Authoritarian Rule ‘Norm in Africa’

Robert Mugabe’s brazen power grab in Zimbabwe’s election saga has left cracks in one of African leaders’ unspoken rules: Never turn on one of your own.

The fact that even several nations were refusing to recognise Zimbabwe’s ruler of 28 years marked an unprecedented change in that offered a glimmer of hope for a brighter, more democratic future.

A younger generation of African leaders appeared willing to break from the clubbiness that had characterised the governing elites on this continent, where authoritarian rule had long been the norm.

Among the most outspoken had been Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the who is the continent’s only female leader.

On a visit to South Africa, she was the first African leader to support proposed United Nations sanctions against’s leaders, saying they send a “strong message” that the world would not tolerate violence to retain power.Chris Maroleng, a SA political analyst, said: “It’s important, because it’s the first time that we are seeing on the African continent that leadership has transitioned from the old perceptions.

“We’re seeing more leaders beginning to embrace their own democratic notion.”

They included Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, a lawyer who was his country’s third leader since independence in 1964; ex-army commander Seretse Ian Khama of Botswana, Africa’s most enduring democracy; and Nigeria’s Umar Yar’Adua, only the third civilian leader since 1966, though he still was fighting a court battle over his fraud-riddled election.

Mugabe’s June 27 run-off “was neither free nor fair and therefore the legitimacy of his presidency is in question. He cannot wish that away”, Kenya’s Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the most votes in March elections, withdrew from the run-off against Mugabe after weeks of military-orchestrated violence left dozens of his supporters dead. Thousands were severely beaten and thousands more homeless as they were chased from villages, fled attacks or had their houses burned down.

Mugabe was declared the winner and flew to an African Union summit in Egypt, where he was seen hugging many leaders, gaining the veneer of legitimacy that he sought.,,2-11-1662_2356992,00.html