By Okore Scheaffer
African presidents are known for their allergy to the word ‘limit’ in any capacity. Many of them don’t clearly understand this five letter word that has cost most of them a peaceful retirement. Creating not only a breed of entitled loathed heads of state but also those with insatiable limitations.
Burkina Faso is just one example among an array of states where the people have grown wary and exasperated. Even with its economic growth, Burkina Faso remains at the very bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index, making it one of the world’s poorest states. Many university graduates struggle to find work and often blame corruption for their difficulties. How many Africans go through this?
Ousted President Blaise Compaoré had cast his leadership on stone for 27 years after the assassination of Thomas Sankara by ensuring he had a presidential guard of an elite unit comprising of 1,300 soldiers loyal to him. He set it up to ensure his own protection in the wake of the 1987 killing of his predecessor, and close ally, Thomas Sankara during a coup which led to Mr Compaoré taking over.
The Bukinabes had had copious amounts of the repetitive change narrative that wasn’t yielding fruits. It was time in 2014 to stand up for something new and distinctive after an unchanging 27-year rule that seemingly wasn’t going to come to an end. They had reached their limits. There’s always so much that people can take and for how long. Most African leaders forget so spectacularly that they are governing humans, not puppets.
African leaders tend to be oblivious to the fact that everything has an end even a good thing. There’s a sense of ultimate, absolute and overall entitlement that they’re filled with once they seat at the epicenter of power. They unanimously disregard the source of their power and impose upon themselves the title of savior whom no one can oppose.
The belief they religiously spread around is how their various states cannot function without them and how they are the only one’s bequeathed with the erudition of leadership. This is utter gibberish that by now many of them should imbibe. No African state is immune to a coup and certainly no African leader is irreplaceable.
It is a sign of failure to assume that as a leader you are the only one fit to steer forth a state. It is a lie that no one is buying anymore no matter how cheap you’re selling. Burkina Faso represents most (if not all) African states whose leaders ascended to the nucleus of power through gutter politics and under table dealings.
The people you shield yourself against have grown too loud to be shut down, too aware to be ridiculed and too impoverished to be side lined. It’s only a matter of time before many other states go through the breaking point that others have reached. Our problems are similar as Africans and our solutions will eventually follow a similar trail.
Leaders like Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo – Equatorial Guinea (35 years), José Eduardo dos Santos – Angola (35 years), Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe (34 years), Paul Biya – Cameroon (32 years), Yoweri Museveni – Uganda (28 years), Omar al-Bashir – Sudan (25 years), Idriss Déby – Chad (23 years), Isaias Afwerki – Eritrea (23 years), Yahya Jammeh – The Gambia (20 years), and Denis Sassou Nguesso – Republic of Congo (17 years) are the longest serving in the continent.
It’s humorous sometimes that the youngest continent has the longest/oldest serving heads of state. But when the laughter dies down you start to see the disease that’s eating into the fabric of leadership. That only in Africa do the leaders believe they should only step down when death knocks their doors! It’s like taking candy from a toddler, only this candy represents an entire continent held hostage.
Pierre Nkurunziza has successfully accomplished binding Burundi to his umbilical cord while Mr. Paul Kagame is pushing for an extension of his term. I open my mouth, raise my brows, throw my hands in the air and gasp. Clearly we aren’t learning from history. One day all those who have been neglected by regimes will have their say and that day, history won’t be negotiated on round tables behind closed doors. Africans are breaking mental chains.
Originally published in SIASAPLACE.COM. Republished here with permission.
© Okore Scheaffer @scheafferoo