By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
The authoritarian and totalitarianisms in Africa that allowed African leaders to serve for life, is a trend that need to be eradicated, so that democracy system of governance is given a chance. Initially, one would pinpoint that, European colonial rules, predisposed and gave birth to Africa fragile authoritarianism. This entails the political legacy of colonialism had a profound impact on African political systems. The colonial era strengthened the power of “Big Men” – powerful local leaders – over their communities.
This undermined pre-existing checks and balances. In this way the colonial era helped institutionalize repressive forms of governments across Africa. Colonial rule had also ensured that post-colonial leaders would face a major struggle to assert their authority. It did this by creating states with limited capacity to provide services and police their own territories.
The unstable authoritarian pathway that so many states followed Africa after colonial rule was not coming by accident. It was facilitated by the ways in which European empires undermined democratic elements within African societies. Understanding the deeper impact of colonial rule is, therefore, important. Not only to give us a better sense of history, but also because it helps to contextualize the development of African politics ever since. Prior to colonial rule, many if not all African societies lived in relatively small groupings that were much smaller than modern, centralized states. These societies didn’t recognize a strong central authority figure at the time.
This put limits on the extent to which power could be abused. The low population density meant that communities might move to another area if a ruler was excessively exploitative.
These systems weren’t necessarily democracies. Power was often dominated by older, wealthier men. But, most were a long way from being centralized political systems capable of mass repression. Thus, European colonial rules had fundamentally changed this picture in two ways.
First, it created clearly demarcated national boundaries and a central authority structure, along with a more extensive bureaucracy and security forces. Thus, post-colonial presidents enjoyed the potential to wield power over a vast territory and diverse group of communities.
Second, colonial governments typically lacked enough officials to effectively run their territories. To maintain political stability they therefore collaborated with or subordinated existing leaders and power structures. In many cases, this involved funding and arming willing collaborators to enable them to exert greater control over their communities. These leaders were expected to manage their communities and prevent a rebellion against colonial rule.
It was more efficient for colonial governments to engage with fewer leaders who could deliver the support of a greater number of people. In addition, many colonial officials falsely assumed that Africans lived in tribal kingdoms. As a result, the process concentrated power in the hands of a relatively small number of chiefs and entrenched ethnic identities.
Some African communities resisted the imposition of what they saw as illegitimate authority structures. In others, political entrepreneurs gave colonial regimes what they wanted in a bid to accumulate greater power. But, in both cases, the colonial era disempowered its “subjects. It also laid the foundations for politics in many African states to become dominated by a struggle for power between the leaders of different communities.
The birth of election rigging is manifested by European colonial powers. European powers had handed over a poisoned chalice at independence when it came to democratic institutions. Colonial governments had done little to create the conditions under which democratic politics could take hold and thrive. In some cases they even refused to hold elections until the eve of independence. Instead, they systematically sought to deny Africans their political and economic rights, and stymie the emergence of popular nationalist parties.
This typically involved highly repressive laws. These enabled governments to censor the media, ban public meetings, and detain political leaders on flimsy charges. When colonial regimes came under threat, their default response was invariably intimidation and violence.
All of these policies were enacted by states that were extremely centralized and in which the colonial governor wielded vast power. If colonial governments taught aspiring political elite anything, it was how to use co-option and coercion to demobilize popular movements. Indeed, many African governments have restricted the basic freedoms of their citizens by using colonial era legislation still on the statute books. The rise of fragile authoritarianism and totalitarianism is convoluted. This complex colonial inheritance gave rise to a set of governments characterized by fragile authoritarianism and totalitarianism. On one hand, the authoritarian structures fostered under colonialism meant that democratic constitutions were quickly undermined after independence. On the other, the social and political impact of colonial rule made it more difficult for governments to assert.
The challenges that post-colonial leaders faced were particularly difficult because they were multifaceted. There was the threat posed to them by rival political opponents. And there was also the fact that these leaders had inherited states that lacked an effective infrastructure or public services. They also inherited economies that were designed to extract value rather than create mass employment.
Most African governments lacked the funds needed to make up for this deficit. This was made worse by the fact that the early 1970s saw a period of economic decline. As a result, building effective totalitarian regimes – in which the state uses repression and control over information to regulate all aspects of life was often all but impossible.
In this sense, post-colonial states reproduced a core feature of colonial rule: in the absence of a strong state, maintaining political stability depended on a combination of coercion and co-option. Leaders who understood the importance of this balancing act could stay in power for decades. Those who did not could be toppled in weeks through coup detas.
There is much more to Africans than fragile authoritarian and totalitarianisms. The way in which these legacies played out was not uniform. It was shaped by variations in the colonial power and the different strategies that the Belgian, British, French, and Portuguese deployed.
The decisions of African leaders and the nature of the nationalist movement that fought for independence were also of great importance. However, in many ways colonial masters reinforced the authoritarian elements within African societies while undermining the elements of inclusion and accountability that had previously balanced them out. The cumulative impact of these changes made it more difficult for African countries to forge democratic futures.
Currently, the continent of Africa need to embrace democracy in all 54 countries. We are tired of being led by dictators who regularly grab power and began to mismanage public resources. The continent dictators eho have served for very long time need to be getting rid of. This author know very well that,, the continent is slowly awakening and begin to realize that long serving dictators are not doing them good economically. That was the reason the movement of chasing long serving African dictators out of power had started in January 2012 when former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade who served the nation for 12 years and drew a criticism from his opposition who accused him of breaching rules for candidacy in an election was ousted. After that, former Burkina Faso president Blaise Campaore who ruled the country for 27 years was toppled in 2014 following a bloody violence protests in his country.
Afterwards, one of the most African’s controversial and longest serving leader Robert Mugabe was ousted on November 21, 2017 following a dispute between him and his deputy after he tried to relinquish power to his wife instead of passing the leadership to his deputy. A pressure of military takeover and the humiliation of impeachment from the parliament, silenced him. On April 2, 2019, Algeria’s ailing former president Abdelaziz Boutefleica was forced to resigned, succumbing by the six weeks of largely peaceful Mass protests driven by youths and pressure from the powerful army against his 20 years rule.
Last but not least, on April 11, 2019, Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir was griped from power after he was visited by the heads of his four security apparatuses who told him there is no alternative for him to remain on power given out poured demonstrations against his tyranny regime. Bashir’s exit brings the total ousted long-serving African Presidents to five.
If this trends of getting rid of African long serving dictators continues, the next in line to be toppled may include herein:
1. Cameroon president, Paul Biya.
2. Equatorial Guinea president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
3. Congo Brazzaville president, Denis Sassou.4. Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni
5. Chadian president, Idriss Deby.
And 6. Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki. Though he was not among the long-serving African leaders, our own dictator is not immune from departing. His lust for power that allowed him to plunged the country to the current crisis, qualify him to not only evacuate the country throne, he deserve to be put in the lion’s den and face justice.
In summing, it is a ashamed to see Yoweri Museveni image serving in duration amounting to seven American Presidents duration. There is nothing good that come out from long serving dictators other than committing growth human rights violations.
Africa need to change!!!