CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP CLIMATE IN AFRICA?
Sudan’s al-Bashir Joins Ousted Long-in-Power African Leaders as Six Remain
The most recent removal from power of two long-serving or ruling African leaders from power comes as a shock to some and a great relief to many, especially in the two countries, Algeria and Sudan. Ailing and decades in-power President Abdul-Aziz Bouteflika of Algeria was forced to call it quits after major peoples’ demonstrations both within and outside the North African country as he sought yet another term in office in expected elections.
Less than a month after Bouteflika’s forced resignation in Algeria and replacement by a close political ally, Sudan’s tough and decades-long ruler Omar al-Bashir was also forcibly removed from power through months-long peoples’ protests and demonstrations, followed by an announced two-year military takeover.
Recent happenings in several African countries are still causing shock waves across the continent. The recent happenings in Algeria and Sudan come about, not too long after another powerful and long-serving president, Robert Mugabe, of the currently politically and economically still troubled southern African nation of Zimbabwe, was removed from office and sent home in a declared military coup d’Etat, last year 2017.
It is quite noticeable that a majority of African nations, following their independence from European colonial rule, have had at least one leader serving for a very long time. Quite a number of the leaders have either forcibly or cunningly extended their constitutional terms of office, when they were about to come to an end.
Many of the long-serving African presidents have been known to rule their nations with iron fists. One such African ruler who obtained global recognition and quite some hatred, especially from Western powers was Muammar Gaddafi of the large, sparsely populated and oil-rich north African state of Libya whose removal was backed by the West from power in 2011. After his overthrow and murder, Gaddafi’s body was found in a common ditch.
After the most recent ouster of Sudan’s Al Bashir on 11th April 12, 2019, which incidentally coincides with the day former Ugandan dictator Iddi Amin Dada was removed from power in 1979, there is now some hope that the trend of long reigns may now come to an end. Peoples’ protests and demonstrations now provide a glimpse of hope for a new era of democratic people-driven leadership in Africa.
During the past one decade or so, Africa has witnessed several forceful removals of powerful long-term leaders. It all started with the removal of Mamadou Tadja of Niger in 2010. Tadja was overthrown by the military after changing the country’s basic law in order to suit his greed for power to stay in office for more than the constitutionally mandated two terms.
In 2011, a spring of protests referred to as “the Arab Spring” uprisings took out Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, followed by Libya’s Gaddafi of Libya, Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidi Ben Ali, all in the northern parts of the African continent. The Arab Spring in the North Africa region was soon followed by the forceful removal of Laurent Gbagbo, from the presidency of the West African nation and former French colony, Cote d’Ivoire.
Other powerful long-serving African leaders who have been forced out of office in the recent past include Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali, Raimundo Pereira of Guinea Bissau, Genera Francis Bozize of the Central African Republic, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and the latest being Algeria’s Bouteflika, and Sudan’s al-Bashir.
It may seem surprising and a bit tantalizing that in modern times, the African leadership winds have changed direction. Quite a sizeable number of the forcibly removed presidents had various challenges, some of them ailing from incapacitating or fatal diseases, being very old and disoriented or unable to provide proper leadership. They had, however, continued to hold and control the helms of top leadership within their countries, thus defying calls and protests to step down.
Despite the unrolling new leadership climate in Africa, however, there are still quite a few remaining long-serving presidents, some of whom may now become scared by the new wave of change. With several leaders already kicked-out of office, the new tide is fast approaching. Some of the long-serving African leaders, who are still holding onto power, some of them for more than three decades, are the following six listed below :-
PAUL BIYA OF CAMEROON
Is listed as the longest-serving leader not only in Africa, but also globally. The 86 year old President of Cameroon once served as Prime Minister of the central African nation from 1975 to 1982 before taking over the presidency till now.
TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA
The second most long-standing African president, Mbasogo has ruled the nation for 39 years and does not seem to be letting go any time soon.
DENIS SASSOU NGUESSO OF CONGO
The veteran Congolese ruler has been in power in Brazzaville for 34 years, during two different periods. Nguesso first became President of Congo from 1979 to 1992. He was again re-elected in 1997 and has retained the top seat till now.
YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI OF UGANDA
A forceful character, Museveni has been steering the wheel of the landlocked East African nation for the past 33 years and is planning to keep going. The veteran leader who never welcomes opposition or criticism, may now have a youthful challenger in musician Bobi Wine, who has declared that Museveni will be the next to go home after Bashir.
IDRISS DEBY OF CHAD
A close neighbor of Sudan to the west, Chad has had only one President controlling the western- central African nation over the past 29 years. Chadians may have learned a new lesson from its eastern neighbor, Sudan, in securing a brighter future.
ISAIAS AFWERKI OF ERITREA: Once exiled in Europe before coming back to take over leadership of the small nation of Eritrea (formerly a part of Ethiopia) in the Horn of Africa, Efwerki has been in power since 1993, and does not appear to have a serious challenge against his rule for now