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Home > Articles > African leaders with desperate hearts: A call for change. By: Iyanuoluwa Samuel Adaramola

African leaders with desperate hearts: A call for change. By: Iyanuoluwa Samuel Adaramola

It seems to have become a norm for a average African leader that attain any political office and always have the intention of staying in office for longer period even when it is against the constitution.


Numerous African leaders want to cling to power because of their exotic urge control of money, fame, riches, etc which they get when got to office. Their refusal to step down at the appropriate time made the struggle for democracy in the early 2000s as the African Union in 2001 adopted progressive governance tools like the African Peer Review Mechanism in the continent at large. The tool was made for African countries to review one another’s performance. Some African countries have recorded elections been disputed amid deadly violence, as was the case of Kenya, Zimbabwe, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Madagascar and many more which their leaders want to stay in office beyond their legal mandate.

Numerous African countries adopted and agreed to uphold the terms of the African Union charter on Democracy, election and governance as it came into force in 2012, such as having the mind of maintaining and pushing good governance, effective democracy, security; and hoping to eradicate ignorance, poverty, misrule and corruption in Africa.


There are numerous reasons why African leaders tend to be in office for longer period and which one of them is obsession. African leaders having the heart of ruling desperately are obsessed with gaining power, staying in power and refusal to step down in their political offices. Many African leaders struggle with transfer of power in their first term in office and making them want to stay in power for more even than their usual stipulated period. Term limits have recently become controversial and divisive. Some leaders have used dubious constitutional amendments to extend their stay in power.


In 2020, three sitting African heads of States have been in power for more than three decades each. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya in Cameroon, and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda are still in power up till date. Also is President Idriss Deby of Chad has been ruling since coming to power after the 1990 coup. A 2005 referendum removed a two-term limit from the constitution.

Their parliament approved a new constitution in 2018 re-imposing the two-term limit, but it will not be applied retroactively, meaning Deby could still serve two terms after the next election in 2021, potentially ruling until 2033.


Another reason to be considered is corruption at all level and specifically embezzlement. Corruption and embezzlement have been every time factors which have eaten deep into the affairs of any African leader. A political leader in office has seen the riches, money in his disposition and so any political leader is whelmed with acquiring, making them personal and so it makes it hard to step down of an office. Corruption and embezzlement in African countries have been hindering economic, political and social development of any African country.

It is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms. More than this, corruption and embezzlement affect the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.

And so, when a leader is overwhelmed with embezzlement, he will want to continually be in power for a long time. An example is President Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi President in power since 2005, announced in 2015 he would run for a third term in office in what his opponent saw as breach of the constitution which only allow leaders to rule for two terms. And since re-election, hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security force and half a million have fled abroad.


Another reason to be considered is greediness/selfishness. Greediness and selfishness have been among other factors African leaders would not want to step down of any political office. It is a fact that selfish people are incapable of loving other people, but they are not capable of loving themselves either. And now modern leadership have adopted the culture of seeking illegitimate personal gain from their role via forms of illegal activities that include bribery, theft and extortion. Any leader with this gain will not want to step down but want to continue in ruling for a long period of time and so called to be desperate to attain by any means. An example is Paul Biya, Cameroon president, 88 years of age and Sun-saharan African’s oldest leader, who took over the Presidency in 1982.

Their National Assembly adopted a constitution bill in April 2008, removing a two term presidential limit to allow him extend his rule beyond 2011. He has won two elections since then, though opposition candidates said they were fraudulent.

In conclusion, perceptive leaders know when to leave office, whether through resignation or retirement. As Botswana’s past and current Presidents have established this practice despite the fact that the country continues in one-party domination. Consistent changing and leaving of power gives hope to the people of that country. Ghana, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi and Tanzania are other African countries where regular transfer of power has occurred.

A political office as it should be is not a personal or individual property.
What then is the solution? Looking deeply in the above faults of the African leaders of obsession, greediness, selfishness, corruption, embezzlement and including nepotism should be avoided and call for change in their desperate act of of attaining or refusal of leaving power. African needs democracy from below to the highest.

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