It is common cause to all and sundry, that in the eyes of the ‘advanced in years and out of steam’ President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, the outcome of the Benin and Tanzania presidential elections seem out of the African character to say the least. Africa has set a precedent in terms of how election results go and presidents have converted to the I-will-die-in-power semantics.
The outcomes in the Ugandan and Zimbabwean presidential elections and the developments in Tanzania, Nigeria and Benin are two kinds of different but equally shocking and reprehensible developments. The Zimbabwean and the recent Ugandan incidences have got damning magnitudes which threaten to haunt democracy, if not define the corrupt legacy of the faulty African polling process.
As a result, winds of change and the hangman’s noose have befallen many African liberation parties whose end is now there for everyone to see as electoral hurricanes begin to gather in solemn. The Mandela driven African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and the ZANU-PF of Zimbabwe under Jacob Zuma and Robert Mugabe respectively remain challenged from all sorts of angles. They have been complacent and corrupt hence the masses are aggrieved.
What transpired in Benin during the much-awaited democracy visit to the small nation ostensibly made the whole continent review its democratic transition process and progress. Such actions of accepting defeat unilaterally install fear and grant not a stay of political execution, to those African leaders who are distant in-laws of democracy.
The recent elections in Benin resemble some principal democratic concepts in a manner that does not violate the constitution and sovereignty of the country. The assumption was that bad luck and support had befallen Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria when he peacefully conceded defeat and ceded power to the Retired Army General Muhammadu Buhari; but in essence, when winds of change come, they will be unstoppable and such leaders should be celebrated.
The world watched when the Ugandan Yoweri Kaguta Museveni violently pulled a quick one and it is highly unlikely that there will be opprobrium of democracy in Uganda anytime soon. Civilians, mainly opposition members were massacred in cold blood and or arrested without cause.
The runner up for the Ugandan presidential elections, Kizza Besigye has been under house arrest since February’s violent, rigged and heavily disputed elections. The opposition parties have sought legal action for his release but to no avail. Class action will soon follow causing a lot of civil unrest within as there is a challenge on the poll credibility.
It appears as if Museveni took a page off Robert Mugabe’s ‘Chronicles of how to win a lost election through vote rigging and political violence’. In Africa the lack of democratic and humanitarian restraint is nauseatingly palpable as those who cling to power unleash an unnerving demonic volley of brutal sadism and bloodshed from their state-of-the-art mechanical weapons. Such disregard of human life leaves a lot to be desired for.
Whilst the election results on Tanzania, Benin and Nigeria are in contrast to what transpired in Uganda and Zimbabwe, they are nevertheless in unity. They are unified by quite important, legitimate and growing public concerns about African leadership manner, form, style or lack of it on key African and regional issues. Such reckless-and-clinging leaders have left the continent with wider cross-border implications on matters of the rule of law, constitutionalism, non-violence, accountability and respect for human life among many other related concerns.
No matter how one looks at the Ugandan tragedy, incarceration of opposition leaders and activists, cold-blooded massacres cannot be an appropriate response to a democratic right to choose leaders. By characterization, a massacre sprouts a tradition of bloodshed and ensconces institutional revulsion.
Witnessing such peaceful democratic transfer of political power should be the oddest of times politically as the old crop of senior African leaders keep on being invited for presidential inaugurations across Africa.
With a lot of taboos in Africa, you could easily buy into a nonsensical school of thought that holds a belief that if a president concedes defeat and leaves offices peacefully he will be struck by lightning. Africa remains entrenched in democratic doldrums, as a number of presidents have found themselves tightly holding to the throne.
Having four different presidents in four presidential elections in unimaginable by African standards, this is only achieved by the barrel. Benin has indeed set the bar too high for the below mentioned African states whose presidents have contributed immensely to their poor economic status. The notorious ten presidents who have been in power forever are as follows:
1. Teodoro Mbasogo - Equatorial Guinea (35 years)
2. Jose Eduardo dos Santos - Angola (35 years)
3. Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe (34 years)
4. Paul Biya - Cameroun (32 years)
5. Yoweri Museveni - Uganda (28 years)
6. Omar al-Bashir - Sudan (25 years)
7. Idriss Deby - Chad (23 years)
8. Isaias Afwerki - Eritrea (23 years)
9. Yahya Jammeh - Gambia (20 years)
10. Denis Nguesso - Republic of Congo (17 years)
Is there hope for African democracy? How did Benin get it right? These are some of the questions that will remain unanswered as Africa is just Africa.
To Benin, we say Africa has a lot to learn from you. Benin has challenged the whole world in the democratic dynamics. We congratulate the King of Cotton, Patrice Talon for his new job.
To Benin, Africa says thank you for the free and fair democratic process.
Long live Benin!
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