Posts filed under ‘AU’
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.
Ethiopians give lacklustre welcome to Kwame Nkrumah statue: This is an insult for the founding fathers of OAU
The arrival of Ghanaian great Kwame Nkrumah in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa 40 years after his death has been met with notable local resistance.
Ethiopians are signing a petition demanding that a statue of the pan-Africanist leader which was recently unveiled outside the new African Union headquarters be joined by one of the late emperor Haile Selassie or removed.
As well as the signatures, a group of Ethiopian elders, opposition politicians and scholars have written to the AU Commission voicing their disappointment at its decision to “ignore” the deposed emperor.
The golden statue of Nkrumah was erected to commemorate his founding role in the Organisation of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor.
The late Ethiopian monarch’s supporters have argued that their man, who became internationally famous for his resistance against the Italians under Mussolini, was a longer-standing supporter of African liberation than Ghana’s founding president.
“It is Haile Selassie who is described by African leaders as the father of Africa not Nkrumah,” said Yacob Hailemariam, an opposition politician who has spoken out against the choice of the Ghanaian.
The campaign has, however, infuriated Ethiopia’s current leader Meles Zenawi who said it was “crass” to question Nkrumah’s choice as an African symbol and has repeatedly denounced Selassie, who died in 1975, as a “feudal dictator”.
“It is only Nkrumah who is remembered whenever we talk about pan Africanism,” Mr Meles told local media. “It is a shame not to accept his role.”
The AU confirmed that it had received a letter signed by prominent Ethiopians, many of them living abroad, but declined to comment. The protest letter says that Selassie who ruled Ethiopia for 40 years had “the legal, moral, historical and diplomatic legitimacy to have his statue erected next to Kwame Nkrumah.”
The inauguration of the new headquarters in Addis Ababa was meant to underline Ethiopia and Africa’s burgeoning friendship with China which funded the $200m construction. However, the summit served to remind the outside world of the AU’s reliance on foreign funding and on its propensity for squabbling as Cameroon’s Jean Ping and South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma fought each other to a draw over the leadership of the 54-nation club.
The revelation that the AU relies for two-thirds of its funding on Western donors and that many members had both failed to pay their dues or fulfil their aid promises made during last year’s Horn of Africa famine, dampened the occasion. The empty coffers reminded many observers that the main patron of pan-Africanism in recent years was the deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was killed last year.
The statue row has enabled Ethiopia’s downtrodden opposition to rally support and opposition blogs have started to refer to the AU’s new 100 metre tall marble home as the “sarcophagus of Africa”.
Under Prime Minister Meles, who backtracked on his promise to leave office and ran again at the last election, the country has become increasingly authoritarian, imprisoning opposition leaders, curtailing non-governmental organisations and harassing political opponents.
The two competing African champions might have found the whole row quite strange as they were close supporters of each other’s causes before the emperor was deposed by the Derg coup leaders in 1974.
No observer of present day Ethiopia can fail to be inspired by the high ideal, vigilance, dedication, and far-sightedness of Emperor Haile Selassie I; architect and builder of the nation.