Experts debate African politics, culture at round-table talk

The Geneseo Ghana Project hosted its first roundtable discussion titled “Redefining Current Issues in African Politics” on Oct. 3 in collaboration with assistant professor of French Kodjo Adabra. This event focused on raising awareness about African culture and politics through debate and discussion.

The Ghana Project invited five participants: Adabra and lecturer and Coordinator of International Relations Jeremy Grace represented Geneseo, associate professor of French and francophone studies Marc Papé represented St. John Fisher College, associate professor of French and francophone studies Kanaté Dahouda represented Hobart and William Smith Colleges and associate professor of political science Edward Kannyo represented Rochester Institute of Technology.

The discussion focused on five major questions asked by senior Tatiana Abaya, president of the Ghana Project.

“Who do you think is the worst African president at the moment?” Abaya asked.

“I think we have much higher quality of African presidents than we have had over the last 20 years,” Grace said, citing Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as the worst contemporary African leader.

Answers varied on the subject, and the conversation continued with more in-depth discussion on key factors of African politics.

Abaya also asked, “Do you think the African nations are independent?”

“If we are asking the question from the perspective of national law, then indeed most, if not all, of the African countries are independent,” Papé said. “But there are some countries where independence is more meaningful than others.”

“In terms of formal legal status, Africa is independent,” Grace said. According to Grace, however, a significant number of economic policies in Africa originated in Washington. “It is very difficult for the African leader to break free from the restraints of economic orthodox.”

“Independence is like freedom,” Kannyo said. “The richer person is freer because he can do more things than the poorer person. I think all countries are independent with their differences.”

The final question inspired the lengthiest discussion at the table.

“Do you think that foreign military intervention is the best way to stop political turmoil?” Abaya asked.

“This is a very touchy subject,” Adabra said. “It has been my belief that no leader’s life is worth the lives of the countrymen. We can always replace one, but it is difficult to replace many. I do believe that when you have a leader who chooses to kill his people to emit power, it is against the basic rule of humanity. From that standpoint, I would agree with [military intervention].”

Papé said that he disagreed with this statement.

“I am absolutely against any foreign intervention,” Papé said. “There is zero empirical evidence that any foreign intervention brought anything good to any country in Africa.”

The discussion concluded after opening the floor to questions from the audience.