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Comment: African leaders should know when to leave

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Speculation on whether fallen Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak was dead or alive swirled on Tuesday with conflicting reports emerging from the North African country.

Mubarak’s supporters have denied reports the ousted leader experienced “clinical death” describing the news as “an unfounded rumour”. They said the disgraced former strongman’s “health is stable and he is out of danger”.

But other reports suggested Mubarak died on Monday after he suffered from cardiac arrest.

The reports said his condition drastically deteriorated after he was shown pictures of his long-time ally Muammar Gaddafi, the fallen Libyan strongman who was captured and killed by forces that ousted him.

Mubarak is fortunate not to have encountered Gaddafi’s violent end. He could have easily faced the same fate after angry Egyptians took to the streets demanding he steps down.

He let power go, albeit reluctantly, but not before ordering a brutal suppression of the uprising against his totalitarian rule.

But by the time he was forced out, Mubarak had already committed crimes against humanity and was put under house arrest and taken to court.

Whether Mubarak is alive or not is not the issue because we do not celebrate the loss of human life.
However, what is clear is that Mubarak’s exit from office was unceremonious and he will certainly depart the earthly world without the honours befitting a true son of Egypt and Africa.

But he chose that path.

He should have left power gracefully and enjoyed the last days of his life in honour, but he chose to go against the tide.

The same is true of Gaddafi. He had ample time to negotiate his exit after enjoying 42 years of unfettered power and access to riches. The lessons to be drawn from Mubarak and Gaddafi are clear like daylight.

Elsewhere in Africa, we seem to have leaders who are not prepared to take heed of events in North Africa.

They keep holding on to power when indications are that they should now call it a day.

In Cameroon, President Paul Biya will extend his 29-year grip on power after he won a disputed election.

The 78-year-old Biya’s victory was marred by complaints about late opening of some polling stations, absence of indelible ink, voter intimidation, forced abstention and sharing of multiple electoral cards.

Although these claims were rejected by the courts, which by the way pander to the whims of those in power, they will taint his victory. But one has to ask:

“What new contribution will Biya be expected to make to this football crazy nation and Africa’s fourth-biggest cocoa producer, after three decades at the helm?”

Gaddafi and Mubarak received rapturous welcomes from the people when they took office, but they chose not to know when it was time to pass on the baton stick and they left unceremoniously.

Gaddafi was lynched by his own people while Mubarak has been subjected to all sorts of humiliation.

Leaders should know when to pass on the baton to preserve their legacies.

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