Prof George W. Kanyeihamba – How long serving powerful African dictators died-
It has become clearly apparent that African presidents do not see the biblical writing on the wall. They seem not to have heard that all humans are mortal and they will not take it with them when the time comes.
Many African leaders claim to have read classic leadership tragedies but have learnt very little from them. We have heard presidents who boast that only God can remove them from power.
One of the earliest African presidents, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, proclaimed that, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and everything else will be added unto thee.” Not long after, a coup d’état was what he got and was driven out of power.
Saddam Hussein of Iraq declared it the mother of all wars when he rose up against the USA and its allies only to be found hiding in a manhole, looking like a wild animal.
Then, Ben Ali of Tunisia was declared a winner of the presidential election by a huge majority of more than 89 per cent, but shortly afterwards, the Tunisian patriots and the whole nation chased him out of office as he fled like a hunted buffalo into exile.
Muammar Gaddafi of Libya advised the Ugandan President that revolutionary presidents never relinquish political power. He was later hunted down like a wild boar. He hid in foxhole where he was found, having forgotten everything wrong he committed against the Libyans. He then humbly begged for mercy and have his life spared with a lie, “Please sir, what did I do to you?” before he was hacked to death.
Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the supreme army commander and lord of all Egypt, was disgracefully chased out of power by popular demand of the Egyptian people. His beloved pet, the army, split into two camps; one siding with the people and the other denounced him or fleeing their mother country.
Idi Amin Dada, the conqueror of the British empire and winner of the Economic War, fled from the combined liberation forces of Tanzania and Uganda exiles, looting, pillaging and killing his own people as he fled from Uganda.
Gen Yakubu Gowon negotiated his way out of the presidential palace in Nigeria into exile via the Kampala Commonwealth Conference that was hosted by Idi Amin, and the other general who failed to honour his claim of president for life.
Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda together with the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, had their plane blown to smithereens having claimed in Dar es Salaam that they were very popular in their respective countries. Since then, speculation has multiplied as to who blew up their plane from the sky.
Habyarimana’s death was followed by the massacre of millions of Rwandans before the country was liberated by mainly Ugandan educated and trained members of the patriotic front.
Then there was Kamuzu Banda of Malawi who, disliked women but was idolised by his fanatic supporters, passed a decree that whenever his vehicle was passing, women by the road side should kneel down come rain or sunshine.
In his advancing age, but still president, it is reported that in his last stages of senile rule, Banda passed a group of women who fell on their knees by the road side. He is alleged to have remarked, “Do you mean to say I am still the president?”
The incumbent South African president has been accused of squandering state funds on his luxurious home, oblivious of the needs of the poor and the deprived of his country. But then, this is a tiny expenditure compared to what other African leaders have spent on themselves, families and friends almost always at the expense of the poor and the helpless.
In the 1960s, a Ghanaian minister was reported to have spent what today would be equivalent to Shs1 billion on a golden bed.
I was once a director of the National Insurance Corporation and a group of us went to Paris to negotiate for a bank loan of $10 million. An official of the bank we were negotiating with remarked, “You have several Ugandan officials who had securities in our bank worth 10 times what you are borrowing from us. Why don’t you use their money instead of travelling to Europe to beg?” It hurt.
Finally, today we have Pierre Nkurunziza, the president of Burundi, seeking a third term. Burundi is a country ethnically divided; it has known conflict, strife and misery not very long ago. How can Nkurunziza be oblivious to the chaos of Burundi if he insists on running a third term?
Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Uganda Supreme Court judge. firstname.lastname@example.org