Rejecting "Little" Eyadema

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The international community must support Togolese in their desire to restore democracy following the death of long-time dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, Africa's longest serving dictator who ruled his country with an iron hand for 38 years. The military has appointed his son as successor, ignoring the Constitution which calls for elections within 60 days. African countries, boosted by powerful Nigeria have rejected the coup. Today Lagos announced it's willing to consider an African Union-sponsored armed intervention to restore the rule of law.

This could be a sign that the bad old days in Africa may be changing, when militarists -- often supported by the West -- hijacked power against popular wishes. Yet judging by past history, "little Eyadema" may be eventually embraced by the West--that's why all friends of Africa should help keep up the pressure. The late Eyadema, a former army colonel came to power in a 1967 coup. Like all other dead and living African tyrants, Eyadema’s death appears to foretell a perpetuation of a trend that appears to be engulfing Africa from east, west, and north to south. Eyadema, who prevented Togo's exiled opposition leader, Gilchrist Olympio, from standing against him in the 2003 presidential election, left no obvious successor. According to the constitution, the President of the National Assembly, Fambare Ouattara Natchaba, should have taken over as interim head of state until fresh elections are held. But soon after Eyadema’s death, the Togolese military installed Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema, the son as Togo’s new president. As Charles Onyango Obbo, one of Africa’s most published columnist noted, "Eyadema pulled off one last act of political chicanery," and "waited when the Speaker of Parliament Fambare Natchaba Ouattara was traveling abroad" before dying.

President Olusegun Obasanjo who is the current chairman of the African Union has affirmed that the AU union will not accept any unconstitutional transition of power in Togo. United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan has also called upon the Togolese military to respect the constitution and drop Faure Eyadema as president. Annan stressed the need for constitutionality and respect for the rule of law. Annan also expressed concern that "the transfer of power that has taken place in Togo has not been done in full respect of the provisions of the Constitution."

Leaders and members of the European Union have called on Togo's leaders to respect the constitution after the death, of Eyadema, warning that otherwise its ties with the EU could suffer. The United States on its part sent a message of condolence to Eyadema’s family. In it, the US vaguely asked the Togolese to use the opportunity to get a new president.

But that is what the entire world and African leaders always do. Grumble a few words to calm the tide while they shake hands with the tyrants in the backroom. The same AU (which was formerly OAU) used to complain about Idi Amin in Uganda and yet they elected Amin chairman of the same OAU. European Union, governments of the USA and Britain always make a little noise here and there and the next time you see them will be when they are shaking hands with Eyadema’s son.

Western countries and African countries always will make some cosmetic and hypocritical noise to cool off a possible uprising in Togo. Then, they will start to trade with Eyadema’s son and start praising him as one of the best emerging leaders of Africa. Shame on the EU, AU, Britain and the USA if they allow little Eyadema remain president of Togo.

Recent examples of sons taking over from where fathers left is not hard to find in Africa. When Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the Congo, his son Joseph Kabila was swiftly installed to replace him. The people whined around for a couple of weeks or so but the so called pro-democracy countries like the USA and Britain gave young Kabila a thumbs up.

Libya's Col. Muammar Gadhafi has been in power for a solid 36 years. His son Saif al-Islam is being groomed to take over when Gadhafi is history. Also Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, who's been president for 24 years is grooming his son Gamal as his successor. In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986 is grooming his son Muhozi to take over when he dies. Museveni sent his son to train in Britain’s Sandhurst military academy. On return, he put his son to be in charge presidential security posssibly waiting to take over power when Museveni dies.

African leaders and people should be ashamed and embarrassed to be ruled by sons of dead dictators. Africans from countries like Togo, Libya, Egypt and Uganda should stand up and resist this hereditary tyranny. There are signs that Togolese won't accept the nonsense judging by demonstrations on the streets of the capital. Africans should also start questioning and condemning foreign governments like that of the USA and Britain that are quick to shake hands with governments of sons of former African presidents.

It is this kind of practice of accommodating hereditary tyranny that is contributing to under developing Africa. It is time all African countries stand up and force such governments like that of Eyadema’s son to abandon their selfish agenda and allow justice and the democratic processes to prevail. Otherwise life presidency and hereditary tyranny will bring the continent to its knees.

Black Star News columnist Otika can be reached via  For more articles including investigative news reports please order the newsstand edition of the newspaper by clicking on "subsribe" on the homepage or calling (212) 481-7745.

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