Archive for August 29, 2012
By Ruth Alexander BBC
It’s rare for the leader of a country to die in office. Since 2008, it’s happened 13 times worldwide – but 10 of those leaders have been African. Why is it so much more common in this one continent?
Large crowds carrying candles ran alongside the hearse carrying the body of Meles Zenawi, as it made its way through Addis Ababa, on Tuesday. He had died, aged 57, after a long illness.
Earlier in the month, tens of thousands of Ghanaians attended the funeral of their late President, John Atta Mills, who had died suddenly at the age of 68.
Four months earlier, a national holiday was declared in Malawi to allow as many people as possible to attend the funeral of the late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, who had died of a cardiac arrest, aged 78.
And in January, the president of Guinea Bissau, Malam Bacai Sanha, died in a military hospital in Paris after a long illness. He was 64.
So, four African leaders have died in office this year alone. Disruptive for the countries concerned, tragic for the leaders’ families. But spare a thought also for the reporters.
“I seem to be getting an awful lot of calls in the night telling me an African president has died,” says Simon Allison, a correspondent for South Africa’s Daily Maverick website. “Why do African presidents keep dying?”
The question led him to take a close look at their survival rate.
“Go back just a little bit further and the list of dead sitting African presidents gets alarmingly longer,” he says. Indeed, since 2008, 10 African leaders have died in office.
|Ethiopia PM, Meles Zenawi||57||“Sudden infection”, August 2012||Ghana president, John Atta Mills||68||Throat cancer, July 2012|
|Malawi president, Bingu wa Mutharika||78||Cardiac arrest, April 2012||Guinea Bissau president, M B Sanha||64||Long illness, January 2012|
|Libya leader, Muammar Gaddafi||69||Killed, October 2011||Nigeria president, Umaru Yar’Adua||58||Kidney, heart problems, May 2010|
|Gabon president, Omar Bongo||73||Heart attack, June 2009||Guinea Bissau president, J B Vieira||69||Killed, March 2009|
|Guinea president, Lansana Conte||74||Unspecified cause, December, 2008||Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa||59||Stroke, August 2008|
It’s certainly true that leaders are dying in office in higher numbers in Africa than on any other continent. In the same period, only three other national leaders have died in office – Kim Jong Il of North Korea, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash, and David Thomson of Barbados, who had cancer.
The obvious answer is that African leaders are just older than those of other continents, an explanation Simon Allison favours. He believes Africans like their leaders to be older – respect for elders is embedded in the culture of many of the continent’s countries.
New York, August 28, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s decision by the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice to release the editor of a leading independent weekly from jail and drop all criminal charges against him. CPJ also calls for the release of eight other journalists now imprisoned in Ethiopia for their work.
Temesghen Desalegn, editor of Feteh, was released from Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, the capital, at around 3 p.m. today, according to Feteh Deputy Editor Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu. The journalist was jailed on Friday in connection with his articles that appeared in seven editions of Feteh and criticized the policies of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to local journalists.
Charges against Mastewal Publishing and Advertising PLC, the company that publishes Feteh, were also dropped, according to news reports. The company had been charged with inciting the public to violence by publishing Feteh, according to a charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. Temesghen faced criminal charges including defaming the state and inciting people to overthrow the government, the sheet said.
Desalegn Teressa, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, told Bloomberg News, “After further investigation, the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges.” But the government did not give an explanation as to why the charges against Temesghen and Mastewal Publishing had been dropped.
Feteh has not been published since July 20, when the government ordered Barhanena Selam, the state-run printing company, not to print the paper. The ministry blockedthe distribution of a Feteh edition with a front-page story about the conflicting reports surrounding the illness of Meles, according to news reports. It was not immediately clear whether Fetehwould be able to resume publishing.
“We’re relieved Temesghen Desalegn has been freed and will not face criminal prosecution for his journalism,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “We call on Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression by releasing the eight other journalists currently imprisoned for their work and by ending the government’s practice of prosecuting journalists who voice dissenting views.”
Among the eight journalists in prison is independent blogger Eskinder Nega, who has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of participating in a terrorist organization and inciting anti-government protests, according to CPJ research.