratulate the one who has just gone through the review often completely ignoring the challenges identified in the Report either because they are shy or out of fear that they coud be opening themselves to similar attacks or worse when it is their turn. There is only one exception, however, and this is when former president Thabo Mbeki and late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi would take the floor. Perhaps because both were trained economists, they would always be the only ones who would disagree with each other’s positions.

Given above, it is quite clear that Zambia will come out shining from the peer review process just like others before because APRM is not like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. Its main weakness is that it is primarily ‘Head of State driven’ which makes it almost like another club of Heads of States which have failed us in the past. Secondly, the final product of APRM the Programme of Action till now has not had its status clarified in the national domain of participating countries. Most participating countries simply are not sure what to do let alone how to integrate the PoA into the national fabric.

Third, the anchoring of the APRM on the personalities of the Heads of State of Participating countries ignores existing convention in international law where states and not the persons of Heads of States are the ones that commit to the obligations a treaty would provide. Fourth, the AU is, of course, a bad ‘marketeer’ of its programmes. Little has been done since the inception of APRM to popularise the idea among ordinary Africans as strategy to internalise the concept and promote its ownership among them.

Public perception of these grand programmes such as the APRM they are nothing but efforts by leaders to white-wash the endemic problems African people face and this is not far from the truth. If ten years later, a concept like the APRM remains largely unknown to the poor for whom it is intended, what would be a better explanation than white-wash? Like most state and particularly Head of state-driven elitist concepts, APRM isn’t the solution the poor Africans need to address their plight.

To become one, it urgently needs to undergo serious localisation so that, for instance, the Head of State’s presentation does not go on record unchallenged by citizens as is the case now. Africans must take control of their destinies. Time to leave one’s destiny with leaders or government is long gone. For example, what does ‘good governance’ means at this juncture in the Zambian context? One, it means Zambians must ‘take over’ the constitution making process completely.

No one, not even government, can write your constitution for you and this is what APRM should entail. You do not only have a right but a duty to take over every inch of Zambia from police or government for your meetings, assemblies and gatherings. Anything short of this is simply slavery under the guise of law and order!

The Author is a University of Pretoria Law Professor in South Africa

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24 Responses to "APRM whitewashing Zambian problems"

  1. Blago  January 29, 2013 at 08:48

    APRM is as useless as the African Union itself.

  2. montana  January 28, 2013 at 19:49

    Those who seek to lead, but fail to manage… are not relevant to their organizations or to their societies.” here in Zambia we have a failed leadership

  3. Shetana  January 28, 2013 at 19:35

    The APRM, just like the AU, is a club of African leaders who are out to look after their own personal and club interests. This club is not there to protect the interest of citizens. How do you expect a club with characters like Museveni and Mugabe to behave? When was the last time they paid attention to their own citizens and why should they do so to Zambians now???

  4. THE SAINT  January 28, 2013 at 19:14

    Mwabuka buti ba Professor!

  5. Kwathuk  January 28, 2013 at 18:02

    This is so such a beautiful analysis of the APRM, I think it is useless and a wastage of resources but as Hansungule has said, it an be made useful and it me this can be done by protecting with a legal backing. The self assessment be done with an independent body of technocrats.

  6. Ulemu ni Wabwino  January 28, 2013 at 17:57

    Is this APRM not just another talking shop? So when Zambia is peer-reviewed and found to be infringing on citizens’ freedoms, will the PF govt stop abusing the POA?

  7. Maverick  January 28, 2013 at 15:35

    Well it sounds like another fruitless ‘Boys’ Club’ where the so called ‘heads of states’ gather for a beer and their favourite chicken and chips. Peer Review is very important. As an engineer who writes technical documents, the importance of peer review cannot be overemphasised.

    Peer Reviewing in the context of engineering is to ensure that your work in reviewed by independent minds, free from bias so that they can spot mistakes and errors that you as individual could have missed. The purpose is not to ‘embarrass’ the person or their work but to produce the best product that will meet requirements and needs of the customer or intended audience. This is vital no matter how experienced or how much a genius of a person you are.

    Similarly at my company we also have another process called Annual Performance Review, where you set objectives at the start of the year and you then get assessed at the end of the year against those objectives to check if you have met them. This process has a component of ‘self-assessment’ or ‘self-review’ when you rate and score yourself before you meet with your team lead to discuss your achievements. A final rating is given ranging from ‘new on job’ to ‘Outstanding’… the majority rates average (meets expectations) and only a select few are on the extreme ends of the rating graph. We also have a similar but somewhat different process called ‘Competence Review’ when you want to have a ‘promotion’ or go into a higher bracket in seniority from your current position. This one is a ‘demonstrated competency’ based exercise and it is a more strenuous process over the others. The last but not least process is management initiated surveys so management can assess the performance and perception of the company from employees’ point of view.

    The common theme about all of the above is that the processes are meaningful and they are taken seriously and are meant to bring about real, tangible results and potential change, and not just another ‘one of those things’.

    • Maverick  January 28, 2013 at 15:36

      Now back to this ‘APRM’, what they need to do is this:
      1. Take it seriously and have independent reviewers and peer reviewers with impartiality to objectively offer their review comments
      2. Set benchmarks or what we call in Systems Engineering as ‘Technical Performance Measures’ (TPMs) as yardsticks so that countries can be measured and assessed against
      3. Give feedbacks and ‘action items’ to member countries who should report progress of those action items at the next peer review meeting
      4. Have some ‘lessons’ learnt so that performers are praised and those found wanting could even be fined
      5. Have a parallel independent review from independent bodies of member countries made out of NGOs, such as (in the context of Zambia) Transparent International; Lawyers; Economists; Churches; Independent media; Lecturers; etc. – then compare the head of state ‘self-review’ against this report
      6. Have a rating scale ‘Poor, Meets Expectations, Outstanding, etc. and have some ‘rewarding’ intensives to performing countries
      7. Have it attached to some international statutory obligation, e.g. UN’s Human Rights or something.
      8. Finally they should also ensure Climate Change is added among the listed issues.

  8. Fili Okotuya  January 28, 2013 at 14:28

    Thabo Mbeki was not appreciated by the grass roots for the same reasons as a man like HH. They are too deep for the ordinary man. All shots simply fly above the common man’s head. Thanks Prof. for the enlightenment, and many thanks to all the contributors, this discussion is at a very high level and I am waiting to see how the foul-mouthed will come in.

    • moses zulu  January 29, 2013 at 11:48

      Foul- Mouthed hey? i thought you are one of them

  9. Suggestor  January 28, 2013 at 14:03

    The late lawyers Dr Remmy Mushota said something many years ago that has stuck all these years on my mind; which the need for govts to strengthen institutions so that their successes are not based on the goodness of the one in power.

    Sadly that has been the story of Africa, we rely so much on the goodness of our leaders because we have vested so much power in individuals rather than resting powers in institutions. And the result, we have bullies like sata who can disregard all laws with impunity, who can push around institutions like ACC making a spectacle of their ‘independence’ from executive. Simply sad.

    • Rio  January 28, 2013 at 16:17

      Well put and much sums up the character of our societies!

  10. Chosa Mulenga  January 28, 2013 at 13:26

    It`s very rare to have such analytical minds on this site without some un-educated cadre exposing their ignorance.bravo to you all.Your minds speak a great deal of how much knowledge is out there in this country.It`s a pity that such minds are not in use in many important positions in our goverment.Instead un-educated praise singers are instead.What`s even worse is the fact that none of our leaders are actually able to intepret all these issues hence the failure in upholding them.Apart from our grade 7 president being who he is,who else can say they will convince him to adorpt any of these mechanism in these programmes.For him it`s just another event where he must make a speech.In as much as want to fight to have our voices heard in the constitution making,let`s also make sure that the degree clause for aspiring ro would be president is intruduced.Otherwise what`s the point of all this jargon if we elect another grade 7 drop out.Remember like minds associate,it also means his carbinet will equally be of simmilar calibre.Total waste of time and money.

    • knowledge is power  January 28, 2013 at 20:56

      I totally agree

    • moses zulu  January 29, 2013 at 11:55

      Sometimes you start your analysis well but in the end you expose your stupidity by adding unnecessary information to your argument. Society is made up of a sum of families and you guys are a mirror of our current society. You claim to be educated but you are just schooled. Zambia’s problems are not because of Sata Nope its society. We are a let down to ourselves. Schooled individuals think people with degrees are good presidents no my dear wake up

  11. Maverick  January 28, 2013 at 13:10

    Well it sounds like another fruitless ‘Boys’ Club’ where the so called ‘heads of states’ gather for a beer and their favourite chicken and chips. Peer Review is very important. As an engineer who writes technical documents, the importance of peer review cannot be overemphasised.

    Peer Reviewing in the context of engineering is to ensure that your work in reviewed by independent minds, free from bias so that they can spot mistakes and errors that you as individual could have missed. The purpose is not to ‘embarrass’ the person or their work but to produce the best product that will meet requirements and needs of the customer or intended audience. This is vital no matter how experienced or how much a genius of a person you are.

    Similarly at my company we also have another process called Annual Performance Review, where you set objectives at the start of the year and you then get assessed at the end of the year against those objectives to check if you have met them. This process has a component of ‘self-assessment’ or ‘self-review’ when you rate and score yourself before you meet with your team lead to discuss your achievements. A final rating is given ranging from ‘new on job’ to ‘Outstanding’… the majority rates average (meets expectations) and only a select few are on the extreme ends of the rating graph. We also have a similar but somewhat different process called ‘Competence Review’ when you want to have a ‘promotion’ or go into a higher bracket in seniority from your current position. This one is a ‘demonstrated competency’ based exercise and it is a more strenuous process over the others. The last but not least process is management initiated surveys so management can assess the performance and perception of the company from employees’ point of view.

    The common theme about all of the above is that the processes are meaningful and they are taken seriously and are meant to bring about real, tangible results and potential change, and not just another ‘one of those things’.

    Now back to this ‘APRM’, what they need to do is this:
    1. Take it seriously and have independent reviewers and peer reviewers with impartiality to objectively offer their review comments
    2. Set benchmarks or what we call in Systems Engineering as ‘Technical Performance Measures’ (TPMs) as yardsticks so that countries can be measured and assessed against
    3. Give feedbacks and ‘action items’ to member countries who should report progress of those action items at the next peer review meeting
    4. Have some ‘lessons’ learnt so that performers are praised and those found wanting could even be fined
    5. Have a parallel independent review from independent bodies of member countries made out of NGOs, such as (in the context of Zambia) Transparent International; Lawyers; Economists; Churches; Independent media; Lecturers; etc. – then compare the head of state ‘self-review’ against this report
    6. Have a rating scale ‘Poor, Meets Expectations, Outstanding, etc. and have some ‘rewarding’ intensives to performing countries
    7. Have it attached to some international statutory obligation, e.g. UN’s Human Rights or something.
    8. Finally they should also ensure Climate Change is added among the listed issues.

    By the way Prof, nice article and very informative… we need more of these. I actually never knew of APRM until today from this article.

  12. Sara  January 28, 2013 at 11:03

    Educative piece! I like your last sentence. It is true, us citizens are the centre or drivers of what we want our future to be! One reason these head of states are not able to engage in lucrative debates is that they are not educated. Thabo Mbeki and late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi were both intellectuals and progressive thinkers.

    Would you expect an illiterate soul like this so called president of Zambia, Sata to critique another leader or engage in an intellectual and forward thinking development debate, never? The only thing he can do is to shout – “Pamberi ne njongwe” – forward with the rooster – the symbol of ZANU-PF. In Africa we need to do away with this tendency of voting populists into state leadership.

    We need intellectuals and pragmatists who are not erasible or will not take offence when challenged on governance and development issues. The APRM suposed to be a powerful African syposium for democracy and good political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance as well as social development but alas, leaders go there for partial fulfilment!

    So, the different levels of education among head of states is equally a hinderance among other issues to motivate intellectual and pragmatic critiques. Mwawanawasa was quite frank with his criticisms of other leaders despite being crude!

    Prof. I would have loved to hear from you what you think should be be done to ensure that the aims and objectives of APRM are realised? You explored what is transpiring but not the rudiments of the problem and what should be done to ensure that the initial aims and objectives of APRM are achieved!

  13. Mutale Mulenga  January 28, 2013 at 11:02

    It is difficult to achieve good governance in Zambia.As Late Mwanawasa once said,’what you need is a good president not necessarily a good constitution’.And I think he was right.For as long as we have presidents who are not interested in good governance we will never obtain a good costitution.

    • get  January 28, 2013 at 11:47

      Wrong. And LPM was also very wrong. I’m not a lawyer but on this one I have bitten LPM. Why we have bad presidents is because we have a bad constitution. If we had a good constitution, even the current defacto president group (Kabimba+ Fred MMembe+ Nchitos) would have been good (Don’t mind Sata’s presence at state house. He is just told what to say). They now can do whatever they feel like (even refuse to pay beck loans they got from national financial institutions).

      • Mailon  January 28, 2013 at 12:40

        I dont agree with you.The current constitution is not totally bad there are some good provisions but we have seen Sata totally igore them from inception.So even with a good constitution with a leader like Sata it would make no difference.

        • Suggestor  January 28, 2013 at 14:33

          No the problem is the constitution which puts so much power in an individual at the expense of institutions. This defeats the essence of having controls that are necessary to ensure progress. As it is, we rely on the goodness of the person in power to achieve our utopia, but really is that what we need? Strengthen the institutions then even a bad president will be kept in check, but as it is, its a recipe for disaster.

        • Maverick  January 28, 2013 at 15:44

          I think you are right @ Mailon to an extend… how do you expect him or them to respect a ‘good Constitution’ when they can’t even respect the current ‘bad’ one. The current ‘bad’ one has some good items in it (such as the right to assemble and associate) but it is being abused day in and day out. The so called ‘Police Permit’ isn’t even provided for in the current ‘bad’ Constitution, as an example.

          But I understand where @ ‘get’ was coming from. I think his/her argument is that if we have a ‘water-tight’ Constitution that would not provide ‘room’ for abuse or misunderstanding, then the despot won’t have a chance to abuse it as that would be easy to go to court and expose the abuse. Well may be ‘get’ has a point but our Judiciary is currently under the pocket of the President. And I think part of that is that our current Constitution provides too much power to one person, The President so much that he is the one who hires and fires those who serve in the other supposedly independent arms of governance.

          I guess the first start is to have a Constitution which does not give too much powers to the president so that the Judiciary and the Legislature and law enforcement agencies are truly ‘independent’ and by this I mean they should not be worried about their job if they executed their jobs professionally. That way they could provide meaningful checks and balances. At the moment the Supreme Court CJ and the DPP and ACC Commissioner and the Police IG can be fired even after a sleeping dream of the president at any moment’s notice. I guess this is where ‘Get’ is coming from. However, if we had people who have a will, the current one could still be used to govern the country rightly.

          Look at the way the FBI is the US brought down the all-powerful CIA Director General David Petraeus due to his alleged dalliances? We need something like that in Zambia.

    • Shetana  January 28, 2013 at 19:31

      Mwanawasa was wrong. For a lawyer to call the Constitution “a mere piece of paper”, as he did, was unconscionable. The Constitution makes a country. A bad constitution or a weak one allows dictators to flourish. If our Constitution allowed a recall of poor performing politicians, you would be seeing more attention being given to people’s views. Instead, these hyenas are saying until 2016, at which point they will use state resources to buy votes.

      While a good leader or President is nice to have, citizens need to know that they are not hostages to a bunch of hooligans who tricked their way into power.

  14. Tsibu J. Bbuku  January 28, 2013 at 10:50

    A very interesting article. The process of peer reviewing adds a lot of value to collective African aspirations in the four thematic areas. But as the author realizes do African Heads of State have the courage not only to criticize each other but to ensure their countries make efforts to address the thematic areas. The aspirations of the Zambian people to give themselves a self driven constitution is a point in case the Government of the day makes sure the voices of the people are drowned and the constitution remains undone and if it gets done it will leave out critical issues that protect our country but serves the interest of those in power. The first step to a democratic process is the enactment of laws on how we shall govern ourselves as can be provided in a people driven constitution. Lest fight to get a good constitution. 50+1, Running Mate, Federal System of Government, A Provincial Minister, PS to come from the Province he is serving to name but a few should be in our new constitution. Finally I suggest we provide space in your paper where we can collect submissions from the people on the constitution as not all people have a chance to submit.

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