AFRICA: A BLESSED CONTINENT RUINED BY DICTATORSHIP & TYRANNY
“Why is it that when Europeans and North Americans (and Southeast Asians) are busy finding their ways to the Moon, Africans are busy moving back to the forest or cave?”- Dr. Julius Nyerere 1994.
(Failed Democracy & Good Governance In Africa, Onitsha Nigeria, Sunday December 21, 2014)-We take dictatorship to mean a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique in a government; with maximum suppression of civil liberties and rule of law. Dictatorship is also commonly associated with political sit-tight or long stay in power through manipulative polls and limitless tenure elongation. By Tyranny, we mean a State under cruel and oppressive government or a government that resorts to unreasonable and arbitrary use of power or control against the citizenry including the dissenting voices.
On the other hand, we see Democracy as a form of government in which all eligible citizens are allowed and empowered to participate equally either directly or indirectly (through elected representatives) in the proposal, development and establishment of the laws by which they are governed with such laws providing for their maximum safety and welfare. Democracy is commonly associated with numerous types including corrupted or bastardized versions.
Representative and Liberal Democracies are the most popularly accepted types in modern times. In Representative Democracy, sovereignty is transferred by the citizens to the elected representatives to be held in trust for them with periodic electoral renewal. In Liberal Democracy, protection of individual liberties and properties through rule of law is extensively entrenched (Democracy & Good Governance Program of Intersociety 2014).
Political governance styles have in multi-centuries past undergone several modifications, adaptations and adoptions. From the Hobbesian state of nature, where life was short, nasty and brutish, which gave birth to modern art of government to communalism, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, communism, to even Divine Right of King, etc, instances are inexhaustible. In the not too distance past centuries, the Divine-Right Theory of Kingship or Divine Right of King held sway as dominant political governance style in the communal, national and international politico-religious systems.
This Divine Kingship theory asserts that a monarch or king is subject to no earthly authority and his right to rule is directly derived from the will of God. By this, the king is not subject to the will of his people, and as such; does no wrong. It is further held that it is only God who can judge an unjust King. Deposing him or restricting his powers was then regarded as a sacrilege and homicidally punishable.
The infamous political governance style above mentioned was later swept away and became very unpopular and obsolete particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were quickly replaced with dictatorship and free democracy as two dominant forms of political governance styles in the modern world of today.
Traditional or absolute monarchic governance style was repealed and replaced with constitutional monarchy by way of transferring the management of public affairs to the people through their elected representatives and allowing monarchies to exist ceremoniously. Monarchy was abolished in France following the 1780s revolution that gave birth to the French Declaration of the Right of Man & Citizen of 1789 and establishment of parliamentary system of government.
While dictatorship has its roots in military coups and revolutions and one-party rule; democracy is rooted in Athenian democracy (direct democracy). Modern democratic form is called indirect democracy (via elected representatives). This was also popularized by the British Bill of Rights of 1689(begat by the Magna Carta of 1215 AD(liberties inviolate) or the Great Charter of Liberties of June 5, 1215), the US Independence Declaration of July 1776 and the French Declaration of the Right of Man & Citizen of 1789.
In Africa, a Continent of over a billion people, occupying a land mass of about 10million square kilometers; various scholarly studies have continued to show that dictatorship, tyranny and their triggers are holding the Continent to ransom to the extent that over half of its 53 member-States are under the clutches of dictatorship and tyranny. Dictatorship and tyranny found their way into the Continent immediately after the end of colonial rules on the Continent. They were triggered off by neo-colonialism, one party rule, self succession, attempts to eliminate ethnic and religious divisions and their replacement with nationalism; inter member-States rivalries, cold war supremacy struggles between the USA and the defunct USSR and their allies as well as military takeovers.
To curb ethno-religious divisions and conflicts, many newly independent African countries opted for one- party rule and unicameral legislature and unitary governance in addition to the recognition by then OAU of the 1884/5 Berlin Conference outcome that artificially partitioned African boundaries and borders. The one-party rule later developed into dictatorial and tyrannical governance styles that have bedeviled the Continent till date. Despite bastardization of the universally approved tenures of political office in electoral democracy, there are two globally approved tenures of office whether in presidential, parliamentary or monarchic democracies.
One is four year tenure of two maximum terms (minimum of four years and maximum of eight years). The other is five year tenure of office renewable once (minimum of five years and maximum of ten years). Others under these two such as five or six year single tenure is also within the confines of international best practices. But the rest outside these and under whatever guise are out-rightly reprehensible and rejected and their practitioners or beneficiaries are dictators and tyrants.
Consequences Of Dictatorship & Tyranny In Africa: These are best captured by seven fundamental threats to human security as developed by the United Nations Development Program (Concept of Human Security 1994). These are: environmental threats, economic threats, political threats, food threats, health threats, personal insecurity and threats to community (culture and values) security. They are also captured in absolute (destitution) and extreme poverties as defined by the UN and the World Bank in 1995 and 2005 respectively.
While absolute poverty is defined as deprivation of the citizenry of basic human needs, which commonly include food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health-care and education; extreme poverty is taken to mean an artificially created condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. Those suffering from these are not only denied access to reasonable income, but also access to social services. According to the World Bank international poverty line of 2005, those earning $1.25 or below it daily in addition to their deprivation of access to social amenities are considered to be extremely poor.
Dictatorship and Tyranny in Africa have also brought and institutionalized environmental pollution and degradation, militarization of the Continent and proliferation of small arms, over 14 million refugees and millions of internally displaced persons, escalation of intra State conflicts, genocidal wars and perpetration of humanity crimes, insurgencies, mass poverty and illiteracy, malnutrition, dearth of safe drinking water and health-care facilities, spiral drop in direct foreign investments, huge debts and elevation of dozens of member-States to the status of highly indebted poor countries, chronic unemployment, prevalence of chronic and terminal diseases like tuberculosis, aids and HIV, high infant and maternal mortalities, gross under-development, ethno-religious divisions and violence, political instability, promotion of politics of exclusion and primordialism, bad governance impunity, corruption and squander-mania as well as favoritism and nepotism in governance.
According to warsintheworld.com (November 2014), out of a total of 64 ongoing world active intra State conflicts involving 591 militia-guerrillas and separatist groups, Africa has 27 of such bloody conflicts involving 167 militia-guerrillas, separatist and anarchic groups. African bloody conflicts are divided into four major categories of ethno-religious (i.e. Islamist militants uprising), civil war, popular uprising against government and war against rebel groups. These have cumulatively cost the Continent over 3million deaths and generated over 14million refugees and millions of internally displaced persons since 1990 with the Great Lakes region accounting for about 70%. There may most likely be over 60 million small arms in wrong hands on the Continent presently. The British Broadcasting Service (BBC) had in 2003 observed that one out of every 20 Africans has unlawfully possessed gun or small arm.
The DRC (Congo Brazzaville) has the highest number of active armed opposition groups in Africa with 36, followed by South Sudan with 16. Libya and Mali have 15 each. Others are Sudan 13, Somalia 12, Egypt 9, Ethiopia 8, Central African Republic 8, Nigeria 6 (MEND, NDVF, Ombatse, Boko Haram, Ansaru & Fulani Jihadist Terror Group), Eritrea 4, Algeria 4, Somaliland 3, Uganda 3, Mauritania 2, Angola 2, Kenya 2, Tunisia 1, Western Sahara 1, Rwanda 1, Senegal 1, Puntland 1, Mozambique 1, Ivory Coast 1, Djibouti 1 and Chad 1. There are also Islamist and tribal rebellions in Niger Republic, Cameroun and Burundi bringing the total of African countries presently ravaged by armed conflicts to 29. In the 80s and early 90s, 14 civil wars were waged in all the 14 regions of Ethiopia simultaneously.
Serving Dictators & Tyrants In Africa:
1. Angola-Dr. Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, born 28th August 1942 (72 years). He has remained in power since 21st September 1979 after the death of former President Agostinho Neto. He has spent 35 years in power and is one of the longest serving African presidents. He abolished the concept of direct election of the president in 2010 and technically made himself a life president by providing that “the leader of a party with most seats in the National Assembly automatically becomes the President of Angola”. His MPLA party is the sole largest party in Angola. His eldest daughter, Isabella Dos Santos is the Africa's richest woman and 8th richest person on the Continent valued at $3.7Billion.
2. Equatorial Guinea-Teodore Obiang Nguema Mbasago, born 5th June 1942 (72 years). He became president after ousting his uncle (Francisco Macias Nguema) in an August 1979 coup. He has spent 35 years in office having been head of State since 3rd August 1979 and is the second longest serving African president. Tenure of office is pegged at seven years without limit. He was elected unopposed in December 2002 and won another seven years in November 2009.
3. Zimbabwe-Robert Mugabe, born 1924 (90 years). He was the executive prime minister from 18th April 1980 to 22nd December 1987 and president from 1987 till date. He has spent 34 years in power and may most likely die in office.
4. Cameroun-Paul Biya, born 13th February 1933 (81 years). He has been president of Cameroun since 6th November 1982 after serving as prime minister from 1975 to 1982. In 2008, he changed his country's constitution to provide for limitless term of seven years and in October 2011; he won another seven year term and will complete his current tenure in 2018 at the age of 85 years. He has already spent 32 years in power.
5. Congo Libreville-Denis Sassou Nguesso (71 years). He was military head of State from 8th February 1979 to 31st August 1992. He staged another rebellious come back on 25th October 1997 following June-October 1997 civil war and has remained in power since then. He enjoys seven year limitless term and has won polls in 2002 and 2009. He has spent a total of 30 years in power.
6. Uganda-Yoweri Museveni, born 15th August 1944 (70 years). He has been in power since 29th January 1986, after his NRA rebels toppled the military government of Tito and Basilio Okello. In a 2005 referendum, he scrapped multi party system and limited tenure of office. He enjoys five year limitless tenure and won February 2011 presidential poll. He has spent 28 years in power and is sixth longest serving president in Africa. President Museveni has also mounted stiff opposition against the works of the International Criminal Court, accusing it of unfairness to Africa.
7. Swaziland-King Makhosetive Dlamini Mswat 111. He is the Africa's remaining absolute monarch and was enthroned on 25th April 1986 (28 years). Popular polls are totally limited in his Kingdom and he appoints his prime minister at his own will. He has spent 28 years in power.
8. Sudan- Omar Hassan al-Bashir (70 years): He has been the military head of State since 30th June 1989. He enjoys five years limitless tenure and won last election in 2010. He has spent 25 years in power and was indicted by the ICC in March 2009 for his butchery roles in Darfur violence.
9. Chad-Idriss Deby. He has been in power since 2nd December 1990 and has contested and won elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 with five year limitless tenure. He has spent 24 years in power.
10. Eritrea-Isaias Afwerki. He has been in power since June 8, 1993 following his EPLF rebel's victory over Ethiopia in a 30-year civil violence. He enjoys five year limitless term and has kept postponing national polls for years. He has spent 21 years in power.
11. Gambia-Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh (49 years). He has been in power since 22nd July 1994. He enjoys five year limitless term and has won polls in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. He is officially addressed as “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Babili Mansa”. He was recently named “the West African King of Impunity” by the Media Foundation for West Africa based in Gambia for his atrocious human rights records. He has spent 20 years in power.
12. Rwanda-Paul Kagame. He was the vice-president & commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Rwanda from July 1994 to March 24, 2000 and has served as president till date. He enjoys seven year limitless term and won August 2010 polls. He has spent 20 years in power.
13. Algeria- Abdelaziz Bouteflika. He came to power on 27th April 1999 and won polls in 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. He enjoys five year limitless term and has spent 15 years in power. He made a narrow escape during the 2011 revolutionary protests.
14. Djibouti-Ismail Omar Guelleh(67 years). He succeeded his uncle (Hassan Gouled Aptidon) on 8th May 1999 who was in power since independence in 1977. President Guelleh enjoys six year limitless term and has won polls in April 1999, 2005 and 2011. He contested alone in 2005 and won. He has spent 15 years in power.
15. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)-Joseph Kabila Kanbanye (43 years). He assumed office on 17th January 2001 ten days after the assassination of his father (Laurent Dasire Kabila). He enjoys five year limitless term and was first elected in 2006 and re-won in 2011. He has spent 13 years in power.
Emerging African Dictators & Tyrants:
16. Togo-Faure Gnassimgbe Eyadema (48 years). He came to power following his father's death in office in 2005. He won polls in April 2005 and re-won in April 2010. He enjoys five year term renewable more than twice. He has been in power for 10 years. His father was in office from 14th April 1967 to 5th February 2005 (38 years). In late November 2014, mass protests erupted in the country against his attempts to change the constitution to allow him run for the 2015 presidency for a third time.
17. Burundi-Pierre Nkurunziza (51 years). He was a rebel (CNDD-FDD) leader and came to power on 26th August 2005. He was the only candidate in the June 2010 presidential poll, which he won. His government has announced he would contest the 2015 polls in deviance of the existing constitutional limit of two terms of five years. A bill is before the Burundian parliament for the altering of same to allow him run. He has been in power for 9 years. Over 300,000 people perished in the country's civil war between 1993 and 2005 following promotion of politics of dictatorship and tribal cleansing.
18. Mauritania-Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz. He participated in August 2005 coup that ousted President Maouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya and led another coup in August 2008. He stood for April 2009 presidential poll and won. He re-contested in the June 2014 poll, boycotted by most leading opposition candidates and won another five year term.
African Dictators & Tyrants Who Died In Office/Ousted Recently:
19. Libya-Moummar Gaddafi. He ruled Libya from 1st September 1969 to 23rd August 2011 (42 years). He was dethroned by a coalition of revolutionary forces following his endless dictatorial and tyrannical rule premised on limitless term of office. He aided and masterminded many military coups and civil conflicts in Africa. He was killed in office in 2011.
20. Egypt-Hosni Mubarak (86 years). He was appointed vice president of Egypt from 1975 to 1981 and served as president from 14th October 1981 to 11th February 2011 (30 years). He became dictatorial and tyrannical leading to his ouster by people's revolution in February 2011.
21. Gabon-Omar Bongo. He was president of Gabon from 2nd December 1967 to 8th June 2009 (41 years). He died in office in June 2009 and after his death, his eldest son-Ali Bongo Ondimba took over following the August 2009 Poll, which he won for a five year term. His father ruled with limitless office term of seven years.
22. Togo-Gnassingbe Eyadema. He ruled Togo from 14th April 1967 to 5th February 2005 (38 years). He died in office in 2005 and his son-Faure took over winning April 2005 and 2010 polls with five year term.
23. Tunisia-Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. He ruled Tunisia from 7th November 1987 to 14th January 2011 (24 years). He was deposed by Jasmine Revolution in January 2011 following his attempt to continue to rule limitlessly. He fled to Saudi Arabia and was convicted and jailed for life in absentia in 2012 for killing of protesters in 2010/2011.
24. Burkina Faso-Blaise Campore. He ruled Burkina Faso from 15th October 1987 when he killed his closest ally and then head of State-Captain Thomas Sankara to 31st October 2014 (27 years) when he was deposed by a military coup following a nationwide protest. The protest followed his attempt to further manipulate the constitution to allow him stand for limitless term of office.
25. Ethiopia-Meles Zenawi. He ruled Ethiopia from 21st May 1991 to 20th August 2012 (21 years). He served as post civil war president/prime minister of Ethiopia and changed the constitution to allow him rule limitlessly. He died in office in 2012.
26. Senegal-Abdoulaye Wade (88 years). He was in the opposition from 1978 during which he contested for the presidency of Senegal four times and lost, to year 2000 when he was elected president at the age of 74. He got into office and sealed his term to seven years without limit. In 2012, he stood in for another term at the age of 86 and was beaten in a second round by Macky Sall, who also reduced presidential term to five years. Before his electoral defeat, he had governed for 12 years and groomed his eldest son to succeed him by making him a minister in-charge of four key ministries joined together.
27. Guinea-Lansana Conte. He ruled Guinea from 3rd April 1984 to 22nd December 2008 (24 years). He died in office in 2008. In 2010, Alpha Conte became the first freely elected president since independence in 1958.
28. Niger Republic-Mamadou Tandja. He ruled Niger from 1999 to 2010 (11 years) before he was deposed by a military coup in 2010 following his attempt to force a referendum on Nigeriens to allow him rule limitlessly.
29. Ivory Coast-Laurent Gbagbo. He ruled Ivory Coast from 26th October 2000 to 11th April 2011 (11 years). He arbitrarily annulled 2010 presidential poll results in seven key departments in the northern part of the country, which were the strongholds of his main challenger. This was after he postponed the polls originally slated for 2005. These triggered off rebellion by loyalists of President Alassane Quattara leading to his ouster and arrest in April 2011. He was indicted by the ICC and later extradited to The Hague in 2011 and is presently standing trial for crimes against humanity.
30. Central African Republic-Francios Bozize. He ruled the Central African Republic from 15th March 2003 to 24th March 2013(10 years). He overthrew the civilian government of Ange-Felix Patasse on 15th March 2003 through a rebellion he launched in 2001. He won the March/May 2005 polls and was re-elected in January 2011 polls. On 24th March 2013, he fled to Cameroun via DRC after the seleka rebels dominated by Muslims overran the presidential palace following his attempt to rule limitlessly.
Summary: From the foregoing statistics, it is fundamentally obvious that over 60% of African Continent's member-States are presently under the clutches of dictatorship and tyranny. It has also been indisputably established that over 70% of the African States are politically unstable. All the genocidal, civil, military and political conflicts that have ravaged Africa in recent times are triggered off by dictatorship and tyranny. The problems facing the Continent are hugely man-made and flow from top-down politico-social vices and mis-governance. They are pollutant viruses afflicting Africa and Africans.
Despite debt relief of over $100Billion delivered to the Continent since year 2000 including writing off of $40Billion owed by 18 heavily indebted poor countries by the G8 in 2005 and a total sum of $568Billion delivered in aides to the Continent by developed world since 1985, the Continent still owes more than $500Billion in external debts as at 2014; from $412, 84Billion it owed in 2011 (source: African Economic Outlook 2014). The sub Saharan Africa alone is reported to have raised foreign bonds amounting to $20Billion in 2014 alone.
In defense or military hardware spending, the Continent spends more than $150Billion presently per annum with Algeria and Angola topping the list with $10Billion and $6Billion respectively. In 2011, according to the African Economist.Com, Africa spent a total of $113.20 billion on military hardware. These huge debts and military spending are majorly for the sustenance of Africa's dictatorial and tyrannical regimes and containment of internal insurrections arising from protests over their perpetuation and attendant social vices.
The hitherto ambitious annual target of $65Billion direct foreign investments into the Continent as well as the Peer Review mechanism designed by AU for the socio-economic transformation of the Continent have failed woefully owing to dictatorship and tyranny. Efforts by the ICC to stamp out impunity and atrocity crimes and criminals (political governance rights abuses & abusers) on African Continent have steadily been frustrated owing to prevalence of dictatorial and tyrannical regimes on the Continent.
Recommendations: There is need for proper and intellectual articulation of agitations for regime change in Africa particularly as it concerns revolutionary efforts at dethroning the dictators and tyrants bent on holding the Continent to ransom in perpetuity. The revolutionary regime changes that took place in countries like Libya, Burkina Faso, Egypt, etc were not intellectually articulated. They are nothing but mob and renegade regime changes.
A revolutionary regime change that aims to oust a dictatorial/tyrannical regime without proper transition of power to the newly elected representatives made up of civilians in a short run is worse than the targeted dictatorial regime. While Libya and Egypt have remained in political turmoil and instability as a result of the forgoing, it has also provided an opportunity for military juntas to stage a political come back into the politics of Burkina Faso, which has been governed by modified military regime since 1980s.
On the other hand, countries like Niger Republic, Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Madagascar, Guinea and Guinea Bissau are places where intellectually articulated regime changes have taken place owing to holding of successful and free elections in 2010 (Niger), 2010 (Guinea), 2011(Ivory Coast), 2012 (Senegal), 2013 (Mali), 2013(Madagascar) and Guinea Bissau (2014). These countries were recently ravaged by insurrections, military takeovers and dictatorships. Credible and popular regime change is that premised on peace building, free polls, democratic power rotation and limited tenure of office.
Our second recommendation is the need for proactive and collaborative efforts by the African Civil Society groups and the media to declare voice and pen war against dictatorship and tyranny on the Continent in the context of regional and international awareness campaigns. The war should be properly articulated and fought ceaselessly until all dictators and tyrants are dethroned. Consistent and proactive pressures should be directed at African regional and sub regional bodies as well as the United Nations and development partners to reject and isolate dictators and tyrants in Africa.
Our third recommendation is a call for the review of relevant regional and sub-regional charters and treaties to incorporate prohibition and criminalization of sit-tight, self succession and tenure elongation (office abuse crimes) premised on dictatorship and tyranny in Africa. There is need to review the AU's Constitutive Act, ECOWAS Charter, SADC Charter and their likes in Central African, East African and North African sub-regions for the purpose of ending dictatorship and tyranny in Africa. The instruments creating judicial bodies like African Court of Justice/Human Rights and ECOWAS Community Court, etc should also be revisited and expanded.
It is our belief that unless credible and effective benchmarks are put in place to fight dictatorship and tyranny, otherwise Africa will continue to wallow in intractable politico-social vices. The Continent must borrow a leave from the European Union that set strict criteria for intending members including free democratic, good governance, human rights and budgetary performance indexes.
African leaders who have exceeded maximum of eight or ten years in office other than ceremonial or parliamentary monarchs should be forced to relinquish powers or be expelled from participating in regional or sub-regional forums meant for African Heads of State and Government. They should also be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for office (tenure) abuse crimes. A code-ban should also be put in place banning their sons, daughters, wives, brothers, cousins, in-laws and other relatives from succeeding them particularly when they die in office.
The AU and other African sub-regional bodies like ECOWAS and SADC should also block such regime tenure abusers from participating in all UN related functions including the General Assembly meetings and proceedings. This can be done by way of written recommendations to the United Nations.
Lastly, respected and democratically stable African countries like South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, etc are urged to empower their judicial bodies with trans-border or regional jurisdictions to pave way for indictment of such dictatorial and tyrannical leaders over office tenure abuse and political crimes as well as crimes against humanity.
International arrest warrants should be issued against them as well as prosecuting them in person or in absentia within best international practices. Where it is possible for other African countries to dethrone them for strict purpose of enthroning free democracy, free speech, credible regime change and peace building, they should be dethroned.
Prepared & Presented By:
Emeka Umeagbalasi (Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies, M.SC Candidate in Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution & Alumnus of IVLP of the US State Dept, class of June 2013)
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
(A presentation made at the 2014 World Human Rights Declaration Anniversary organized by Intersociety supported by the G8 Rights Groups & Anambra Rights/CSO Activists Forum held at the Knights of St Mulumba Headquarters, Onitsha, Nigeria, 21st December 2014)