Clock Ticks for Africa’s Sit Tight Dictators

muammar_gaddafiCudjoe Kpor, economic analyst at Independent Newspapers Limited, reflects on the wind of change blowing across the continent... (Pictured: Muammar Gaddafi)

A new, disorderly decapitation of government has hit the continent’s corrupt, tinpot dictators. It is not a military coup by the armed forces: the jackbook dictators terrorise the entire population, especially when they are messing up, worse in governance than the incompetent civilians they toppled. Nor is it the spontaneous uprising of civilians who resort to guerilla warfare against the government. It is not the passive, collective resistance through civil disobedience for addressing specific grievances either.

The name of this wave of forceful overthrow of the corrupt tyrants and their henchmen is colour revolution: so far, Jasmine for Tunisia and Black for Egypt – and counting. Perhaps Green for Libya is next, though the sanguinary repression of the unarmed civilians by the desperate Muammar Ghaddafi regime’s security forces makes political pundits see its imminent fall albeit more tardy. A bad government’s bloodthirsty violence against civilian protestors only hardens them when they begin to count their dead, who number at least 200 so far nationwide: but yes, the Ghaddafi regime is history.

And the warning bell is not tolling for only the home-grown dictators: some of the Western nations’ favourite despots are also being swept off. No tyrant appears safe in the cocoon of his luxury presidential palace till the protestors’ motion stops – or never started at all – on good governance. No empty platitudes acceptable either. And the hurricane sw! eeping them off? It is the mass of humanity, peaceful civilian! protest ors, using the new media, Internet chatrooms and social sites on the cyber-highway to organise the protests.

The domino theory’s prediction has begun. The continent’s corrupt despots have begun tumbling from power. As said, the power is not oozing from the turrets of tanks and barrels of AK47 assault rifles. These are wielded by usually disgruntled soldiers. But their often brutal dictatorships are worse than the illiterate civilians they threw out. Needless to say, it is finally obvious: as the old saw says, the most terrible civilian government is absolutely better than the most benign military dictatorship!

More importantly, the disorderly usurpers of power from the tyrants are their dissatisfied compatriots who stage peaceful revolts starting as street protests over mundane frustrations like unemployment, escalating food prices and corruption in high places. At the point of their fall, not even the most tight security networks ! which they once used to suppress the population, committed all the heinous atrocities against their populace, are of any help to the tyrants.

That is the irony of it: the tyrants used the security forces to abuse the rights of their compatriots flagrantly. The excesses provoke their regime’s ouster. But at the point of their fall, the security network turns around, in cunning betrayal, to mastermind toppling the “wicked regime” they once propped up to subjugate their populace in bondage. It makes no difference if the bondage is the bird-cage freedom.

Hosni Mubarak, whom his Egyptian praise-singers called “pharaoh”, is gone! So did Ben Ali in Tunisia. And the barbarity with which Ghadafi unleashed his ruthless security dogs, a still loyal faction of the armed forces and revolutionary militias on the peaceful protestors in Libyan cities, has only aggravated the protests which snowballed into an i! ncreasingly outraged citizenry nationwide. Now, the angry Liby! ans abro ad are pressurising foreign governments to help the peaceful protestors.

But a tall list of similar, tinpot dictators are on the African Union’s (AU) list. All of them are now wondering whether the fall of the one-time “powerful” Ghaddafi, who spearheaded the drive for the transformation of OAU into AU, would spread to them, too. Meantime, AU is silent over the deplorable bloodbath in Libya, though its current chairman, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, was a dictator-basher. Predictably, other dictators are chafing in their palaces, hoping or believing, that the hurricane could only blow away other heads of states: Sudan, Morocco, Gambia, Algeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Fasso, Gabon, Cameroun, etc are all tainted. Contrarily, the real transformers of the backward continent into modernity are too few to list.

For now, all these dictators are “trapped” in the opulence of their presidential palaces, hemmed in by the power, prest! ige and glamour of their offices. Their myrmidons and praise-singers butter their egos to make them believe they are gods on earth. Their security network, in its ignorance or bootlicking, or both, makes them believe that anyone who reminded them, or better still, taught them, that the sole goal of governance is assuring the welfare and happiness of the significant majority of the population at all times, or all the population some of the times, is public enemy number one. The ignoramuses in the security networks thus arrest, detain, torture, harass and jail these so-called enemies, especially if they recommend uncharted paths to advancing their economies which confuse their no-better-informed tinpot dictators in the state houses.

These security networks, which every country sets up as state insurance policy, are usually lawless, wasteful and know nothing about accountability. In the hands of dictators, they turn in! to a law unto themselves: they commit murders, maimings and to! rtures w ith glee, boasting into the bargain that “nothing will happen.” In the advanced countries, only First Class university graduates are recruited into security networks, except the illiterates, brawns and retired agents retained to do the menial chores. That way, even if they cannot trick or fool their foreign enemies, which is their common currency, at least they themselves cannot be fooled by the enemies. Not so, on the continent: the dropouts predominate, plus the unenlightened ones a psychologist called mesomorphs of obviously limited intelligence: in Lagos parlance, the animals. No wonder they are the easily fooled like zombis.

Worse still, the same Western nations, particularly Britain and USA, supply them tonnes of foolish, harassing gases with which they torture their citizens with the reckless abandon of primitive illiterates who mistake the gases for babies’ toys. Now, the British and Americans have taken their treachery one step up: they corrupt! ed some of the ignorant zombis in the networks to implant a fake, manipulative, mind-bug hi-tech in the brains of their own ignorant tribesmen and women to turn the latter into perpetual daydreamers once the complementary foolish gases are sprayed around. Predictably, the continent will witness pockets of inter-tribal wars which the combatants on both sides of the conflict have no clue what caused them – except their daydreams….

The continent is terribly unfortunate: Preposterously, dictators who hit the skids in the bad governance and economic mismanagement lane perpetuate the vicious circle of recruiting more wasteful security agents – rather than cut down on their numbers to channel recurrent expenditure funds into regenerating their economies to attenuate the citizens’ anger. Not surprisingly, Mubarak’s Egypt recruited one million security agents to police its 80 million population.

When the end comes, the same security netw! ork, in their avowed quest for state stability, would turn aro! und to b etray the dictator without qualms. In Egypt, Vice President Omar Suleiman read only two sentences to oust Mubarak in classic security betrayal – and melted back into the shadows.

Suleiman, at the head of the Directorate General of Intelligence, was the single most powerful man in the country. Worse still, he was also the notoriously ugly face of the regime. Too many of the egregious atrocities perpetrated by the Mubarak regime, some of which brought the peaceful mob into Tahrir Square in Cairo, were committed against their own people by the soiled hands of Suleiman. Of course, the Western nations looked away when the heinous human rights abuses – detention without trials, torture, death and disappearances, frame-ups and trumped-up charges – were committed, hailing the regime as the Mubarak strongman, a stable bulwark against terrorism.

When Mubarak’s opponents were silenced, Suleiman exported hi! s bestiality, specifically, to the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). When the hairbrained former US president George Bush launched his discredited extraordinary rendition bestiality on the world, Suleiman opened Egypt’s detention cells for Bush. Egypt became notorious for its black sites or interrogation and torture centres for both Egyptians and other Middle East victims of the extraordinary rendition, no doubt including the callous waterboarding.

The fiery Muslim cleric, Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, an Egyptian, was kidnapped in Milan, flown to Egypt, interrogated and tortured execrably. Suleiman zapped Mamdouh Habib, an Australian, repeatedly with high-voltage electricity, waterboarded him savagely, hung him from meat hooks and broke his finger-nails before the CIA flew him to Guantanamo prison, according to Dark Side.

The CIA set up several black sites in Europe, too for Bush’s barbarity fighti! ng terror. But that is no excuse for importing it to Africa. I! n fact, nine British citizens and seven foreign residents “renditioned” by the British MI5 and MI6 security agencies to be tortured by CIA sued the government on release. The MI5 and MI6 agents took part in their torture in prison. Last November, the myopic British government admitted criminal guilt and cunningly settled out of court to hush them up.

For a few hours after Mubarak’s third, patronising broadcast – which predictably angered the protesting mob – the embattled government thought it was still the irresistible force which had hit the immovable rock of protestors. Suddenly, the Tiananmen Square horror images of 1989 was set up should Suleiman’s security dogs advise Mubarak to order the army to roll out the tanks!

At that point, Mubarak and his “right-hand man,” Suleiman, promoted to Vice President to watch his back, reminded me of one Arabian Night story we read in primary school titled, The Arab and the Donkey. Suleiman’s strateg! ic position as the donkey enabled him to kick out the Arab.

African dictators need no reminder that once civil disobedience sets in and a critical mass of protesters take to the streets, no power on earth can stop the mass determined to overthrow the government. Some angry protestors at Tahrir Square pulled down a security man with koboko on horseback. They kicked him and beat him up. In Benghazi, the securitymen fled from the city after shooting down their countrymen protesters who turned on them.

The cyber networks for organizing the protests by-pass physical frontiers. The Stone Age security networks have no control over them. Nor have they trained agents to enter the chatrooms and social networks early to steer the young ones from the uprising.

Once the crowds are in the streets against the despicable regimes, only panicky shutting down all communication channels and foreign broadcasts are left open. But ! those make them nuisances to legitimate businesses, too. …Th! en one m ore illiterate despot is gone, thankfully!

The clock ticks: one domino falls after another. The only saving grace the megalomanic tyrants have is not to listen to empty assurances of their security chiefs telling the unenlightened tyrants what they want to hear. Either they embrace good governance now, if they still know what it is, or contrive to conduct free and fair elections and hand over peacefully.

The reality, and the folly is, they would not. Even when the mob were telling Mubarak his time was up, he was broadcasting his intention to conduct elections nine months later… Ghaddafi would say defiantly he is a revolutionary who would rather die a martyr. That, exactly, is how uninformed tyrants disconnected from their societies believe….

Original date published: 28 February 2011

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