Is Africa changing? Is the politics changing? Are the people changing and are their demands for democracy and good governance becoming more solid? Are we finally claiming our space as the cradle of mankind and the beginnings of all civilisation?
For years African citizens have suffered grave governance deficits at the hands of octogenarians who held onto power, clawing at the citizenry until it bled.
But recent events seem to indicate that things are changing. Now African peoples are looking for leaders who tackle corruption, facilitate an environment that allows for political debate and opposition. Citizens are demanding transparency and rule of law and when the leaders fail, the people are saying GO!
Of course there are setbacks such as the recent coup in Mali, the acceptance of Kenyan and Zimbabwean citizens of power sharing governments yet the elections had clear losers and winners. Even part of the new crop of leaders continues to be corrupt. I only need to cast my eyes down South to South Africa to see how leaders can be changed effectively but the new leadership itself fails to be effective. But, certainly no one can dispute that the era of passive citizens with no voice is surely moving towards being part of the archive books on our continent.
Here is a short rundown…
Yesterday, March 25th 2012, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal conceded defeat and gracefully stepped down to allow Macky Sall victory. After 12 years in power it was high time Wade did go- a third term would only have served to undermine the spirit of the new constitution limiting presidential terms to only two.
March 20th 2012, former President of Zambia Rupiah Banda stepped down as head of his party indicating his exit from politics and sending a clear message that he is not going to seek reelection in the future.
October 20th , 2011, after being massacred, sprayed with bullets by snipers, bombed left right and centre-and standing, albeit with a little help from opportunists that also had their own not-so-hidden agendas but by the barrel of a gun, Muammar Kaddafi, the King of Kings, Brother Leader of Africa and the President of the Great Libyan Arab Jamahiriya fell.
February 11th 2011, by the power of the masses who stood for days in protest, determined-the masses that were shot down by the police, sprayed with teargas but stood firm-Mubarak fell after 30 years of rule.
January 14th 2011, Ben Ali, after 23 years of reign fled to Saudi Arabia, having fallen at the hands of the masses who, fed up with continued poverty, corruption and suppression of political freedoms decided enough was enough.
April 11th 2011, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’ Ivoire sought protection from the UN and was arrested by the ICC. Having lost an election in December 2010, in which the people clearly said enough was enough he refused to vacate office, and then an intense civil war, Laurent Gbagbo fell.
A few decent leaders have been wise enough enough to leave gracefully after the electorate decided they had had enough. Joacquim Chissaono of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde won the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance and for voluntarily and timeously stepping down.
Oh the long serving ones remain ensconced in their seats. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, after 25 years got himself reelected in 2011, despite the high levels of corruption that his government has brought to the nation. Paul Biya of Cameroon also got himself reelected in 2011, 29 years on from the day he stepped into the President’s office. Our very own Robert Mugabe is looking for reelection in 2012, or 2013 or 2014, whoever knows but himself? And it’s only been 31 years, he says. What’s the big fuss all about? Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola still sits at the helm, 32 years in power. And I suppose Teodor Obiang Nguema of Equittorial Guinea is the chief advisor of those who want to die in power as he has been there the longest -32 years, a few months ahead of Dos Santos.
Still, given the tide of the winds, these leaders should ask themselves what we are wondering-who among them is next in line to exit their thrones of dis-grace.