Reflections

Sons of Excellencies

By Mpuga Rukidi, Uganda:

I would be wrong to say am interested in politics, because am not. Instead, am interested in the nitty gritties that politics does present sometimes. Like a lady who watches football because she enjoys looking at David Beckham, even though – and I hope this doesn't break hearts (it's that brittle, you know) – her heartthrob effectively stopped playing football ages ago.

I've been thinking, for instance, why many people are surprised that many leaders in Africa want their sons to replace them. Is it not obvious that sons take after their fathers? Is it not just a coincidence that these fathers happen to be excellent men? It is what Senegal's Wade wanted, only to be interrupted by some overzealous activists.

Hosni Mubarak wanted the same. Now father and son live in a place not remotely resembling a presidential palace. But I always want to bring the point home, literally. In my Uganda, everyone talks about the first son replacing his father, and how that is bad for democracy. A cartoon in one of the dailies a week or so ago spoke volumes. The cartoonist drew a picture of the president (I have never known why all presidents look funny in cartoons). The president was seated, probably wondering why he has to sacrifice so much and get no appreciation. A distraught first son, complete in his military fatigue, perhaps after saluting his father in true military style, was saying something like: Daddy they are saying that the army is not mine, and that am not supposed to replace you, or something to that effect. The cartoonist did not tell us what the president said, if I quite remember. But we got the message.

My mind quickly ran to DR Congo, and how the current excellent man there, a son of his Excellency, rose to power after the demise of his father. He looked young and innocent. And many excellent men must be thinking if he can, their own sons can.

The guy who won the Kenyan race is a son of a former Excellency. In Malawi, the excellent man, perhaps having no son old enough or interested or old and interested, the excellent man preferred his younger brother to take after him. There are other countless examples. And I thought all of this was just in English speaking Africa, until I discovered otherwise when I went to one French speaking African country. In Burundi, just like in any African country, the portrait of the president greets you, and the man in the picture, a smartly dressed energetic young man, looks at you, fearlessly, straight in the eye. If you are yours truly, who doesn't speak French, or rather who speaks just enough French to say he doesn't speak it at all; you concentrate at staring back at him like you are looking for anything in particular. Then you realize you can actually read a few words scribbled on the portrait, which confirm your suspicions- that all presidents are sons of Excellencies. And the words read: Son Excellence, le Président Pierre Nkurunziza. At this moment, even though your French is unlimited, you are sure Africa is the same.

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