Being a Good Global Neighbor


Being a Good Global Neighbor

Being a Good Global Neighbor



Karim Ajania


African Peace Journal

Today, September 10, 2018, is an historic day in the fight against corruption and conflict on the African continent.

Today, John Prendergast, co-founder of The Sentry briefed the UN Security Council in a first ever session on Corruption and Conflict.

Throughout history, war may have been hell, but for small groups of conflict profiteers it has also been very lucrative.

Today’s deadliest conflicts in Africa — such as those in South Sudan, Somalia, northern Nigeria, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo — are sustained by extraordinary opportunities for illicit self-enrichment that emerge in war economies, where there is a visible nexus between grand corruption and mass atrocities.

State armies and rebels use extreme violence to control natural resources, labor, and smuggling networks, including those trafficking in wildlife. Violence becomes self-financing from pillaging, natural resource looting, and stealing state assets, with banking and business connections that extend to New York, London, Dubai, and other global financial centers.

— John Prendergast’s report to the United Nations Security Council on September 10, 2018

My editorial team and me at African Peace Journal have followed the vigilant and tireless work of The Sentry on the issues leading up to today’s United Nations Security Council report.

There has been an impressive deployment of lawyers and bankers – which, at first glance, does not seem very exciting.

However, it is the mundane and tenacious work of these ‘planners and plodders’ that has helped to demystify the looms of crime that undergird the illicit siphoning off of natural resources into hidden bank accounts (the corruption part); as well as the inherent criminal act of war profiteering (the conflict part).

Having international bankers expose the corruption part, and prosecuting brutal war lords and sending them to tribunals at the International Criminal Court in The Hague in The Netherlands, is courageous work. It also takes tremendous perseverance.

This work has also led to sound policy recommendations to the United Nations Security Council by Mr. Prendergast.

John Prendergast and George Clooney, Co-Founders of The Sentry

The policy tools that can provide the UN Security Council and other interested parties with maximal leverage are three-fold: a network-focused approach to sanctions that focus on grand corruption; anti- money laundering measures that focus on illicit movement of money through the international financial system; and prosecutions that focus on financial crimes associated with atrocities.

— John Prendergast’s report to the United Nations Security Council on September 10, 2018

A Sense of Proportion

At African Peace Journal and at Pencils for Africa we strive to view the African continent with a healthy sense of proportion.

The normalcy and functionality of democracies, economies, and societies, in most African countries, far outweigh the negative aspects of those countries. The larger portions of these African countries provide us with inspiration and hope, through pragmatic progress in community, technology, commerce, art, music, humanities, and many other areas of life, on this dynamic and vibrant continent.

Having lived in and traveled to numerous African countries over several decades, I can attest to this progressive trend in so many countries on the continent. I have also come away with an embarrassingly and grossly oversimplified (perhaps even unforgivable) framework that applies to all the African countries I have visited. I am calling this clumsy framework ‘Slums and Scams’.

Slums and Scams

Most functioning African democracies and economies preserve their functionality by turning a blind eye toward slums and scams.

At the very top tiers of these economies, there are always a handful of individuals and families that are greedily skimming off the top (scamming), and siphoning their ill-gotten gains into their off shore bank accounts. At the very bottom of these same economies, there are marginalized communities that often live in squalid conditions (slumming), often on less than one dollar a day.

From a distance, we might well think that the average African does not care about the people who scam, or the people who slum.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course Africans care deeply, but they turn a blind eye, because there is very little they can do regarding overwhelming problems inherent in both kleptocratic corruption and in neglected, marginalized, slum communities.

Refugees fleeing the genocide in South Sudan

When Global Citizens can be Global Neighbors 

When countries like South Sudan are overwhelmed and wounded by violence and genocide, the last thing the people are thinking about is how to expose the corruption of war profiteers through international banking disclosure; or, how to prosecute the war lords in court.

The people are thinking about elemental needs such as food and shelter, such as safety and security. Many are on the run as refugees.

That is when the work of The Sentry, in countries like South Sudan, is absolutely necessary.

The Sentry sets a great example of effective Global Citizenship by being a friend and Global Neighbor to the country of South Sudan.

Children living in the slums of Kibera in Kenya

Similarly, Pencils for Africa, in addressing the issues of Literacy and Education in the slums of Kibera, is absolutely necessary.

We can be thoughtful Global Neighbors to countries in Africa, through addressing the overwhelming issues of both slums and scams.

By taking on the longterm challenges of both slums and scams, we extend our friendship, and a helping hand, to our neighbors in Africa, and nurture an expansion of that portion of their economies and societies that are already making huge strides of progress.

The Sentry is a good neighbor to countries like South Sudan — and Pencils for Africa is a good neighbor to countries like Kenya.

We are all in this global neighborhood together.

— Karim