Mugabe’s Departure Shakes Africa’s Other Longtime Rulers

Mugabe’s Departure Shakes Africa’s Other Longtime Rulers
Mugabe’s Departure Shakes Africa’s Other Longtime Rulers

After the stunning fall of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, attention has turned to other longtime African leaders accused of trying to extend their rule.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s sudden move last week to decorate over 300 army officers in a rare mass promotion suggested the jolt of realization across the continent: If Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years, could be forced from power by the military, perhaps anyone can, AP reported.

With Mugabe’s departure, Museveni is one of just four African leaders in power who have ruled for more than three decades. The group also includes Cameroon’s Paul Biya, who has been head of government or president for 42 years; Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled since 1979; and Republic of Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, who during two spells in office has ruled for 33 years.

Museveni, a key US security ally, is the most visible of the four. He has ruled this East African nation for three decades and now seeks to extend his rule by removing a presidential age limit from the constitution. The opposition has loudly objected.

His mass promotions in the Ugandan army signal that Museveni was startled by the sight of Zimbabwe’s military takeover that ended the rule of the 93-year-old Mugabe, who led his country since independence and had vowed to rule until death.

The promotions were meant to appease army officers after Mugabe’s ouster, said Gerald Bareebe, a Ugandan academic at the University of Toronto who is researching the role of African armies in regime consolidation. “Museveni knows that without the support of the army he cannot survive longer in power,” he said.

“There are fundamental similarities between Uganda and Zimbabwe. Both Mugabe and Museveni have been pushing fate,” said Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a Ugandan attorney who has represented Museveni’s opponents. “What will cause a spark in Uganda, no one knows.”

As in Zimbabwe, the military is seen as the most powerful institution in Uganda, and many people despair over Museveni’s seemingly tight control of it. The newly promoted officers include the chief of military intelligence and the commander of the elite special forces, which is in charge of protecting the president and until recently was led by Museveni’s son.

Early this year Gambia’s longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh was forced to flee into exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing an election and refusing to step down in a political standoff that led to a threat of regional military intervention. In Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore was forced to step down in 2014 after 27 years after protests erupted when he tried to amend the constitution to seek another term in office.


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