By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Addressing the Ghanaian Parliament in 2009, US President Obama made a profound statement that Africa needed strong institutions and not strongmen.

2. While the statement received applause from the immediate audience and other Africans, many others were not so pleased as they disagreed with him. They believed that it took “strong men” to build strong institutions. Even for those who disagreed, there are two “schools”.

3. Some posit that after strongmen have built institutions, such institutions are still resilient in their absence. Thus, even when “weak men” are in charge the institutions built by strong men will be efficacious. Others believe that at all times you need to be strong at the top for institutions to be efficacious.

4. And so what?

5. Shortly after a record-breaking earthquake in Morocco in September 2023, Eastern Libya was hit by a devastating storm. Storm Daniel turned out to be more deadly than the destructive earthquake in Morocco. Over 11000 people have died.

6. After the storm and the concomitant humanitarian crisis that followed, assessments of the situation by experts and observers point to the fact that from early warning to the crisis management stages of the disaster, the authorities in Eastern Libya did not do enough to mitigate the effects of Storm Daniel.

7. Currently, the populations in affected areas are faced with new dangers with water contamination and exploded explosives that have been exposed by floods. While these challenges are not unexpected, it is their management that makes the difference. It takes institutions to make a difference.

8. Unfortunately, reports are that the government in Eastern Libya has not been up to the task with this one. The Khalifa Haftar-led government is an example of the reasons Africa needs strong institutions and not strong ones.

9. Since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime and the division of Libya into different sections with different governments, the former Gaddafi ally who fell out with him has assumed the position of the strongman “needed” by Libya to perhaps build the strong institutions it needs. He has built a more effective defence force and become quite indispensable in the general security of Libya.

10. He has made attempts to take Tripoli and unify the country by the use of force. His military efficacy has granted him some recognition from both state and non-state actors across the region and beyond. In the current war in Sudan, his support or otherwise for General Dagalo is counted to be critical. He is a strong man.

11. Regardless, Storm Daniel has challenged the myth that strongmen can achieve anything for a political entity. Strong institutions are lacking in Eastern Libya. Admittedly, it could take a long time for Morocco to rebuild its heritage sites and houses lost to the earthquake; however, it has used its superior institutions to mitigate its effects.

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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