VIOLENT PARLIAMENT: Weakening Dictatorship Should Be a Warning to Arrogant Leaders

L-R, Jacob Zuma, Y.K. Museveni, Eduardo Do Santo
L-R, Jacob Zuma, Y.K. Museveni, Eduardo Do Santo

State of the Nation Address, commonly abbreviated as SONA, is a prestigious moment for Presidents and the ruling party. It is a time for them to boast of their accomplishments after a year of governance.

In Uganda, every year, by the constitutional requirement under article 101 (1) in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the president is obligated to deliver a State of the Nation Address. Wherein he gives accountability for government ventures and commitments in the coming year. It is this address that marks the new parliamentary year. It is shortly followed by the declaration of the National Budget by the Minister of Finance.

In many other countries, the constitution calls for the same, just like it does in South Africa. The President of Mandela’s Iconic South Africa, Jacob Zuma, faced a hard time delivering his national address last night. The parliament was ablaze.

Drawing back to the evening preparations for the event, the President had sent in the army for security purposes. That was heavily criticised as a symbol for the broken trust between the President and the people. All was calm until the arrival of the ANC president into the Parliamentary house.

He was welcomed with chants of the word “thief” from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), headed by Julius Malema. During his address, he was interrupted by the same red adorned opposition with insults. Media in South Africa and the world over quoted Julius Malema calling Zuma a “scoundrel” and “rotten to the core”. All this was inspired by the corruption allegations against government that have been ongoing for a long time.

When the EFF members were thrown out on orders of the Speaker, the Democratic Alliance members walked out. At this point, Jacob Zuma is quoted to have said, “Finally”.

Now that I’ve ‘finally’ reached this point, I may bring your attention to Africa as a whole. This isn’t the first time an arrogant president has driven people out of their address. Africans should remember Museveni’s speech that drove international dignitaries out of the ceremony.

The effect of such is usually under estimated. Mostly because that effect is long term. It signifies that the subjects or citizens (for the sake of democracy) have become defiant. Talking of defiance will lead the path to Dr Kizza Besigye. I’m not going down that path though.

The era for dictators is coming to its end. Compared to the 20th century Africa, there are less dictatorial regimes today. Before further argument, what is dictatorship? This has definitions differed by ideologies. However, dictatorship is in simple terms the opposite of democracy. Seeing as democracy isn’t defined by a leader’s short stay in power, dictatorship therefore isn’t a leader’s overstay.

Let’s get clear with the aspect in which dictatorship is perceived in this article. Whenever a President or a constitutionally elected leader administers a country without accountability, it is precisely dictatorship.

Therefore, with many claims of corruptions against Zuma’s ANC and nothing being done about the issue, it is lack of accountability. The South African president was asked to resign by the opposition and some of the ruling party members. At this point, it was clear that he was found incapacitated for the office. Under most constitutions, a parliament can vote out a president should they find him unfit for office. Like it happened in Brazil.

A violent, unresponsive and untameable parliament as well as a SONA made to the caucus, is a signal to the 74 year old president, or any other for that matter that his time is up. Funny bit about this is that among most dictators, Zuma has the shortest time of office (since 2009). Others have been kicked out, some have resigned and others believe they aren’t ready to leave.

Yayha Jammeh, Do Santos, Robert Mugabe and Jacob Zuma are symbolism for the dawn of dictatorship in Africa (I haven’t forgotten about Y.K.M). Yahya Jammeh, was scared out of power but surely, if he had rejected the electoral results right away, the story would’ve been different. He was only arrogant. Eduardo Do Santos is set to resign, after 37 years of uninterrupted governance. Robert Mugabe, however firm he may seem, is shaking in his boots. The pressure is building up. And ‘finally’, Jacob Zuma. The start of his downfall was witnessed last night during the address.

Y. K. Museveni, who has so far run for 31 years now, is a very strategic man. First, he can’t be extensively arrogant that Ugandans will notice. When they tend to, the Kyabazinga appointments happen. Second, the Ugandans aren’t brave enough. If they were, they would’ve strongly shown their dissatisfaction already. Third, there isn’t any convincing opposition party – no offense.

For FDC, the party is composed of confusion. When Besigye was asked whether he wanted the office of the president on an NBS interview, he said he didn’t. So, he run for four consecutive times with so much lost in vain just to empty an office and leave it that way. His is a personal grievance and that says it all. The FDC’s flag bearer has lost his earlier vision for the state. Nevertheless, time is against the old man. His last presidential actions are proof to that.

Generally, in Africa, dictators have seen the last of their glory days. It won’t happen overnight, but the continent shall be cleansed.


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Kenneth is currently a Mass Communication student at St Lawrence University. He holds a certificate in History and Literature. He is a social political critique, good creative writer and a poet.