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REWRITE OF THE AFRICAN DICTATOR HANDBOOK

 

I have advocated for the need to change the constitution of Cameroon. It is my belief that the current constitution gives too much power to the executive branch or the president. I have indicated that the African culture, in my view is already too surrendering and too “weak”  because of its practices of de-facto inequality among people.

 

This is what the continent suffered from when the colonial masters arrived. The African man was generally voluntarily submissive and overly respectful to the propositions of the Whiteman --also to the Chiefs and the elders-- granting him excessive hospitality to the point of surrendering his own dignity and even that of his own people. This behavior of elevating another human being above yourself, will necessarily inhibit your ability to make any objective and bold judgment or state any unbiased criticism. The subconscious impulse to quickly admit your inferiority or your incapacity to compete is what leads people to settle for the status quo even when they acknowledge the need for a change. The boldness and strength of mind to break out the conventional thinking or reason differently, the audacity to ask the questions that have never been asked before, the ingenuity to imagine things as they have never been and ask why not, the curiosity to challenge the status quo and the de facto answers, the affirmative rebelliousness to express new thoughts even at the risk of being rejected, the desire to be free from within, will all be greatly inhibited when the people lack the self confidence because they think they are inferior or that they have to be overly respectful to someone who is in position of power of some sort, in order not to offend them.

Don't get me wrong, we have to be respectful to others, we have to respectful to the stranger, we have to be respectful to the elders, we have to be respectful to the people who have achieved some stature in society. I am an advocate for all of that. But the right balance and measure to which you do all these things matters, granting that human beings are influenced by their psychology and their state of mind. I will take it one step further and argue that a little bit of measured rebellion, controlled defiance, and reasoned disobedience are always good to the human mind and soul. When you become overly respectful, to the point of surrender, you risk diminishing your own identity or personality. And as a result, you elevate the beneficiary of your behavior to a higher moral and psychological ground at the detriment of yourself. You then create the fertile ground for the narcissistic and self centered mind to take hold and exert dominion on you. This can ultimately result in what I have termed "self enslavement". The voluntary submission of your dignity --and perhaps your humanity--to another human being.
This can be seen when someone becomes president in an African country, how all the chiefs, Fons, Lamidos and traditional leaders will bow down and surrender their humanity to new leader so easily, without any intellectual and spiritual examination of the unintended consequence of the human psychological impact of such a submissive behavior. This is how we have unintentionally created and elevated the dictators in power today. This state of mind is what made colonization and slavery so easily possible in Africa. The natural tendency to unconditionally submit oneself to the Whiteman, to the elderly or the leaders of society. The fear to offend the powerful or the elder will inhibit people's ability to stage any constructive critic or debate upon which lies the capacity of a society to change and evolve. The fear to hold the leader accountable hinders the people's ability to fight against any abuse of power, corruption and injustice. Given this inherent weakness in our culture, traditions and ethos, the last thing we need is a constitution that gives vague and unlimited power to any one man. The constitution or the law of the land must be designed in such a way that power be distributed and shared among different branches of government. It must be designed so that the will of any one man must not prevail at the expense of the majority. It must be crafted so that the inherent weaknesses of the African culture such as allegiance to the tribe and the ethnic group –before that of the Nation-- has minimal or no impact to the psyche of the people. This is in my view how we build and protect a modern system of government with enough resistance and resilience to dictatorship and totalitarianism in Africa. We have seen time and time again how one man, surrounded by a small group of people, --mainly of his tribe-- will highjack the system with the aid of the military and stay in power indefinitely. Once the new leader comes to power, he understands three things: put people of his tribe in key positions –Military Generals, Ministers--, beef up his personal protection –that way, he can’t be overthrown by any coup--, bribe the military --as it is the instrument of repression to any popular uprising or revolt--. This is the handbook of the African dictator. This is what all African dictators have come to master. This is the crafty art of staying in power indefinitely without accountability and the consent of the people. Once a dictator has settled in and mastered these principles, he is no longer accountable to the people that he governs. Elections can rigged and thanks to the leader’s tribesmen –in key position-- who will work tirelessly to ensure that elections lead to only one outcome, thanks to the military that will crush any popular uprising or revolt when the people cry out for justice. This is the field manual of the African dictator. This is how you stay in power for 42 years in Libya, for 30 years in Cameroon and over 30 years in Gabon, just to name a few. Any new constitution must take these lessons learned into account. The newly drafted constitution must have built-in mechanisms to prevent any one man from digging in so deep. The principles of counter power, power sharing and power distribution, term limits can be leveraged to achieve this goal and protect the people and the Country. We must come to the realization that good governance is really the essence of any change that we seek. The principles of good governance are not an abstract, they speak to the core values of a society. Society must institute mechanisms to reward good behavior while discouraging and punishing bad behavior. The change we seek must institute constraints that compels all of us to do right by society. These are the –accountability—deterrents that ultimately make us become better human beings of society. The young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow. We must instill and promote good behavior and good judgment in our young people. This is in part the down payment for the good governance that we seek and expect from the leaders of tomorrow.

 

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