Monday 12 April 2021
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African leaders’ love for extended power

Like many of my African compatriots, I often spend much time wondering what it is that drives many African heads of states to cling onto power well beyond the prescribed constitutional provisions.
The issue of leadership succession assumes greater magnitude in Africa today and deserves critical appraisal and strategic management. It is important for every leader to realise the importance of time and respect the will of the people. Politicians have a tendency of using power to suppress the people they are supposed to serve. Indeed, the life presidency syndrome is uninhibited even in some emerging constitutional democracies in Africa. This is more evident in regressive democracies such as Zimbabwe. Since becoming an executive president in 1987, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has won every election but not without controversy or violence. They will rather die than give up power, it is really a shame! It is unfortunate that the democratic trend that took shape in the early 1990s has been reversed in the new millennium, starting with Abdou Diouf of Senegal, the late Lansana Conte of Guinea, Idriss Deby of Chad, , Zine el- Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt among others. In 2008, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon joined the list of leaders past their sell-by dates. Most amazing is that president Biya himself introduced term limits to Cameroon in1996, only to scrap them when his retirement loomed.
DRC is in political crises after Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate in December last year. Many people died last year in violent anti-government protests. Presidential elections scheduled for this year failed-  citing a financial challenge as their excuse. The Budget minister estimate that $ 1.8 billion USD is needed to fund the electoral process. Initially, the opposition and Kabila’s government has agreed to hold elections by the end of this year. However, they have been postponed to April next year, an agreement that came after months of unrest that left many dead. The question at hand is whether Kabila and his government intentionally delaying elections for their good? The electoral commission is saying they need 17 months to register more than 30 million voters. Of course we know that DRC is the second largest country in Africa, therefore it needs huge funding and a relaxed timeframe but from the look of things, this might just be a delay tactic.
The same political unrest and crises on elections is happening in Kenya. It is expected to hold fresh elections in October after the Supreme Court ruled that the outcome of the August, 8 elections were null and void. In his response Uhuru Kenyatta, is threatening to “fix’’ the judiciary should he win the forthcoming elections. That is the problem within power hungry leaders, they don’t respect the rule of law. I was not expecting such a decision from Kenyan court given the political climate in Africa where government often hold sway over judges. If we could have such a strong, objective, fearless and anti-partisan judiciary system in countries like Zimbabwe and DRC the better. In a democratic society, the judiciary is expected to operate independently from political class or executive.
History has shown that even those who rose to power with good intensions soon become corrupt to enrich themselves. In order to protect their wealth and power, they silence those who threaten their authority. As one injustice led to another, and as friends become fewer, they grew increasingly paranoid and oppressive. As they live in fear of losing control, fortune, freedom and possibly lives, they desperately cling to power. However, I must also point out that others have stepped down gracefully, like Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Hifikepunye Pohamba from Namibia and Mozambique’s Joachim Chisano to name but a few. They will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of the African people for upholding the principles of democracy and respect the Constitution of their respective countries.. I wish to emphasise that any country worth its name and reputation should have a well- defined regulated and transparent system for determining leadership succession. This is a key requirement for good governance, otherwise the future of most Africa is bleak and unpredictable.
Itai Zviyita is a graduate of BA in Media Studies with Zimbabwe Open University

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