Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Everyone says Africa is a blessed continent. We are blessed with beautiful people and enormous resources. We are rich in culture; and possess a tenacity not frequently seen elsewhere. But we are plagued by many evils. In spite of our resources, we are impoverished. And our beautiful and diverse culture has served as the foundation for many wars. Added to these, we are bedeviled by so-called leaders who have firmly entrenched themselves in power and refuse to pass on the mantle of leadership. In the face of enormous human suffering, these men have stayed on. Rather than bow out gracefully, they have pursued their so-called enemies with a vengeance; punishing any and all voices of dissent. Two of such men are Chad’s Idriss Deby; and Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza.
Deby recently announced that he was running for a fifth term in office, in April’s presidential elections. The fact that his announcement did not quite stir up mayhem, is probably testament to the fear of him that prevails in Chad. Idriss Deby has been at the helm of the Chadian government since 1990. He came into power via a coup that ousted the very man he helped bring into power- Hissain Habre. In spite of the various rebellions and even a foiled coup, Deby has managed to evade the grip of those who wish to see him leave the presidency- and they are many- and has maintained a firm rule over the country. Crushing all foes in his path, he has shown not just a unique brand of ruthlessness, but also political wits and cunning. Dubious political reforms meant that Deby encouraged a multi-party system in Chad, lifting the ban on political parties in 1993. But instead of giving everyone a fair and level playing field, he has clamped down on opponents and journalists, ensuring that the opposition remains in a perpetual state of political non-viability. Deby had initially committed to relinquishing power at the end of a 2 term tenure in 2006; but cunningly modified the constitution in 2004, effectively scrapping term limits! Now, he says that if he is re-elected in April (which he most likely will be…majorly by fraudulent means), he would restore term limits! The effrontery! A man has been entrenched in power for 26years now, and has had 11years since 2005 to re-introduce term limits; and now suddenly needs a fifth term to do so? The same man who scrapped term limits in the first place? Come on, give us a break! There is nothing new under the sun; and also, nothing meaningful would be achieved in a fifth term!
Economically, though oil-rich, Chad still ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. Deby has drawn the ire of the international community in the past, by diverting oil proceeds for the purchase of guns; and scrapping funds meant for educational, health and developmental projects! His purchase of more arms in the face of increased suffering by his people can only be interpreted as a ploy to protect his government and probably keep him in office perpetually!
After 26 years at the helm of affairs, Chad’s Idriss Deby seeks a fifth term. And now he promises to restore term limits. But he has proven in the past, that he can use fraudulent means to extend his stay in office. So who is to say that he wouldn’t do so again?
Elsewhere in Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza is treading the same path. The most notable difference is that his quest for a third term did not go down quite so quietly. You see, Pierre Nkurunziza violated the terms of the 2005 Arusha Agreement that ended Burundi’s previous bloody civil war. Riddled with ethnic strife much like Rwanda, Burundi was thrown into chaos and mayhem due to political tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups. As part of the Arusha Agreement which finally ended the war in 2005, it was decided that power be alternated between both groups; and that a two term limit be set for Presidents. But Nkurunziza broke the agreement by announcing that he was standing for a third term (which he eventually won…albeit fraudulently) in 2015. The very next day after the announcement was made, protests broke out around the country. Instead of listening to voices of reason, Nkurunziza employed brutal force; ordering the police to crackdown on protesters. Men, women, children were violently beaten; and hundreds were killed, including children as young as 12. Amnesty International recently released a video last month showing mass burial sites- most likely, a ploy by the Nkurunziza government to hide their atrocities; the full scale of which is probably not even known!
At the height of the tensions last year, the constitutional court adjudicated over the matter, and then decided that Nkurunziza could indeed run for a third term; in violation of the Arusha Agreement. But as we later found out when the Vice President of the court fled, it was revealed that the court’s ruling was decided under duress; and that most of the judges actually believed it was unconstitutional for the President to stand for a third term! But they were forced into passing a wrong judgment! Such is the nature of African politics! Such is the quest for perpetual political power that leaders would kill and deceive their own people, in order to maintain control! With no compass for national growth and development and no regard for the will of the people, many of Africa’s leaders are as ruthless, heartless and cunning; as they are indeed clueless- no pun intended!
From Uganda to Zimbabwe, to Sudan and Chad, to Burundi; the African continent is littered with so-called leaders who refuse to step down, regardless of the consequences. Yet they want to be seen as statesmen! Well, in my opinion, a statesman is a man like Nelson Mandela who endured 27 long years in prison, and yet stood down after just one term as president of South Africa! Respect can never be given to despots who employ violence against their own people. The fear of the despot’s gun may last only for so long; but there is none who can outwit a revolution whose day has come, or even death itself! One day soon…one day soon!

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