The end game of African dictators By Alemayehu G Mariam

April 18th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire arrested! Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in intensive care! Moamar Gadhafi of Libya under siege! Omar al-Bashir of the Sudan, a fugitive from justice. Ben Ali of Tunisia out of Africa! Meles Zenawi, sleepless in Ethiopia.

These are heady days on the African continent. These are days of joy. Africa’s thugdoms are crumbling like clumps of dirt underfoot. These are days of grief and tribulation. After one-half century of independence, Africa continues to sink deeper into a quagmire of dictatorship, corruption and extreme violence.

It was a crying shame to see the video footages of Laurent Gbagbo, the leader of one of Africa’s economic powerhouses, being collared, manhandled and dragged away with his wife like a common criminal thug. The last such shocking video came out of Africa in 1990 showing the gruesome torture and execution of Samuel Doe, the president of Liberia. (Doe had himself staged a televised torture and execution of his predecessor William Tolbert.)

Gbagbo’s arrest footage played straight into the stereotypical cartoonish image of the defiantly erratic African dictator often crudely portrayed in the media. Gbagbo looked pathetic as his captors surrounded him and barked out orders. He looked so helpless, defenseless, friendless and hopeless. His forlorn eyes told the whole story. The man who had thumbed his nose at the world for the past 5 months while his country burned was visibly hyperventilating and drenched in sweat. He could hardly put on his shirt. It was a totally humiliating experience for Gbagbo. It was devastating, depressing and dispiriting to any African who values self-dignity.

Gbagbo was not a run-of-the-mill African dictator. He did not bulldoze or shoot his way to power. For decades, he used the democratic process to struggle for change in his country. Unlike other African dictators who graduated with high honors from the university of intrigue, corruption, human rights violation, double-dealing, deception and skullduggery, Gbagbo graduated with a doctorate from the University of Paris at the Sorbonne, one of the greatest higher learning institutions in Europe. He was a learned and energetic professor and researcher at the University of Abidjan who used his knowledge to become the leading voice of resistance and dissent against dictatorship in his country. He was a union activist who organized teachers’ strikes and ardently worked to establish multiparty democracy. He was a lawmaker in the Ivorian National Assembly. He founded the Ivorian Popular Front, a center-left socialist party. He was a bold dissident who suffered imprisonment on various occasions for his political views and activities. He spent the 1980s in exile in France.

By all measures, Gbagbo was among the best and brightest of Africa’s democratically-leaning leaders. But as he completed his first term of office, he was afflicted by “cling-to-power-at-any-cost syndrome”, a political disease more commonly known as “I want to be president-for-life (PFL)” syndrome. Every African civilian or military leader since Kwame Nkrumah in the early 1960s has suffered from PFL. Gbagbo sacrificed the lives of thousands of his compatriots so that he could become president-for-life.

In the end, none of it mattered. Gbagbo proved to be no different or better than any of the other benighted and villainous African dictators who cling to power by killing, jailing, torturing and stealing from their citizens. He may now end up serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity.

The Ivorian president-turned-power-fiend could have had a dignified exit from power. He could have left office with the respect and appreciation of his people, and honored by the international community as an elder African statesman. He could have found different ways of remaining active in Ivorian politics. Many wanted to facilitate a dignified exit for him. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said, “I gave him [Gbagbo] an offer which had been given by the United States that he had an option to come into exile in the United States and that he would be allowed to be a lecturer at the University of Boston.” He could have cut a deal for a”golden exile” right after the November elections and lived out his life without fear of prosecution. He had been offered asylum in Angola, South Africa, Malawi, Nigeria and the U.S., but he turned down all of them. Like many of his predecessors, Gbagbo chose the path of self-humiliation and ignominy.

Gbagbo’s End Game

Gbagbo’s end game is to face justice for his crimes in an Ivorian court, a special court for Cote d’Ivoire or before the International Criminal Court (ICC). There is substantial evidence to show that as a direct result of Gbagbo’s refusal to concede the presidential election in November 2010, thousands of people lost their lives in officially sanctioned extra-judicial killings. In excess of one million Ivorians have been forced to leave the country to avoid the violence. Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, took the extraordinary step of notifying Gbagbo and his henchmen that they will be held personally responsible and accountable for human rights violations in connection with the discovery of two mass graves. But there is also substantial evidence of extra-judicial or arbitrary executions, sexual violence, enforced or involuntary disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture against Gbagbo and his regime dating back several years.

Allasane Ouattara, the new president, says Gbagbo will be brought to justice and a truth and reconciliation-style process instituted to address the causes and effects of the decade-long political crises in the country. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he would like ECOWAS to request an ICC investigation into the massive human rights violations in Cote d’Ivoire, a preliminary step to Gbagbo’s prosecution. It is unlikely that any African organization will cooperate in such an investigation. In July 2009, the African Union refused to cooperate in the prosecution of al-Bashir of the Sudan: “The AU member states shall not co-operate… relating to immunities for the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the ICC.”

There is no question Gbagbo must be put on trial. If there are concerns about his prosecution in Cote d’Ivoire, his trial could be moved to The Hague as was done for former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Gbagbo’s trial will likely involve a protracted legal process. (Taylor’s trial concluded a few weeks ago after three and one-half years of litigation in the ICC, and a verdict is expected in the foreseeable future.)

Gbagbo is entitled to full due process and given ample opportunity to vigorously contest every allegation brought against him. His right to a fair trial must be observed meticulously. Prosecution must not be limited to Gbagbo and members of his regime. All suspects, including Ouattra’s supporters allegedly involved in human rights violations, must be investigated and brought to justice. There is compelling evidence that forces loyal to Ouattara have been involved in gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, rapes and burning of villages.

Lessons of a Gbagbo Prosecution

Most African dictators will pretend a Gbagbo prosecution will have no effect on them. They will convince themselves and try to convince others that what happened to Gbagbo could not happen to them because they are smarter, shrewder, cleverer and more iron-fisted than anybody else. They will laugh until their belly aches at anyone who suggests that they too will one day stand dazed and with forlorn eyes before the bars of justice and held accountable for their crimes against humanity. Once upon a time, Mubarak, Bashir, Gbagbo, Ben Ali and Gadhafi also laughed at the very suggestion of being held accountable in a court of law. Are they laughing now?

We must all say no to dictatorship and human rights violations anywhere in Africa, in the world. On the question of human rights, we must take sides. When thousands are massacred and dumped in mass graves in Cote d’Ivoire, we cannot turn a blind eye. When we have proof that thousands of innocent demonstrators have been killed, wounded and imprisoned in Ethiopia, we must never cease to demand justice.

Human rights abusers learn from each other. When one dictator gets away with crimes against humanity, the others get emboldened to commit atrocities on humanity. If the international community had taken vigorous action in Ethiopia and brought to justice those who massacred hundreds of innocent demonstrators following the 2005 elections, the bloodbath and carnage in Cote d’Ivoire might have been avoided altogether.

Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” It could be equally said that Africa has been made a dangerous place to live not because of the evil dictators alone, but more importantly because not enough good African people (and friends of Africa) are willing to stand up, speak out and do something about gross human rights violations on the continent. It has been said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Laurent Gbagbo is now wholly within the radius of that arc. The other African dictators need only contemplate a paraphrased question from a popular song: “Bad boys, bad boys, what you gonna do when the ICC comes for you?” GAME OVER!

  1. Derbabaw
    | #1

    Almost all the Weyane loyalists believed ,in the past month or it appears they still do, the wind of change that is blowing in N.Africa and Middle East won’t touch Ethiopia. They did so not based on any realistic assessment of Ethiopian situation,but perhaps driven by personal interest.
    Now, this wave of change is registering new victory deep in the heartlands of Black Africa.The problem of Africa and the third world countries in general is lack of freedom, rule of law,justice,and poverty. As it has been pointed out above by many, this is essentialy the crux of the matter. African dictators are not oblivion to these problems, but have not been willing to tackle these issues or to govern in peace,instead thy have depended on their arsonel.

    The majority of them, once they come in to office theytend to have short memory and forget where they come from. As it is seen in Libya and Ethiopia the current leaders instead of working with the people they will antagonize the public, dehumanizie and degrade them by calling different names.Yet these dictators, will prefer to bow down before foreign aid doners and interest.Melese has effectively played this card-he readily made available himself for foreign interest and often undermine degrade the will of Ethiopians.

    However, at the moment the table is being overturned against opportunist African Duce Mussolini’s .At present, there is a new global theatre on the making.Globalism is knocking the door of the disconnected world. According to one of the Pentagon strategist Thomas Barnett, in his book entitled

    “The Pentagon’s New Map”

    As far back as 2005, he divides the world not as the world we know it before in the form of East west paradime, but based on a new perspective.Basically he divides the world between what he called “Functioning Core”, and “None Integrating Gap”. He out lined what he called the none integrated gap nations consisting of the following: most of South America and the Caribbean rim, all of Africa outside of South Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The Functioning Core is the rest of the world, including such newly developed countries as Argentina and India. The following paragraph from the reviewer captures the main objective of the book.

    “The main premise of the book is that we need to shrink this Gap to the point where the countries involved transform themselves into democracies with more independent economies that allow money to flow freely. The countries involved would also (with the shrinking of the Gap) improve the situation of the women in the country, and allow foreign investment and exchange of ideas. The result, optimally, would involve the end of war as we know it, and the transformation of the world into a more tranquil, stable world.”

    I believe the chges we witnessed in N.Africa and continue to witness in the Middle East and Africa seems to me to support the argument of this author.Perhaps this seems to be the directionof the ruture where we are heading. If that be, who can stop this new move towards global connectivity, not through dictatorial rule, but through inauguration of Liberal Democracy in the regions “None Integrated Gap”.
    What we need in our country is a real awareness of this coming tide and we need all to bear responsibility to make an orderly change. For this to happen,most Ethiopians will like to see a general consensus to emerge between those who have a stake in the country. At least from our vantage point we like the Tigrian Amhara, Christian Oromos and the rest to be in the same page under the umbrella of a united Ethiopia first, until legitimate government takes power to deal with the issues of Liberation organizations.
    It is imperative that we come in agreement on this issue before we call for national up risng.Atleast, the Amhara/Tigria, and Oromos for Ethiopia need to be able to form a unified voice on this issue first. Then,we can call the uprising-this is one way to check the new excitement of some of the extremist olf members. Second, as Dr. Aklog pointed out we need to educate our people that there will never be any form of revenge against any group of our people. The older generation of Ethiopians is not susceptible to this form of destructive behavior, but we must reach the unemployed youth, and educate them about this vital issue.
    The availability of a unified voice in advance of the event will be a game changer.Foristance; the west will prefer to work with a unified national voice as opposed to differing groups. Still,such a national political cohesion will negatively impact the position of the regime to be susceptible for internal fructure. Which this in turn will put tremendous stress on the regime to make orderly transfer. There fore it is up to us, Diasporas and Ethiopians at home, to emphasize on the importance of our unity. Once our part is done and this hurdle is out of the way, weyane regime won’t have very much chance to hang around.

  2. Sam
    | #2

    Alemayehu pretty much understood what has happened in Ivory Coast recently, and he delivered the knowledge he acquired efficently. Based on that knowledge, he extrapolated his theory to talk about Africa in general. I think it is a risky move. Here is why. Alemayehu wrote ” Africa has been made a dangerous place to live not because of the evil dictators alone, but more importantly because not enough good African people (and friends of Africa) are willing to stand up, speak out and do something about gross human rights violations on the continent.” Reading what I just qouted one could come to the conclusion that there are no dictators free zone in Africa. But there are. A good example: South Africa, Botswana, and Ghana. On one point out of the quotation, Alemayehu might have a hard time defending his claim. To say that there are no enough Africans who are willing to stand up for freedom, and that is why the dictators are still dictating politics by their guns is a naive way of understanding the trigger-happy political manipulation of the dictators, who just exercising their manipulation for the sake of staying in power. The African countries which are ruled by dictators are known for throwing people to prison for the mere “crime” of thinking. But there are still some Africans who think, and they still keep going to prison for it. I understand Alemayehu used the quantifier “enough” and he did not intend to say all of us Africans. But still I feel that seems to lessen the hardship Africans are facing for just loving their country and their people. By the dictators dictionary the country is synonyom with the dictator. Africans who have a hard time accepting that make-believe pay dearly for their “crimes.” As for friednds of Africa not being helpful, I do not see it that way. They are trying to be helpful, but the dictators had a ready-made weapon against them. Pretty much to some extent it brainwashed certain segemenrt of the african society. They would be called the lover of old colonization. The messenger of the new form of Imperialism. Leave Africa alone. They know how to play the game, Alemayehu. If you are not paying attention about that, please do. Just see what adjectives Meles are using when the West say anything against human rights or political persuasion in Ethiopia. He is full of those adjectives. He threw them at random. Wether they stick to weherver he threw them at or not is not a concern of his. What his goal is to rally up the slogan-happy crowd of his. And usually they jump when he speaks.

  3. Eddie
    | #3

    Alemayehu,

    Do you respect the rule of law? Let’s not forget that the Constitutional Court of Ivory Coast ruled that Gbagbo is the President elect. Looks like you care less of the land of the land and believe more europeans observers and the west who ruled that Ouatarra won.

    Remember that to save african democracy, we need to respect and strengthen institutions that run the country, and that’s the reason why we all accepted here in the usa that Bush won the elections against al Gore, because the usa supreme court ruled and give the victory to Bush.

    Imagine what could have happened if americans were to say that the rules of the USA Supreme Court are invalid? The USA will not exist anymore like a country. So, I am really suprised you as a Professor, you don’t understand what is happening in IC. The western intervenation in IC is very dangerous in way that the West can repeat this imperialist scam to invade any african country, once they create an opposition as they did in Benghazi.

  4. HELELE HANBABE
    | #4

    BRAVO PROFESSOR AL MARIAM!!! “NEGEREWU NEGEREWU, EMBI KALE MEKERA YIMKEREWU”, THE AMHARIC PROVERB, PERFECTLY FITS THE GBAGBO SAGA. THIS IS THE PERFECT STORY OF THE STATE OF DENIAL OF AFRICA’S DICTATORS. THEY BELIEVE THAT GUNS AND VIOLENCE WILL SAVE THEM TO CLING TO POWER BY PLAYING “LAW AND ORDER” OR RELIGION OR ETHNIC CARD. GBAGBO PLAYED ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS CARDS TO DEFAME ALASSANE OUTARRA, THE CURRENT PRESIDENT THAT HAPPENED O BE A MUSLIM, WHO SERVED AS PRIME MINISTER OF IVORY COAST AND ALSO WORKED FOR IMF, CLAIMING AS IF ALASSAN OUTARRA IS A THREAT TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF IVORY COAST. ALASSAN OUTARRA PLAYED BY THE BOOK TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT AND LEGITIMATELY WON THE ELECTION. GBAGBO CHOSE TO CLING TO POWER CLAIMING THAT HE WON THE ELECTION AND CLAIMED THAT FORMER COLONIAL POWER, FRANCE, WANTED HIM TO BE OUT. THIS WAS A SHAM ALLEGATION ON HIS PART, JUST AS MELES ZENAWI CLAIMED TO HAVE WON THE MAY 2005 ELECTION. GBAGBO COULD HAVE CONCEDED DEFEAT AND PEACEFULLY COULD HAVE KICKED-OFF CAMPAIGNING FOR THE NEXT ELECTION TO RUN FOR THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF IVORY COAST. BUT, EMBRACING SUCH A CULTURE OF TOLERANCE AND ACCEPTANCE IS SEEN AS SHAMEFUL AMONG AFRICAN DICTATORS. REMEMBER, WHILE KENETH KAUNDA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF ZAMBIA RUN AGAINST CHILUBA, HE NEVER EVEN CONTEMPLATED TO PEACEFULLY TRANSFER POWER TO CHILUBA. HE DID IT GRACEFULLY AND THEN, RUN AGAINST CHILUBA FOR THE NEXT ELECTION AND LOST BECAUSE OF THE FACT THAT CHILUBA PLAYED ETHNIC CARD. THE BOTTOM LINE HERE IS THAT KENETH KAUNDA, THE GUY THAT LED THE INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE OF ZAMBIA AND BECAME PRESIDENT OF ZAMBIA TILL THE MID 1990S WAS NOT ENGAGED IN CORRUPTION OR CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES. HE SERVED HIS COUNTRY WITH GRACE JUST AS JULIUS NEYRERE OF TANZANIA. WHY DID GBAGBO REFUSE TO DO WHAT KENETH KAUNDA DID EVEN THOUGH GBAGBO IS A HIGHLY EDUCATED INTELLECTUAL? THE ANSWER LIES WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF PERSONAL EGO AND OBSESSION WITH CLINGING TO POWER FOR LIFE AS A DE FACTO MONARCH. THIS ATTITUDE HAS BECOME AS AN EPIDEMIC DISEASE AMONG AFRICAN DICTATORS AS PROFESSOR AL MARIAM TRIED TO EXPLAIN. IT IS A GREAT SHAME FOR THE CONTINENT AND ITS PEOPLE. AS LONG AS THERE ARE NOT PEACEFUL MEANS TO GET RID OF SUCH PEOPLE, IT IS NECESSARY TO TAKE ALTERNATIVE MEANS TO ERADICATE SUCH ATTITUDES IN AFRICA AT ANY COST. GBAGBO IS A BIG TIME LOSER AND A COWARD. HE COULD NOT GET THE MONEY THAT HE MAY HAVE LAUNDERED TO THE SWITZERLAND AND FRENCH BANKS ILLEGALLY. HE WILL FACE PROSECUTION AND HIS NAME WILL BE USED AS A PROVERB FOR A BIG TIME LOSER!

  5. Geta
    | #5

    Melse regimes really wants that Ethiopia’s people loss everything they had because the regimes system is not easy to understand. The fact of thae matters is most of the regime tribes and some of fallowers dont care about the well being of the socity as long as they regime has comfort lifes.Let’s be honest most of people in power are lies to much because they have told to do that, otherwice they will be losing everything.So the regime plays this kind of unbeatable game.I am really sad that people of Ethiopias how long has to wait to fullfill their needs because most of the people that they are not getting what they suppose to be,we have alot of people with alot of things to bring change, from business man to educated , students to workers. I mean that Ethiopia has alot of man power could be used for good things like to bring change, One thing that I like to say As people we can make differnice in life of poor Ethiopian people. Espeacially the young generations has to do something to get our freedoms. Let Ethiopia make free from the unfair regime.

  6. Anon
    | #6

    Eddie, you claimed that Gabagbo is declared winner of the Ivory Coast election by the constitutional court of the country. However, you left out vital information that is typical of African politics that is widely practiced by dictatorial regimes such as Ethiopa.According to news sources, when the electoral commission first time tried to announce the partial results pro Gabago representative tore the papers. The next time the electoral commission tried to announce the result it did it surrounded by U.N peace keeping forces at a hotel. The result declared Quattara as winner by 54.1% vote.However, in the following days, the national court led by one of Gabago’s closest allay over rides the result and declared Gabagbo winner. Following these, the U.N representative in Ivory Coast Choi Young Jin, based on the copies of vote results gathered from all polling regions of the country, declared Quattara winner. Based on the facts gathered by the election commission, and independent observer U.N representative these results are verified Quattara to be a winner.
    You argue though these results are invalid. What a waste of time is that when you are attempting to compare what took place in Ivory Coast with election that take place in the U.S.The two situations can’t be compared. The U.S is a developed democracy, Ivory Coast is a nation ruled by dictator who control the court, the Army and intellegence.Weyane Eddie your lame argument can’t be used to justify the legitimacy of Legese rule in Ethiopa.After all, every aspect of state burocracy is in the hands of Legse,including the Army,Airforce,intelegence,Court,and the election commission. All is under the control of mercenary Eretrian Legese and his clique.Here is the link to the source of the the Ivory Coast’s election results.

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2035342,00.html

  7. Gash Polisu
    | #7

    Eddie,

    So you are saying that a corrupt and politically biased African court could deliver the same justice as an American court system? Tinish enku shame yemibal neger ataqim?

  8. DRAMA
    | #8

    I BELIEVE THE PROFESSOR’S POLITICS SOUNDS MORE LIKE WESTERN POLITICS; GOING WITH INFORMATION FLOW FROM WESTERN POINT OF VIEW. BGAGBO WAS AND STILL IS A FREEDOM FIGHTER. I DON’T BELIEVE ACCEPTING THE OUTCOME OF THE ELECTIONS FROM THE WEST IS ALWAYS RIGHT. COULD THERE BE A + – 5 ELECTION INACCURACY IN SUCH HEATED IVORIAN ELECTIONS? I WOULDN’T DOUBT IT. CLOSER ELECTION EVIDENCES SHOW THAT BGABGO MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE WINNER OF THE IVORIAN ELECTIONS. THE ELECTION BOARD WAS HIJACKED BY THE WEST. EVERY LITTLE STEP TAKEN BY THE ELECTION BOARD MEMBERS AFTER THE ELECTION DAY PREETY MUCH RESEMBLES LIKE THE ACTIVITIES OF THE ETHIOPIAN ELECTION BOARD AFTER THE 2005 ELECTIONS. I WOULD NOT MAKE THIS KIND OF ASSUMED CONCLUSION ABOUT THE IVORIAN ELECTIONS WITHOUT LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE OF IVORY COAST. RECORD SHOWS THAT WESTERN MEDIAS HAVE BEEN BIAS TOWARDS LEADERS THAT DON’T LICK THEIR BUTT. BGABGO’S CASE IS ONE HUGE EXAMPLE. THE CASE WITH IVORY COAST IS NOT OVER YET. EVEN IF BGABGO IS UNDER ARREST, THE SOUTHERN CLANS STILL HOLD EXTENSIVE WARFARE EQUIPMENTS AND ARE GETTING READY TO MOBILIZE AGAIN. THE STRUGGLE OF THE EGYPTIANS IS ALSO STILL FAR FROM ENDING. SO IS IN LIBYA, WHERE GADAFI IS KICKING OPPOSITION BUTT. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY WE ONLY HAVE TO DEPEND ON WESTERN VIEW TO MAKE CONCLUSIONS. AS A MATTER OF FACT I WOULD REALLY QUESTION THE INFORMATION THAT COMES OUT OF THESE COUNTRIES THAT LOOK ONLY FOR THEIR INTEREST EVERY WHERE THEY GO.

  9. Anonymous
    | #9

    @Eddie
    you dont have any moral to ask Almariam…he is our hero Moron

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