An open letter to Cyril Ramaphosa: Halt that Gang of Four!

Adama Gaye
Adama Gaye

By Adama Gaye

As the current chairperson of the African Union (AU), you’ve decided to appoint four African persons in what seems to be a clumsy assignment as the negotiators on behalf of Africa with her financial donors, creditors and partners.

What a blunder! What a hurried decision. Why them? Why this formulae ? On what decision-making process?

While your own country, South Africa, is going down the drain, under your weakened leadership, you should have exercised restraint and humility not just at home but regarding the bigger picture: the continent’s affairs.

I truly believe your appointment of a gang of 4, the same old crop of people, almost wheelers and dealers, to speak on our behalf without proper consultations amounts to an abuse of your authority.

Let’s look at your dream-team to show you why you’re wrong.

First of all, it is headed by none less than the more than arrogant Tidiane Thiam. And you made him the chairman of that 4 strong-group without taking into account the fact that he was just forced to resign from his previous position as the boss of the big bank, Credit Swiss. Why on earth did you throw below the carpet the documented arguments that he created in that bank a culture of spying and fear against all the good institutional practices in its corporate governance.

You should never have fallen in the easy justification he has been putting forward, namely that he was ostracized by the Swiss people. False. Even at Prudential, the London Footsie insurance firm, he led before Credit, he had made some blunders despite his achievements there.

In addition, Thiam, a former member of the failed Blair Commission on Africa, is just one of those disconnected, aloof, people who brandish their Africanity, so to say, when it suits their career and interests.

This is a man who barely talks to others as if he was a God-appointee with the right to speak on our behalf without consulting us nor sharing views with us. And we are aware of his trumpeted new position within the board of a group of foreign companies. The real risk is that he will be loyal to them, not Africa!

It is obvious that you may have been led to falling into making this choice by the lady you have designated as the coordinator of your country’s economic advisers, namely former finance minister of Nigeria and World Bank director, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

That is even more problematic in the light of the noises of ill-governance, corruption, surrounding her name as part of her role in a previous Nigerian Administration.

To have relied on such a person whose body language speaks of an évident authoritarianism and sense of domination was not only a big mistake. How can you get a conducive climate of dialogue with such a person under the tent? Worse, as a representative of the most reckless capitalist platforms, like the bank Lazard, she is, like Thiam, more into pushing her own business interests. I will not be surprised to see Lazard sitting at the table with Africa’s creditors through a push done for them by her.

The conflict of interests is too manifest and it is compounded by the choice of the two other members of the quartet.

Welcome Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s former finance minister. This almost retiree was more mining money in his private venture at home to find himself enrolled in what will give him a shoot in the arm to renew his address book. If this is not a support to a private man for his private activities, tell me, President Ramaphosa, what is it?

Last but not the least, to have chosen Donald Kaberuka, the former African Development Bank President and former finance minister of Rwanda, smacks as the reconstitution of an old boys club.

Kaberukua is everywhere, from the reform of the African Union to the setting up of an African equity firm with Lionel Zinsou, a former Prime Minister of Benin, known to have in the past, under his french other national loyalty, called for nearly the recolonization of Africa by France through a strategy he helped nurture.

Trusting these people and putting them behind the wheel to speak for Africa without any control nor even the presence of so many other forces more representative of the Africa we want or live in now, is the kind of decisions that we thought were no longer acceptable in an open, gradually democratizing, and communications empowered continent.

Neither you or the President of the Commission of the African Union, Tchad’s Moussa Faki, have the right to engage the fate of a whole continent in such a frivolous manner.

Due process, transparency, competition, proper selection should be now the order of the day. You would have seen so much talents, most of whom are prevented to shine by those oligarchs  you have appointed without opening up the competition.

And why by the way choosing this formulae? Have we seen anywhere else in the world any institution selecting for any continent a group of spokespersons to negotiate on their names ? No ! Please don’t tell me it’s an African original idea.

This is just a decision cooked between friends and imposed on us without measuring the grave conflict of interstate therein.

From private venues, like the Davos Forum, exclusive think-tanks like The Hildeberg Group, private boards and other instances where they wine and dine, these people you’ve chosen belong to a group of nomadic elites driven principally by their interests.

We don’t trust them to speak for us. Furthermore, how, Mr. President, can you form a team of speakers for Africa without including in it health experts, geopoliticians, youth representatives, professionals of Africa’s narrative to name but a few.

Let’s face it: you’re too comfortable with the 4 you chose as you’re indeed one of them, a board serial member. And the AU commission validated your wrong choice out of inferiority complex as its bureaucrats are clueless when it comes to addressing this current multi-pronged  sanitary and economic crisis. They have fallen under the charm of the names aligned as they have done always even in their process of selecting those who should represent Africa within the continent.

I don’t want even to address the question of Africa’s debts and those frantic calls emanating from reckless venues and voices, like Macky SALL, for their cancellation. That would lead beyond the moral it causes to eliminating Africa from the capital markets and cast it into the ever beggar continent. And our debts forgivers would be delighted to take control of the commanding heights of our economies, our natural and Human Resources, in order to craft the 21st century African narrative to suit their own interests and agendas in a post Covid-19 world where new norms would be set by the empowered – not a weakened Africa!

There is another reason why we should reject the nomination of this group of four. Indeed, we don’t agree to see the same folks who threw their countries in the vicious debt cycle only to benefit from private financial commissions come back to cry for à cancellation owing to the current pandemic. This is an unethical money laundering drive on the back of the legitimate sentiments of our people. That is another ploy to exploit a bad situation in order to cover past private crimes.

So today, President Ramaphosa, I am calling you to rescind your decision to set this gang of 4 as they represent the worst we should be projecting now at a time of reinvention not of empowering the same old fellows.

Stop this nonsense, please ! We are not amused nor in a mood to subcontract our voice to whomsoever just on the ground of their names recognition through those shady boards or power corridors. Bring the debate in a democratic and open way, not a seclusive one.


**Adama Gaye, à political refugee from Senegal is an author and analyst on African affairs.

Cairo, April 24th, 2020

Ps: The Gang of 4 became a famous concept after Mao’s wife formed it to control China while her husband was in his deathbed…It was dismantled in 1976.

– Apr. 28, 2020 @ 18:25 GMT |

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