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The sweet trappings of political power in Africa

The principle of government by the people for the people has been subsumed by the will of some African leaders to cling to power. Africa has seen most of its leaders remaining in power for the longest of times and it seem the trend will continue well into the future.

Although in recent years we have seen certain African dictators successfully be removed from power, there are still quite a number of African leaders that are able to circumvent the rules and continue to rule their respective nations.

Even though the modern day African president might no longer be the absolute autocrat of yesteryear, he still rules with awesome power and vast state resources at his disposal. Many African leaders have assumed an imperial character and sadly many regard themselves as largely above the law: accountable to no one and entitled to remain power or to pass the sceptre to their offspring.

Due to this rather imperial character, conflict has been inevitable in Africa. Africa is currently in the middle of third term crisis.

As presidents come up against the presidential term limits included in many multi party constitutions, a significant number are refusing to leave power gracefully. Instead, a good number of leaders have sought to secure third, fourth or even fifth term!

So far this trend has taken place in countries as otherwise diverse as Burkina Faso, Burundi, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and lately the Democratic Republic of Congo. Strangely in Gambia Jammeh who has ruled the country for the past 22 years recently lost presidential elections to the opposition in which he first conceded defeat but later somersaulted and rejected the election results.

Political power in Africa is generally characterised by the capacity to dispense patronage and sanction without interference of institutional safeguards like an independent judiciary and the fear of the loss of that power: its perks and the ability to deter retribution from opponents is a strong one.

The attractiveness of the presidential office should explain much of the instability: coups and civil wars, all aimed at seizing power that has plagued the continent over the last decades.

According to the study by the African Development Bank, there were more than 200 coup attempts in Sub Saharan Africa between 1960- 2012 in which West Africa accounted for more than half of the attempts. Furthermore three of Africa’s longest serving heads of state Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Jose Do Santos of Angola and Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea have been in power for over thirty five years.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila is taking a slippery path to third term despite being constitutionally required to step down by the end of last year. One of his strange and lame excuse to stay in power is that the country does not have money to conduct elections!

Neighbouring Burundi, meanwhile descended into chaos in 2015 when Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term despite the controversy over whether he was eligible to run for a third term at the top seat. 

Sassou Nguesso of Congo- Brazzaville was re-elected last year March after the

country held a controversial referendum on constitutional changes that allowed him to stand for third term. Moseveni of Uganda who became President after his rebel group took power in 1986 has extended his 30-year-old rule after winning a disputed presidential election in 2016.

One may ask why most African leaders are hungry for power and would do anything to cling on the seats of authority even if it is clear their popularity among citizens is fast dwindling. Most African leaders take presidency as an opportunity to amass as much wealth as they can to increase their influence among ignorant citizens.

A greater part is often gathered through dubious means and often atrocities are committed in pursuit of such massive wealth. These despots masquerading as leaders do not genuinely love their countries: in fact they are the most unpatriotic and self-centred individuals ever.

The looting that characterizes African leadership is unparalleled whilst the masses whom these despotic leaders has promised to serve remain in abject poverty and a dehumanising culture of rightlessness. ranks Angola’s president, Dos Santos as the richest and among the wealthiest persons in the world with a net worth of $20 billion. Forbes again ranks the likes of Mugabe of Zimbabwe who has stayed in power for over 35 years among the top ten. President Paul Biya of Cameroon now more than 30 yaers in power also sneaks into the list of wealthiest African presidents.

When it comes to lavish lifestyle, some African leaders have no inhibition. They spend lavishly on birthdays, anniversaries, statues and even weddings.

The money ranges from direct siphoning from government coffers and public agencies, to forcing contributions from officials, friends, corporate organizations and kickbacks from multinationals keen on securing deals for infrastructure, oil, gas and other natural resource exploration. The lifestyle of African Presidents and their families reflect the trajectory of resource rich African countries where the leaders spend millions on luxury items as the ordinary people live in abject poverty, lacking access to basic amenities and services such as clean drinking water, health care and education.

For example, Global Integrity states that in 2009 Museveni of Uganda used nearly half of the 70 million pounds Britain gave the country to buy a luxurious private jet.

Teodoro Obiang whose dad is the President of Equatorial Guinea once blew 1.8 million pounds on Michael Jackson memorabilia alone. In Rwanda which in 2012 trousered 75 million pounds of British aid, 60 million pounds was spent on two presidential private jets and South African Jacob Zuma shelled out a whopping 17.5 million pounds fixing his Nkandla luxury home.

These lives of shameless luxury by African Presidents are the sweet trappings of political power that makes them reluctant to step down even when their time is up.

Catch Solly Rakgomo@73904141

Global Politics



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