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Kings, Presidents or Both: What Should We Have?

by on June 29, 2010

Ogochukwu Nweke asks whether traditional African leadership still has a role in todays world

Kenneth Kaunda
Julius Nyerere
Hosni Mubarak
Mamman Ghadafi
Mobutu Seseseku
Joeseph Kabila
Gnassingbé Eyadéma
Jomo Kenyatta
Jerry Rawlings
Paul Biya
Robert Mugabe…

And many other leaders that ruled and are ruling Africa, remained/remain in office for at least 15 years. Others like Sani Abacha, Kwame Nkrumah, etc. declared themselves life-presidents.

We have openly declared this act of African leaders desiring to perpetuate themselves in power, as a rape on democracy. But if we truly believe that there is an African perspective to everything under the sun, shouldn’t we pay more attention to the African perspective, to politics, and rulership (or democracy).

In Africa, kings do not rule for 4 or 5 years, but they rule for a lifetime. Could this be what has been repeating itself in our existence as a continent, but we have been unable to address it properly, because we are not paying attention to our history.

The United Kingdom paid attention to their history and that is why they have a form of government called a constitutional monarchy where even though they have a PM, they still do not disregard the office or powers of the King and Queen of England (a legacy that has been in one family for over 100 years)

Is this not possible in Africa?

In African tradition and history when a man is crowned king, he is a king for life. We now have democracy going on everywhere, but a lot of people are clamouring for an African democracy. If Mugabe was a king for instance, he will reign for life. Could this be the reason for his desire to keep ruling as president in Zimbabwe? Should African presidents rule for life?

Putin is Prime Minister in Russia, by virtue of the usurping of the constitution that disallowed him from running a third term. He handed over power to his “friend and mentor” Dmitri Medvedev (on May 7, 2008) and was sworn in as prime minister on the 8th of May 2008. The controversy that ensued when Putin’s plans started to unfold this arrangement did not cause any civil war in Russia, neither did it bring about sanctions from the west or the UN. A similar scenario had played out in the United States of America, when Theodre Rosevelt ran a third term (and actually won). All that happened in the USA was an amendment of the constitution stating clearly that politicians cannot run more than 2 terms.

Why is it that anytime Africa and African leaders try to make political/consitutional decisions such as Putin’s, the west (and UN) rush in to lecture us on democracy and in the process instigate civil wars and ethnic destruction? Could it be that we are not truly independent as we claim we are? Or have we defined ourselves and our issues based on the assessment of the west and the UN?

The aforesaid notwithstanding, is it not important that Africans truly understand themselves as a history and a people? We had a political system, we had our form of democracy; we had kings and queens, clan and family heads, and a mechanism of seeing to it that they do not become despots. The powers these custodians have been usurped by today’s African political system and now they reside in the presidents and other executives, the consequence of which, is the passion of these powers to find expression… expressions that now manifest in leaders seeking or desiring to perpetuate themselves. The interesting thing is that even a lot of those that have handed over power give their nations the impression that there has never been and will never be another leadership as good as theirs. And when they are not doing this, they create puns and stooges that will continue from where they stopped, such that, even though they have handed over power (on paper) they are still “in charge”.

Is it possible to truly run a society without understanding it? Is it possible to understanding a society without seeking recourse to the history and the pattern of life of that society? Is it not possible for Africa to develop its own democracy – a democracy that reflects the history and aspirations of Africa and Africans, not a democracy that pretends that our traditional political system is the reason for all our woes in Africa and thus should be scrapped if we want to progress as a people. Is it right to think that our kings and chieftains are a bunch of illiterates that are only good at pouring libations? Is it not possible to incorporate them into the changing phase of African history? Should they not play a more effective role in our polity, for instance, as custodians of the grass root system of governance? Could we not learn a form of democracy that represents us as people? This to my mind has helped countries like the UK to preserve its polity and history. Just like Africans, they are made up of ethnic nationalities that are united. Whether voluntarily or not, is another issue. But from what we see, it has worked to a very large extent.

This is my little one peswaa thought.

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From → Leadership

3 Comments
  1. mac-hazel permalink

    i am doing a school project about any king or president of africa. please recomend any king or president that has been a good leader and done all that was expected of them.. thank you!

  2. kwadwo asamoah permalink

    Let’s not forget that western societies moved from states run by monarchs centuries ago and even though things were turbulent at first,they’ve managed to progress. The issue with Africa has always been our leadership. Corrupt,despotic leaders whose myopic vision and selfish interests has always stopped our progress for half a century. The problem here is not how to model our democracy to suit the existing political systems here, we have to promote accountability and effectiveness of our institutions and leaders for our people to have confidence in them since that is what democracy means.

  3. Jerome Fox permalink

    If the Presidents of Africa were to have only 8-10 years maximum in office, and the legislatures were given much more power to be equal to the Presidents then less abuses of power will accure. A strong non political judicial and legal component which is also equal in power to the Presidents and legislators is needed as well. Africans should have kings but only in ceremonial and advisory and moral leadership status.

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