In Summary
  • No one African country that has had a leader for more than 25 years was transformed from a primitive society to industrialised nation.
  • There is need for a new generation of African thinkers to challenge this concept of strongman militarised longevity.

This year marks the 32nd year since Mr Museveni ascended to power. Other heads of states, such as Eduardos dos Santos, Theorodre Oguang Ngema in Equatorial Guinea, and Mobutu Sseseko of Zaire ruled for well more than 32 years. Currently, there are about 10 such presidents in Sub-Saharan Africa, whose longevity in power exceeds a generation of 25 years.

In nearly all these countries, the presidents also presided over Africa’s most impoverished and disparate societies, whose citizens are some of the world’s most suppressed, alienated, disempowered, and divided along parochial lines such as tribalism. For all the years in longevity, these countries produce and export colonial era produces – cash crops, are highly indebted, and fail to provide social services to its citizens. The longer the regime stays in power, the more it becomes incompetent and illegitimate, leading their nations to exploitation and under-development.

The proponents of such regimes, who construct and propagate idealised narratives to justify the dismal performances, are usually the gullible elites and foreign interests. By incompetence, we mean the growing inability of these regimes to uphold the social contract and their dealignment of the mandate to fulfill the development needs of the people. That is, the failure to prioritise and deliver on the needs of its people when it should.
By illegitimacy we mean the phony manner in which most of these regimes retain power.
There is an observable inverse function between these variables - the longer a regime stays in power (longevity) in Africa, the more they decay - become incompetent and illegitimate - with inefficiency as a near natural consequence. The incompetence starts with the regimes ceding critical policy matters to foreign interests (corporations, foreign powers, and so-called development partners), eventually becoming less accountable to their people, and growing accustomed to privileges resulting from the functions of social and historical structures (including colonial structures) that generate social inequalities.

No one African country that has had a leader for more than 25 years was transformed within those years, from a primitive society to industrialised nation. Libya under Muammar Gadhafi became a dependent state, not an industrialised welfare state. Most of these countries are basket cases – as failed or failing states. These states tend to collapse with exit of such leaders because they survive by destroying the institutions of the state. In nearly all these countries, citizens are disempowered that they cannot seek accountability from their government, their civic rights are diminished. Many are now subjects of modern slave trade and human trafficking. The longevity also makes it possible for foreign interests such as IMF/WB and development partners, such as USAID, EU, DFID, to usurp critical domestic policy areas, shaping social and economic policies, to benefit western and eastern civilization.

There is need for a new generation of African thinkers to challenge this concept of strongman militarised longevity. Africans need to adhere to term limits more than age limits for effective management of modern African societies and its resources to develop the continent. Several scholars have studied macro-economic policies that exploit Africa and anti-statist influence of neoliberalism - citing the roles of civil society, foundations/charities (philanthrocapitalism), and African elites in undermining, reducing, and containing the state to a bare minimum.

However, the strongmen’s regime typology in Africa has become an outstanding menace that subverts social and economic development of Africa. They promote under-development through their nepotistic/sectarian tendencies, for survival; incompetence in enacting pro-people’s social and economic policies; complacency to residual colonial structures of power and foreign interests; repressive to evade accountability; stratifying through a false and opportunistic elites to justify and normalise their incompetence and inefficiency. In sum, most of the long serving regimes in Africa are not only incompetent but also illegitimate.