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Africa's curse of saviours turned tormentors

By Mark Oloo | May 14th 2022 | 3 min read


Late President Daniel Moi when he met Cabinet Ministers at State House after an attempted coup. [File, Standard]


In African politics, there are two distinctive sets of people –the oppressors and the oppressed.

The positive sides to the few known pro-people political leaders in the land, if any, can be as short-lived as a gob of spit.

Power can change folks. We saw it in Malawi when President Lazarus Chakwera was widely accused of nepotism hardly a week after taking over power, killing the hope of a better tomorrow among his supporters.  

More and more now, observers worry for the continent in view of the situation obtaining in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. The political situation in these countries is simply toxic to stability, growth and development.

The delayed return to civilian rule after the overthrow of elected leaders spells doom for the continent and its disenfranchised people. The fears around this are real and nerve wracking.

Military officials at the helm having rejected the timelines on possible transition back to constitutional order could as well mean the juntas will rule for an infinite time. The signs are clear and obvious and citizens in those countries have every reason to miss sleep.

While it is absolutely wrong for civilian rulers to turn years of self-rule into self-ruin, it is not any better overthrowing them and leaving power at the hands of ruthless military regimes whose outlining upshot is jihadist insurgency, widespread poverty and looting resulting into increased sanctions.

African nations, if not the world, must sustain pressure on the de facto rulers in these three countries to do the right the thing. They should quit and call elections even if sham. By taking away the people’s right to speak and be led through the ballot, they are putting a sick continent on the edge. It could easily tip over. The aftermath would be unthinkable.

But the overthrown leaders must also be nailed for the ills they perpetrated on their people. Justice is paramount. Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye is right when he says we must rise up against bad leadership and the tendency to prefer peace while turning a deaf ear to the quest for justice.

As a keen observer, my view is that African countries must spare no effort in saying no to this ‘takeover’ trend. Even the relatively stable countries aren’t sitting pretty. Last week’s call by UN boss Antonio Guteres, who met Senegal President Macky Sall who chairs Ecowas, that it’s time for the juntas in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso to go must be supported.  

The military could hold sway in the three countries longer than imagined. In Bukina Faso, the juntas want to hand over power to civilians after a record three years. In Conakry, Guinea, the military is reluctant to cut the 39-month transition period they had indicated.

As usual, the African Union is as dead as a dodo. Other than mere press statements and pronouncements from its head office in Addis, there’s nothing tangible it has done or plans to do. After the August 2020 and May 2021 Mali crisis, followed by the Guinea disorder in September 2021 and then the Burkina Faso one in January 2022, not even the regional bloc Ecowas has covered any ground.

While we seem coy about things that ail our countries, truth is that the pitiful leadership situation obtaining in African countries should worry us. I foresee these military forays becoming a tradition even our side of the continent. We must uphold democracy and shun the tactless revolution sweeping through the landscape. That’s not how great countries and continents behave.

For leaders who defy the rule of law with abandon, your days are numbered. You will be gone at some point and will only be membered in ignominy.  

The writer is an editor at The Standard

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