After 37 years, the world finally has an answer to the question: Who is the former president of Zimbabwe? But there are many who would have loved the question to remain vague just for the company it gives them. Among them are long serving African strongmen. Being in the business of ‘flying news’ (from the newsmaker to you reading this), I tried reaching out to several of them for comments in the wake of Uncle Bob’s ouster.
The questions were the same to all. What do you think about Robert Mugabe’s forced resignation and would you prolong your stay at the risk of similar situation?
Ian Karma, Botswana: What more do you want me to add? They say a bird that sits on the tree for long attracts a stone. He got served.
Jacob Zuma, South Africa: I got what I wanted in Zimbabwe. As long as Grace is fine with everything, I am fine here. About power, well, all I need is the other power. The rest is meaningless to man at the end of the day like Old Bob found out.
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan: Do you ever hear of Sudanese complaining that I rig elections like it was the case in Zimbabwe? When the time is right, I will silently retire and Sudan will continue with life without Bashir.
Paul Biya, Cameroon: [His office in Yaoundé answered] You got the wrong address, try his home… yes, we mean his home in Paris. That is where you can find him unless you are calling on national day when he has an event to preside over here. Yes. Just call Paris.
Joseph Kabila, DR Congo: I am really in a fix. These people don’t appreciate how far I have brought them. I don’t even know what they want… oh, all they want is Kabila to go, but go where? I am a Congolese… yes, the constitution, it was made by men and I believe I have men too. No, no, no, the Zimbabwe situation can never happen in Kinshasa. I am in total control here despite a few noisemakers. Rest assured that Kabila was not born with presidency for diaper. I used nappy like the rest of you and I know when to change a diaper.
Yoweri Museveni, Uganda: Stepping down? There is a Runyankore saying that translates into this: not every mosquito bite causes malaria, just like not everyone bitten by mosquitoes will fall sick. Scientists say it all depends on body immunity, resistance. Some people even drink strong liquors to scale up their immunity. Now, about Uganda, we are not in the same hut with Zimbabwe. Where the Old Comrade had made bedroom decisions, we at NRM work as a party. Caucus and many Cabinet meetings make the decisions. Not Museveni and his wife. It’s deplorable what has happened but Comrade Mugabe’s time was up.
I don’t think anyone should have business clinging on to power beyond the age of 80. Yes, you can quote me on that, yes, be sure to remind me… ah, that 1989, I said that at the time, but times have changed. Back then African leaders had to only stay in office for five years or so and they would accomplish so much. The Opposition had not yet reached today’s level of sabotaging everything you do for the common good of the people.
Today, you put in 10 pounds of effort, inject in 20 billion, but only one pound will be fruitful, only one billion will be fruitful. The rest is wasted by Opposition and corruption.
So we have a long way to go. We have to achieve middle income, we have to get the oil flowing. But there are these night dancers saying Museveni should go, he has ruled for long, he wants to rule for life… do I look like Amin?
I have a vision… no, no, no, I already said Arab Spring, people power and defiance, they don’t work here. We have strong institutions in Uganda. We have that alcohol I was talking about [laughs] to deal with the mosquito bite. If you are a mosquito, don’t come biting and hoping I will massage you. No, a parasite has to be nipped in the bud and we have the alcohol to deal with saboteurs on the streets and everywhere.
I don’t think Bob had them in Zimbabwe… I saw in the news his alcohol being paraded and frog-marched. He just didn’t have a strong police force and professional national army that respects constitutionality.
Retirement? Oh, I said when the time is right, I will go back to my cows. When Besigye defeats me, when the people say through the ballot that they don’t want this man who has brought them this far, I will go back to my cows.
Until then, I have to keep respecting their wish and serving them.
Paul Kagame, Rwanda: The people of Rwanda last time threatened to commit suicide if I didn’t change my mind. I had no choice. But I have already indicated to not only the party but the entire nation that this is my very last term in office… no, no, I mean that, but in any case, it is the people of Rwanda to whom I owe any explanation who will judge me. Mugabe? Let Zimbabweans comment on that. I am not a Zimbabwean, I don’t pay taxes to Zimbabwe so that is their affair. Here? What is happening here? Come on, hahaha!
King Mswati II, Swaziland: Well, how about you put the same question to the British queen first? She has ruled longer and is as old as Mugabe. Go? Go where? And who will have these virgins? As long as my vitality is satisfactory, I don’t see anything else to concern myself with. I serve my people and my women.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema, E. Guinea: What are you talking about? Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea is Equatorial Guinea. I hear Mugabe, Gaddafi, Mubarak, then why don’t you name me Muteodor Muobiang Munguema if you are so desperate for my ouster?
Idriss Deby, Chad: You dialled the wrong number. Zimbabwe telephone code is +263. Thank you.