This has happened so often: An aspiring president has launched a political platform based upon fight against corruption, reduction of poverty, less nepotism, revival of agriculture and equal treatment of all ethnic groups.
Once in power, the vision often fades out. It seems as if powerful forces in society that encompass the presidency take the lead. Quickly a newly elected president is trapped by an elite that greatly benefits from the system of patrimonialism. The president seems to be paralyzed by external pressures. He starts to allocate privileges among the powerful elites to secure important support as soon as re-election is on the agenda.
The late president of Zambia, Levy Mwanawasa, once complained bitterly about how he was frustrated by people around him and who defeated him in his struggle to fight corruption.
Some leaders have changed from being champions of democracy when in opposition to become autocratic in position, clinging to power. And autocratic leaders are usually scared of people with different political views. They intimidate the opposition, threaten the free media and civil society and allow police to harass ordinary people.
However, since 2016, protests against this kind of leadership have swept across Africa. Often articulated and organized through social media. Many authoritarian leaders now fear social media more than they fear opposition political parties because of the new media`s ability to mobilize against the regime in power.
Brutal and dictatorial leaders like Mugabe, dos Santos and Jammeh have been ousted. New regimes are in place in South Africa and Ethiopia.
The most impressive of the new leaders is the prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiye Ahmed. He has said he will reform the judiciary, revisit the repressive laws, open up the democratic space and give space for a free and independent media.
It shall be interesting to follow his ability to manoeuvre in the old political system and see if has the strength and stamina to implement his political platform and be a model for other African countries.
Photo: 2018 Reuters / https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/10/us-house-resolution-ethiopia-passes