Any death, in Africa, is a cause for great sorrow and pain. Even criminals, deliquents, prostitues and murderers receive respectable comments when being "sent off". It is our culture, we never speak ill of the dead. However, this week we had a sharp critique of this culture which was caused by the death of Africas longest serving president, Omar Bongo of Gabon. Having assumed power in 1967, there is a whole generation of the population of 1,4 million plus Gabonese which has never known any other leader.
As a young official under President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, he rapidly rose to prominence and was given key responsibilities and in 1966, he became Vice-President. He succeeded M'ba as President upon the latter's death in 1967. Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when multi-party politics was introduced. He was re-elected in multiparty presidential elections held in 1993, 1998, and 2005. Although he faced intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s, he was eventually successful in consolidating power again; most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s came to support him and were given high-ranking posts in the government (This is begining to sound like an African curse-Does Kenya, Zimbabwe ring a bell?).
During Bongo's long rule, ethnic tensions were subdued and Gabon was generally stable and peaceful. The country benefited from its oil wealth, although most of the population remained impoverished and Bongo and his associates were routinely accused of serious corruption. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-serving ruler, excluding monarchies.
So what is wrong with all this? I will not be shaken in my assertion that when it comes to democracy and politics, there is no meaningful contribution that anybody can give after 10 years at the helm. What new ideas will one come up with after having been so used to the system. The same goes in some circumstances to some CEOs and even some very regular jobs. You are no longer of any meaningful value for any change if you stay at a place for more than 10 years.
Now we are told that the late Bongos son who is the Minister of Defence has sealed off the whole country, deployed soldiers, cut off internet access and ordered state radio to play sorrowful music to mourn the president.
Honestly, who do these Bongos think they are?
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