Mugabe’s Exit Leaves 6 of African Dynasties on Edge

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By EADM Correspondent, BBC News, and Agencies 

In Summary: Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe exited the scene over a fortnight ago. His hopes of handing power to his wife Grace Marufu went up in flames. But six political dynasties elsewhere in Africa are either surviving or are in the making.  Across Africa, dynasties established themselves through assassinations, coups, and rebellions.  In Togo, a former French colony, the oldest dynasty in Africa, its 6.6 million population has largely lived under only one family rule; a father and son since 1967. It is the most endangered surviving African dynasty threatened by mass uprising. Gabon, a 'Kleptocratic regime' has entrenched itself in power for nearly half a century. The oil-rich country, also a former French colony, has Africa's second oldest political dynasty spanning two generations; a father and son. The incumbent president, since 2009, inherited millions of dollars fleeced out of the country to amass assets in Paris and on the French Riviera. Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, has Africa's longest-serving ruler, in power since 1979.  He has named his flamboyant 48-year old son his deputy, positioning him to inherit power in this oil-rich country. The son, said to own a private jet, mansions, a fleet of luxury cars in Europe, and Michael Jackson memorabilia is a fugitive from justice following his indictment in France. Uganda, a former British colony, ruled by ex-rebel leader since 1986, now  'playing God',  won a fifth term in 2016, may run for a sixth term and could  hand power to his wife, a minister in his government, son whose promotion in the army was fast-tracked  to the rank of Major General and named a special presidential adviser.  Currently, there is a push to amend the constitution to scrap the age limit cap of 75 to give the president, 73, to stand for re-election in 2021 when he is 76 and possibly become a life president.   In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a dynasty appears headed to replacing an autocracy. Since 1997, the former Belgian colony has been ruled by one family; a father and son after it overthrew an autocrat who had ruled the country for 32 years. The incumbent, who succeeded his father in 2001, was supposed to step down in 2016 after serving two terms.  However, the elections were postponed and the ruling family is consolidating its political and business empire in earnest. In South Africa, where divorcees have made up, the polygamous President is supporting his ex-wife to succeed him in 2019 over his deputy president. A beacon of hope in Africa during anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's rule, South Africa could be the next African country to have a dynastic succession, of sorts.  The president, accused of corruption, racketeering, money laundering, and bribery is backing his ex-wife as a political heir hoping she is unlikely to put him - the father of their children- in jail. But across the continent, opponents of African dynasties are rising up and pushing back hoping the Zimbabwean crisis boosts their chances of winning to avert the dangers of dynastic rule. This pushback has left six of the surviving and potential African dynasties sitting on edge.

Six of the surviving long-serving African presidents (dynasties):

President Faure Gnassingbé Eyadema of Togo
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon
Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa

Harare, ZimbabweZimbabwe’s autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe was coerced by the military to exit the political scene over a fortnight ago. His former vice president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, 75, whom he had sacked on November 6 was sworn-in as the new president on Friday November 24 2017. With Mugabe’s exit, his hopes of handing power to his wife Grace Marufu Mugabe also went up in flames. But six political dynasties elsewhere in Africa are either surviving or are in the making. While multiparty elections and peaceful transfers of power have become common in Africa, some few current leaders have succeeded their fathers, or are planning to hand power to their sons; daughters seem to be less favored.  Across Africa, dynasties established themselves through assassinations, coups, and rebellions. The playbook evolved as a political monarchy; a life presidency before morphing into a fully-fledged dynasty. That has been the sad African story since independence.

Former President Robert Mugabe with his wife, the former first lady Grace Mugabe during Zimbabwe’s 37th Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on April 18, 2017. His plan to anoint his wife, Grace, as his successor caused the crisis that was resolved with his resignation. (Photo by AFP)

The 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, who was increasingly in frail health and had been positioning his wife Grace Marufu as his successor was too slow for the military chiefs who moved faster to halt the succession scheme in a political drama that marked the final chapter of an African dynasty in the making. Mr. Mugabe married Grace Marufu in 1996, 41 years his junior, and the couple has 3 children. Opponents of the succession plan who had  nicknamed the president’s wife "Gucci Grace” and accuse her of lavish spending mobilized party supporters and war veterans to block her bid for power and rebuild the national economy. Former President Mugabe, the world’s oldest leader before he was overthrown, had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 autocratic years, presiding over a deepening economic crisis that left the population 15% poorer than it was in 1980.

Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces addresses a media conference held at the Zimbabwean Army Headquarters on November 13, 2017 in Harare (Photo by AFP)

So, when the military takeover, masterminded and led by Gen Constantino Chiwenga, 61, was announced, mammoth crowds thronged the capital Harare and other towns to celebrate the demise of the long serving dictator. Gen Constantino Chiwenga was hailed as a political savior. However, the decorated General is under sanctions from the European Union and the US - for his role in a brutal crackdown on the opposition, and over the seizure of white-owned farms. Gen Chiwenga said he stepped in to end the economic suffering of Zimbabweans. Gen Chiwenga, like his ally, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, played a central role in keeping ousted Mugabe in power after he lost elections to his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 2008.

President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has promised to create "jobs, jobs, jobs!" He is expected to serve the remainder of Mr. Mugabe's term until elections due by September 2018.

The military has now ushered in President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, 75, also Known as the ‘Crocodile’ (Ngwena) for his ruthlessness in overseeing ethnic massacres and political violence in the country. He is alleged to have terrorized the country in 2008 after the first round of presidential elections in which Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai. The new president is expected to push through reforms to bring in investment to create jobs where unemployment in Zimbabwe is hovering over 90 percent. Until recently, Emmerson Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe's closest allies who had fled the country to South Africa and only returned after the coup. For now, though, Mugabe has begun to fade into history and Zimbabweans are singing loudly and shedding tears of joy.

Former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) and his wife Grace (R) greet supporters after his address at a rally in Harare on July 28, 2013, ahead of elections that were held on July 31 the same year. (Photo by AFP)

Yet, Zimbabwe’s neighbor, South Africa, the incumbent president is hoping to hand power to his ex-wife in 2019. Not entirely unusual.  But across the continent, opponents of African dynasties are rising up and pushing back hoping the Zimbabwean crisis boosts their chances of winning to avert the dangers of dynastic rule. This pushback arising from the ashes in Harare has left six of the surviving and potential African dynasties sitting on edge.

Togo demonstrators against President Faure Gnassingb in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza outside the UN in New York on September19, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

In Togo, the oldest dynasty in Africa, Most Togolese have lived under only one family's rule     A former French colony, Togo has been ruled by the Eyadema family for the last 50 years, making it the dynasty that has been in power for the longest period in Africa. And of all the governments currently in power in Africa, it is under the greatest threat of being overthrown in a mass uprising. Crowds of up to 800,000 have repeatedly taken to the streets since August, demanding an end to dynastic rule in the country of 6.6 million.

Protesters accuse the government of tinkering with the constitution so that President Faure Gnassingbé can remain in power until 2030. The government denies this, insisting that it will introduce a two-term presidential limit ahead of elections in 2020. With the backing of the military, Mr. Gnassingbé became president in 2005 after the unexpected death of his father, Gnassingbé Eyadema, at the age of 69. Later, he won two elections, which were denounced by the opposition as a sham.

Faure has shared, or has tried to share, the spoils of power with his family. He appointed his half-brother, Kpatcha, to the all-important post of defense minister after taking office.  However, the two fell-out, and Kpatcha was sacked as defense minister in 2007.

Supporters of Togolese incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe, son of the late veteran dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, and candidate of the ruling Togolese People's Rally (RPT) celebrates on March 7, 2010 in Lome after their candidate, Faure Gnassigbe was re-elected on March 6, 2010. Voters have returned President Faure Gnassingbé to power in two elections. (Photo by AFP).

President Faure accused his half-brother of trying to dethrone him. Kpatcha, in turn, accused the president of plotting to assassinate him. Faure won the power-struggle, had his half-brother arrested, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  But his reputation for ruthlessness is nothing compared to that of his late father.  As a 28-year-old army sergeant, Eyadema was widely suspected to have fired the shots which killed Togo's first post-independence president.  Then, on 13 January 1967, the third anniversary of the assassination, Eyadema himself seized power in a bloodless coup. When he died, he held the title of Africa's longest-serving ruler. He had been on the political throne for 38 years.  

Argentinian soccer player and four-time FIFA world Footballer of the year Lionel Messi (C) is given a tour during the start of construction of the Port-Gentil Stadium by the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba (R) in the Ntchengue district of Port-Gentil on July 18,  2015. President Ali Bongo Ondimba (R) hosted the football star Lionel Messi in to a lavish welcome. (Photo by AFP).

In Gabon, a 'Kleptocratic regime' has entrenched itself in power for nearly half a century. The country, also a former French colony, has Africa's second oldest political dynasty. A Christian convert to Islam, Omar Bongo took power 11 months after Eyadema, and ruled for over 40 years until his death in 2009.  He left his son Ali Bongo Ondimba, a fortune worth millions of dollars, and the country. President Ali did win an election, although the opposition said it was rigged.

After France launched a corruption investigation against the family, the president of the oil-rich nation announced in 2015 that he would spend his entire inheritance on development projects, including starting a university and a youth foundation.  French police investigations identified that Bongo family assets included 39 properties in France, located in affluent areas of Paris and on the French Riviera, as well as nine luxury cars, including Ferraris and Mercedes.

Rights groups say the Bongos have turned Gabon into a "kleptocratic regime", which loots its natural resources, oil wealth and rainforests - an allegation the family strongly denies.  In 2015 Argentinean football star Lionel Messi came under heavy criticism for visiting the Central African state.  Lionel Messi laid the first stone at the construction site of a football stadium for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. Bongo denied giving Messi money to visit Gabon, saying: "When I was in Barcelona a few years ago, I met Messi who promised me that he would come to visit me in Libreville," he said.  "It's a promise he made to me. He is a man of honor who just kept his word." 

A photo taken on 25 June 2013 shows Teodoro (aka Teodorin) Nguema Obiang, son of Equatorial Guinea president, in Malabo Cathedral. He owns a fleet of luxurious cars and Michael Jackson gloves. (Photo by AFP)

Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, currently has Africa's longest-serving ruler, Theodoro Obiang Nguema who has been in power since 1979. The president's son, Teodorin Obiang, who lives a lavish lifestyle, has been convicted of embezzlement in France.   President Theodoro Obiang Nguema is said to be one of Africa's most brutal leaders who seized power in 1979 after overthrowing independence leader President Francisco Macias Nguema, his uncle and executing him. According to campaign group Human Rights Watch, the ''dictatorship under President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country's people''.

The president's 48-year-old son, Teodorin Obiang, is his deputy, putting him in pole position to inherit power. Known for his flamboyant lifestyle, Teodorin is a fugitive from justice. In October, a French court convicted him in absentia of embezzlement. It ordered the seizure of his assets in France, including a $29m (£22m) mansion.  He also boasted 18 luxury cars in France, artworks, jewellery and expensive designer fashions,  The Paris judge found that the president's son had used his position as agriculture and forestry minister to siphon off payments from timber firms who were exporting from Equatorial Guinea.

In November, Swiss prosecutors seized 11 luxury cars belonging to Mr. Obiang junior. They said he had plundered his country's oil wealth to buy luxuries, including a private jet and Michael Jackson memorabilia. Teodorin denies all allegations of wrongdoing.  

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni gestures during his swearing in ceremony as newly elected President in Kampala on May 12, 2016. President Yoweri Museveni is accused of wanting to be life president. (Photo by AFP)

Uganda, a former British colony in East Africa, is ruled by ex-rebel leader Yoweri Museveni. Now  'playing God', Museveni seized power in 1986, won a fifth term in 2016, may run for a sixth term and could eventually hand power to his son, Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba. In January, the speculation gained impetus when Mr. Museveni promoted Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, his eldest son, to become a special presidential adviser in a reshuffle of army commanders. Having graduated from British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2000, Maj Gen Kainerugaba rose rapidly within the military. Last year, he was promoted from brigadier to major general.

Others believe that Mrs. Museveni's wife also harbors presidential ambitions. Having served in government since 2009, Mrs. Janet Museveni is currently the minister of education and sports in her husband's cabinet.  For now though, there is a push to give Mr. Museveni, 73, another term by amending the constitution to lift the age limit cap.

Uganda's ruling party wants parliament to scrap the presidential age limit of 75, a move that could allow Mr. Museveni to stand for re-election in 2021 when he will be 76. The widely unpopular move has led to ruling and opposition MPs brawling in parliament, as emotions rise over the plan.

The move has not come as a surprise. In 2005, the president inspired an amendment of the constitution to lift term limits that paved way for his re-election after he had been in power for 20 years. In 2013, renegade army General David Sejusa accused Mr. Museveni of "playing God" in Uganda. "The central issue is a political monarchy - a life presidency and then transiting [to] a political monarchy," he said. "It is a terribly common African story. There is nothing strange about it," the renegade general added at the time.

In 2001, the slain Laurent Kabila was replaced by his son Joseph Kabila only after just four years in power in what appeared to have been a palace coup. (Photo by AFP).

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC), a dynasty appears headed to replacing an autocracy. A former Belgian colony, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been ruled by the Kabila family since 1997, when Laurent Kabila stormed the capital, Kinshasa, with the backing of regional armies, ending the 32-year autocratic rule of Mobutu Sese Seko.  Kabila was assassinated in 2001 by his bodyguards, resulting in the military installing his son, Joseph, as president.

After serving two elected terms, President Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down in 2016 as the constitution bars the president from running for a third term.  However, the electoral commission said it was not ready yet. The electoral body says it will only be in position to hold the poll only next year, leaving Mr. Kabila in power until then, despite massive opposition protests and international condemnation.  His sister, Jaynet, and brother, Zoe, are Members of Parliament, with unparalled influence in political, economic, and social sectors in the country.

The family has built a business and political empire with interests in the banking, agriculture, mining, construction, pharmaceuticals, tourism; hotels, airlines, tours and travel, boutiques, and nightclubs, according to Bloomberg news agency.  

South African President Jacob Zuma (L), former African Union Chairperson and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (C) and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) dance after the closing session of the South African ruling party African National Congress (ANC) policy conference on July 5, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The South African President Jacob Zuma (L) is backing his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (C), over his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa (R). (Photo by AFP).

In South Africa, where divorcees have made up, the polygamous President Jacob Zuma is supporting his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him as president in 2019 over his vice president Cyril Ramaphosa. South Africa, a beacon of hope in Africa during anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's rule, it could be the next African country to have a dynastic succession, of sorts. Its polygamous President Jacob Zuma is campaigning for his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him as leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC) at its conference next month, and as president in 2019.

MS Dlamini-Zuma deeply resents being described as President Zuma's ex-wife, and has complained about such headlines. She insists that she is a politician in her own right who took part in the anti-apartheid struggle, served in various ministerial posts since the advent of democracy in 1994, and became the chairwoman of the African Union (AU) commission before joining the presidential race.  Her critics say this may well be the case, but Mr. Zuma has chosen her as his political heir because she is unlikely to put him - the father of their children- in jail.

President Zuma has been accused of widespread corruption, with the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that he should be tried on 18 counts of corruption, racketeering, money laundering and bribery - all of which he denies.  His critics say he also needs his ex-wife in power so that his favorite son from another wife, Duduzane Zuma, is safe from prosecution.  Critics allege that he is abusing his relationship with his father to win government contracts for himself, and his business partners, the wealthy Gupta family. They all deny the allegations, insisting that they are not corrupt.

MS Dlamini-Zuma's main challenger is Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former business tycoon and trade unionist. His supporters are hoping that the Zimbabwean crisis will boost his chances of winning, as ANC members grasp the dangers of a dynastic rule. 

Source: Original story by BBC News and Agencies

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