After decades of blaming the industrialized nations, especially the United States, for the miserable lives being led by millions of their people, African leaders are now acknowledging what many objective observers of Africa have known for a long time: That government corruption has been the continent's No. 1 enemy.
"In less than half a century of independence, corruption has created a class of billionaires while the rest of the population is experiencing an unprecedented misery," says a report from the African Union, made up of 53 nations. Finance, justice minister and other officials this week attended a two-day conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at which the plight of the African people was discussed.
To put the enormity of the problem in perspective, the leaders revealed that capital flight from Africa to secret bank accounts in Europe and elsewhere is estimated at $148 billion a year. Some of the money is from corrupt deals, but a large amount is undoubtedly from leaders selling Africa's mineral wealth and pocketing the proceeds.
After this backdrop, it is easy to see why so many countries in the continent are on the verge of economic collapse and social disintegration. Millions of people are dying of starvation and disease and because of the unending civil wars. Hopelessness has replaced the hope that many nations promised at independence.
The African Union's revelations about the extent of the corruption must be a clarion call for the United Nations to become actively involved in the rescue plan laid out by the African leaders.
As a first step, they want African public officials to declare their assets before taking office and after leaving public service. In addition, the courts or other authorities would be allowed to confiscate or seize banking, financial or commercial documents to fight the corruption epidemic in Africa.
And most significantly, the leaders want government corruption to be classified as a crime against humanity and its definition broadened to include nepotism, abuse of power, crimes of interference, influence peddling and insider trading.
The African Union should not stop there. The organization should publicly identify the African leaders, past and present, who have been involved in this criminal enterprise. A massacre of the innocents has taken place. Many men, women and children have perished as a result of not having food, drinking water, medicine or even shelter from the weather.
These leaders are devoid of humanity and, therefore, should be treated as evil. Through their greed and their criminality, they have destroyed nations that were once rich in natural resources, had productive farmland and offered a bright future to succeeding generations.
Today, Africa is on the brink of collapse, and Africans are to blame. It is time for the world community to embrace the work of the African Union and end the corruption that has become the rule, rather than the exception.