One clear indication of this process of the current reality of elections without democracy is the persistence and growth of the abuse of the powers of incumbency to perpetuate personal dictatorships parading as democracy. So many of our rulers in Africa are back to the African tradition of presidents for life and have succeeded in making nonsense of their “democratic” constitutions.

Is the current democracy wave that swept through Africa following the 1989 Benin National Conference waning? It would be recalled that between 1989 and 1993, 43 African countries hitherto under one party rule or military dictatorship switched to multiparty democracy. Subsequently, even the Organisation of African Unity, which hitherto had been a cosy club for African dictators made the 2002 Durban Declaration in which they resolved that henceforth: “Democratic elections are the basis of the authority of any representative government; Regular elections constitute a key element of the democratisation process and therefore, are essential ingredients for good governance, the rule of law, the maintenance and promotion of peace, security, stability and development”. Since then, most African countries have maintained the principle of regular elections but have gradually emptied the political process of its democratic content.

One clear indication of this process of the current reality of elections without democracy is the persistence and growth of the abuse of the powers of incumbency to perpetuate personal dictatorships parading as democracy. So many of our rulers in Africa are back to the African tradition of presidents for life and have succeeded in making nonsense of their “democratic” constitutions. More and more of our presidents are succeeding in imposing their will to rule forever. The result is that as democratic regression sets in, violent conflicts, civil war, despotic rule and mega corruption are fast returning as the key characteristics of African politics.

The mentally sick power wielder…starts making decisions that are destructive to society, while believing, with more and more conviction, that s/he has divine inspiration to solving national or indeed world problems.

It was the British politician, Lord Owen who popularised what is now regarded as a fact, that trying to rule forever is a form of mental disease known as Hubris Syndrome, which kicks off after about five years in power and gets steadily worse. Power intoxication in human beings gradually brings out the worst in us of excessive pride and arrogance, which then starts affecting our judgement as it cuts off the power wielder from ambient reality and good advice. The mentally sick power wielder then starts making decisions that are destructive to society, while believing, with more and more conviction, that s/he has divine inspiration to solving national or indeed world problems. One of Lord Owens most illustrative examples was what led Tony Blair and George Bush to the empirically baseless, senseless and murderous war against Iraq.

In Africa, our long and growing list of mentally sick leaders suffering from Hubris Syndrome is frightening. Yahya Jammeh is a good starting point. The Gambia runs regular elections, even if they use pebbles and small stones instead of ballot paper for voting and opposition politicians are regularly jailed, killed and at best prevented from campaigning against the leader. The megalomania of Jammeh knows no bounds, as he believes he is a doctor who can cure all diseases, a wizard that can identify and kill witches and a master in statecraft loved by all the people. Currently, Jammeh is expressing dissatisfaction with regular elections and is seeking to convert himself into a monarch. Clearly, the absence of term limits in the Gambian constitution is simply not good enough for him.

In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 29 years and has every intention of remaining there for the rest of his life. He is currently preparing himself for his fifth term in office and the sole purpose of access to political power is to continue in office.

Today, 22 percent of those risking their lives in dingy boats seeking to cross into Europe are Eritrean youths taking the decision to die trying to escape rather than die in military camps as slaves.

In Congo, 72-year-old President Sassou Nguesso who has been in power since 1979, with a small four-year break, is now focused on changing the country’s Constitution to have yet another term. His neighbour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila “inherited” power from his father Laurent-Desire Kabila in 2001 and is similarly seeking to change the Constitution of the DRC to get another term in office. As his supporters say, he is only 44 years old and has long years of rule before him. In the same Central African zone is the other “inheritor” of the throne, Ali Bongo who took over when his father died in 2009. His dad, Omar Bongo ruled for 44 years and his son, rumoured to be a “Biafran” adopted refugee has every intention of ruling forever.

One of the most pathetic rulers on the African continent is, of course, 91-year old Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980 and is clearly incapable of exercising the power in any real sense, being increasingly dependent on his wife Grace who apparently hopes to takeover when he dies. The other washed out old man is 82 year old Paul Biya of Cameroon, who has been in power since 1982, and is also completely dependent on his wife and the cabal around him, who are busy sending potential rivals to jail as they all wait for the old man to die. The “smart” old man who is, of course, the longest serving dictator in power since 1979 is Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. After 36 years in power, he has now named his son the Vice President, so that there will be no argument when he dies, or so he thinks.

As democracy disappears from much of Central and East Africa, the question really is what can African democrats do to resist this rising tide of democratic regression? It’s no easy task as most of these leaders are actually mentally ill cases who would only leave power when forced out by massive popular action.

In Angola, 73-year-old Jose dos Santos has equally been in power since 1979 and the former comrade is now one of the richest Africans. To ensure gender equity, he has made his daughter the richest African woman. Little is heard about how the former comrade has transformed his regime into the most efficient corruption machine on the continent. The other monster few people talk about is the other comrade, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea who runs the most brutal and totalitarian dictatorship in Africa. Since the victory celebrations died down after a 30-year old civil war in 1993, he has turned the country into a vast prison, where all young people have been turned into slaves working permanently in “military service” which has no end. Today, 22 percent of those risking their lives in dingy boats seeking to cross into Europe are Eritrean youths taking the decision to die trying to escape rather than die in military camps as slaves.

We could talk of President Nkurunziza of Burundi who, against world opinion, is driving his country into civil war and has already armed thousands of militia to support the military in killing all those who contest his third term bid. His neighbour, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is just launching his own attempt to change the Rwandan Constitution to get a third term. As democracy disappears from much of Central and East Africa, the question really is what can African democrats do to resist this rising tide of democratic regression? It’s no easy task as most of these leaders are actually mentally ill cases who would only leave power when forced out by massive popular action. Africans, however, have shown a high capacity to continue the struggle. THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES.