Corruption Amongst African Diasporic Politicians Must End

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick convicted on 24 corruption charges. (Google Images)

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was recently convicted on 24 corruption charges.       (Google Images)

One would have to live under a rock to not have heard the plethora of corruption scandals plaguing politicians of the African Diaspora. Let’s just put it out there — they’re making black and brown folk look bad.

There’s Uhuru Kenyatta, who was recently elected president of Kenya in March 2013. Kenyatta, son of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, is facing a major obstacle in the next phase of his political career — criminal charges. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged Kenyatta for funding and organizing post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. According to a study by New Dominion Philanthropy Metrics (NDPM), the post-election violence resulted in 1,500 deaths, 3,000 women raped and 300,000 people displaced.

There is Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who has come under fire for the pardoning of former Bayelsa state Gov. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of stealing millions.  Alamieyeseigha fled London disguised as a woman, returning to Nigeria where he had political immunity while in office. He was impeached after it was discovered that he had illegally acquired more than $10 million in real estate in London, Denmark and the United States.  How is it that Jonathan, a man that refers to himself as the greatest anti-corruption crusader, manages to pardon the man involved in one of the most high-profile and internationally embarrassing corruption scandals to hit Nigeria in recent years?

What about McKeeva Bush, former Premier of the Cayman Islands? Bush was voted out of office after being arrested at his home for theft in connection with financial irregularities relating to the alleged misuse of a government credit card. We won’t mention Honduras where President Porfirio Lobo and the National Congress removed four Supreme Court justices for refusing to accept the president’s plan to “weed out” corruption in police? This all occurred while the building was surrounded by armed police and military.

The United States is chock full of corruption scandals.  There is former Illionois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was charged with violating federal law by misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. What did he buy with said funds? Fur wraps and a watch. If convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements, he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted in federal court on 24 of 30 corruption-related counts related to bribery, tax evasion, extorting contractors wanting to do business with the city and raiding the nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund for his personal expenses. We won’t mention the sexting scandal, perjury and obstruction of justice charges that landed the former mayor in prison in 2008. Kilpatrick has been in and out of state and federal prison so much over the last five years, that it is hard to keep track of the prisoner merry-go-round or how many times he lists racism as the reason for his demise.

That’s the problem with never ending corruption scandals taking place amongst black and brown politicians throughout the African Diaspora. Many complain about racism and the mainstream’s investment in showing the worst of politicians of color worldwide. Can we blame mainstream media outlets when we give them so much material with which to work? What about our continuing choice to re-elect corrupt politicians who have broken our trust and run roughshod over any semblance of decency, integrity or truthfulness while in office? Is it mainstream media’s fault that we re-elect them anyway?

It defies logic that many black and brown people feel that we deserve so little from our elected officials worldwide? What sense does it make to cry racism? We’ve been dealt that hand and know the double-standard that awaits us in all facets of life and politics is no different.

The idea that all politicians are corrupt so we may as well be corrupt is naïve at best and idiotic at worst. The proliferation of stories of political corruption make it difficult for those of us trying to move away from dominant narratives of corruption, poverty and disease that dominate news of the African Diaspora. While many keep trying to lift up the Diaspora, corrupt politicians continue beating down the Diaspora, all for personal gain. Until there is a collective decision to call for an end to corruption in politics including a refusal to elect politicians (local, state, national) that engage in criminal activity on any level, then unfortunately stories of corruption involving a few, will continue to be the headlines that define the many people of African descent. If that’s not a criminal act, then I don’t know what is.

This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, founder and editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire.

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4 thoughts on “Corruption Amongst African Diasporic Politicians Must End

  1. EXCELLENT Article!!! You hit every point. Our politicians bring us shame and as you say, even if racism is a factor, and I am sure it is, they (our politicians) make it so damn easy!!! We GIVE the hunter the gun filled with ammunition! Looking at it as a problem across the diaspora as you have done here, is even more disturbing. Jesse Jr, Kwame, Harry Thomas in DC all have destroyed hard earned political legacies hard earned by their parents over nonsense! It is all so sad but more importantly, all so unnecessary… Is it greed or a misguided obsession with power? Who knows??? Thanks for writing.

  2. I could have added so many more names across the Diaspora. We’ve got to get our stuff together as politicians and work together as a community to get those who betray our trust out of office.

  3. With respect to the black American electorate, part of the challenge is that African American leadership (and activists) have to learn how to evolve in scope and agendas. Being (over)reliant on a certain, circa-1970 black-power archetype in all forms of leadership is myopic at best.
    I respect Cory Booker for seeming to be genuinely progressive and responsive, though I’m sure he’s not perfect. We’ll see whether he leaves office with a more positive legacy than negative.
    In the case of the Kilpatrick saga, Detroit/Michigan became overreliant on the automobile-related factories as a jobs pipeline for those who were high school graduates (or even dropouts). The pathway for the unskilled or semi-skilled to get hired into middle-class-enabling jobs just doesn’t exist anymore. Entry-level jobs in various service sectors (retail, food, hospitality, etc.) aren’t going to cut it. Just saying “shame on you, Chrysler/Ford/General Motors, you should be building 10 more factories within city limits!” isn’t going to cut it. Detroit’s traditional kingmakers in its political consultants and pastors (especially the megachurch types) have proven to be just as ineffectual as anyone else in cultivating genuinely forward-thinking leadership. So much of all you have to do is to talk the right churchy talk to get the bishops (and the devout congregations) in your corner, and you almost have it made. In Kilpatrick’s case, he was able to hit all the right notes to get religious folks on his side; he was able to talk a good game with the Pan-African folks to get them on board, and since he was Generation X/hip-hop, he could talk the right lingo to get the “street” and youth demographic on his side. Unfortunately, he was mentored by some of the worst in old-school political-machine profiteers. Kilpatrick continued former mayor Dennis Archer’s arc of bringing further redevelopment investment downtown and midtown, but the broader swath of the city’s neighborhoods languished. Bond debt was repeatedly sought out to plug holes in the annual budget, and late filings became a regular trend. Despite all of the bizarre misadventures and public scandals, a significant demographic of folks continued to openly support him– hello, cognitive dissonance– based in part on the notion that black leadership are supposed to be “high steppers”/wealthy in all forms, in order to hold court with the mainstream (white) culture. Kilpatrick reinforced this notion in select statements, defending exorbitant expenditures on city credit cards as simply what you have to do in order to attract investors. His police bodyguards rivaled the Presidential secret service in their proliferation. All in all, it was a glaringly self-serving administration, paying lip service to looking out for its citizenry while “can’t stop the hustle” was the real mission statement. Amazing.

  4. Pingback: The Burton Wire’s Top News Stories of 2013 | The Burton Wire

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