Reflections

The New and Old Boys of Africa.

By Mpuga Rukidi

You should have heard a lot about him by now, or have you? Am talking about Michael Sata, the new Zambian president, effective September 23 2011. Of course the old boys in the rest of Africa – a good chunk of them making effective use of their anti-aging creams – must be disgusted by the news of an old boy having to give up a very coveted asset, the last thing they will hold on regardless – political power. They must be asking themselves thus: what was Ropiah Bandit or Banda, or whatever he chooses to call himself, thinking when he ignored the most basic of rules in African politics? The incumbents never lose elections that they organise!

We shall leave the old boys for a while, and head straight home. You see, there are striking similarities between Uganda and Zambia, at least politically. Just like in Zambia where Michael Sata has been the face of the opposition since 2011; the face here, since the same year, has been Colonel Besigye. Defeat has been the defining characteristic of the attempts of both men.

The two opposition figures also hinged their attempts at attaining the premier seat on the twin vices of corruption and nepotism as well as the kind gloves with which every foreigner donning the investor apron is treated. Most strikingly perhaps, the two were at one time part of the mainstream if you wish, and broke off.

Perhaps the only difference is that while Sata cannot claim to be a veteran of beatings at the behest of government, the colonel is a veteran – and a distinguished one at that. And he has got a few honours to show for it: a fractured arm here, red eyes there. And of course if each of the two were asked to write a book about their political experiences, while Sata would come up with something along the lines, “How to win An Election After Several Attempts”, the colonel's would probably be something like, “How to Run away from Government minders In a mini-skirt” or “How To Dodge A Kick From A Cop: The Tales of An African Politician.”

After 10 years in opposition, Sata is the more satisfied of the two, with a victory to show. I know not whether his victory was as a result of the “un-Africanness” of Banda – his failure to grasp the basics of an African incumbent – or a result of Sata's strategy. The strategic, satisfied Sata, aside, I know not also if, back here, our Seven Star general can go the Banda way, without uttering anything like, “revolutionaries don't lose elections, they just win…”

Sata's victory must be prompting a long wishful laugh from the Colonel, complete with a head nod and the words, in that characteristic husky voice, “Agya geenda!-He will go!” But after the laugh, the colonel must realize that the seven Star General has heard the phrase long enough and grown immune to it. The Colonel must often imagine himself in the coveted seat.

It may look like a scene from a work of fiction. But wait a minute, did I not hear that these days fact and fiction freely mingle and create a picture of reality? I wonder if the recent elections in Zambia are an indication that the old order is being relegated to the sidelines.  The irony though is that Zambia's new boy was born before the second half of the 20th century, around the same time as his friend-turned nemesis. Not your definition of new. I wonder if with time, we shall have a generation of leaders that don't have to spend long hours shopping for this and that anti-aging cream, and much more time asking the mirror which one works better on their time trodden faces. And if that time comes, shall that mean newer and fresher ideas?

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