FORMER UN secretary general Kofi Annan says long serving African leaders were unnecessarily exposing their regimes to military coups in their countries if they continued clinging to power.
Speaking to the media at the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa (http://www.TanaForum.org), Annan urged leaders to leave office when their time was up.
“I think Africa has done well, by and large the coups have more or less ended, generals are remaining in their barracks, but we are creating situations which may bring them back,” the Nobel laureate said.
“If a leader doesn’t want to leave office, if a leader stays on for too long, and elections are seen as being gamed to suit a leader and he stays term after term after term, the tendency may be the only way to get him out is through a coup or people taking to the streets.
“Neither approach can be seen as an alternative to democracy, to elections or to parliamentary rule. Constitutions and the rules of the game have to be respected.”
Annan, the keynote speaker at the forum this year urged African leaders to abandon their winner-take-all systems he said have tended to fuel conflicts on the continent as the opposition demanded a say in the running of national affairs.
The chair of the Africa Progress Panel and the Nelson Mandela-founded The Elders grouping, said he had been the first to tell the African Union not to accept coup leaders among their midst during a heads of state summit in Lusaka in 2001.
Annan’s comments would immediately ring a bell among Zimbabweans who have a president still clinging to power at the age of 92.
President Robert Mugabe has also warned those firming up to succeed him to back off, insisting he will run for yet another term when the country holds the next elections in 2018.
Zimbabwe’s founding leader insists he was still fit enough to continue holding the country’s most influential job.
Annan, together with the Elders group which comprised former US President Jimmy Carter and former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel, were barred from entering Zimbabwe during the height of the country’s cholera outbreak in 2008.
The three were due to arrive in Zimbabwe during the time to assess what was then a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Millions of Zimbabweans then were facing food shortages, while the country’s educational and health systems were fast grinding to a halt with the cholera wreaking havoc.
“Millions of people are in need of help in Zimbabwe,” Annan said in a statement then as the esteemed group was holed up in South Africa.
“We want to use our influence to increase the flow of assistance, immediately and in the longer term, to stop the terrible suffering. We are here to show solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe and to assure them that they are not alone.”
Meanwhile, in his latest comments on Africa, Annan said solutions to the continent’s problems must come from within. However, he continued, the continent must generate capacity to do so, including financing its institutions.
“We cannot always pass a hat around and insist we want to be sovereign, we want to be independent. We should lead and get others to support us – that support will be much more forthcoming when they see how serious and committed we are,” he said.
- New Zimbabwe