Ali Bongo’s Downfall: A Warning to African Leaders

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President Ali Bongo kept the carrots to himself. Many dictators, especially benevolent ones, use both the stick and carrot to secure obedience. In case of excessive disobedience from compatriots, the stick will effectively be relied upon, and the carrots withdrawn. The idea of not baiting the hook well to attract enemies to his cause was bound to backfire, as it eventually did.

The President forgot French. It is wrong for a head of state not to master the language of his former political colonizers/bosses. When he was shouting for help after being disposed of, he was using English. This was a very fatal mistake, as his former colonizers may have wanted to hear words like “Je suis arrêté,” the English equivalent of “I have been arrested.” This was perceived as a sign of disloyalty, and hence they also abandoned him. If you mutter in someone’s language, you will quickly be understood.

Thirdly, the weak regional and military blocs in Central Africa. For example, in West Africa, when there were coups, ECOWAS and its military wing ECOMOG issued various demands and orders. Nothing has so far come from the Economic Community of Central Africa (ECCAS), the regional equivalent of ECOWAS or EAC. Recall when there was an attempted coup in Burundi, Uganda spoke vehemently against the coup on behalf of the East African community. The situation has been worsened further by the African Union (AU), a well-known non-biting canine.

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Fourthly, the wrong man at the helm of the Special Forces Command. General Nguema was not a relative of anyone. It was wrong both from a military and security architecture perspective to have those securing the head of state without certain filial or kindred ties to the principal, especially in Africa, which is prone to coups.

Eat with the people. Ali Bongo ignored certain groups. Recall his father was on record for buying off opposition for about 40 years from 1967, and there was no coup. He very well knew how to manage “mwanainchi” and made them free Gabonese. He failed to tow the footsteps of old Omar Bongo.

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Costly electoral mistakes, especially combining the presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections at once. It was structured in a manner that whoever would vote for a member of parliament would automatically be voting for President Ali Bongo. This was worsened by the complete switching of various media platforms like the internet, Facebook, and Twitter. Gabonese suspected foul play, and they got off their slumber and marched on the streets. If you are serving a meal and switch off the main bulbs, people will quickly decipher your intentions. It was, therefore, a lousy security and political decision to have these media platforms switched during the tabulation of such a contested election.

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Mr. Ali Bongo Odimbe learned nothing and forgot nothing. For example, in a span of 14 years in power, he had about three attempted coups d’état. He didn’t address concerns raised in all the coups. Meanwhile, SFC was studying the general mood in all the previous coups. No military background – his father Obongo, who became president in 1967 after serving briefly as vice president following the death of the president then, was no military man, and records capture Ali Odimbe as no military man. This was a fatal mistake. In some homes and families, even among well-educated homes, they can have a witch among them so that if anything requires witchcraft, he will be the right man for the job.

His religion as a Muslim was of no use to the French, who have a phobia for Islam. Even when he developed a medical condition that eventually metamorphosed into a stroke, he ignored going to France for treatment, and when the coup took place, he was also ignored.

He failed to develop and control a small population of just about 2 million people. If he had used such poor leadership skills in some other country, he wouldn’t have lasted for even a day.

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His assets surprised Europeans. In Europe, the standard practice of owning or acquiring property like homes is through a mortgage that you can pay in installments until you complete it. Unfortunately, and unaware of this modus operandi, Monsieur Ali just bought about 40 flats in a fortnight. This surprised the whole of Europe on how corrupt he had become.

Currently, it is unfashionable to acquire political power through coups, and my article shouldn’t be seen to support coups d’états in Africa.

In Uganda, heavy national rewards are reserved for anyone who opposes taking over the government through force. Refer to Article 3 of our constitution in its wholeness.

By STEVEN MASIGA from Mbale City

The author is a researcher from Mbale, Tel: 0706655811.


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