There are many who blame the African cult of chieftaincy and personality for the rigid, age-old tendency of African leaders to be dictatorial and to hold on indefinitely to power.
Many ordinary Africans, too, not just the leaders, Africans selfishly benefitting from the personality cult of their leaders, defend this outdated, inimical (hostile, unfavorable) syndrome and hypocritically contend that “Africa is not yet ready for democracy.”
Why? Because they are “enjoying” the dictatorship, not realizing that change is inevitable and that when it is indefinitely delayed or postponed, things could suddenly end with tragic and destabilizing consequences beyond imagination.
See what happened to Tunisia and other African and Middle Eastern nations caught up in the Arab Spring! See, alas! What has happened and continues to happen to Syria and the hapless, tragedy-stricken Syrian masses, including many in its middle and even upper middle class citizenry, who have suddenly and rudely found themselves thrown into desperation and destitution in hopeless and degrading refugee camps in countries they do not even know!
See what happened to Liberia, known for over a century as the citadel of peace and stability in Africa.
Remember Dr. Amos Sawyer’s Independence Day Oration in 1982, when he called for an end to “the cult of personality.” Dr. Sawyer, a Liberian historian, was reflecting on the Tubman and Tolbert regimes, but especially Tubman’s, whose personality cult dominated Liberian politics and Liberia for nearly three decades. Tolbert was on his way to the exact same thing—his associates, for their own selfish interests, would have made sure of that. But Samuel Doe and all of his associates, military and civilian alike, would hear none of that—Sawyer’s call for an end to the personality cult. So they, especially his
(Doe’s) ethnic clique, turned him into a hardened and ruthless despot. And where did all that lead them—and us? We all know the history.
Has President Joseph Kabila (of D. R. Congo) not learned from recent history? Why, we wonder, is he so blind, so dumb, so bereft of hearing, when God has given him good eyes, good ears and a sound mind? Why is he insisting on clinging on to power, when he knows his time is up? Does he not realize his own country’s recent history—what happened to dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko? What happened to all the wealth he stole from his mineral-rich country, leaving millions of his people in abject poverty? He was overthrown and died on September 7, 1997 in Rabat, Morocco.
Does President Kabila not remember what happened to his own father – Mobutu’s successor – who, due to no fault of his—for he was ill-prepared for leadership—performed so incompetently that his people summarily and unceremoniously removed him from power?
As the Prophet Jeremiah once wrote, “The heart is desperately wicked; who can know it?” We ask today, reflecting on recent and distant past experiences, who can know the mind of the Zairian masses when they get fed up with misrule?
See what happened to Liberia after over a century of True Whig Party domination: It all came to an abrupt end on the fateful morning of April 12, 1980, with most tragic and destabilizing consequences that were to take us to the brink of extinction as a nation state!
See what happened to the absolute monarch King John of England on June 15, 1215. Confronted by 40 rebellious barons (tycoons, bosses), who demanded that he relinquish some of his powers or risk civil war, King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta (the Great Charter). Probably the most celebrated political document in history, the Magna Carta paved the way for parliamentary democracy, not only in England but the United States, Europe and throughout the world.
President Kabila must not risk repeating the irrational and reckless mistakes of his counterpart in East Africa, Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. Unlike Nkurunziza, Kabila must realize that in this life, there is one thing ONLY that is certain: CHANGE. That is why it is always preferable to practice JUSTICE. You might not believe in God, but that does not detract one inch from eternal truth of the Bible as the Word of God. As the Prophet Amos challenges us, “Let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Anyone of us, surely any leader, who fails to obey or live by this prophecy, just as we have seen throughout history, has got to watch out. For no one knows when things will suddenly change. Oh Change—the inevitable and totally unpredictable phenomenon!