By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw
It is unfortunate that almost all African countries do not have democratic leaders. Almost all leaders of the continent are either dictatorial or authoritative. It is hard for me to see consultative and participative leaders in this poor continent of ours. My argument is that if there were democratic leaders, citizens would lead much better lives.
I categorized our (African) dictatorial leaders in to two. Those who promote soft dictatorship and others who stick to harsh dictatorship. This is not a research-based conclusion. But I feel things are like that. Meaning, their dictatorship differs on its degree. The soft ones are serious on protecting the territorial integrity and unity of their countries. They do not practise favouritism among citizens. The other dictators who are labelled ‘harsh’ promote divisive politics… ethnic division… they highly show partiality against ethnic groups which do not belong to them. They don’t regard all people as equal citizens of the country. The important terms like equity, fairness and equality are not available in their dictionaries. They go to the extent of relinquishing territorial domain of their country to the neighbouring countries. They don’t give a damn to the wellbeing of their citizens residing in other countries… This type does not care whether the territorial integrity and unity of the country are protected or not. They are very braggart and big liars. So long as they get benefit, they will not put boundary to their harshness. They frequently execute their citizens including children, females and elderly people. They are in general with myopic attitude… Let’s take a brief look at few dictators of the continent including the controversial Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe was a leader of Zimbabwe. He is a kind of soft dictator as per my judgement. This is to indicate that he is not like the harsh dictators who are known to accomplish many detrimental activities against the sovereignty and wellbeing of their respective nations. Most Zimbabweans believe that Mugabe has dedicated himself to liberate them from British colonial and white minority rules. Many testify to the fact that earlier Mugabe worked hard to expand healthcare and education in his country. He has also been praised for the decisive measure he took to redistribute farmlands controlled by the minority white population to landless black population of Zimbabwe. During independence 39% of the land was owned by around 6,000 white large-scale commercial farmers. Some 4% was under the ownership of black small-scale commercial farmers. Sources indicate that 41% of the land was said to be commercial in which four million people lived in overcrowded conditions. This reality seemed to oblige Mugabe to take drastic action of redistributing the land to black people. Mugabe has also been regarded as a hero in many third world countries where he received a warm reception when travelling throughout Africa. “For many in Southern Africa, he remained one of the ‘grand old men’ of the African liberation movement”
Some, including the former Rhodesian (Zimbabwe) leader Ian Smith, say that Mugabe is a serious leader, diligent, hard-working, a voracious reader who used every minute of his time and not much given to laughter. Former British premier, Tony Blair, also bore witness to Mugabe’s remarkable “self-discipline, intelligence and appetite for hard work”. To Blair both Mugabe and Smith are “proud, brave, stubborn, charismatic…”.
Though Mugabe is regarded as an evil by white minority population in Zimbabwe and the western world, he showed sympathy to his enemies, the colonialists. Once he appointed two white ministers to his government. The other day he pleaded with the white minority not to flee. “Stay with us, please remain in this country and constitute a nation based on national unity.” He also taught black Zimbabweans that the wrongs of the past must be forgiven and forgotten. “…It could never be a correct justification that just because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power…” This should be taken as a good lesson by African leaders who are promoting ethnic politics in their respective countries.
Mugabe has been known for his strong denunciation against internal intervention from western countries. Once while attending an ‘Earth Summit’, he bitterly said the following: “We have fought for our land, we have fought for our sovereignty, small as we are, we have won our independence and we are prepared to shed our blood … So, Blair keep your England, and let me keep my Zimbabwe.” Mugabe also slashed the current US president, Trump, making a witty remark against him. “May I say to the United States President, Mr. Trump, please blow your trumpet. Blow your trumpet in a musical way towards the values of unity, peace, cooperation, togetherness, dialogue, which we have always stood for.”
Many people enjoyed the funniest quotes produced by the former leader of Zimbabwe, Mugabe. “Cigarette is a pinch of tobacco rolled in a piece of paper with fire on one end and a fool on the other… Kenyans are good runners because corruption is always chasing them… If you are ugly, you are ugly. Stop talking about inner beauty; because men do not walk around with x-ray machines to see inner beauty… If you attended over 100 weddings in your life and are still single, you are not different from a canopy.”
Regarding the braggard and liar leaders of Africa, we can discuss the disparaging and pathetic works of two despotic leaders, Idi Amin Dada of Uganda and Jean Bedel Bokassa of Central African Republic. They have brought disgrace up on their nations and all black Africans. Both are known to murder thousands of their people. During their era, many innocent people were slaughtered, stabbed, smothered and chopped to death… They put the chopped remains of the victims in refrigerators and even were said to consume them. A book ‘Talk of the Devil’ names Bokassa “a cannibal”. “…French legionnaires dispatched from Paris to overthrow [Bokassa] in what was called ‘Operation Barracuda’ had been ordered to search the house… In the gigantic freezer adjacent to the kitchens they found dozens of human cadavers, most notably those belonging to the leaders of student organizations…”
Bokassa claimed that he was from royal family. “I am a son of a king,” he said. But the reality is that he was a son of a village chief not a king. “…former emperor boasted… about ranks, titles, hierarchies… ‘Of all African leaders I was the greatest. Why? Because I was the emperor. One step below me was the king of Morocco. A king and a great head of state. Then came all the others: simple presidents’…”
The other dictator, Idi Amin of Uganda, once a soldier with the rank of corporal in a Scottish regiment, has also made the continent a laughingstock. One day the finance minister of that country approached Idi Amin and told him that the government coffer was empty. “Idi Amin, a true African Caligula, exploded. ‘Why you ministers always come nagging to President Amin? You are stupid. If we have no money, the solution is very simple: you should print new money.’ The minister bowed, left the room and fled to London, thereby saving his skin”.
When Idi Amin was not on official visits, he loved writing telegrams. One day during the Watergate scandal, he wrote the following note to the then US president, Richard Nixon. “… ‘If your country does not understand you, come to Papa Amin who loves you. A kiss on both your cheeks.’ …”
In February 1975 Radio Kampala claimed that Buckingham Palace had received the following letter from Idi Amin: “My dear Queen, I intend to arrive in London for an official visit on August 4th this year, but I am writing now to give you time to make all the necessary preparations for my stay so that nothing important is omitted. I am particularly concerned about food, because I know that you are in the middle of a fearsome economic crisis. I would also like you to arrange for me to visit Scotland, Ireland and Wales to meet the heads of revolutionary movements fighting against your imperialist operation.”
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