In the weeks leading up to 2017, some African state leaders have chosen to embarrass the whole continent and the institution of democracy. Whereas Ghana’s incumbent leader John Mahama conceded defeat to Nana Akufo-Adda, in The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh decided to revoke his concession. What Jammeh has created is an unhygienic constitutional and democratic mess in his country. Given his stubbornness, citizens are left with the option of either militarily deposing him or accepting the travesty he (Jammeh) seeks to impose. Why should a man who lost the popular vote have such power? Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila who should not be president by now has reached a compromise with opposition leaders to extend his term to the end of 2017. Why should citizens have to be forced to come to compromises with illegitimate leaders?
The Gambian Dilemma
Citizens who democratically vote for a president should see the man or woman they vote for ascend to the top office. One man’s insecurities and private fears should not be the reason a whole nation of free people is held at ransom. Unfortunately, in The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has decided to test his luck by choosing to refuse to concede to Adama Barrow, the lawfully elected next leader of the African nation. On the 19th of January, Jammeh will be illegitimate but as it stands, it seems he will try to stay in office even after the expiration of his term. This should not even be an option available to him but somehow, he has created it. The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, a truly pan-African body with its values in the right place encouraged Jammeh to honour his pledge to accept defeat. It further said military intervention was a possibility and Senegalese troops were on alert to “restore the people’s wishes”. Marcel Alain de Souza, the chairperson of the Ecowas commission said, “If he (Jammeh) loves his people, he has to be able to negotiate an exit door calmly. If it doesn’t happen, the most radical means will be used.”
This is what it has come to. The will of the people has been subverted by one man who the people will have to “negotiate an exit door calmly” with. He should not even have that power but unfortunately, he has. It is either the people will negotiate and literally beg him to leave office or have to deal with a military stand-off.
Constitutional Madness in the Democratic Republic of Congo
As Jammeh disgracefully attempts to hold on to power after losing the election, in the DRC, Joseph Kabila is blocking the elections altogether. On the 19th of December, Kabila should have stepped down making way for another leader of the country but it seems he has another year. Citizens who protested against this usurpation of democratic choice throughout the year had to deal with violent militaristic responses from Kabila’s government. In September, 50 people were killed in Kinshasa, the capital of the country for protests against the Congolese electoral commission’s proclamation that the country will not be ready for elections until April 2018. Latest reports from the country are to the effect that politicians have agreed to a deal under which Kabila will leave office by the end of 2017 given the constitution is not changed to let him stand for a third term. Yet again, citizens who should have the power to vote for a leader have found themselves in a limbo of sorts. Why are they being forced to negotiate with a man who should be out of office by now? The only other option was to demonstrate and yet again, on the 20th of December, around 34 people were killed. What is happening here is that whenever citizens attempt to fight systematic usurpation of power that belongs to them, they are violently crushed. Never mind Boko Haram and ISIS, some leaders are using security forces as terrorist organisations to maintain a dictatorial grip on countries. This is a big mess some African countries are taking right into 2017.
In a democracy, power lies in the hands of the citizens. This means the government owes the people a vote and the incumbent leaders owe people good faith. It is the right of citizens and not a privilege. No one should get trapped in delusions of self-importance to the extent of taking away clear rights of the people. No one should reduce a whole citizenry to the pathetic state of begging for the right of self-determination to be respected as if it is an act of benevolence from the leaders. Democracy is not a favour to citizens, it is their right. Otherwise, these governments have no foundation for their power. It is everyone’s hope that the disgraceful leaders who are selfishly clinging on to power repent of their embarrassing antics in the coming year. This usurpation of public power is far from the spirit of pan-Africanism that the continent should be championing.
Image credit: Gainako