After serving the country for several years as head of state, ex-presidents in Africa are faced with a plethora of opportunities. While some of them would prefer to completely vacate the political space, others would linger around trying to bring in meaningful contributions when necessary. Some of the glaring examples of those who completely washed hands off politics are; Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania who took up farming after handing over power to the current president, John Pombe Magufuli, his farming pursuits were copied by the ex-Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh who after fleeing to Equatorial Guinea on exile was spotted weeding and observing his farm.
Apart from those who turned their back away from the political scene, some stayed on and still had their impacts felt. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki was made Chairperson of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan after he agreed to step down as president of the country, he equally heads the AU-UN High-Level Delegation on Illicit Financial Outflows from Africa and is currently the Chancellor of the University of South Africa. Similarly, though out of office, José Eduardo dos Santos Angola’s former president continues to be the president of the MPLA party until at least 2021 which gives him powers to choose parliamentary candidates.
The case of Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo is no different as he still divides opinion and enjoy significant influence within the politics of the country 10 year after stepping down as president.
In April 2018, some former heads of state from Cape Verde, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania held a workshop to discuss on how to transform Africa in the 21st century, which could be considered a milestone in the development of the continent.
Can former Africa leaders positively contribute to growth?
It is indisputable that former leaders have wealth of experience in running the affairs of their various countries which could be beneficial for the nation if incoming leaders properly tap into it.
Jerry Rawlings today still remains instrumental in matters concerning Ghana’s social justice, politics and socio-economic development as well as that of the continent. In October 2010, he was appointed by the African Union as the AU High Representative to Somalia to mobilize the international community to take actions and contribute to peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia.
However, the role most of these leaders play remain very minimal as a result of the fact that most of them are forced to leave power hence they end up being in loggerheads with those who succeed them. This is also worsened by the fact that these leaders have poor leadership records and are most often despised by their very own citizens. This can be buttressed by the current ongoing crisis in Sudan calling on the president Omar Al Bashir to step down from office. Furthermore the departure of DRC’s president Joseph Kabila was greeted with jubilation from the people who had consistently called for him to step down.
Majority of African presidents are forced out of office and a military coup has been the most frequently employed means. A recent case occurred in 2017 in Zimbabwe where former president Robert Mugabe agreed to step down in what was later described as a military coup. Early 2019, there was also a failed coup attempt in Gabon which was aimed at ending the reign of the long serving leader Ali Bongo.
None the less, Africa is now beginning to count presidents who left office constitutionally and voluntarily especially with the recent democratic and peaceful transition of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Those presidents who voluntarily bow out of power are most often those who stand a high chance of contributing to the affairs of the nation, on the contrary, those who were forcefully kicked out are not allowed anywhere near the government.
Furthermore, the involvement of former heads of state in politics –and state affairs has been viewed with concern by their successors who will generally prefer them to stay aloof.
However, whether they were forcefully kicked out or handed over power democratically, popular opinion posits that these leaders still have a major role to play to help develop the country.
Article from AFRIC editorial.