Ethiopia: From dictatorship to democracy

March 5th, 2012 | by addis portal |

Prof. Al Mariam 
Mahatma Gandhi first formulated the iron law of history for dictators: “There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.” Just in the past year we have seen Gandhi’s words come to pass as dictators fell like dominoes in the Arab Spring: Ben Ali in Tunisia got the boot after 24 years. Hosni Mubarak was thrown out and hauled into court after 32 years. Moamar Gadhafi in Libya was literally dragged out of the sewers, paraded in the streets and and executed with his own golden pistol. Ali Saleh ruled Yemen for 33 years and went into exile after suffering disfiguring burns and shrapnel injuries. Bashir al-Assad is running a slaughter house in Syria, and he will surely face the same fate as his brother dictators.

Sub-Sahara Africa has also seen its share of fallen dictators. Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire was collared holed up in his palace and turned over to the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity. Mamadou Tandja of Niger tried to cling to power by ignoring constitutional term limits, but Niger’s military ousted him. Tandja’s principal opponent was subsequently elected president. Recently, the 85 year-old Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal tried to steal a third term in office and faced a firestorm of public protest. He ran but failed to win a majority, and now faces a runoff with the certainty of civil strife to follow should he “win”.

In January 2011, I wrote a weekly column entitled, “After the Fall of African Dictatorships” and posed three questions: “What happens to Africa after the mud walls of dictatorship come tumbling down and the palaces of illusion behind those walls vanish? Will Africa be like Humpty Dumpty (a proverbial egg) who “had a great fall” and could not be put back together by “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men”? What happens to the dictators?” I thought I had a ready an answer to the last question, though not for the first two:

When the people begin to beat their drums and circle the mud walls, Africa’s dictators will pack their bags and fly off like bats out of hell…[Some of the dictators] will hide out in the backyards of their brother dictators… [or] remain fugitives from justice … The rest will fade away into the sunset to quietly enjoy their stolen millions… The fact is that the morning after the fall of Africa’s dictators, the people will be stuck with a ransacked economy, emptied national banks, empty store shelves, torture chambers full of political prisoners and dithering and power-hungry opposition leaders jockeying for position in the middle of political chaos

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