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Wade should have a rethink

Dec 28, 2011, 1:24 PM

Senegal’s leader Abdoulaye Wade looks set to run for a third term in office, after he was named as the flagbearer of his PDS party last Friday, in the presidential election due in February next year.

It looks as if democracy as we know it is at a crossroads in Africa because it is now endemic on the continent for incumbents to try one ruse or another to hang on to power.

The story of President Wade is both shocking and worrying. Long before he became president, Wade had been a dominant opposition figure, who made both Leopold Sedar Senghore and Abdou Diouf had sleepless nights through his polemics, so much so that the Senegalese people decided to give him a chance in 2000.

But his declared ambition is a sad commentary on the integrity of the opposition in Africa. It is as if when they are not in power, they posture themselves as angels and saints. But the moment they get power, they act worse than their predecessors.

We however urge President Abdoulaye Wade to reconsider his ambition on more counts than one. He is one of the architects of NEPAD, a formula designed to liberate the continent from retrogressive forces.

Taking what many Senegalese people see as an unconstitutional step, such as going for a third term, is at variance with the spirit of NEPAD.

Additionally, he is a respected elder statesman on the continent whose actions and utterances should be exemplary to much younger leaders.

If he is seen to be breaking a tenet of good governance, younger African leaders with authoritarian inclinations will simply go berserk, thereby plunging the continent deeper into squalor and misery.

Wade should also realise that Senegal’s democratic credentials are matchless and exemplary: it is the only country in the sub region that has not been led by a junta.

This is a distinction and heritage that Senegalese and democrats across the world cherish and want to see preserved. President Wade would be wise to stand down after his second term in 2012. That is what the Senegalese constitution stipulates.

African leaders must understand that they are only political appointees, that they are given a mandate to run the affairs of their various countries, and they must therefore not see or believe that those countries are their personal properties.

From the look of things, once elected into office, most African leaders tend to believe that only they can be trusted in running the affairs of their countries.

Presidential succession in Africa has become something that is always fraught with crisis, or violence that leads to untold loss of life and perennial political instability.

The fact that African strongmen invariably become intoxicated by power has been the main cause of power-sharing deals in some countries on the continent.

Our leaders have to be faithful to their electoral promises and keep faith with the people from whom they derive their mandate.

It is only in Africa that people take a public office as a medium to acquire wealth. In other parts of the world, a public position is seen as an opportunity for service to the community.

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to justice makes democracy necessary”. 

Reinhold Niebuhr