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Can’t Compare Kuan Yew to African Leaders

Ikebesi Omoding

Can’t Compare Kuan Yew to African Leaders

BBC’s Focus on Africa Programme Anchor, Sophie Ikenye


BBC’s Focus on Africa Programme Anchor, Lee Kuan Yew, “influenced African leaders”. This tended to reveal that she had not done her research homework before she went to the studios to regale Africa with this ill-fated utterance.

Singapore, a former British colony, got self-rule in 1959 around the time British colonies in Africa were getting, or about to get, their own independence from Britain. Initially, Singapore merged itself with Malaysia, but in 1965 decided to go it alone: that is the time that Kuan Yew came into himself.

In a sense therefore those African countries, former British colonies, had similar experiences and situation like Singapore; they were all underdeveloped. Today, Singapore in a First World country, the rest of former British colonies are still wallowing in abject poverty, termed the Third World.

Statistics are there to separate Singapore from its colleagues. In 1965 Singapore’s per capita income was $400; other former colonies were not much different from this. Today, Singapore’s per capita is $55,000. In Uganda’s shilling this is: 165 million. Its GDP stood at one billion dollars; today it is three hundred billion dollars. There is no unemployment in Singapore and there are no poor people. The island nation boasts the most number of millionaires per square kilometer than any other nation in the world, including the world’s most affluent nation, the United States.

Which African country can come anywhere close to claiming this?

In a situation like this how can Ikenye say that African leaders were influenced by Lee Kuan Yew. The “past leaders” who came to power in Africa alongside Kuan Yew, could not lay any such claim. The only country in Africa that can come anywhere near Singapore is Botswana. It is a testament to the first leader, Sir Seretse Khama, that his son, Ian Khama, the third generation leader of that country has continued to have sane policies that have made the country one of only the three African countries that has a global financial rating.

For the sake of comparison, bring in a country like Senegal that was in the same news bulletin with Singapore that Ikenye was anchoring. First of course, Senegal is a Third World country. Secondly, its former president, Adbullai Wade nepotistically appointed his son, Karim Wade, to influential ministererial  positions in which the latter stole probably billions from the state. This is to the extent that Karim has been sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to refund the Senegalese State, $260 million .

That is the fate of African politics. Lip service to democracy tempered with abject theft of state resources by those people who have been entrusted with the running of affairs of the country. In Singapore, nobody can claim that the present president, the son of Kuan Yew, Lee Juan Loong, can be said to be a thief. Indeed, nobody in the world ties Lee Kuan Yew with stealing from his country’s coffers. That is why world leaders are heaping praises on him for developing Singapore from a “pestilence cesspool” to a First World country.

This is attributed to Lee Kuan Yew’s vision, strategy and political will. With these qualities, he is said to have established a Singaporean democracy which was a police state. But it is probably here that African leaders compare with him. African larders, in one measure, are known to apply a democracy that is only suitable to themselves, their cronies and families. They make promises of developing their countries that amount to only lies. All they are interested in is only feathering their nests. This will not develop Africa to the level that Lee Kuan Yew did, regardless how Ikenye wants to angle her stories.                                                       



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Ikebesi Omoding is the acclaimed author of a weekly column titled: From the Outside Looking In

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