Recent and still ongoing mightily bloody conflicts in Ethiopia, the bloody battles on the streets of Uganda in the wake of the periodic but predictably fraudulent presidential confirmation, misnommered, ‘election‘ campaigns; the bloody social (popular) resistance and decampaigning against police brutality in Nigeria before; the ‘genocidal’ massacres in Cameroon and other similar atrocities, whether stealth and hidden away from broadcast or public view across the continent; all point to one thing: determined dictatorship.
The current crop of African dictators are determined; they aren’t ready and willing to let go. Not without giving a hard and bloody fight to those who are equally determined to dislodge them from power by any and all means necessary and available, although extremely limited compared to the abundant State means and machinery available to the dictators in power.
While the current crop of African dictators can be blamed for all their transgressions, political and others; and their obvious determination to put their foot down and press on, crush anyone and anything that dares get in their way to life presidency and other mischief; it’s not by their own effort alone. They have conscious facilitators, supporters and not to forget they have privileged open and unfettered access to State machinery (government and its power and other means) and the treasuries. Unlike those who are decidedly determined to fight and end their dictatorship and impunity.
These dictators are, by themselves alone, not as powerful as they appear to be. They are mere individuals and as weak as everyone else, individually. They are made powerful by those who, for their own opportunistic agenda, facilitate, support and lend them their resources and energies. They are made powerful by those who accept and take commands from them; execute their commands accordingly without critical analysis of the intention and objectives, the possible short and long-term consequences – on both them individually, their target victims and on society in general – of executing such commands from a mere mortal, as vulnerable as all of us.
These dictators are not born; they are made and defended by people who are invested in and profit immensely from their dictatorship. A political dictatorship is a consciously coordinated and collaborative, heavily resource-dependent project (agenda). A political dictatorship is not a single individual’s project; although the individual must be in full and strict charge and control of the project, oversee and closely coordinate its operations because, and as such, the individual benefits more and ensures his protection.
Note, I deliberately refrained from using ‘his or her‘, because African political dictators have so far been predominantly male. African political dictatorship has, historically, been a predominantly male turf; hence why I wrote ‘his protection‘ and not ‘his or her‘ protection.
I have written and argued before, that one of the various ways to consider, to at least minimise the possibilities of political dictatorships cropping up in Africa; it is imperative to examine the concept of political power in Africa; particularly its colonial root and influence. This is not, however, an attempt to excuse African dictators and justify their dictatorship. Far from it! It is merely to suggest that African dictatorship has strong roots – or is deeply rooted – in colonial attitudes to power by Africans in power and those who have ambitions for and seek to acquire power.
It is important to observe that, the power structures and instruments of power in Africa are all colonial structures and instruments of power; they were inherited from colonialism (colonial powers). These inherited colonial power structures and instruments of power were never designed to work for Africans. But rather, they were designed to work – and worked – against Africans using Africans in the service of colonial regimes and wider colonial interests both in Africa and outside; mainly colonial Europe.
Equally imperative, is to consider the attitudes to power, particularly the socioeconomic backgrounds of those who have power ambitions and seek to acquire power. Because these factors have a significant influence on their behaviour once in power and with access to State means. Too often, they get accustomed to State power and State privileges that accompany it such as State luxury. Many, due to their impoverished backgrounds, use State power and positions to engage in primitive accumulation of wealth motivated by what appears as the urge and attempt to compensate for their past socioeconomic deprivations.
They become terribly grabby, like starving vultures at a butchery undergoing a thorough cleaning. Often that inevitably involves committing all manner of mischief, including potential crimes.
Reflecting on that, and realising the implications of their behaviour, especially what it might mean to them personally once out of power; and without guaranteed protection against the vengeful behaviour of their successors, sensing possible danger ahead and waiting for them; it becomes necessary for them to use State power to defend not only their ill-gotten accumulated wealth by defending their positions in power, but also to maintain power.