By Emeka Umeagbalasi
On December 10, 2010, the 192 -Member States of the UNO and the UNO itself marked the 62nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Rights, UDHR, enacted on December 10, 1948.
To mark the occasion, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law chose “political rights” as a theme for the 2010 anniversary, and on December 16, 2010, the Vanguard’s Law and Human Rights, published the introductory part of the lecture, anchored on the said theme (political rights). The lecture is posted on www.intersociety_ng.org.
True to our prophetic call for the dethronement of all autocratic leaderships holding their countries to ransom around the world including African Continent, the 26 years old Mohammed Bouazizi, a college graduate and street vendor set himself on fire on December 17, 2010.
The incident took place in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. He burned himself to death in despair at frustration and joblessness confronting many educated young people in Tunisia. His death ignited torrential nation-wide protests, which later evolved from bread-and-butter issues to demands for an assault on the perceived corruption and self-enrichment of the ruling family controlled by former dictator Azadine Ben-Ali (1987 to January 2011).
On January 14, 2011, the dictator, Ben-Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years (since 1987) fled and went into exile in Saudi Arabia. His close ally, Mr. Mohammed Ghanouchi, who is also from Ben-Ali’s home town, took over as the interim President against the spirit and letters of the Tunisian Constitution (Article 74), which prescribed that in the event of the absence of the President, the head of parliament should take over. The second leg of the ongoing protests engulfing the country is rooted in this.
The protesters want Mr. Mohammed Ghanouchi to stand down as interim president, among other demands. Mr. Ben-Ali is the second Tunisian leader since the country got its independence in 1956. He had earlier amended the country’s constitution to allow him stand for reelections indefinitely. Scores of innocent people were shot dead by security forces during the first protests, in which over 10,000 people participated.
The revolution is code-named “Jasmine Revolution”. The latest report is that the interim President and his cabinet has agreed to institute a new council to oversee the interim government so as to calm down the protesters’ anger.
These revolutionary trends have spread to Algeria, where over 5,000 protesters poured into the streets of the country, courtesy of the opposition party, the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), after Mr. Mohammed Aouchia, 26, set himself on fire on January 12, 2011 in the town of Bordji Menaiel. His action followed his frustration over the inability of the local authorities to approve a social housing unit for him.
He had been sharing a room of 30 square meters with seven others since 2003. Also, on January 13, 2011, Mr. Mohsen Bouterfif set himself on fire, after the Mayor of Boukhadra in Tebessa, Algeria failed to offer him a job and a house. Since January 12, 2011, there have been over 11
cases of successful or attempted self_immolations (setting self on fire) in Algeria over rising costs of basic food items, teething unemployment, rocketing inflation and widening gap between the rich and the poor.
The revolutionary winds have further spread to Jordan, Libya, Yemen and Albania (Europe’s poorest country). And these countries are governed by dictatorial and autocratic leaderships with attendant social, economic and political rights crises. Apart from Tunisia, other countries under dictatorial and autocratic leaderships around the world, including Africa as at January 27, 2011 are the following:
1. Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi of Libya (longest serving president in Africa since September 1969) 41 years,
2. Edwardo Dos Santos of Angola (second longest serving president in Africa since 1979) 31 years,
3. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (3rd longest serving president in Africa since 1979) 31 years,
4. Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe (4th longest serving president in Africa since 1980) 30 years,
5. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (5th longest serving president in Africa since 1981) 29 years,
6. Paul Biya of Cameroun (6th longest serving president in Africa since 1982) 28 years,
7. Denis Sassou Ngueso of Congo Republic (7th longest serving president in Africa who ruled between 1979 and 1992 and came back again in 1997 till this date) 26 years,
8. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (8th longest serving president in Africa since 1986) 24 years, Blaise Compoare of Burkina Faso (9th longest serving president in Africa since 1987) 23 years.
Others are: 11. King Mswati III of Swaziland (absolute monarch since 1986 when he succeeded his father, the late Sobhuza II) ( he is the longest serving African absolute monarch) 24 years, 12. Omar Hassan al_Bashir of Sudan (11th longest serving president in Africa since 1989) 21 years, 13. Idris Deby of Chad (12th longest serving president in Africa since 1990) 20 years,
14. Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia (13th longest serving president in Africa since 1991) 18 years, 15. Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea (14th longest serving president in Africa since 1993) 17 years, 16. Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (15th longest serving president in Africa since 1994) 16 years,
17. Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria (16th longest serving president in Africa since 1999) 11years, 18. Ishmael Omar Guelleh (17th longest serving president in Africa since 1999 when he took over from his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon) 11 years
, 19. Paul Kagame of Rwanda (18th longest serving president in Africa (officially) since 2000, having been Vice-President and Defense Minister since 1994) 10 years. Other newly emerged dictators/authoritarian leaders are Presidents Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast (10 years), Abdouleye Wade of Senegal (10 years) and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (9 years).