Power clinging, a plague in our continent

There is delight that comes when one honourably leaves office after successfully serving their term, or on attaining retirement age.

The Most Rev. Peter Kairo has today gained the title Archbishop Emeritus. In church circles, the term means, one who has honourably retired but still retains his title.

The composure of the retired archbishop at the reception and installation of his successor, Most Rev. Anthony Muheria, was admirable.

His speech at the installation was moving and he emotionally received his successor; the two hugged tightly and for a long time. The retired archbishop asked for forgiveness for any wrongs he committed during his term in office and promised to work with the incoming archbishop whenever requested.

This relinquishing power is a virtue that some of our African leaders ought to emulate. We have many old die-hard leaders who have continued to cling to power.

Just across our borders, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has ruled the country since 1986. With five presidential terms in office, there are still no signs of him stepping down.

Robert Mugabe, considered the world’s oldest national ruler, has been President of Zimbabwe since 1987.  Amid growing concerns over his frailty and deteriorating health, the 93-year-old president shows no signs of quitting politics.

Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan is the country’s seventh president. He has held power since his 1989 coup when the country was in the midst of a 21-year civil war between north and south.

Joseph Kabila DRC took office in 2001. He reached the end of his constitutional two-term limit last year, but has refused to step down.

In order to continue staying in office, some rulers have changed the rules in the middle of the game. A case in point is Paul Kagame of Rwanda who came to power in 2000. The newly amended constitution of Rwanda reduced a presidential term from seven to five years but that will come into effect only when Kagame’s third term tenure of seven years comes to an end.

This enables him to run for another two terms of 5-years each under the amended constitution, making it possible for the 60-year-old leader to rule until 2034.

Power clinging is a plague in our continent. In his landmark address to delegates of the Africa Union, President Obama ‘mocked’ the continent’s leaders who refuse to step down telling them, “Your countries need new blood and new ideas.”

Handing over power seems to be the most difficult things a president has to do, since no one knows what awaits them on the other side.

A number of African countries, including Kenya, have General Elections scheduled for this year.

Focus once again will be on which president will leave office honourably in case they are defeated, which one refuses to hand over power, which one meddles with the electoral process, and who appears to have plans to die while in office.

We pray for peaceful elections as Kenya goes got to the polls next month, and for a peaceful transition of power should the current government lose in the elections and for graceful acceptance of the results should the opposition lose.


Fr Daniel Mkado

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