By TP Saran
It is time for many guys (whether in or out of office) to go. Because y en a marre
In last week’s issue of this paper, Jean-Baptiste Placca in his article Le pouvoir se quitte avec panache refers to the case of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal who insists, despite the people’s disapproval, to seek a third mandate, this time for seven years. He will shortly be completing 12 years as president, and at 86 years of age he wants another term!!
Apparently he has even sought foreign legal advice that would allow him to do so. Competing with Mugabe?
Placca adds that had he chosen not to stand again, his people might have put up a glorious monument in his honour, and Africa perhaps hoist him to the rank of the great politicians of the continent. Alas, laments the writer, ‘rien, dans les préliminaires auxquels sont soumis les Sénégalais, ne laisse présager une sortie aussi distinguée.’
To that category pride of place goes to Nelson Mandela, who stepped down after completing only one term as President of South Africa. He already had a great moral stature as a man of honour, admired for the struggle he led to dismantle the system of apartheid, but even more perhaps for the magnanimity he displayed in not going for a witch-hunt after he won the general elections in May 1994. This must surely rank as one of the bravest and most sublime acts in the history of mankind.
President Masire of Botswana was the next African leader to step down, after 18 years in power, but he did not have the same international visibility and sheen of Nelson Mandela.
Already more than famous, Mandela shone with a moral glow when he decided to leave the seat of power. We have seen how those who have persisted in staying on have finished so ignominiously and cruelly – Gadhafi, Sadat Hussein, Marcos, Ceausescu to name but a few. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is wrecked and people in several places Y en a marre! but the hangers-on refuse to see the writing on the wall.
Now a new scene is unfolding in Egypt, with the generals of the military not willing to give up power. The Arab Spring,which had brought so much of hope, has now turned into a winter of further discontent, with a re-enactment of brutal events at Tahrir square in Cairo and continuing scuffles in Yemen and Bahrain.
In an interview on the ABC television network President Bashir al-Assad of Syria is in denial about what is happening to his people, never mind the nearly 4000 dead which include 300 innocent children. The city of Homs is the epicenter of the bloodbath unleashed by Assad’s army: but no, he says, no government can ever give orders to shoot and kill, he did not do it, and if ever it is true that people have died by the bullet, then he is not responsible because the army’s soldiers have acted on their own.
Assad does not add of course that the army is made up practically solely of men belonging to his ethnic group, the Alawi tribe. He insists that the people are behind him, and counters a reference to information about what’s happening on the ground coming from the United Nations by querying the credibility of the international body. In so doing, he does not realize that he is putting his own credibility in doubt.
But such are the sad facts and alarming figures coming from not only Syria but several of the countries where there are ongoing conflicts. Of course, as the saying goes, we cannot compare apples with oranges, but to our mind there is enough of dysfunction that an underlying pattern becomes discernible across countries, even those with a democratic regime. Politicians are ever ready to tweak the system or exploit loopholes in the system to their advantage.
It is indeed tragic that those in power do not realize that y en a marre is a creeping feeling that exists in all countries. In Mauritius people y en a marre of seeing the same faces day in day out, year in year out, as they are getting stale. It has been suggested before that in the case of Mauritius, two consecutive terms of 5 years each for any Prime Minister would serve the needs of democracy very well. If there is to be any electoral reform, this item – limiting the number of terms of a Prime Minister to two consecutive ones of 5 years – must definitely be debated in all seriousness.
The Westminster system which has served us so well is now dépassé, and we think that the best system for us is the American system of only two mandates, with dates for elections and the swearing-in of the newly-elected Prime Minister fixed for good.
We understand the reluctance of incumbents to implement such a measure, especially because once they are out of power they have no great standing in society. We will never have the equivalent of Jimmy Carter, ambassador of peace and crusader against blindness on the African continent, or of Vaclav Havel and Bill Clinton with his Clinton Initiative. Because here, people want to accumulate more and more, and are not willing to part with anything. So while they have temporary status, they will never achieve stature.
Of course they may not care at all, preferring to live in the ephemeral world of the ambrosia of power. In that case, pity for the people because they are being taken for a ride. How sad that we are stuck with a system which has done its time. And so have many who straddle today’s scene. It is time for many guys (whether in or out of office and across the board) to go. Because y en a marre.
* Published in print edition on 9 December 2011