By: George AyitteyÂ (Oct, 2012)
In a banana republic, one might slip on a banana peel, regain oneâ€™s balance and proceed on oneâ€™s way. But things do work â€“ now and then for the people, albeit inefficiently and unreliably. Electric supply is spasmodic and the water tap has a mind of its own. Occasionally, it might spit some water and then change its mind. Buses operate according to their own internal clocks, set according to Martian time â€“ whatever that is. By the grace of God or Allah, a bus might arrive, belching thick black smoke. A bus may groan a hill and then collapse but considerate passengers would disembark and push it. Food and gasoline are generally available but expensive, if one is willing to contend with occasional long lines. The police are helpful sometimes when their palms are â€œgreasedâ€ with a bribe and can protect the people by catching real crooks. There is petty corruption. Now and then, a million dollars here and a million there might be embezzled. Such is a banana republic, which often slips into suspended animation or arrested development.
A coconut republic, on the other hand, is ruthlessly inefficient, lethal and eventually implodes. The shell is hard and there may be nothing inside. Here, common sense has been butchered and eaten by insects, while arrogant tomfoolery rampages with impunity. Instead of a banana peel, one might step on a live grenade. The police are themselves armed robbers and the judges crooks. The entire notion of “governance” has been turned completely on its head by the ruling vampire elites. For them, development means developing their pockets and seeking foreign investment is seeking a foreign country to invest their booty. They wield all the power and commit crimes, as well as plunder with impunity. They are not answerable or accountable to anybody and one dares not ask. Impunity reigns supreme. It is here where one finds tyrants chanting â€œPeopleâ€™s Revolutionâ€ and â€œFreedom!â€ while standing on the necks of their people. It is also here where one finds despots claiming to be fighting against terrorists when they themselves are the real state terrorists.
In a coconut republic, the rule of law is a farce; bandits are in charge, their victims in jail or dead. The police and security forces protect the ruling vampire elites, not the people. The chief bandit is the head of state himself. They have constant supply of electricity and their water taps run all the time; the people can collect rain water. There are inexhaustible supplies of food and gasoline for them, but not for the people. And there are no buses for the people, period. Those shiny buses that ply the road are for vampire elites. The people can walk. The republic sits atop vast reserves of oil and exports oil. Yet, there is no gasoline for the people since the countryâ€™s oil refineries have broken down. Funds earmarked for repairs had been stolen and refined petroleum products must be imported. The country may also be rich in mineral deposits â€“ such as diamonds, gold, col-tan. Yet, the mineral wealth has produced misery.
A coconut republic is where:
1. Ugandaâ€™s Agriculture Minister, Kibirige Ssebunya, declared that: â€œAll the poor should be arrested because they hinder us from performing our development duties. It is hard to lead the poor, and the poor cannot lead the rich. They should be eliminated” (New Vision, Kampala, Dec 15, 2004). He advised local leaders to arrest poor people in their areas of jurisdiction.
2. The country runs out of paper with which to print money (Zimbabwe): â€œReserve Bank officials told IRIN that plans to print about Zim$60 trillion (about US$592.9 million) were briefly delayed after the government failed to secure foreign currency to buy ink and special paper for printing money.â€
3. The government tames hyperinflation by simply banning price increases: â€œIn Jan 2007, the Government of Zimbabwe said it would tame the countryâ€™s 1,600 percent inflation rate by making wage and price increases illegalâ€ (The New York Times, Feb 13, 2007; p.A5).
4. Despots claim they are fighting â€œterroristsâ€ when they themselves are the real state terrorists (Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe). Charles Taylor of Liberia once had an â€œanti-terrorism unitâ€ run by his son. Even the warlords of Somalia â€œformed what they call an anti-terrorism coalitionâ€ (The New York Times, May 1, 2006).
5. President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, declares that anyone aspiring to his job needed “to wait like a vulture, patiently,” because he planned to stay in office at least 30 years longerâ€ (The New York Times, April 19, 2006; p.A6).
6. A former minister of finance was found hiding â€“ where else? — in a coconut tree: â€œZambiaâ€™s former finance minister, Katele Kalumba, was arrested and charged with theft after the police found him hiding in a tree near his rural home. Mr. Kalumba, who had been on the run for four months, is being charged in connection with some $33 million that vanished while he was in office (The New York Times, Jan 16, 2003; p.A8).
7. The late president, General Samuel Doe of Liberia summoned his finance minister â€“ â€œonly to be reminded by aides that he had already executed himâ€ (The New York Times, Sept 13, 2003; p.A4).
8. Where menacing security forces can unleash the full force of their fury on unarmed civilians with batons, tear gas, water canons and rubber bullets. But how really brave are the security forces?
â€œOn 16 December 1998, Corporal C. Darko and Constable K. A. Boateng at a Police Station in Accra, Ghana, were instructed to go and arrest Samuel Quartey, who was reported to police for being involved in a theft case. “When the suspect came out brandishing a cutlass (a machete), the police officers did what most people would have done — took to their heels with the speed of lightning that could have made an enviable record had they been timed” (The Mirror, 2 Jan 1999, 1).