By - Tobi Idowu
Africa’s democracy in practice is not as theory tells it, there is a sinister political trend going on across African countries, which is the increasing intolerance of opposition to governments. This disturbing attitude by African rulers is reaching a very worrisome point, in spite of the fact that most countries on the continent now purport to practice democracy – a rather cynical travesty, as democracy, largely preferred for its tolerance of differing views, has been mixed with dictatorship, infamous for its zero indisposition to dissents. Not a week could now pass without some scary news that some opposition figures in some African countries have been arrested, jailed, or even declared missing.
In Nigeria, as in Rwanda, in Zimbabwe, in Uganda, in Kenya, even in South Africa, as well as in Egypt, attempt at browbeating opponents to cowering silence and unquestioned conformity could now be said to be the greatest concern of most African leaders, many of whom are outward democrats, whose actions profess totalitarian attitudes.
African leaders, by their actions, now largely say, ‘yes we have changed our style of governance, derisively termed dictatorship, as seen in the form of government we now openly subscribe to, Western-prescribed democracy; nonetheless, we are still what we were in the past, in substance – no nonsense demigods, who brook no differing opinions and oppositions. Dare us at your own peril!’
Where is Eugène Ndereyimana?
Despair could describe what Joselyne Mwiseneza must be feeling right now in Rwanda as she continues to wait for the return of her husband, Eugène Ndereyimana, who has gone missing for more than 30 days. Ndereyimana, who represented the opposition FDU-Inkingi party in the east of the country, had been a leading opposition figure in Rwanda before his sudden disappearance on July 5; yet there seems to be a deliberate silence, maddening silence, from the state authorities, on his whereabouts.
Expectedly, this uncertainty surrounding Ndereyimana’s disappearance has been having a disconcerting impact on the wife, who informed the BBC she has lost hope of finding her husband. She said she could not be sure whether he is dead or alive, since the authorities have not given her any news about him.
“The children are too sad, they don’t know what’s going on, they keep asking me where dad is gone. It is too hard for me,” Mrs Mwiseneza said.
Her fears are not unfounded if previous related events in Rwanda are taken into account. As revealed by the leader of Ndereyimana’s FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, the previous occupant of Ndereyimana’s position, Jean Damascène, had also gone missing in 2016. He was to be found dead. Meanwhile, Ingabire, known for her vocal criticism of the Rwandan government, also recently suffered a personal loss when her personal assistant, Anselme Mutuyimana, went missing on his way home in March 2019. His body would later be found in a forest.
Amidst these disturbing disappearance and questionable death, the Rwandan government, whose duty among others is to ensure citizens’ right to life is kept sacrosanct, only concerns itself with a denial of accusations that it has been persecuting the opposition.
President Mnangagwa wants no citizens protest distract his Western friends
In Zimbabwe, civil society groups have said at least six opposition and civil society members have been abducted and tortured by suspected state agents. Expectedly, the Zimbabwean government has denied the accusations of state involvement in this barbarism. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum reported that the victims were accused of mobilising people to demonstrate. Same of same in Rwanda, as in more African countries where dissidents are seen as criminals.
Meanwhile, like the often boring rehash of government defence, spokesman of the Zimbabwean government, is reported to have maintained, vehemently of course, that the said abductions are not what President Emmerson Mnangagwa stands for, and there is a need to investigate and arrest the culprits.
President Mnangagwa, though, is have a troubling headache. Due to the comatose nature of his country’s economy, he needs to curry as many foreign goodwill as possible. But he believes citizen legitimate protests of his policies will delegimize his own government in the perception of his desperately needed foreign friends. He has since cued the police, who have warned the public against taking part in any demonstrations. Well, the Western governments have called on Zimbabwe, on Mnangagwa, to respect the right to peaceful protests. One hopes his government does not make wanton arrest of protesters like in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, protest is an act of treason
Yes, in Nigeria, the “ungainly giant of Africa,” where protest is as good as being criminalized. The Nigerian government descended to an almost unthinkable low, in the repression of opposition voices, last week, when it decided to test a law made on terrorism few years ago on a citizen, who was at the vanguard of a planned nationwide protest.
Omoyele Sowere, an online media publisher, is now in police custody on a phantom charge the government says is treason. He, by christening the previously mentioned protest as ‘#Revolution Now,’ has been declared a treasonable felon by the government. The government has since procured a suspect court injunction to keep him in custody for 45 days, in order to justify, via investigation, that he is indeed a subversive felon.
Two different purposed groups, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as the Shiite, and the Indigenous People of Biafra have been declared terrorist by the same government because they protested their grievance to the government.
Ironically, this government was essentially made possible by a series of protests. Yet, it does seem incapable of tolerating citizens’ expression of their displeasure to some of its policies. If Nigerian government does not call up unimaginable premises for suppressing protesters, it will result to an outright use of force to scare them. Notably, while engaged in that crass display of dictatorship, it will raise up an army of programmed (social) media enablers, whose sole duty it is to rabidly defend and then drown out opinions contrary to what the government wishes to see as the normal discourse.
Opposition in hot waters for wanting end to 33-year Museveni rule
The trend of suppression of opposition voices is of noticeable dimension in Uganda too. President Yoweri Museveni, like his longstanding counterparts in some African countries, now sees his country as his personal estate, where nobody could question his divine rights to rule as he deems fit. Having been ruling for more than three decades, he now delusional thinks he is the law and constitution of the country. There is some kind of scaring truth in his delusion. Over times the constitution has been tampered with to suit the whims of President Museveni and to perpetuate his rule till eternity.
Consequently, anyone that dares to question the president is bound to run into troubles. One of such persons who have run into trouble is the musician-turned politician, Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, who last year was arrested and later charged for treason on some laughable charges. His main offence apparently is that he is championing movements determined to end Museveni’s eternal rule. Just some few days ago, one of Kyagulanyi’s close associates was declared dead after he had been reportedly attacked by some unknown assailants.
The list of mock democracy goes on and on in other African countries, be it in Egypt, whose president transitioned from the military to a civilian ruler; or in South Africa, where the gains of the African National Congress are being eroded by a corruption inclined government, whose defence for its misdemeanour is to blame the opposition. In other words, Africans now live in a very perilous times at the time when their continent is supposed to be enjoying the rewards said to be inherent in democracy. Democracy is now a facile ruse employed to shield the tyrannical system eating away the fabric of the African societies. Tragic.
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