Debate from ROAPE Volume 32 Number 104/5
African Leaders and Corruption
This paper explores the reasons why African leaders in quasi-democratic regimes (Bongo's Gabon, Biya's Cameroon, Chiluba's Zambia, Muluzi's Malawi, Moi's Kenya, Mugabe's Zimbabwe etc.) have used their political position to embezzle economic resources - a process which often involves the mass pauperisation of their 'subjects' and the deepening of their dependence on the patrimonial favours of the 'ruler'. The paper seeks to understand the motivation of extreme corruption defined both in terms of involving large amounts - such as the billions of dollars taken by Sani Abacha (which continues to be lodged in a UK bank) - and systemically, where embezzlement becomes the strategic essence of governance. Where extreme corruption is systemic, it also involves deliberate measures to undermine the financial basis of oppositional political groups thereby reducing their adversarial potential. Clearly, financial power translates into functional political power, thus perpetuating the domination of the political party to which the corrupt leaders belong.