The opposition, and less government, is a phenomenon that now seems increasingly pervasive worldwide, and Africa is no exception to this growing new trend.
This disturbing attitude by African rulers is reaching a very problematic point, even though most countries on the continent now purport to practice democracy—a somewhat cynical travesty, as democracy, preferred mainly for its tolerance of differing views, has been mixed with dictatorship, infamous for its zero tolerance for dissent. Not a week could now pass without some scary news that some opposition figures in some African countries have been arrested, jailed, or even declared missing.
In Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, and even in South Africa, as well as in Egypt, attempts at browbeating opponents into cowering silence and unquestioned conformity could now be said to be the most significant concern of most African leaders, many of whom are outwardly democratic but whose actions profess totalitarian attitudes.
Even though Africa’s style of governance, derisively termed dictatorship, has changed as seen in the form of government they, as leaders, now openly subscribe to, Western-prescribed democracy; nonetheless, they are still what we had in the past, in a substance: no-nonsense demigods who brook no differing opinions and oppositions.
Where is Eugène Ndereyimana?
Despair could describe what Joselyne Mwiseneza must be feeling in Rwanda as she continues to wait for her husband, Eugène Ndereyimana, who has been missing for more than 30 days.
Ndereyimana, who represented the opposition FDU-Inkingi party in the east of the country, had been a leading opposition figure in Rwanda before his sudden disappearance on July 5. Yet, there seems to be a deliberate, maddening silence from the state authorities on his whereabouts.
Expectedly, this uncertainty surrounding Ndereyimana’s disappearance has been having an alarming impact on his wife, who informed the BBC she has lost hope of finding her husband. She said she could not be sure whether he was dead or alive since the authorities had not given her any news about him.
“The children are too sad; they don’t know what’s happening; they keep asking me where dad is.” “It is too hard for me,”
Mrs Mwiseneza said.
Her fears are not unfounded if previous related events in Rwanda are considered. As revealed by the leader of Ndereyimana’s FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, the prior occupant of Ndereyimana’s position, Jean Damascène, had also gone missing in 2016. He was to be found dead.
Meanwhile, Ingabire, known for vocal criticism of the Rwandan government, also recently suffered a loss when her assistant, Anselme Mutuyimana, went missing on his way home in March 2019. His body would later be found in a forest.
Amidst these disturbing disappearances and questionable deaths, the Rwandan government, whose duty among others is to ensure citizens’ right to life is kept sacrosanct, only concerns itself with a denial of accusations that it has been persecuting the opposition.
President Mnangagwa wants no citizen protests to distract his Western friends.
In Zimbabwe, civil society groups have said at least six opposition and civil society members have been abducted and tortured by suspected state agents. Expectedly, the Zimbabwean government has denied the accusations of state involvement in this barbarism.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum reported that the victims were accused of mobilising people to demonstrate. The same is true in Rwanda and other African countries where dissidents are considered criminals.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government’s spokesman is reported to have maintained vehemently that the alleged abductions are not what President Emmerson Mnangagwa stands for and that there is a need to investigate and arrest the perpetrators.
President Mnangagwa, though, has a troubling headache. Due to the comatose nature of his country’s economy, he needs to curry as much foreign goodwill as possible. But he believes citizen protests of his policies will delegitimise his government in the eyes of his desperately needed foreign friends. So he has since notified the police, who have warned the public against participating in demonstrations.
The Western governments have called on Zimbabwe and President Mnangagwa to respect the right to peaceful protests. Therefore, one hopes his government does not make wanton arrests of protesters like in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, a protest is an act of treason.
Yes, in Nigeria, the “ungainly giant of Africa,” where protest is as good as being criminalised, where protest is as good as being outlawed, the Nigerian government descended to an almost unthinkable low in the repression of opposition voices last week when it decided to test a law on terrorism made a few years ago on a citizen who was at the vanguard of a planned nationwide protest.
Omoyele Sowere, an online media publisher, is now in police custody on a phantom charge the government says is treason. By christening the previously mentioned protest “Revolution Now,” he has been declared a treasonable felon by the government. The government has since procured a suspect court injunction to keep him in custody for 45 days to justify, via investigation, that he is indeed a subversive felon.
Two different groups, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, otherwise known as the Shiites and the Indigenous People of Biafra, have been declared terrorists by the same government because they protested their grievances to the government.
Ironically, this government was essentially made possible by a series of protests. Yet, it seems incapable of tolerating citizens’ expressions of displeasure with some of its policies. If the Nigerian government does not call up unimaginable premises for suppressing protesters, it will result in an outright use of force to scare them.
Notably, while engaged in that heinous display of dictatorship, it will raise an army of programmed (social) media enablers whose sole duty is to vehemently defend and then drown out opposing views to what the government wishes to see as everyday discourse.
The opposition is in hot water for wanting to end the 33-year Museveni rule.
The suppression of opposition voices is also visible in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni, like his longstanding counterparts in some African countries, now sees his country as his estate, where nobody can question his divine rights to rule as he deems fit.
Having ruled for more than three decades, he now deludes into thinking he is the law and constitution of the country. But, unfortunately, there is some frightening truth in his delusion. Over time, the body has been tampered with to suit the whims of President Museveni and to perpetuate his rule till eternity.
Consequently, anyone who dares to question the president is bound to run into trouble. One such person who has gotten into trouble is musician-turned-politician Bobi Wine, real name Robert Kyagulanyi, who was arrested and later charged with treason on laughable charges last year. His primary offence is apparently that he is championing movements determined to end Museveni’s eternal rule. A few days ago, one of Kyagulanyi’s close associates was declared dead after some unknown assailants reportedly attacked him.
The list of mock democracies goes on and on in other African countries, be it in Egypt, whose president transitioned from the military to a civilian ruler, or in South Africa, where the gains of the African National Congress are being eroded by a corruption-inclined government, whose defence for its misdemeanour is to blame the opposition. In other words, Africans now live in dangerous times when their content is supposed to be enjoying the rewards said to be inherent in democracy. Democracy is now a facile ruse employed to shield the tyrannical system eating away at the fabric of African societies. Tragic!