Kiss the Club Goodbye!

Radio Erena: 21 April 2021

The sudden death of the president of Tchad Idriss Déby vacated his seat in the abominable African presidents’ elite club: The Club of the longest ‘serving’ presidents. In better words, the longest ‘sitting’, or chair-bound African presidents.

The late Idriss Déby, who had won a sixth term as president on April 11, had been a member of the club since 1990. Earlier, he had been a revolutionary who led a salvation army with the pivotal support of the toppled Sudanese dictator Omar Al Basheer, himself, with the toppled Qadhafi of Libya, Mubarak of Egypt, and Mugabe of Zimbabwe were also members of the notorious club.

These elite members occupy their seats until death hits them hard. They rig elections; cancel results; kill and imprison opponents; and finally, when they are exhausted of gimmicks and their bones are feeble and their muscles are flaccid, they declare themselves ‘presidents for life.

Ironically, Idriss Déby was number six on the club’s membership list. He was 68 years old of which he spent 30 consecutive years as a self-imposed ‘elected president.

The top of the list is reserved without any serious contester for the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, 78, who is ruling since 1979 to the present. Paul Biya, 83, of Cameroon is ruling for 36 years. Denis Sassou Nguesso, 77, rules the Congo Republic for 36 years now. The ex-revolutionary-turned-dictator, Yoweri Museveni, 76, is running Uganda for 34 years. In the ‘kings’ class’, King Mswati, the absolutist monarch of Swaziland completed his 33rd on the throne.

Next to Idriss Déby are two Horn of Africa members: Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki, 75, also a revolutionary-turned-tyrant is officially in his seat for the past 27 years. In addition to two more years as Chairman of the Provisional Eritrean Government that ran the country in 1991-1993.

The tiny Horn of the Africa Republic of Djibouti presents its incumbent president Ismail Omar Guelleh, 73, who is ruling for 21 years and boldly ‘won’ a new term earlier this month.
Another revolutionary who has established membership in this disreputable elite club is Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Kagame, 63, is ruling the country with an iron fist for the past 20 years. He is recently reinstated as the larger-than-life political figure in Rwanda.

The toughest and most ruthless among these elite club members is the Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki, known to his people as Dictator Isias Afwerki (DIA). His country’s score in the past thirty years testifies to his matchless ruthlessness. During his dark rule, thousands of youths are fleeing the country every year. Eritreans, with disagreeable merit, have become the second-largest immigrants’ group after the Syrians in Europe in the past years. Freedom of movement is banned inside and outside the country. Internally, travelers need permission from the Ministry of Defense to travel from a city to another. To travel abroad, they need to obtain an impossible exit visa. Eritrea perches comfortably at the bottom of the list of freedom of press and internet service providing (isp) at the global level. The country has been turned into a mammoth incarceration camp with no less than 10,000 prisoners behind bars according to NGOs and Human Rights Activists.

On the forthcoming 24 May, Eritreans will celebrate thirty years of independence. With DIA smothering the young nation, apparently, liberation remains to be won with supplementary dear sacrifices.

By Fathi Osman.