‘Sit tight African leaders are those who fail to empower their people’

A former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, has waded into talk about the continued stay in power of some African leaders putting it down to disempowerment of citizens.

The former leader who ruled Ghana for almost two decades said leaders who empower their people have no business staying longer in office.

He served as a military ruler before winning two elections under Ghana’s current 1992 constitution. He served between 1992 and 2000 – for two consecutive four-year terms – he is founder of the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress.

When you empower people you make them positively defiant so they will stand up to you when you try to misbehave.

“Some people say I could have abused the constitutional order and stayed on, but I tell them I couldn’t because I had empowered the people. When you empower people you make them positively defiant so they will stand up to you when you try to misbehave.

“But in some parts of Africa and the world, we don’t empower, we disempower, so we can stay as long as we want and they can’t stand up to us,” Flt Lt. Rawlings said when he met a delegation from civil society group, the African Forum on Religion and Government (AFREG) at his offices.

The most recent case of an African leader trying to stay in power is in Uganda, where lawmakers are pushing ahead with a law aimed at scrapping presidential age limits. Incumbent Yoweri Museveni will not be eligible to seek reelection due to his age.

Now 73, he will be 77 by 2021 when polls are next due. According to the current law, a person above 75 cannot aspire to be president.

On the flip side, Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos voluntarily stepped down as president as the southern African country elected its third president in its history. Joao Lourenco was sworn in only last week ending 38 years of dos Santos rule.

The most recent admonition to veteran African leaders was from ex-Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo who told the BBC in an interview that leaders who fail to leave office will eventually see the offices leave them.

According to him, a reason why most of such leaders stay on was because they had fears. He added that they were, however, becoming a rare commodity.

“Well, really after 12, 15 years, some of them up to 30, some have fears, I think that now they are becoming a rare commodity. And maybe if you don’t leave office, what happens, office will leave you,” he stressed.

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