Another African despot clings to power

THAT disease, which afflicts most of Africa’s leaders, is once again on display in the resource-rich West African country of Ivory Coast.

President Laurent Gbagbo is refusing to go away after he lost to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara in last week’s run-off elections.

The election commission chief, Youssouf Bakayoko, announced last Thursday that Ouattara had won the poll by 54.1 percent of the vote against Gbagbo’s 45.9 percent.

But the announcement only seemed to incense Gbagbo’s supporters in the constitutional council who said the declaration was null and void.

The dispute descended into a farce last weekend when both Gbagbo and Ouattara swore themselves in as president.

The two have since appointed their own prime ministers amid frantic efforts by former South African president Thabo Mbeki to mediate a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

I hope Mbeki will not proffer another government of national unity “solution” in Ivory Coast where the winner is forced to share power with the loser.

We all remember Mbeki’s efforts in setting up another government of national unity in Zimbabwe.

That experiment has proved unsatisfactory.

The crisis in Ivory Coast vividly captures what is so wrong with Africa’s politicians.

We have politically illiterate leaders who seem not to “read” the writing on the wall even when it is so clear that they no longer command the will of the majority of their people.

Gbagbo is one of these.

But he seems determined to thumb his nose at the international community.

He is in essence telling the whole international community to “go hang”.

From the defiant statements emanating from his office the man seems determined to once more sacrifice Ivorian youths on the altar of war and political expediency.

Gbagbo is being backed in this stand-off by the military who seem to think they have a duty to prop up a clearly unpopular leader.

At present Gbagbo seems to have a firm grip on that key lever of power.

He is also in control of the state media.

But Gbagbo would be advised not to wreak his legacy by plunging his country into yet another civil war.

Such a war could have devastating consequences for the West African country.

It could also reverse the massive economic gains achieved in the country over the past decade.But I am not surprised by the outcome in Ivory Coast.

Over the past 10 or so years, African governments have staged several sham elections on the continent.

Others, such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, continue to go through the electoral motions with no real intention to give up power even when they have lost.

Gbagbo has sadly joined this notorious clique.

He also has an ally in President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Mubarak is also refusing to go away peacefully.

In true pharaonic tradition Mubarak is said to be grooming his own son to take over if and when he steps down as leader of the north African country.

Only God knows when.

His ruling party this week stands accused of conducting yet another electoral charade in polls that have been described as clearly fraudulent.

The opposition Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s biggest opposition force, says the election was deeply flawed.

What this essentially points to is the need for Africa to have a new crop of leaders who are truly democratic in their genetic make-up.

Until Africa has such crop of leaders it will continue to suffer the ignominy of having political clowns like Gbagbo who want to be dragged, screaming, out of power.

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