Those were the words of then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern (pictured above….) in January 2008, addressed to Irish people living in Dar es Salaam. We applauded, enjoyed the booze and canapés and went home. Five months later, so did Bertie, resigning as his own party remained unable to protect him from the mounting evidence of his corruption and that of the wider political system.
I blogged his Dar speech at the time. It was too good to resist. Our venal leader at the plinth, praising his host President Kikwete for acting “decisively, openly and publicly” on the USD 130 million Bank of Tanzania fraud, was quite a sight.
And his venality was something we had all known about. Some months prior to his speech in Dar es Salaam, Bertie had completed his testimony to the Mahon Tribunal – an official inquiry into corruption in land planning and political financing from the late ’80s to late ’90s. His increasingly garbled accounts of his personal finances, the huge amounts of cash sitting in his office and being a Minister for Finance without a personal bank account left us in no doubt.
The Mahon Tribunal released its final 3,270 page report this week. It is amusing in the way in which it feels it has to lay out the first principals of accountability, transparency and combating corruption – in much the same way as your average ‘good governance’ consultant here might do preparing a report for either donors or the Tanzanian government.
But it doesn’t pull its punches in its pathology of Irish politics and public administration. “Corruption in Irish political life”, it tells us was “both endemic and systemic”. From Ministers down to local councillors, a “culture of impunity and invincibility” allowed this to happen.
Yet coming on top of the plea bargain between Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and British Aerospace over corrupt payments to secure business in Tanzania, donor country credibility on these issues has taken another hit. The average Good Governance Programme Officer’s job just got a little harder.
Bertie was a hugely popular politician working a system of patronage, strong arm political fundraising and, yes, cronyism. We all knew about it and we allowed it to continue.
But the upshot of that is a banjaxed (read: broken) economy and a disaffected populace. That is maybe the lesson that Tanzania can draw from the sorry affair. But the consequences of such disaffection here are more direct, for as we have seen, “there’s always a reason to riot in TZ”.