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The continued rein of the Afri Can’ts

By Kole Omotoso
10 February 2019   |   3:00 am
Never mind what the title here says. The Afri CANS will win at the end, and not at the end of time either. They will win ultimately after a struggle long and bitter. They will win. Never give up. Never give up on your country. Never give up your country. It is the season of…

Africa. Photo credit: Google

Never mind what the title here says. The Afri CANS will win at the end, and not at the end of time either. They will win ultimately after a struggle long and bitter. They will win. Never give up. Never give up on your country. Never give up your country.

It is the season of election manifestoes. Manifestos are full of promises that are short on fulfillment.

All over the continent promises, promises are being printed in small and large volumes. Parties are promising weary and exhausted populations miracles that they would perform once voted into power.

One of the grandest promisers is the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa. Elections are due there in May 2019.

The EFF, is the latest break away party formation from the African National Congress ANC, which has ruled South Africa since the end of legalized discrimination in 1994, that is for 25 years, a quarter of a century.

One of the campaign promises in the 179-page manifesto is that a EFF government in South Africa will stop Africans and African governments who would wish to stay in power forever.

In Egypt, Parliament is passing a new law that allows President El-Sisi to stay in power until 2034. And even beyond if he wishes.

In Uganda, after fisticuffs in Parliament President Museveni can rule forever. In the Sudan bread protests are going on against President Omar Al-Bashir who came to power in 1989, 30 years ago.

In the Cameroon, President Paul Biyi came to power in November 1982, 37 years ago, when President Emmanuel Macron was five years old!

So, where will the EFF government of South Africa begin its prevention of stay-put governments in Africa? With what instruments of persuasion will the EFF combat politicians who overstay their mandate? Will they resort to fisticuffs as they have been used to doing in their parliament under former President Zuma? Or will they send the South African army, well-resourced and well-trained from its long apartheid experience, to fight these governments and countries?

One of the sacred tenets of the 54 African countries is the idea of non-interference in each other’s internal, specifically domestic affairs.

And what can be more domestic than how a country wants to run its affairs? But this idea, no matter how dear to these African governments can be ignored.

It was ignored recently in Lesotho when South Africa sent then Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa to restore order to the mountain kingdom.

It was soundly ignored in The Gambia when magician President Yahya Jammeh, who had been in power since 1994 after a military coup d’etat, refused to leave after he lost the elections of 2017.

So, an EFF government would have precedents to cite in their endeavour to ensure term regulation on the continent.

But Lesotho and The Gambia are not Egypt, or Uganda or The Sudan. Here, fortunately or unfortunately, size matters. So, the South African army might meet resistance from well-provided for soldiers and officers!

Happenings on the continent continue to give Africans great grief. The latest country of concern in Liberia, where former star footballer is President, George Weah.

Initially, the issue had to do with the “Negro Clause” in the constitution of the country. Liberia was founded by freed African slaves from North America in 1847.

The Aliens and Nationality law of 1973 is based on the founding citizenship proviso that you have to be Black to be a citizen of Liberia.

One would have thought that such a provision in the constitution would have made the African natives that the returnees found in Liberia full citizens of the country! Ironies abound!

Restricting citizenship to Blacks only is not peculiar to Liberia alone.

The first independent republic set up by ex-slaves in 1804, Haiti, recognised only Black People as citizens and whites arrived the country’s shores on the pain of death.

The law was changed under pressure from European countries when Haiti sought international recognition in 1825. After all a country is a country because of other countries.

Anyway, President George Weah seemed determined to change this law to ensure that the country belongs to all who live in it. But the matter is not that simple.

“Based on over 200 interviews in cities in West Africa, Europe, and North America, how Liberians view citizenship in general and dual citizenship in particular, shows that the laws remain unchanged because objections to amendments are deeply socioeconomic in nature, and cannot be simply wished away by presidential proclamations.”

President George Weah has described the law as “unnecessary, racist and inappropriate.”

Furthermore President Weah insists that the law conferring citizenship on being black alone “contradicts the very definition of Liberia, which is derived from the Latin word ‘liber’, meaning ‘free’.

The response generally to the president is that white people will enslave black people if they are allowed to be citizens.

It would prevent Liberians from developing their own country. A new advocacy group – Citizens’ Action Against Non-Negro Citizenship and Land Ownership – has been set up.

The great fear is specific. Many Liberians fear that the Lebanese community will take over the country if allowed to be citizens.

According to the statistics, by the 1970s Liberia had a Lebanese population of about 17,000. Currently only about 3,000 – 4,000 Lebanese live in Liberia.

The population of Liberia is about four million. Despite this number the fear of Lebanese take over of the country is very strong among Liberians. They usually quote a young Sierra Leonean whose country has about 100,000 Lebanese in a Sierra Leonean population of six million people: “The Lebanese will always be Lebanese. They run everything, they have all the money and they have no respect for (Sierra Leoneans). Liberia should be for Liberians and Sierra Leone for Sierra Leoneans.”

George Weah’s election brought hope that some of the economic and political reforms necessary for the development of the country and the progress of the people of the country would take place under the star footballer. What is President George Weah’s solution?

From BBC News online the following: Liberia’s President George Weah has urged citizens to pray for two hours every day for God’s intervention in solving some of the country’s enormous problems.

Believers are also being urged to hold an all-night prayer vigil on final Friday of each month to bless the government and the people.”

bankole.omotoso@elizadeuniversity.edu.ng