Why Africa’s post-colonial democracies are threatening to become dynastic dictatorships

Alexander Opicho July 11, 2021
Cameroon's leader Paul Biya (AP photo)

After the fall of colonialism in Africa, most of the countries adopted parliamentary and electoral system of democracy. This was some five decades ago. But as for now, this is slowly changing. The new hobgoblin is haunting Africa- the specter of dynastic dictatorship lurks all over in full gear to take over the people based democracy. This specter is evident in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Togo and many other countries of Africa.

For example, Tanzania has maintained a very beautiful environment for intellectual and ideological culture but still it has been ruled by a dynastic dictatorship of the CCM that only gives the cronies of Julius Nyerere opportunity to contest for the top political office. This has been so despite the fact that the CCM dictatorship in Tanzania has held hostage the people of Tanzania in poverty for the past six decades. 

Cameroon is a more contemporary example, where President Paul Biya’s son is now making a name for himself on Cameroon’s political scene to take over the job of his 88-year-old father who has held the top office since 1982. Franck Biya, the son of Paul Biya, has always kept the low profile working as a businessman and entrepreneur. But now, there is political evidence in Cameron that he is preparing to take over. The social media in Cameroon is flooded with images of Franck Biya for his candidacy.

It is not a surprise that some economically powerful group of businessmen, politicians and government allies in Cameron have formed The Frankistes Citizen Movement for the Peace and Unity of Cameroon, a political movement in Cameron led by a powerful businessman by the name Mohamed Rahim Noumeau, calling on Franck Biya to run for the presidency in the next general election. 

However, it is notable that Franck Biya’s presidential ambitions don’t come as a total surprise in the context of the region. There are sporadic cases of dynastic politics in Africa, for example; Togo’s current president Faure Gnassingbe took over as the nation’s leader in 2005 following the death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema. Eyadema had ruled Togo for 38 years. Comparatively in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), incumbent president Felix Tshisekedi was elected to lead the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) after his father, former president Etienne Tshisekedi, died in 2017. In Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has excessively empowered his wife Janet and his son General Muhozi to a clear extent that they are better placed to take over from the now aged Museveni.

Those supporting dynastic politics in Africa have always borrowed a leaf from the political past to justify their choices by pointing out similar situations around the world in the Bush family, John Adams Family in the United States, Kenyatta’s family in Kenya and Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who were elected following their fathers’ exits from politics.

The situation in Kenya is currently the practical justification for History’s accusation of parliamentary attitude towards human problems with ‘intellectual vulgarity’. This charge has not been false accusation; there is enough evidence in Kenya showing ever present mediocrity in parliamentary decisions whenever it comes to upholding dignity of the poor through good governance. Currently, this tradition of parliamentary cretinism is evident in the bill under debate before the parliament of Kenya seeking to criminalize Kenya’s poor people’s thinking about their poverty. In the bill, it is suggested that any person in Kenya speaking in public about the few rich and politically connected families as the chief supporters of bad social-cum-political policies responsible for putting bad governance in place and hence serial failure by successive governments to improve welfare of a common Kenyan will be criminalized. Thus, it is like the political class in Kenya is technically criminalizing class consciousness.

This bill is provoked by the specter of class conflict in the current public political discourse where the majority of Kenyans now want to vote by basing on their class. Kenya’s majority of voters belong to the economically disadvantaged class composed of rural peasants and the lumpen jobless in the urban areas. These two economically powerless communities are now threatening to evolve into a spontaneous voting monster that will thin-out of power the traditionally powerful political class that have always enjoyed political power to perfect unfair accumulation of dirty riches. Kenya’s politically powerful class is threatened because it is only made up of just a dozen of families with dynastic tendencies which have unfairly piled heaps on other heaps of riches throughout five decades of formation of the Kenyan state. However, it is now becoming realistic that the handfuls of rich and politically connected families are nothing before the masses that have been held in poverty by bad governments for ages. The poor voters in Kenya have now realized their strength and thus they are publicly discoursing voting as a political block to thrash out the small class of blood-sucking patrimonial bourgeois from political power.

Some paradox is that Kenya has been famed for being a superlative economic power of East Africa, but it is so unfortunate to learn that the greater portion of Kenya’s economic prosperity is infamously in the hands of the state which operates like private property of those few that are politically advantaged and well profiled financially. The rest of this national economic prosperity again is held as private property of the politically correct, both in a historical and in a contemporary sense. Thus, Kenya’s economic exuberance is not a fact. The available technical reality contradicts the conventional information, the reality is that ninety percent of sixty million Kenyans wallow in urban poverty, rural squalor, rural landlessness, urban destitution and wretchedness in the wynds of slums, credit-unworthiness, ignobling jobs, rural malnutrition, urban pollution, insignificant education, teenage mother-hood, economic despair, induced drug addiction, miss-education, perennial joblessness, sex-working and commercial homosexuality, and all other sorts of social-economic powerlessness. 

The above conditions are socially challenging, and it is psychologically obvious that any person living in such challenging and hope-fettering conditions will be overtly conscious about these conditions. This social-psychological phenomenon is known as class consciousness. It is this social-political phenomenon of class consciousness that is now dictating Kenya’s political discourse, a discourse which is predominantly reflecting volatile nature of mass emotions of those that have been politically alienated for decades. 

But if one can think correctly and help to think and question – What was to be expected by those that have been alienating over forty million workers in Kenya? Nothing else other than the alienator coming face to face with sad reality that when you alienate forty million workers you convert them into forty million gravediggers. They will dig the grave for no one else but for you the alienator. And no kind of parliamentary law has ever been successful in muffling the grave diggers from realizing their natural right; still it can be projected or be extrapolated that no amount of selfish parliamentary legislation in Kenya will stop the forty million plus grave diggers from realizing their natural right of digging the grave for a dozen families that make the deep state, the system, the cartel or the patrimonial bourgeoisie in Kenya.

In spite of all the rudimentary and feasible evidence from active history in support of the above observations, Kenyan law-makers and parliamentarians are giving a euphorically unanimous support to this anti-class consciousness bill. They are doing so without reading the signs on the wall or even consulting with the people of Kenya to establish the human law that is currently lighting the political path of the people of Kenya. The Parliamentarians have ignored the people as if they are not aware that human law is natural, but parliamentary law is artificial-and always nature abhors the vacuum. So, let not those two hundred self-righteous parliamentarians in Kenya think that they are able to pin down the revolutionary energy of forty million workers that have become tired of being victims of economic alienation and political exploitation. The only law that can forestall this looming hobgoblin from the netherworld taking its course in Kenya is the law that upholds genuine inclusivity, genuine economic mainstreaming, genuine empowerment and un-pretentious transfer of political power and economic enjoyment to the people through a constitutional mechanism.

Currently, the Parliamentarians in Kenya are not alive to this flip-side of the anti-class conscious bill because of their effortless service to ‘club norm’ of conditioned mental ‘tetheredness’ to bourgeoisie pressure. It is incidental bourgeoisie trapping that a cash-focused career parliamentarian treating politics as a family business cannot escape. In fact, history of parliamentary politics teaches that, it requires different political mindset and moral mettle to serve in a parliament that is a protégé of shrewdly calculating bourgeoisie machinations without succumbing to snobbery required to serve bourgeoisie trappings.

Unfortunately, they are the same shrewd and wily Bourgeoisie interests are the ones dictating party nominations in Kenya, a process which has always given the people of Kenya morally punctured politicians that are out to be goons of tribal paramount chiefs, politicians that fight at the funeral gathering only to be kicked down in order to prove their policy or ideology; politicians who taste the texture of any social policy before them by using their tongues then stomachs but not by using their supposed glowing fire of the intellectual consciousness supposed to be the light for their political ideology. I mean bourgeoisie slyness has given Kenya five decades of parliamentary politicians that make Kenya’s parliament to be a perfect specimen of Marx’s social diagnosis that ‘a parliament is an instrument of the politically powerful to oppress the powerless workers by relying on the mutton-headed persiflage and anent blabbering by its leather-tongued members living in constant fear that maybe their mandibles have of-late lost germ needed to be appreciated by the bourgeoisie capitalists as ‘mouths for hire’.

Worthless again is the misplaced fear of those Kenyan politicians sought to be criminalized by the criminal law that will come from the anti-class consciousness bill. Those politicians of the hustler narrative are innocent, they have been innocent, and they are pre-emptively innocent when it comes to establishing political culpability to pre-emptive crime of being class-conscious crusaders of the rights of the workers. Their political history has no record of them being class-consciousness political leaders; they have been purely class-insouciant money making ethnic based politicians. The only criminal charges they qualify to face are; thievery of state resources, land-grabbing, crime against humanity, murder of Newspaper editor, murder of business competitor, murder of election officer, money laundering, election fraud and or being accomplice to murder of human rights activists. However, it has been hard for them be charged with these crimes because they often mutate like HIV virus-from political correctness to political enmity and then back to political correctness.

And though there was a befitting law with which to criminally charge the accused Kenyan politicians for committing crime of perpetrating class-conscious politics, still this law would be prosecuting wrong people given that ever since Kenya has never had a class conscious politician. The present political speeches about hustlers competing with dynasties for presidency don’t amount to any class-conscious or revolutionary conscious politics. These are only little Machiavellian tricks to achieve parochial intentions of dissembling and perfecting dissolubility to exploit or take advantage of the already prevailing volatile relation between the few that superbly own and the non-owning masses at pain with their history of being economically abused. This prevailing volatility is a naturally occurring phenomenon known as class-conflict. It is not a philosophy of any politician, or malicious afore-thought or mens rea-inner evil intentions of some politicians. It is a natural phenomenon which dictates that; with or without a politician, the end to bourgeoisie exploitation of the poor workers is always a class based conflagration that has the poor masses ejecting violently the few oppressive bourgeoisies from political power-the dynastic bourgeoisie from power.

I want to end up this paper by pointing out that the dynastic bourgeoisie were not created by God to be eternal leaders as most of rural people in Africa have been manipulated to believe. Dynastic bourgeoisie are selfish political opportunists. They have been properly described by different Post-colonial scholars ranging from Achille Mbembe to Isa Shivji, Mahmod Mamdan to Ernest Wamba dia Wamba as those elected leaders that want to replicate colonial style of leadership for selfish reasons. These scholars have also on several occasions pointed out how the dynastic bourgeoisie have evolved, devolved or grown in Africa by stating that the dynastic bourgeoisie have all based their growth on abuse of political power through corruption, militarization of politics, manipulation of the media to work as propaganda machinery for the dynastic bourgeoisie, impoverishment of the masses, financing of regular political violence, financing the structure of the police state, making university education to be too expensive beyond the reach of the poor and establishing a very dedicated snobbish civil service and public service systems. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 10, 2021


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