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These African leaders learned nothing from Mandela

Nelson Mandela was an example to us all … but these African leaders just didn’t listen.

Clone of Robert mugabe birthday 20120221Enlarge
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe frolics with balloons on his birthday in 2010. (DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Nelson Mandela was an example to us all … but these African leaders just didn’t listen.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe

The 89-year-old president is just a few years younger than Mandela. Both led their countries to freedom from oppressive white minority rule and both have names beginning with ‘M’ but there the similarities end.

While "Mandela" became a byword for dignity and forgiveness and is being mourned around the world, Mugabe’s name is a synonym for brutality and misrule who will be missed by few outside of his ruling party, if he ever goes that is.

Teodoro Obiang, Equatorial Guinea

The only thing Obiang and Mandela have in common is a dysfunctional family. But while Mandela’s family strife is for the most part just an embarrassment, Obiang’s is blood-soaked.

Obiang’s uncle became the country’s first president after the Portuguese colonists left and subsequently bumped off a number of his own family members including Obiang’s brother. So Obiang launched a coup in 1979, had his uncle executed by firing squad a month later and has run the place ever since.

Yoweri Museveni, Uganda

Mandela was all about forgiveness, not so Museveni — who as surely as he will continue standing for re-election will also use his campaigns to talk about the ‘Luwero Triangle’ massacres.

The ethnic killings of Museveni’s western kinsmen in the 1980s were ordered by former president Milton Obote and Museveni’s calculated and regular reminders are a not-very-well veiled warning not to vote for northerners.

The Dinosaurs

Outstaying their welcome is a depressingly common tendency among African leaders.

Some like Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Cameroon’s Paul Biya, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang, Uganda’s Museveni and Zimbabwe’s Mugabe have been in power longer than Mandela was in prison for challenging white “apartheid” rule. After 27 years in jail Mandela led South Africa for just five years and stepped down after a single term.

Jacob Zuma, South Africa

Corruption scandals, grotesque amounts of public money spent on his luxury home, serial philandering and the declaration that a shower after sex could wash away AIDS have all served to remind South Africans how un-Mandela Jacob Zuma is and just how lucky they were to have Madiba when they did.

Angy More than 1 year ago
Excellent reminder of how African political scenario is out of sync with the Madiba message. Just two minor slip-ups. the first one relates to the fact that Equatorial Guinea has been colonized by Spain not by Portugal. The second one is that your Dinosaurs' list perhaps is not completely exhaustive; why have you sidelined Presidents like Sassou Nguesso in Congo-Brazzaville who continues to enslave that poor population in a shameful way since immemorial and, with the silent assent of France, allows shamefully the devastation of his beautiful land? and perhaps even his colleague in Mozambique whose evil governance threatens to prompt the rebirth of Renamo? Anyway thanks a lot for your very befitting analysis.
OnlineAfricaNow More than 1 year ago
While Nelson Mandela's recent passing has inflicted thoughtful and emotional responses, it seems to not be in the best interest of Mandela's name to blast leaders who may not have lived up to Mandela's legacy. Far be it for me to come to the perceived rescue of the above named African leaders, but it doesn't seem to be in the global icon's spirit to continue to bring down and sensationalize those who were involved in the same fight as Mr. Mandela. Nelson Mandela fought for and united a country and a continent. There are many leaders - across the globe - that can not be compared to the Great Nelson Mandela.