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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 18:04 GMT
Does power corrupt?
Liberia's new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
With corruption scandals making headlines across the continent, we're asking is it getting worse?

Liberia's new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf fired finance ministry officials this week as part of her anti-corruption drive, saying that the ministry's corrupt practices were an embarrassment.

Kenyan politics is currently fraught with corruption allegations following a 36 page report that names ministers, civil servants, and businessmen as being involved in a multi-million dollar graft. And South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki last year fired his deputy, Jacob Zuma, after he was implicated in corruption trial.

Why do governments think they can be corrupt? How come so many in power have got away with stealing for so long? If we can't trust our leaders to put an end to corruption, who can we trust?

This debate has now closed. Please read a selection of your comments below.


Your comments:

It is the West that is giving support to corrupt African leaders
Simon Yia, Japan
It is the West that is giving support to corrupt African leaders. African leaders have monies stashed out in Western banks, and nobody is saying anything about it. The money stashed out is more than the economic aid the West gives to Africa as a whole.
Simon Yia, Hokkaido, Japan

Since we now have a new president, at least we are now hoping for better. I am coming from a country and a regime which used to value foreigners and visitors more than its own civilians. It was so corrupt that if you didn't have money to bribe, you wouldn't even get your basic services. This is the problem of electing hungry boys and girls.
Fatma Karama, Arusha, Tanzania

At our individual levels we need to ensure on a daily basis that we check corruption by not being involved in any activity that will be deemed corrupt. In so doing we can check corruption at all levels and stratas of human relationships.
Dagogo Hart, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

The major campaign for our newly-elected government was to declare 'zero tolerance of corruption' and it became our daily bread. We all embrace it with joy and anticipate that corruption will come to a full stop in Ghana. But the corruption in office started from appointed ministers. It is about the mind set and attitude of a person. Individuals need to change before the 'canker' can stop.
Danso Hayford, Ghana

Power is certainly a corruptive force. I ask anyone to prove me wrong. From the United States, to Kenya, to Australia, to Japan, to Great Britain, power always corrupts.
Lon Diffenderfer, Thompsontown, PA USA

I think Africa needs strong leaders who can fight this sickness of greed. Efforts made by some leaders must be given strong public support for things to work for the public good. Liben Wako Filate
Liben Wako Filate, Takoma Park MD, USA

Corruption has become a way of life in our African countries. It is one of the reasons for power struggle among leaders. As a Liberian, I would say that it was a key factor in the civil war that lasted for more than 14 years.
Anthony S.K. Kollie, Hayes, United Kingdon

Trust me the whole world knows that African governments are the worse.
Rawah Hassa, TX, USA

You can compare Africa's political predators to frantic sharks
Blanshard Meheux, Sierra Leone
You can compare Africa's political predators to frantic sharks, that constantly prawl the ocean, eagerly searching for spoils and scraps. As scavengers from the same clan, they feast on their nations wealth, like steel blades drinking blood in the darkness.
Blanshard Meheux, Freetown, Sierra Leone

A simple question. Why are there so many millionaires among the governments top supporters when it has been in power for only 12 years?
Keith Sawyer, Johannesburg, South Africa

The government actually has forgotten about the Apartheid days and what they were fighting for. Freedom for the people! What people? We have been forgotten. It is sad to see them fend for themselves.
Vuyo Tshangana, Johanesburg

When you compare grand corruption in Africa and the West, you notice how selfish our leaders are. While in the West they steal from Peter and give it to Paul, in Africa they steal from Peter and hide it from Paul.
Koome Kirimi, USA

When they get into power they become accustomed to a way of life and financial liberty
Josephine Namutosi, Leicester

I do not think power corrupts. Corruption points to character and integrity, and whether you had power or not you would display some level of dishonesty. Nonetheless, I believe the main key to fighting corruption is to fight poverty and make trade fair. One of the main reasons a lot of African politicians are corrupt is that when they get into power they become accustomed to a way of life and financial liberty that they would never otherwise experience, so they take every opportunity to fill their fill their pockets with money that is so desperately needed. If we had a fairer world economy I think some of the corruption problems would be reduced.
Josephine Namutosi, Leicester, England

Power does not corrupt. What corrupts are people who get payments from politicians during elections as an avenue to usher these politician into offices. Hence when such people are in offices they recover their money through corruption.
Silavwe Kampamba Nevoh, Kitwe, Zambia

Indeed corruption is a canker. It is said that when a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. The citizens are corrupt and the authorities are corrupt; who will check who?
Saint Francis, Kumasi, Ghana

The clerk at my hotel assumed by right he was entitled to my change
Adewale Adebanjo, UK
Corruption has become so enshrined in African culture that the battle to eradicate it seems almost like a lost battle. The average African seems puzzled by the fuss made by the West as corruption is a way of life. On a recent trip to Nigeria, the clerk at my hotel assumed by right he was entitled to my change. I was so dumbfounded I did not argue with him. With our leaders 'leading by example' who could argue with him?
Adewale Adebanjo, London, UK

History is littered with characters who started out with high ideals but who ceased to focus on the good of the people in favour of the good of the self. "All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely" Karl Marx. Need I say more?
Stephanie Miller, Elizabeth City, NC, USA

Do you thank corruption is only in Africa? Well check this out, it's in the US congress as well.
Tubman Popeh, USA

Corruption has become an art form in Zimbabwe. The majority of the perpetrators are within the civil service and well connected to the top echelons of political power. They steal with impunity and know that the executive will support them. The ordinary man in the street is powerless.
Tiri Dziva, Leicester, UK

In Nigeria, Obasanjo is chasing shadows in the name of fighting corruption, while past leaders and government officials are swimming in their ill-gotten wealth, untouched and even planning to come back. Is Obasanjo actually fighting corruption or fighting perceived enemies? He should understand that no condition is permanent.
Taylor Udugba, Virginia Beach, USA

As a Liberian residing in the US, I beamed with pride when I read on the BBC's website that President Sirleaf fired Finance Ministry officials.
Jacob, Boston, USA

I am a Sierra Leonean living in The Gambia. My comment is very simple - all this yapping about stamping out corruption is nonsense. It has been a culture ingrained in Africans, whether in leadership position or not. The only way forward is to seriously and passionately launch a cultural revolution that will turn the minds of Africans away from this practice. If we think legislation and other democratic means can do it - we are sadly mistaken.
Tumi, Banjul, The Gambia

Corruption is swept under the rug in the name of political patronage
David, Uganda
Uganda is an example where corruption in the upper echelons of the government is simply swept under the rug in the name of political patronage and convenience. Presidents in Africa put up with corruption simply because it guarantees their hold on power.
David , Kampala, Uganda

Thanks to BBC for giving me this time to express my opinion. No, things are getting better from seeing the step the President took. I hope this will continue, because once there is a beginning point, there is an endpoint.
Sebastian S Collins Jr, Monrovia, Liberia

Power does not corrupt. What corrupts are people who get payments from politicians during elections, as an avenue to usher these politicians into office. Hence when such people are in office they recover their money through corruption.
Silavwe Kampamba Nevoh, Kitwe, Zambia

The anti-corruption bureau is there, but only fights the small ones
Victor Kwenda, Malawi/USA
Ministers and members of parliament and top government officials never declare their assets when they are taking public office. They get richer and richer everyday. How and where they get the riches nobody knows. The anti-corruption bureau is there, but only fights the small ones.
Victor Kwenda, Malawi/USA

Any corrupt official is a thief and should be despised instead of being honoured. In Nigeria most of those who have succeeded in getting rich through corrupt practices are the ones that get national honours and chieftaincy titles.
Fidel Okaba Adie, Bekwarra, Nigeria

Without corruption there would be no Africa. Nigeria has always thrived on corruption on all angles. The present campaign has now turned to witch-hunting. This is due to the fact that although all public officers are corrupt, only the ones that are not in the good books of the powers-that-be are prosecuted.
Gboye Adenekan, Lagos, Nigeria

It is interesting to see that all Africans agree that their governments are corrupt. But we should raise the question why our governments are so corrupt. We should admit that Africans themselves are part of the problem. We give bribes to get things done. So to stop corruption, we have to begin with ourselves and end bribing our civil servants.
Moussa Aynan, Nador, Morocco

The power to end corruption and make leaders accountable is not anywhere but only in the hands of the people (voters). Political leaders need to be reminded during regular free and fair elections that any acts of graft are punished by loss of power. Otherwise if corrupt regimes keep returning to power after bribing voters, the fight against corruption is a lost case.
Edward Ojulu, Kampala, Uganda.

Corruption in Africa has become a normal way of life. Corrupt officials are enjoying their booty with impunity. I think corruption has become a hundred headed monster as soon as one is cut off, new and dynamic ones emerged. In Ghana the government must back its rhetoric with actions in fighting the canker.
Darfour Ernest, Adawso-Akuapem, Ghana

Corruption in Africa is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into our fabric and can only be eradicated if they can come out with an anti-vaccine for corruption. It's comparable only to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Africa needs a wind of change; otherwise corruption will constitute part of the human gene and can be genetically transmitted if something is not done. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is just throwing water on a duck back
Eric Mbumbouh, Bamenda, Cameroon

The household phrase in Uganda today is For God and My stomach instead of the national motto, For God and my Country
Grace Okeng, Belgium

In Uganda, we literally worship corruption. The Government which came to power with the promise of a fundamental change and vowed to eliminate corruption once and for all has its officials engaged in corrupt activities. The present politicking in the country is all about "eating", no wonder that the household phrase in Uganda today is "For God and My stomach" instead of the national motto, For God and my Country.
Grace Okeng, Belgium

Criminologists postulate that society prepares the crime and the criminal merely commits it. In Africa corruption is now part of the culture, customs and traditions. For corruption to be eradicated, officials at the very apex of government, all school heads, spiritual leaders and every family head must take the fight against corruption as a life mission.
Anthony Okosun, USA

The issue of corruption in my country, Nigeria has been there over the years. There has been a lot of motion about curbing it, yet no movement. Political leaders use the opportunity of the anti corruption crusade to hunt and clampdown on political opponents.
Amaechi Anakwue, Nigeria

It is unfair to misuse public funds while African children are dying of hunger and diseases
Pal Gtkuoth Deng, USA

I want to thank the new Liberian President Ellen Johnson for the toughest action she took by firing officials and employees at the ministry of finance. Africa needs more leaders like her in order to fight corruption and purge it completely. It is unfair to misuse public funds while African children are dying of hunger and diseases. During my four year exile in Kenya, I lived by bribing police and immigration officers.
Pal Gtkuoth Deng, USA

Ellen, congratulations! But, I'm sorry you might not go far with it. Remember Ghana's President John Kufuor fired ministers, changed portfolios and declared ZERO TOLERANCE on corruption. Now he finds himself in a situation where his own very existence as the president is at risk, if he fails to condone corruption. My friends, corruption has eaten the very fabric of the African Socio-Economic and Political life. The judicial system, the security service, civil servants etc are so entangled in the web of corruption that the continent is bleeding of rich resources that could be directed into public services.
Solomon Lartey, London, UK

I think corruption is getting worse in Liberia and one of the greatest reasons is having unqualified and uneducated individuals in positions that they are least qualified. Get, grab and go is what they know best. However, Madame President is being contradictory. Firing people and replacing them with her loyalists won't work.
Cyrus Ell Strother, USA

Corruption is now a general disease
Abidemi Lawal, Abuja, Nigeria
To me corruption is now a general disease. It takes the grace of God to see or find somebody that holds office without accepting corrupt practices. Actually it is an embarrassment to the human race. I was impressed with the President of Liberia for her courage and that must just be the starting point.
Abidemi Lawal, Abuja, Nigeria

I am an ex UN senior staff member working in an anti-corruption UN agency, in one of the most corrupt countries on the planet. I recently asked by boss to stop corruption in the office and guess what? My contract was unlawfully terminated. Stop being naive with corruption. It is everywhere, even where it is not supposed to be.
P-L, Paris, France

This reminds me of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, which exposed Milton Obote's for failure to account for millions of shillings. Commissions of inquiry were set up primarily to discredit the ousted regimes. But many did not complete their work and reports of the few that completed were not made public. Ugandans later realised that they had jumped from a frying pan to fire itself.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

Universally speaking, human beings are self-centred. It is in the nature of human beings to be corrupt. This is applicable in the developed and the poor countries of sub-Saharan African. However, it is possible to regulate this human nature through laws. It is politically and naturally dangerous to trust individuals in power.
Ikubaje John, Falmer, Brighton, UK

We, Kenyans, led by a corrupt ruling elite, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful bunch of looters, returning them to power, time & time again. We have done so much, for so long, getting nothing in return, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.
Abdi Hussein, Hargeisa, Somaliland

I am a strong supporter of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and will remain a supporter for as long as she practices what she preaches. There are many of us who still doubt some of her closer advisers. But, it is not enough to fire someone without proper investigation. You may end up getting rid of even the good ones. The focus should be on those who are aspiring for position in government. They all need to go through a background check which may include issues like their criminal record, corruption, nationality etc. In the United States, most employers are very good at that, because they want to get the best employee, not just a friend or relative. I want to go home as soon as I can with my expertise.
Anthony Aaron Zaizay, Brooklyn Park, USA

The media has played a pivotal role, highlighting incidents of corruption in Africa, especially in Kenya and South Africa. Corruption is not necessarily getting worse, rather it is now being exposed on an unprecedented scale. It is this type of exposure that is making it increasingly difficult for the perpetrators of corruption in Africa. I believe eventually we will see a decline in general corruption levels coupled with a retreat into the 'covert/sophisticated' grand corruption models that we see in the west which, incidentally, is less costly to the economy.
Mullei, Atlanta, GA

Corruption is everywhere and must be minimised. Even the UN is corrupt.
Abu Cole, Bo, Sierra Leone

I believe all human are prone to err at one time or the other during their period in power
Ikomi, London

I believe all human are prone to err at one time or the other during their period in power, some of which could be termed as corrupt practices. But institutions have to be put in place to check on leaders to ensure the acts do not get out of hand in a way such that they are detrimental to the economy on a large scale. One of such institution is the media which in all respect should be responsible in its own rights and uncontrollable by the government.
Ikomi, London, UK

Corruption is one of the main problems my country is presently suffering from. Sierra Leone happens to be one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. This is as a result of bad attitudes of some certain high placed government officials who deliberately steal public funds and use it for their personal purpose. Despite the creation of the anti-corruption commission the situation is still going from bad to worse here everyday.

Everyone is fed up with it. I think the ACC needs to do more. And we as Sierra Leoneans also need to help them in their drive to eradicate this menace. By this I mean we must point out those that we suspect of engaging in corrupt practices.
Murtala, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Corruption in Africa is not just within the government. In some countries, it has become so entrenched that it is almost taken for granted. I can say with all sense of responsibility that asking Nigerians, Mozambicans or Kenyans if they have encountered bribery or other incidences of corruption is akin to begging the question. We see it everyday, everywhere. It's really sad and almost depressing.

As for the leaders, I have seen so much to make me believe that it is almost impossible to make them stop the looting. It's like quicksand; even the good ones get to power and are sucked into the rot of corruption. Who can we trust? Let's start with the face in the mirror - each and every one of ourselves.
Ope, Lagos, Nigeria

Corruption is not necessarily getting worse; rather it is being exposed on an unprecedented scale
Mullei, Atlanta, USA
The media has played a pivotal role highlighting incidents of corruption in Africa, especially in Kenya and South Africa. But corruption is not necessarily getting worse; rather it is being exposed on an unprecedented scale. This type of exposure is making it increasingly difficult for the perpetrators of corruption in Africa. Eventually we will see a decline in corruption levels and a retreat into the 'covert' corruption we see in the west, which is less costly to the economy.
Mullei, Atlanta, USA

Thanks to Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Good Job!
Patrick Jakson, USA
I think the president of Liberia did the right thing. It is time for Liberia to stop the corruption, they have been corrupting the country for a long time. That's why Liberia looks like a village right now. Thanks you, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Good Job!
Patrick Jakson, Aurora, USA

Corruption and misapplication of public funds had been eating up the fabric of my country for more than 150 years. The past governments had not put into place a fit auditing department so officials could do what they wanted. The judiciary system has allowed corrupt officials to get away with anything. If the present government can put into place a fit auditing department, revise the judiciary system to put wrong doers behind bars, and make bribery an offence of the state, corruption in my country will be completely eradicated.
George H Williams, Liberian in USA

In Cameroon, corruption is so tasty, that is why we like to swallow it.
Akem Noela Forkusam, Bamenda, Cameroon

Like the structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s, these anti-corruption drives may be part of the conditions imposed by our Western creditors. But anything that highlights and fights corruption is not a bad thing.
Olumide, London, UK

The high level of corruption in Kenya is a cause of big concern. We have continued to receive reports of corruption from many areas including the non-existent company (Anglo Leasing). President Kibaki promised us to fight corruption. This does not appear to be happening. The fact that senior figures in his government have been implicated in a multi-million dollar scam is a big worry.
Musyoka Mua, Kenyan in USA

I have bribed when I have no choice. If you don't, you might as well forget what you are looking for
Omorodion Osula, USA
Corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten into the fabric of society. In my beloved country Nigeria, it is the order of the day. Apart from the air you breath, you have to bribe your way to get any other thing. From getting admission into higher education, seeing a doctor, getting through a police checkpoint to mention but a few; I have bribed when I have no choice. If you don't give the bribe, you might as well forget what you are looking for.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

South Africa has a world-leading set of regulations governing the behaviour of public sector officials and elected representatives. However, the problem lies in the implementation. There is an absence of political will to actually enforce adherence to clean governance. The removal of Jacob Zuma, lauded internationally, would have taken place well before it actually did if the regulations had been properly adhered to.
Dr Neil Overy, Grahamstown, South Africa




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