Obama attacks African dictators

United States President Barack Obama on Tuesday railed against African dictators and life presidents, saying they
were dragging their countries backwards.

Obey Manayiti/Moses Matenga

The remarks, made during a historic address to the African Union (AU) at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were largely seen as a pointed attack on President Robert Mugabe and his Burundi counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza.

Mugabe, the AU chairman, was excluded from the meeting with Obama currently on a high-profile visit to Africa.

The 91-year-old has been in power since 1980 and speculation is rife he will stand for another term in 2018, which could see him relinquishing power at the age of 99.

Nkurunziza early this month plunged his country into chaos after he insisted on standing for a third term in violation of the Burundi Constitution.

“Nobody should be president for life,” Obama said in a statement punctuated by countless standing ovations.

“And your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas. I’m still a pretty young man — I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. It would be
good for yours too in some cases,” Obama said.

“I don’t understand why people want to stay so long, especially when they have got a lot of money.”

Mugabe, who earns $12 000 a month, has repeatedly denied allegations that he is one of the richest presidents on the continent. However, the First Family does not hide its wide business interests.

Mugabe and his wife last year gave his daughter Bona 55 head of cattle and $100 000 in cash during her wedding held at the First Family’s plush home in Borrowdale Brooke, Harare.

Obama said the AU should be vocal about the need for African leaders to stick to term limits and respect constitutions.

“Just as the African Union has condemned coups and illegitimate transfers of power, the AU’s authority and strong voice can also help the people of Africa ensure that their leaders abide by term limits and their constitutions,”
he said.

Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo refused to comment on perceptions that Obama’s speech was targeted at Mugabe, among other leaders.

“President Obama has never visited Zimbabwe and I have never seen his statement and I don’t know the audience he was addressing. I want to see the text first,” he insisted.

He said Mugabe was not the only leader in the world who has been in power for a long time.

“We all have different constitutions in the world,” Khaya Moyo said. “The United Kingdom has no term limit, we
have two terms and others don’t.”

But political analysts and opposition parties said Obama’s speech was targeted at Mugabe and other long-time rulers in Africa.

Analyst Charles Mangongera said Obama’s message “rings to the Zimbabwean President and many others on the continent where sitting Presidents behave like monarchic kings”.

“Obviously Obama’s message is targeted at these leaders, but the message tends to find resonance with the younger generation who are fed up with autocratic leaders,” Mangongera said.

“The younger generation will find Obama’s message appealing, while the old league of leaders on the continent will try to evoke Pan-Africanism to say Obama cannot lecture us.”

Another political analyst, Takura Zhangazha, said Obama was passionate about Africa and this was apparent in his speech.

“He was correct to call time on African leaders who undemocratically extend their terms of office or act as life
Presidents,” Zhangazha said.

“This, together with corruption and lack of respect for human rights, is what Obama views as the blight on Africa’s illustrious liberation struggle legacy.”

The main opposition MDC-T said it agreed with Obama’s remarks because the continent needed leadership renewal.

“As the MDC, we fully associate ourselves with President Barack Obama’s remarks,” MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

“This is what we have always been saying that there is need for periodic leadership renewal in Africa in general
and Zimbabwe in particular.”

He added: “Surely, it is a gross absurdity for someone to hold onto power for 35 years and still think that they
have something new to offer to their country. No one has got a monopoly of wisdom and leadership qualities.”

MDC international relations secretary Kurauone Chihwayi said leaders who overstayed in power compromised Africa’s future.

“Robert Mugabe is not doing us any favour by overstaying. African leaders should draw lessons from the Obama speech especially President Robert Mugabe, [Rwandan President] Paul Kagame and Nkurunziza. Dictators in Africa have a tendency of pretending to be ‘the chosen ones’, but overstaying leaders should emulate people like the great Nelson Mandela,” Chihwayi said.

“We are challenging Mugabe to step down for new blood. We urge Mugabe to pave way for able leadership. He is too exhausted to deliver jobs and food to the starving citizens. He has failed to arrest corruption and looting by his
own team members.”

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment yesterday.

On Monday, Charamba told NewsDay that Mugabe would not lose sleep over Obama’s visit and his exclusion from the meetings.

Mugabe appeared to be defending Nkurunziza during the AU summit in South Africa last month, saying should be allowed to stay if their people still wanted them.

“It is democracy (that) if people want a leader to continue, let him continue,” he said.


  1. Shiri Chasura

    It is time for a new generation of leaders to arise in Africa. Leaders who understand principles of stewardship, servanthood and responsibility. Leaders who recognize their role to create an environment in which those they lead can fulfill their destiny and potential. Leaders who are motivated by a passion to see those they lead do well rather than a means to personal benefit. Leaders who do not feel the world owes them a life but who face the complexities and confusion that makes up this awesome resource-rich continent and then boldly step forward to make a difference starting in their own sphere of influence and then outwards in ever increasing circles of influence.. Leaders who have ceased calling on somebody and have decided to be that somebody. The time is NOW and it starts with me.. Not some undefined and unknown SOMEBODY out there somewhere.. My paradigm must change before asking others to consider changing theirs.. It is time for Africa’s Leaders to accept responsibility for most of what Africa has become.. An adult over the age of 21 cannot really legitimately keep blaming his/her parents for their failures.

    1. African Cristiano

      Yha I must say I agree with your sentiments Shiri. We Zimbabweans have a dependency syndrome whereby we are not even trying to put any efforts in propelling change but rather need someone else to do the work for us. You hear people exclaiming, “zvichanaka one day” but noone is even lifting a finger. I, like you, believe that the destiny or our country is in our own hands but people should unite, be strong and start putting that work in!

  2. The AU was applauded by the whole world on the stand on coups..more so by the citizens of the continent itself. When are they going to apply the same medication on those who break their country’s constitutions? How different are they from the coup plotters? Please dont tell us it is an internal issue of sovereignty..coups are internal too.

  3. I am very amused by the comments by Mr Gutu. How many leaders have the MDC had? or is it that he is still serving his first term. someone said “…glass houses, ….. . throw stones…” . sorry i don’t remember but i would have added a word to make it ‘. . .painted glass houses. . ‘ as there is something making you believe your party is democratic, ‘not a glass house’.

  4. Matenga it is you next to lose that job since several have gone now.

  5. When we say we don’t need any of him to override us .i don’t see it making sense because Mugabe isn’t him who want to rule his people.Zimbabwean still need him don’t we think that even his zanupf pv ltd co doesn’t have any good leader take over.Obama must blame the population for forcing the old people like Mugabe into power in order to have self benefits.you Zimbabwean are the decision maker not anyone from outside.Mugabe needs rest but you need him because of own plight

    1. so why do you force and kill and maim those who speak against ZANU….its not Zim people who need him, its a few holding on to the power who need him and him also like it!

  6. Mugabe is not only a Zimbabwean problem but a African problem. He does not understand what democracy stands for. As long as he is alive more evil things will continue to happen in our land.

  7. No idont see him like an African problem why because Zimbabwean problem is not affecting other neighbours the same way as it is affecting its nations,most Zimbabweans are out of the Country Where the treatment is indifferent,we have seen how they are suffering in and out.lack of employment,even being called breadbasket is now a history.Don’t say every problem is Mugabe I know that most ministers are his bootlickers they need employment,farms and a lot of things which Mugabe is supporting them.So they must not bite his hand They must keep fight for their plight.we saw the outcome of the elections,Mugabe didn’t still anything but I believe they should have hired other citizens to campaign for him.He was only told that he was the winner.if Zimbabwean doesn’t need him they can tell him democratically

  8. The statement, Mr. Khaya Moyo, is that there are African leaders that overstay their welcome. How on earth do you explain somebody staying in power for 35 years? Please don’t give me the lame excuse that ” what can I do if people still want me”. Mugabe was defeated in 2008 so he can’t even use that excuse. Today he cant even provide leadership on the succession issue, hence the factionalism that’s rampant in the zanu pf. Shuwa todziira munhu ndove ari pachigaro chete. Kwanzi vanhu vachiri kundida, my foot.

  9. toendepi mavhuto

    the problem is these ministers and the generals who are greed and have been surviving on handouts they don’t want Mugabe to step down because they have nothing they can do for themselves except stealing.
    Can you imagine the diamonds were mined for almost a decade but the country did not benefit anything we are the now the poorest country south of the Hemisphere while we have people like Chiyangwa boasting of being millionaires what good is it to the nation? Mugabe does not not know what budget of the country is , he is like a baboon that goes in the field and destroys the mealies even those that are not ready. All these chefs and army generals and police chefs have more than five vehicles by their houses top of the range which Mugabe gives them, on top of that they have more than four drivers each paid by the government and all vehicles fueled by the state. How can we have a few individuals with such luxury when the rest are suffering the nation has no infrastructure. This is one of the worst ruling party in living memory, they just intimidate people kuti takagwa hondo heee todzokera musango are the only country that fought the struggle? Most countries fought for freedom but the government dont hold their people at ransom like Zanu Pf Obama is right dictators should be treated like coup plotters. Time up for dictators

  10. toendepi mavhuto

    Obama is dead right at 91 years you still want to rule kuti zvigodini? You have failed give others a chance, our children have no future because of a few bigoted individuals who think they have done the greatest thing in the world by fighting a liberation struggle, Wars have been there time immemorial even in the bible so Zimbabwe’s is not special. Even if you give them billions of dollars they will still misuse it by buying the village chiefs Navaras, Rangers, Landcruisers etc. These people are a case to this nation.Viva Obama tell them!!!

  11. Socialism is easy to sell to the people, and concentrates power in the hands of government officials. Neo liberalism and capitalism are friends of zimbabwe, not enemies

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