“What is the real benefit of having to choose between two rotten apples?” That’s one of the thought-provoking questions in the latest episode of the AfricanPod, available on iTunes Podcast, Youtube (search for AfricanPod), and coming soon to Android and Google Podcast Platform.
The gentleman is British, with a long diplomatic career, having joined the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the early 1980s as a member of the Diplomatic Service.
Through all his years in the service, Craig Murray refused to be a regular diplomat, and it would take two decades before he was pushed aside as an ambassador gone rogue.
I met Craig Murray many times in Ghana as a Journalist during the relatively earlier days of Ghana’s continuing experiment with democracy. I interviewed him in live studio sessions extensively, and Craig is nothing but a “rogue,” that is, he is unpredictable but also likable with undeniable intellectual attractiveness.
He is deeply interested in shining light on matters political, wherever he smells chaos, corruption, incompetence and human rights abuses.
In his position as Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana during the crucial 2000 general elections, Craig Murray was a lone diplomat from the international community campaigning, yes, campaigning vigorously to ensure a free and fair election.
He freely named and shamed politicians whom he believed were bent on rigging the election.
In the normal course of events, such public advocacy on the part of a diplomat in a foreign country was wholly unconventional – but the unconventional arena is where Craig Murray found his calling.
One and a half decades on, Murray, now an ex-diplomat speaks for Ghana and Africa.
Prior to his dismissal as ambassador, Craig Murray served in Uzbekistan in 2002 where he publicly declared that “Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy,” pointing to numerous reports of torture and abuse of power.
After his dismissal, he told the Guardian newspaper that (quote) “you don’t have to be a pompous old fart to be an ambassador”
Writing in the Guardian some years ago, Nick Paton Walsh said Craig Murray’s “…distinctly undiplomatic assessment of Uzbekistan’s human rights record propelled him into a lengthy battle with the (UK) Foreign Office. He was subjected to a humiliating disciplinary investigation, had his personal life publicly shredded and suffered a string of health problems. He became the rogue ambassador.”
So Craig Murray knows the cost that can come with being outspoken against governments and powerful institutions – and yet he continues to lock horns with powerful institutions on behalf of Africa.
These days, the former ambassador is settled into a private role as a more fearsome and outspoken human rights activist, along with commenting on issues on politics, economics, finance and international relations.
In that self-appointed role, the rogue ambassador has come out to speak for Ghana, warning the country to stay away from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Referring to IMF and the World Bank as, – quote – “bloodsucking institutions,” Mr Murray says he prays that one day Ghana will escape the grip of the “blood-suckers.”
The rogue ambassador’s concern is pivoted on the poor power supply across Ghana at the moment – a phenomenon called “Dumsor.”
At the height of Dumsor, most of the country will have power for no more than 12 hours, and then darkness for 24 hours.
Craig Murray is angry because as he says, just ten years ago, Ghana had the most reliable electricity supply in all of Africa and the highest percentage of households connected to the grid, ahead of every other nation on the continent.
The Volta River Authority, a power generation organisation which delivered power was set up in 1961 under the auspices of Ghana’s first President and Pan-African giant, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The VRA, just one of the few enormous undertakings of Dr Nkrumah proved to be world class and enduring – and extremely beneficial for the West African nation.
But that, according to Craig Murray, was only until what he called the neo-liberal ideologues of the IMF and World Bank couldn’t stand to see the successful public owned and run enterprise – because they considered it a threat to their own decades-long narrative that such enterprises always fail.
Somehow, IMF and the World Bank misled Ghana to break it all up into different pieces: production was separated from distribution and then private sector Independent Power Producers were hurriedly introduced.
There are more power cuts now than the country has ever experienced in its entire history as an independent nation.
To be fair, the story is likely more complex and complicated than that.
Craig Murray however keeps the focus on the problem as he sees it, speaking for Ghana and Africa, and contending that the IMF and the World Bank, propelled by the United States are on a dangerous course to ruin Ghana.
If the rogue Ambassador is right, then the question is what are Ghanaians themselves and their leaders doing about it?
Do Ghanaians and their leaders really know what the IMF and the World Bank really is?
Do they think the IMF and the World Bank exists to enrich their lives?
Someday soon, someone needs to explain the true interests of the World Bank and the IMF. Because here is the thing: no self-respecting nation goes begging the IMF and the World bank for loans.
Every self-respecting nations knows how to put its own house in order, takes care of its own affairs, and without words tells IMF and the World Bank to get lost.
It appears Ghana – and much of Africa – is simply too impotent and too poor to find the right words for IMF and the World Bank.
In the meantime, another general election is planned for next year – and the usual noise about who can do the job best is getting louder.
But the political discourse in Ghana leading up to the election seems to have already reached a conclusion: and that is, the whole exercise is going to be a poor choice between “chaos and incompetence.”
Some say between chaos and incompetence, one would be better than the other – but then what is the real benefit of having to choose between two rotten apples?
The Rogue Ambassador may continue speaking for Ghana and Africa, but countries in Africa – and Africa itself – must learn to get smart and find its own strong voice to keep the World Bank and IMF at bay.
Here at AfricanPod, we think it is only then can it stop giving its people the false choice between chaos and incompetence.