YNaija Analysis: Is Mugabe Africa’s last great dictator?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

After the coup that was not a coup and the resignation that was not a resignation, it is still the expectation that Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule of Zimbabwe will come to an end in a few weeks.

Following the remarkably peaceful operation carried out by the Zimbabwean Defense Force last week, Mr Mugabe’s stranglehold of the Southern African nation has unravelled. He has been deposed as the head of Zanu-PF, the ruling party, and his wife, Grace, who was being prepped to take over from him, has been expelled from the party. Such has been the pace of change in Harare over the past 10 days that it hardly appears to be involving the very same Mugabe who has held a tight grip over Zimbabwe for four decades.

Mugabe’s imminent fall could represent a pivotal moment in recent African history. While not the current longest-serving African leader, his notoriety and the dire straits of Zimbabweans under his rule have made the case for getting aboard the movement to agitate that leaders across the continent do not overstay their welcome. Having borne with him for 37 years, Zimbabweans would probably have tolerated Mr Mugabe till his ancestors called him back. But the move to stage an ascension for Grace set off the angst of the army with the support of the people. Only dictators attempt to replace themselves with their families, which is another feature common in some other African countries.

Epic poster. Can somebody frame this for present and future African despots, please?

Like in Togo, where there have been demonstrations calling for the deposal of Faure Gnassingbe, the country’s president since 2005. Mr Gnassingbe took over from his father, Eyadema, who had been in charge since 1967, meaning this one family has been running the country for 50 years. Many Togolese are tired of this arrangement and wish to see their country change but their street demonstrations so far have not upended much in Lome, yet. In another part of the continent, the young Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo who took over from his father in 2001 annoyed many when he did not step down when his term was due to expire in December 2016, shifting the date to 2018.

In some other parts of Africa, there have not been movements like there currently is in Togo but long-suffering citizens in Cameroon want to see a change from Paul Biya who has been in power since 1982 without any significant progress in the country. More recently under Biya, the displacement of the English-speaking part of the country has become more obvious, even affecting Nigeria. The political and economic situation is not so different in Uganda where Yoweri Museveni has been in charge since 1986. Mr Museveni’s strong arm has not allowed for a review of the constitution to make it possible to unseat him in the country after scrapping term limits in 2005.

Togo Protests

While the case in Rwanda appears to be a bit different because of the globally acclaimed gains the country has made since its genocidal days in 1994, Paul Kagame’s dictatorship is not exactly welcome by all persons; definitely not the political opponents and dissenters who watch groups report are being suppressed in Kigali or pressured into fleeing the country. He has toiled with the constitution there; will the camel’s back break there someday too?

By Mugabe’s expected impeachment in December, 2017 would have seen the fall of three African long-serving presidents – the other two being Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos (since 1979) and Yahya Jammeh (since 1994). That does feel like reclaiming 98 years which could have gone differently for Africa. Yet, more stand to be reclaimed in the coming years; Teodoro Obiang, President of Equatorial Guinea – who apparently ‘eats his enemies testicles and brains’ and has a corrupt playboy son being prepped to take over – enters his 39th year as dictator.

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