Africa suffers when presidents think they are too big to retire

A supporter of Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, carries his poster as they protest on a street against the arrest of Kyagulanyi during his presidential rally in Kampala, Uganda, on November 18, 2020.

Photo credit: Badru Katumba | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Some presidents, like Museveni, change the Constitution to extend their stay in office.
  • Cote d’Ivoire was recently thrown into chaos after President Alassane Ouattara extended his term.

In his book titled, What is Africa’s Problem, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni writes, “One of the biggest weakening factors in Africa is tribalism and other forms of sectarianism”.

The violence that rocked several parts of Uganda last week after the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi wine is emblematic of the brutality that faces opposition leaders in Africa.

It is unfortunate that about 40 people were killed in cold blood while hundreds were left with injuries. Whereas Bobi Wine, a presidential candidate, was later released on bail after being charged with flouting Covid-19 guidelines, history will judge Museveni’s regime harshly after the killings.

Graphic videos and photos shared on social media showed several people lying in the streets covered in blood, allegedly shot dead.

Selfish leaders

Many young supporters are drawn to Bobi Wine by his criticism of Museveni’s government mingled in his lyrics. As a young leader, he is better positioned to tackle the challenges they face.

Museveni has been at the helm for 34 years but the country is still plagued by unrest, imbroglio and human rights violations. He had the Constitution amended twice to allow him to run a sixth time in 2021, is seeking another five-year term in the January polls.  Africa is not short of monsters of selfishness and brutality.   

Our political leadership is more patriarchal than matriarchal and the proclivity to chauvinistic attitude has made matters worse. Some presidents, like Museveni, change the Constitution to extend their stay in office.

During campaigns, politicians promise to build the economy and improve infrastructure. However, once they are elected, the status quo remains.

Despite experiencing massive economic growth in the last two decades, Africa continues to grapple with poor leadership. The lack of visionary leaders who can set long-term goals has been the continent’s greatest undoing.

Most of the founding fathers, such as Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, Samora Machel, Kwame Nkrumah Robert Mugabe, Sekou Toure and Nelson Mandela, spearheaded the struggle for independence and liberation from the colonial yoke.

Freedom of expression

Sadly, some of them ended up becoming stumbling blocks to ‘total liberation’. With time, they became dictators. 

“When the going gets tough, the tough must get going, especially when leaders become misleaders and mentors become tormentors. When freedom of expression becomes a target of supporters, opposition becomes our position,” said Bobi Wine in 2018.

In a democracy, the government reflects the will of the people.  Democracy in Africa is gaining currency, albeit slow.  Africa’s nascent democracy has been hampered by selfish political interests.

For instance, Cote d’Ivoire was recently thrown into chaos after President Alassane Ouattara extended his term.

The continent cannot realise the African Union Agenda 2063 and SDGs in the current climate of dictatorial and authoritarian leadership amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In Uganda, the Museveni administration should cool political temperatures before the January 14 elections.

josephmuthama05@gmail.com 

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