African leaders in post-succession feuds

APA-Gaborone (Botswana)

The history of contemporary African politics is littered with some long-running disputes between sitting presidents and the leaders they replaced often democratically.

Take the case of the post-succession feud raging between retired Botswana president Ian Khama and his immediate successor Mokgweetsi Masisi with whom there is an unmistakable bad blood.

Since the latter came to power, both men have witnessed relations between them dropping from warm to glacial.

 The situation has been so bad that Khama who gave up power willingly in 2018 after a ten-year stewardship of the southern African country felt he could no longer live in Botswana.

The 69-year-old has been living in exile in neighbouring South Africa since November last year, fearing for his life.

But the government that replaced his own has declared him wanted for an offense he has strenuously denied.

Prosecutors in Botswana say they may begin an extradition process to prise him away from South Africa to face firearms charges after he failed to appear in court for a second time.  

According to the former army officer with an extensive military training under his belt, his life is under threat in Botswana while his family face intimidation and harassment at allegedly from those on high. 

The trial has been rescheduled for August, during which time Khama’s extradition would have been made possible by the prosecutors. 

.Mr Khama has denied any wrongdoing citing the fact that the firearm he acquired was during his presidency and he did so lawfully. 

Since he retired Khama had critisied his successor Masisi over his governance policies, earning the current leader's wrath which explain why they are now implacable foes. 

Another high-profile feud between a current leader and his predecessor is ripping Mauritanian politics apart.

The country's 59th independence anniversary which fell on November 28, 2019 was heavily overshadowed by the tell-all signs of a rift between current President Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ghazouani and his predecessor Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz.

APA's correspondent Mohamed Moctar writing about it at the time said a divorce between an estranged couple could not have presented a more acrimonious spectacle. 

Tongues were left wagging in Mauritania about a split between the two former political allies, culminating in a spectacular rupture while the lifting of the national colors during Independence Day celebrations in Akjoujt (260 kilometers east of Nouakchott) was taking place.

Officially invited as a former head of state out of courtesy with past tradition, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz snubbed the event. 

It was the first public event organized by Mohamed Ould Sheikh El Ghazouani, Aziz's “friend of 40 years,”, who succeeded him.

The seat reserved for him on the official stands remained empty, unlike those of Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla and Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallahi, the only former presidents still alive.

The split between the two former army generals and co-perpetrators of several coups, including the one that initially installed Aziz in power in 2008, began with the return of the latter in Mauritania, after a long stay abroad.

It started in the early hours following the swearing-in of Ghazouani in August 2019.

The feud was for the soul of the ruling Union of the Republic (UPR).

Aziz convened and chaired an extraordinary meeting of its interim management committee and formally declared himself as the unique reference of UPR.

He had founded and led the UPR during his years in power between 2008 and 2019.

This had irked Ghazouani who, in turn, convened a similar meeting claiming he was its leader and his ex-friend should retire for good.

The current president had won the initial war of attrition because almost all members of the party turned their backs on Aziz and rallied behind President Ghazouani.

But Aziz maintained his obduracy by holding another meeting, this time of leaders of the youth and women’s wings of the UPR. 

He told them that he still considered himself the leader of the ruling party, even if he had to remain its sole member.

UPR initially had to organize a congress to elect its new leadership before the presidential elections, but ended up deferring it indefinitely.

This had formed the basis for the former president to always claims leadership of the party, since he was the one who appointed its current management committee.

However, a critic of the former president said Aziz was struggling to come to terms with his new status as an ordinary citizen.

“The man had ruled the country with an iron fist for too long and would not reconcile himself with the reality of becoming an ordinary citizen like everyone else,” said Sidi Yahya Ould Cheikh, a political analyst in Nouakchott.

“But he was wrong to forget that the Mauritanian political class was unstable and could change sides every time a new leader takes the reins” he told APA.

In Sierra Leone, the division is obvious between current President Julius Maada Bio and Ernest Bai Koroma, the man who handed him the reins of power.

Fingered in corruption allegations, Koroma sees himself as the victim of a political machination in a desperate bid by his successor to prevent him living a quiet life in retirement.

The former president who served a second and final term from 2013 to 2018 and his allies say he is being unfairly targeted over a phenomenon which had become worse during the Bio government which in itself has been struggling to stamp it out four since it took over.

Angola is another country where a former president faces charges of corruption by the man he handpicked as his successor. The sour relations between Eduardo Dos Santos and current president João Lourenço look to have been exacerbated by the power struggle within the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) which had ruled the country since 1976.

Dos Santos had expected to be left to head the MPLA after he relinquished power in 2017 but  his successor had other ideas.

He not only orchestrated the veteran leader's removal as head of the MPLA but targeted him for criticism over his leadership of the country since 1979 when Do Santos came to power.

The former president's family members among them his eldest daughter Isabel who was named as Africa's richest woman were accused of amassing "ridiculous wealth", turning themselves into a business empire while the rest of Angolans wallow in abject poverty. 

Flushed with victory from the election which saw him succeed Dos Santos, Lourenco swung into action, firing Isabel as head of the state oil firm Sonangol before dismissing her brother José Filomeno, as controller of the sovereign wealth fund. 

Since then members of the Dos Santos family have been the subject of interest for corruption investigators.

Lourenco left nobody in doubt who he was referring to when he declared shortly after taking charge of the country that nepotism, favouritism and fraud of the past were his country's greatest enemies.

With a stunned Dos Santos seated a few metres away, Lourenco unequivocally declared that there was going to be no sacred cows even within the hierarchy of the MPLA in his government's "uncompromising crusade" against corruption. 

While Dos Santos and some members of his family have been living in exile since he left power, his foundation based in Angola is being probed for graft.

Perhaps the irrepressible ghost of history still haunts contemporary Africa with all its glory. 

This state of bad blood between outgoing and incoming African presidents could not help but signal to subsequent leaders like Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia that relinquishing power to a successor was a dangerous enterprise which they should do everything to avoid.

Shortly after vacating the Cameroonian presidency for current president Paul Biya, the late Ahmadou Ahidjo, claimed he was being hounded by the new government.

Ahidjo eventually fled to the Senegalese capital Dakar, where he died in November 1989, burying with him the hopes of the next generation of leaders who may want to release their grip on power voluntarily but for whom this may be ill-advised given that their successors may be too willing to come after them at the drop of a hat.  


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