Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Libya’s 4th term message; misery loves company

Daily Monitor, Uganda

Nicholas Sengoba

Libyan Ambassador to Uganda Abdallah Bujeldain has, as part of his diplomatic duty, embarked on a project to appeal to Ugandans to elect President Museveni to yet another term because he has done excellent work besides, being a revolutionary.

The diplomat is echoing what his President, Col. Muammar Gaddafi posited when he visited Kampala in March this year. Gaddafi asked why a leader should relinquish power when he is doing good things for his people.

“A leader should only leave power by the will of the people. For example, Museveni came to power through revolutionary means, not the vote. How can he simply go?” Went on Gaddafi; “African leadership is paralysed. If we depend on constitutions, we are losing track!”

The other prominent member in Gaddafi’s club of revolutionary leaders on the continent besides Uganda’s Museveni, is Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe who is currently presiding over a failed and incessantly failing state. These two are regarded by the Libyan maverick as the most visionary on the continent.

In what is being encouraged as African democracy, the popularity of a leader, well past his shelf life, is just to be assumed and never put to effective electoral test. For the few that attempt, (Ugandan style) delivering a shambles is progressively becoming an acceptable formality a big joke at the expense of the taxpayer.

(Twice in 2001 and 2006 the majority of the Supreme Court judges ruled that the rigging in the elections was not of great consequence to the outcome!).

When a leader like Gaddafi who has been in power for about 40 years without credible opposition, displays a morbid paranoia for elections, it betrays an even greater fear situated deep down in the conscience. Gaddafi, like his peers, appreciates the consequences of the efforts an illegitimate leader puts in to remain at the top for long.

Most importantly blood of his opponent and innocent people is spilled along the way. This buys him enemies from their relatives and friends. So do the jailed opponents and the victims of torture in ‘safe houses’ (illegal State torture chambers) and all those who flee the country into exile for the safety of their lives.

Similarly, the ones who watch a loved one die due to lack of adequate medical facilities yet a leading party official and minister who fought alongside the revolutionary, has, as a norm stolen the money intended for the sick like it allegedly happened to the Global and GAVI funds money.

The more dictators’ rule, the more they lose respect because of the contradictions that arise as they seek to recreate themselves many times over.

Museveni who once ascribed Africa’s problems to leaders who overstay in power and wrote in NRM’s 2001 manifesto that he was standing for his last term turned around and stayed on, on the strength of a dubious claim that Africa’s problems are not time bound, so leaders should not be bound by time!

Dictators become weaker with time as they stand in the way of those within and without their parties who nurse hopes of national leadership become frustrated and work towards undermining them and their authority.

Consequently the need for dictators to employ a more vicious approach to maintain a grip on power becomes a necessary evil. That is why in Uganda’s case the number of security organisations is on the rise; the latest additions being the stick wielding Kiboko Squad and the High Court raiding Black Mamba.

As their popularity wanes, dictators start building bases of sycophants, rented crowds and groups whose patronage is available as long as it is highly paid for.

This sort of support, though good for the public eye, in the dictators quiet moments it is perceived as unreliable and a potential source of betrayal in the long run.

They are the sort of people who for a scholarship, job, free car, house, piece of land and selectively free medical care abroad, are motivated into cheering illegitimate regimes but may stand by the roadside like others have done before, to cheer on the executioner when the so-called revolutionaries are led to the guillotine.

This is what motivates the Gaddafis of this world to throw pretence through the window and urge regimes to stay on, as their only resort to ensure safety from those they have hurt on their way up by taking shelter under the immunity and privileges that come with the presidency.

It is worth noting that Gaddafi is preaching to the converted a good number of whom started practising the gospel when they lifted term limits by bribing MPs to amend the constitution as was the case in 2005 in Uganda.

By creating a critical mass of long ruling dictators, the Libyan autocrat will feel secure that in his state of misery and anguish he is not alone but a member of a well populated fraternity of similarly miserable leaders. This makes Gaddafi’s crusade a selfish one as well.

If blunt dictators and illegitimate rulers become a ubiquitous feature on the African continent as Libya is crusading, it will perpetually be perceived as a normal and acceptable component of Africa’s political process and therefore devoid of significant concern as a governance issue.

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