Why Revolutionaries Shouldn’t Be President | The Guardian Nigeria News

In the final days of the Mugabe administration, the 93-year-old president who had ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades lost the support of his key allies.

His vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he had fired the previous week, allegedly at the request of his wife Grace Mugabe, who was rumored to have intended to take on the role. He lost the support of his military, who staged an intervention, which they were careful not to call a coup, to prevent the First Lady from fulfilling the role.

Perhaps more importantly, he lost the support of the ruling ZANU-PF party, which ousted him after more than 40 years as party leader and filed articles of impeachment against him, forcing him to resign. reluctantly from the presidency.

The news was greeted on the streets of Harare with enthusiasm and by the media with images of his administration’s hopeful beginnings when the charismatic young revolutionary who had fought against white minority rule first came to power. times.

Mugabe’s rise and fall from freedom fighter to political prisoner and iconoclast to the narcoleptic caricature for which he became known in his final days is a masterclass in why revolutionaries should not become presidents.

Although they are great patriots who should be rewarded with the highest honors in the land, they have a unique sense of entitlement that makes them nearly impossible to take down when they inevitably run out of favor or good ideas.

After guerrilla warfare and the Lancaster Accord that resulted in the first inclusive elections, Robert Gabriel Mugabe was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s first black on April 17, 1980 with promises of economic reform and racial reconciliation.

He built a cabinet team of rivals which included his main rival Joshua Nkomo and even white Zimbabweans. He sought advice from the United Kingdom (UK) to help train the revolutionaries who had now been propelled into a role of government.

With the help of the British armed forces, he created a new Zimbabwean army, which integrated the freedom fighters and the Rhodesian security forces. Mugabe introduced free education and healthcare, which raised the adult literacy rate from 62% to 82% – still one of the highest on the continent – and child vaccination rates from 25 % to 92%.

He invested heavily in infrastructure and pledged to provide greater access to black citizens previously disenfranchised under white minority rule while maintaining policies to ensure the white minority did not flee the country.

Mugabe’s policies made him extremely popular at home and won him immense sympathy abroad. But it wasn’t long before dissenting voices began to be silenced; Mugabe ordered crackdowns in the strongholds of his political rivals in which thousands were systematically slaughtered, starved and repressed.

In 1987, the ruling ZANU-PF, which controlled parliament, rewrote the country’s constitution to allow Mugabe to become president. The new post gave him unlimited powers to dissolve parliament and removed term limits, among other things. The move ultimately paved the way for Mugabe to be president for life, an opportunity he would gladly accept to become the world’s longest-serving head of state.

Much has been said about the fact that his wife Grace’s ambitions for higher office were his ultimate undoing, but not enough has been said about the troubling trend in revolutionary entitlement that led him to stay on as long as he did so, even after overseeing perhaps the worst economic crisis. decline in modern history with inflation soaring to 500 billion percent at one point.

It is the idea that a leader who sacrifices everything to carry out a revolution has earned the presidency until his death or voluntary renunciation.

Of the 16 current world heads of state who have spent 20 years or more in power, 8 of them are African and almost all of them were part of or led armed rebellions, popular movements at the time. This figure does not include the recently ousted Mugabe and Gaddafi who were killed in an uprising in 2011 after 42 years in charge of Libya.

Most of these cases follow a similar pattern. A corrupt, brutal, discriminatory or otherwise unpopular regime is overthrown by a group of military officers or guerrilla fighters. Their victory is greeted with hope and some divisiveness – after all, they are mostly the result of bloody conflict, sometimes divided along tribal lines.

There is an initial period of reform, reconstruction, reconciliation, influx of foreign aid and economic boom, which is welcomed by the global community, which values ​​stability above all else.

Over time, however, legitimate voices of concern begin to be silenced as part of the “old guard” who are eager to return to the status quo. Before long, the president or prime minister sets out to consolidate power, which their parliament or cabinet often bestows either out of fear of reprisal or for their own party/selfish interest. Next is amending the constitution to extend or remove the president’s term limits.

In the unlikely event that they step down or serve out their term, they will pass power through the party ranks, which mirror the revolutionary leadership structure, ensuring that the leaders of the revolution are rewarded with their turn in power.

When they run out of ideas and economies inevitably start to underperform, they blame foreign governments who, rightly or wrongly, have an interest in changing governments, urging their citizens to stick with them, because they are the only ones who can truly defend the country against intruders. We have seen this pattern from Libya to Liberia and from Egypt to Ethiopia.

Thelma J. Longworth