Events unfolding in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Gambia bear sad testament of the grotesque record of governance that has become a trademark of African States and their leaders.
GUEST COLUMNIST LEARNMORE ZUZE
The world, today, watches with indignation as armed forces massacre innocent civilians justly protesting against incumbent DRC President Joseph Kabila, whose mandate to rule expired in November. For nearly 10 years, the DRC has been an electoral democracy, a fragile and dysfunctional one, but an electoral democracy nonetheless.
The 45-year-old Kabila has typically continued to shove election dates further in the wake of a disgruntled nation, igniting bloody protests in the process.
On the other extreme, the world watches repugnantly as headstrong Gambian President Yahya Jammeh unabashedly insists on clinging to power despite losing a presidential poll and admitting defeat in the beginning. Jammeh, in his vindictiveness, has recalled Gambia’s ambassador to the United States for asking him to concede defeat.
Africa is characterised by nascent democracy and each time that defeat is gracefully accepted it calls for celebration.
The African leader, somehow, has to be inveigled to leave power; something they cannot do without high-pressure methods.
To incumbents, it would appear they are cut to rule forever and anything that threatens their hold on power has to be crushed ruthlessly.
Many will remember the adulation that followed former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan when, without much hemming and hewing, he accepted loss and congratulated Muhammadu Buhari in May 2015.
Under normal circumstances, this should not be something to write home about; it should be the natural path of democracy. Praises were, expectedly, showered on Jonathan who, despite numerous failures, will have this pleasant act of statesmanship etched in people’s memories for ages.
African leaders have yet to learn the noble art of relinquishing power and, above all, to understand that someone else can take a country forward.
As a general fact, African States that can presently be described in the language of democracy still number in the minority.
It is as if to say the archaic monarchical system of governance exists in a thinly veiled form in Africa. The chief disappointment with most African leaders is their failure to leave power in an agreeable manner.
A myriad of theories exist as to why most African leaders cannot leave power in an acceptable way.
Somehow, these leaders, insist on obstinacy and, sadly, live to face inglorious and humiliating exits which all but obliterate the little good they would have done for their countries.
Ivory Coast former President Laurent Gbagbo is a classic example of a man who stubbornly held on to power to a point where he had to be apprehended and harangued like a criminal in a hotel.
The same is true for slain Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (although some would disagree) who was severely assaulted and dragged by the public in the streets and his mutilated body paraded in the open. Mobutu Sese Seko of the DRC and Uganda’s third President Idi Amin also make the ill-reputed list of African leaders who had to leave power through mutiny.
The common factor in the fracas stifling African growth across many of its States is anchored in the wanton disregard of constitutions by leaders who, ironically, should serve as custodians of the very constitutions.
Cling–on African leaders have characteristically proffered all manner of excuse to hold on to power. The most common ones being that “the people still want me to rule” and “no one can lead this nation better.”
This political grandstanding is quite laughable seeing as it is that most African economies crumble in the hands of such headstrong leaders. Despite much showboating by such leaders on the global stage, their people are virtually everywhere in the world living a life of near-servitude as they seek greener pastures in other States.
Inanely, they claim that the people still love them. It is a given that any President, upon assuming office is energetic and eager to have wheels turning and that is perfectly normal but the question comes: honestly, what new thing does a leader who has been in office for two or three decades have to offer?
How much innovation is to be expected from such a leader? Just like in recognised democracies, ten years is quite a long time to be ruling a country. Beyond the first 10 years, it is inevitable: arrogance, a sense of nation-ownership, corruption, nepotism and similar vices set in.
There is surely nothing good that comes out of more than ten years of sitting in power except abuse of power. It is quite disconcerting that this is Africa’s horrendous story of governance.
The most perturbing fact is the indifference exhibited by leaders while innocent people die as they cling onto power. It won’t surprise if Gambian President — Yahya Jammeh — will carelessly put up a fight that will result in a needless loss of lives.
It behoves African leadership to take a cue from the developed world where a single country can boast of a 16th President. Again, one wonders, why, but why Africa? Is the famine, droughts and diseases ravaging the continent not enough? Should it always take the bullet to usher in new leadership?
Dictatorship and autocracy must fall and a new Africa grounded in true democracy and free will of the masses must be born.