Copy of my column published in the Times Of Swaziland on the 30th of March 2016:
Addictions are all around us. We seem them in all shapes, forms and chocolate; turning an otherwise sensible human being into a desperado who is ‘outchea’ trying to satisfy his crave. In Africa, the addiction of Presidency is rampant and it seems to show no signs of ending anytime soon. In news from all corners of this continent, we read about a president who is trying to navigate around the rules to remain in power. Sadly, most who try usually get their way. Now, I am not saying that this is a purely African addiction. The cases of South American dictators, Middle Eastern tyrants, Asian authoritarians and Kim Jong-Un have been well documented. I guess this addiction traumatizes me more since Africa is home and most of these unconstitutional maneuvers take place at the expense of human lives.
Not only is the addiction to presidential power dangerous, it is also incredibly resilient. Just to illustrate the stubborn nature of this addiction, some African presidents have been at it since the 80s. The 80s dude! Back when MJ was black and there were like 3 or 4 computers in the entire world. In the quest for this specialized crave, these men refuse to let things like protests, twitter hashtags, common sense, international scrutiny and constitutions get in their way. For the past 13 years or so, I have been puzzled by this addiction; how it manifests and why but if truth be told, I am no closer to any answers than I was in 2003. From what I have seen, these addicts are difficult to control or predict since they stay scheming and continue to annoyingly adapt well with the times. When you have been in power for decades you become a master at deception, intimidation and charisma. Some of these men are highly educated and actively utilize psychological tactics that would make Sigmund Freud shed a proud tear.
African presidents will equip themselves with larger than life personas and become mythical figures. They will make basic service provision to the population seem like a favor and won’t hesitate to use a country’s painful history in rousing emotion. Everything is calculated.
Unfortunately most African countries have had traumatic pasts and perhaps even more unfortunate, the same men that led them out of the dark are still satisfying their presidential craves. Ironically, some of these man have been credited with innovative policies and stimulating economic growth in their respective lands.
As much as I am pro-African innovation and growth, my main question is always, ‘What about the people and rules?’ It is not a coincidence that presidential term limits are written in Constitutions. It is quite obvious that when a person spends too much time in that hot seat they increasingly become shrewd and unpredictable. Nowadays the men in these seats use economic, social or health related achievements to justify their bid for illegal terms in office. They fail to see that it is not about being the right person to continue leading, it’s about being the right person to have faith in the rules. It’s about having faith in the people’s voice, not a voice that has been manufactured through propaganda and violence. For all our sake, I hope we will find a way to help our leaders deal with Presidential craves. We need to act quickly, before scientists cure aging and we have to deal with a man leading a country for thousands of years.
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