Africa’s Leaders Are Addicted to Power

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In 2016, Yahya Jammeh lost the elections in the Gambia, bringing an end to two decades of Jammeh’s rule in the Gambia. Jammeh refused to leave power peacefully, however. After an intervention from ECOWAS, Adama Barrow was installed as the new president of the Gambia. Barrow promised to step down after three years.

Barrow has now decided to renege on his promise and wants to finish his five-year term. When the Gambian people decided to protest the fact that their president decided to break his promise, the government responded to the protests by sending the police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the protesters. Some protesters have even been charged with treason for demanding that the president fulfill his promise. Keep in mind that President Museveni of Uganda promised to step down in 2006. It’s 2020 and he is still president, so we have seen examples in the past of African leaders who promised to give up power only to end up clinging to power.

What we are witnessing in the Gambia is just the latest example of the fact that Africa’s leader seem to have an addiction to power. Once they get a taste of power, African leaders tend not to want to give it up willingly. This is what is happening right now in Guinea, where the people are fighting against a president who is looking to extend his presidency to a third term. It took many years of struggle in Togo to finally reinstate presidential term limits, but the new term limits are not retroactive, so Togo’s current president can still serve two more terms, after having already served three.

These African leaders have implement policies that help to further their entrench their power. For example, n 2017, a rapper in Tanzania was arrested for daring to criticize the president. Tanzania also introduced tighter internet regulations which allow the government to have greater control over digital media. In Burundi, schoolgirls were charged with insulting the president for scribbling on the president’s face. And in South Sudan singing the national anthem in the president’s absence is illegal. These are the measures that African leaders sometimes go to suppress their own citizens and to assert their dominance and power.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

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