ANGOLAN President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Africa’s second longest-serving leader after Equatorial Guinea’s dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema, will not seek re-election in August after decades in power. He will call an end to 38 years as head of state, but he will retain control of the entrenched ruling party.
Zimbabwe Independent Comment
Although this is no doubt a step forward, the real story though may well be that Dos Santos is still hanging on, as he is going to stay in a very powerful position in the party, pulling the strings behind the scenes. The ruling MPLA has chosen 62-year-old Defence minister Joao Lourenco as its presidential candidate.
Three years ago, Frelimo in neighbouring Mozambique chose Filipe Nyussi to become president, replacing Armando Guebuza. It was a smooth succession. Since the death of Samora Machel in 1986 after his presidential aircraft crashed in the mountainous region on his country’s border with South Africa, Mozambique has now had three other presidents, Joaquim Chissano, Guebuza and Nyussi.
Zimbabwe has only remained with one leader — Robert Mugabe — throughout that same period. Africa’s top three longest-serving leaders include Nguema, Dos Santos and Mugabe.
While other leaders like Paul Biya in Cameroon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso (Congo Brazaville), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), King Mswati III (Swaziland), Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) and Idriss Deby (Chad), as well as Paul Kagame in Rwanda and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi (third termists) cling onto power, there is hope that change will eventually come after Gambia’s leader Yahya Jammeh was ultimately forced out as he tried to resist electoral defeat.
Botswana and Namibia have shown the way. Zambia and Malawi are now trying. Long-serving authoritarian leaders have in recent years also fallen or died in Malawi, Zaire (now DRC), Kenya, Togo, Gabon and Libya, among other countries.
Succession problems are the bane of African politics. From Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Egypt and Zimbabwe, to South Africa, among other African countries, succession problems have plagued the political landscape.
In 2012, four African leaders died — Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea-Bissau, John Atta Mills of Ghana, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi and prime minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, testing the continent’s political and democratic maturity.
Even though Ethiopia, Ghana and Malawi relatively sorted out their succession issues smoothly, there have been ugly transitions elsewhere. For instance, when in December 2008 Guinean president Lansana Conté, one of Africa’s longest-running authoritarian rulers died, the army staged a coup, suspending the constitution and plunging the West African nation into political turmoil. In Nigerian, when president Umaru Yar’Adua died in 2010, there were internal problems over who should take over.
Besides, there is also a dynastic phenomenon of family rulers and successors in some African countries, for example in Togo, Gabon and DRC. Zimbabwe looks like a disaster waiting to happen in that regard. To prevent this, in the interest of himself, his family and the nation, Mugabe must now call it a day.