The Sun News

Africa’s sit-tight rulers

Three African rulers are threatening to plunge the continent and their countries into political upheaval to satisfy their selfish ambitions to remain in power, long after their constitutionally prescribed tenures had elapsed.  The tenure of Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh ends on January 18, which is less than a fortnight away. That is when he should hand over power to an elected president.  He is refusing to do so, and the intervention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to persuade him to transfer power has not yielded a positive response so far.
He usurped the office of president 22 years ago when he overthrew President Dauda Jawara in a military coup d’etat.  Ever since, he has kept himself in office by the suppression of his people through arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, and all types of human rights violations.
He had organised an election on December 1, 2016, lost the poll, accepted defeat and congratulated the winner, President-elect Adama Barrow, only to make a volte-face a week later.  President Jammeh seems poised to plunge Gambia into a civil war rather than take his exit.
In Central Africa, Joseph Kabilla’s tenure as president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo expired a fortnight ago, on December 19, 2016.  He has ruled that country for 15 years.  Rather than hold an election as demanded by the constitution, he has fabricated an illegal entity as a prop to keep himself in power indefinitely.  Scores of protesting Congolese citizens are killed almost daily and the opposition, fully aware that Kabilla is taking the country for a ride, is not relenting.  An agreement brokered by the Catholic Church seems to have assured that President Kabilla would remain in power till 2017, but no one knows the outcome of what is patently a power grab by Kabilla.
After more than 10 years in power, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi stunned the world in April 2015 when he announced that he would be seeking a third term, contrary to the prescriptions of the country’s constitution.  Ever since, the country has known no peace. At least 215,000 Burundians have fled their country, hundreds have been killed, and a coup attempt was made to oust the dictator which, when it failed, led to horrifying reprisals.  It did not matter to him that a country like Burundi with a history of genocide ought to be administered with transparency and fairness.
The three cases have potentials of turning into civil unrest or  wars which, with poor handling, could turn into catastrophes.  In each instance, the economic losses emanating from the elongation of political tenures are beyond calculation.  These have been largely responsible for the desperate economic state of the African continent and why it is the world’s laughing stock despite its enormous natural endowments.  The long tenure of Mobutu Sese Seko bequeathed to the Congo the many years of civil wars, insurrections and the instability which remain till this day.  The 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi left Libya in shambles, such that six years after the Arab Springs, the country remains a failed state in spite of huge efforts by the international community.
Yet, Africa “boasts” of men like President Teodoro Obiango Nguema who has been in power in Equatorial Guinea for 38 years and the most news-making attributes of his regime are the unspeakable corruption of the regime and the scandalous extravagance of his playboy son who is scheduled to face trial in France for money laundering, embezzlement and corruption.  French authorities reportedly towed 11 luxury vehicles, including two Ferrari sports cars belonging to the young Nguema who has been described as belonging to “a small club of corrupters” by Transparency International, which helped bring the case.
Angola’s President Jose Eduardo Santos, “the quiet dictator,” has been in power for 38 years and the hope is that this year he might step down.  President Robert Mugabe has served Zimbabwe as president since April 1980.  After nearly 37 years in power, he is still warming up for another tenure.  President Yoweri Museveni led the National Resistance Army into Kampala, Uganda, in January 1986 to seize power. After 31 years, he won yet another five-year tenure in February 2016.
Governance may not be an exacting science but experience all over the world has shown that four years is enough for leaders to demonstrate their skills and talents.  A second four years is the maximum period after which it becomes apparent that new ideas would be required and new blood infused if the country is to continue to progress.  Africa will continue its backward slide as long as leaders refuse to quit at the appropriate time.  It has become like a curse on the continent that all hands must be on deck to reverse.


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April 2018
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