27, March 2019
The army chief of staff, Lt Gen Ahmed Gaed Salah demanded that President Bouteflika be declared unfit to rule and removed in line with Article 102 of the Algerian constitution. There are remarkable lessons from the Algerian experience. No person is indispensable. In consonance with the Shakespearean advice, men must learn to ‘quit the stage when the ovation is loudest.’
The 82-year-old Bouteflika got bitten by the African leaders’ bug after 20 years in power and wanted to continue even when it was clear that he was physically incapacitated. It is redeeming that not all past and current African leaders have swallowed the deceit of power forever.
Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Dr. Leopold Sedar Senghor and Abdou Diouf of Senegal stood out to be counted when it became necessary that they moved on. Currently, three African presidents- Paul Biya of Cameroun, Al Bashir of Sudan, and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda continue to desecrate the altar of true leadership by extended and unconstitutional stay in office.
The national constitutions have been amended to feed their penchant for clinging to power even when all the indications point in the direction of retirement.
Bouteflika would have belonged in the pantheon of worthy statesmen if he had relinquished power when he suffered a stroke in 2013. But like in Cameroon, the cabal that benefits from his stay in power has not allowed this to happen. This is a disservice to the people of Algeria and to Africa in general.
The tragedy is that these leaders who perpetuate themselves in office do so for very primordial and selfish reasons. That the army is now calling for his removal from office; is the ultimate triumph of people power in Africa.