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The Sad Emergence of Dictators and Authoritarians On The African Continent

Across the political landscape on the African continent, from Cairo in the North to Kigali in the South, dictators and authoritarians are holding sway through the employment of a variety of dubious methods and means to cling to power.

They are manipulating national constitutions, intimidating, jailing and murdering political opponents, muzzling the press and terrorizing civilians.

Indeed, across Africa, we are witnessing the gradual and systemic rise of imperial presidencies, runaway authoritarianism and unhinged demagoguery and most worrisome, the slow death of democracy and the steady erosion of the gains we have made over the course of almost three decades.

If you ask these so-called strong men to explain away their propensity to violate fundamental norms, rules and ethics, the response is always vapid, half-hearted and grossly dishonest. “We are trying to preserve national unity; dissension is unpatriotic, it retards progress.”

Their behavior flies in the face of a political dynamic that was unleashed years ago and has become an increasing reality across the continent; the diminution of military political power.

Africans have managed against all odds to do away with military rule. We have successfully confined our soldiers to the barracks and implored them to stay put and allow civilians to run the show.

To a large extent our soldiers listened. Military takeovers of civilian administrations are now, thankfully, are a thing of the past, a relic of history. Coup d’etats are simply no longer in vogue or fashionable like they were in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The fact of the matter is that African armies who dare use their military might to push aside democratically elected civilian governments run the risk of facing the wrath of their own citizens and crucially sidelining and ostracizing by the international community. They become instant pariahs nobody wants to deal with.

But the civilians we have entrusted through elections with the management of our affairs have only grown big in their shoes with the passing years; they have become arrogant, self-conceited, impervious and unrepentant violators of fundamental human rights.

They are using the concept of democracy to do as they please, to sweep aside political enemies and to amass wealth and power.  Little wonder therefore that the African continent is crawling with dictators, men ruling with an iron fist with everyone is scared to death to confront them.

If you were to draw up a list of dictators and authoritarians on our continent, it will undoubtedly contain the names of these men; Mr. Alpha Conde of Guinea; Mr. Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Mr. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Mr. Paul Biya of Cameroon, Mr. Musevini of Uganda and Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and across the border in my parents native country of Togo, Mr. Faure Yassinagbe.

They are indeed giving Africa a bad eye and by their very actions, are thwarting our gallant efforts to democratize the continent through free and fair elections, freedom of speech, free assembly, a free and fair judiciary and the free flow of information.

Ghana’s political system has its inherent problems, but juxtaposed against systems in other African countries, we are light years ahead. That is something we should wear proudly on our sleeves.

Despite the shenanigans of the dictators next door, all hope is not lost yet. Democracy on the continent will continue to grow by heaps and bounds. As the bad guys leave the scene as they invariably will, their places will be taken by young African men and women wholly committed to democratic principles and driven by the sheer determination to make the continent ground zero for good governance.

Let me end this long editorial with a quote from the great Martin Luther King Jnr. He said: “There comes a time in a person’s life when a person gets tired of being trampled on by the iron fist of oppression.”