Tyrants – an endangered species?

It all started with Tunisia’s Ben Ali. Then Egypt’s Hussein Mubarak tumbled. In July, Malawi’s Mutharika stumbled but did not necessarily tumble. And a few days ago, Libya’s strongman – Colonel Muammar Gaddafi joined those that, over his 42 year long tenure, were sent prematurely to meet their maker. And no-one of consequence is mourning or missing him. The regimes of all these four share two common characteristic: undisputed tyranny and unexplicable self-enrichment.

They will not be the last in Tunisia, Egypt, Malawi and Libya; nor in the rest of the world for that matter. There are others, in other parts of the world with Africa topping the chart, who are still ruling inconsiderately oblivious to the tenets of human rights, good governance and accountability.

Having said that one thing is clear: the existing tyrants, wherever they may be lording it over their hapless people, are aware that they are living dangerously. They have reached the end of the line. They have, as they say, outlived their welcome. They are, to apply a term that conservationists use, an endangered species.

And endangered species is our subject matter. There are several definitions of endangered species. The free dictionary (web-based) defines these as “a plant or animal species existing in such small numbers that it is in danger of becoming extinct, especially such a species placed in jeopardy as a result of human activity”.

While the principal factor in the endangerment or extinction of a species is the destruction or pollution of its native habitat there are other factors. These include:

·        overhunting,

·        intentional extermination,

·        and the accidental or intentional introduction of alien species that outcompete the native species for environmental resources.

True to form, these are the very factors that saw the end of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gadhafi. Gadhafi was without argument a victim of hunting – literally; Mubarak fits the bill in ‘intentional extermination’ and for Ben Ali, the genesis of his fall was ‘accidental’. A single incident – the suicide of one man persecuted and pushed to the edge by the system – was enough to incite an irreversible uprising. In all these three North African cases there was “the destruction or pollution of native habitat”… as a result of popular will.

Let us move on and examine another definition. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) an endangered species is “a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters”.

Now, while with respect to flora and fauna (wildlife) globally, conventions and legislation are being instituted to reduce the threats posed by changing environmental or predation parameters; this honour is not at all being extended to dictators. On the contrary, judging from the Libyan Revolution, western countries are ready to invest a lot of resources, even risk the lives of their people, to see to it that this species is decimated one way or another.

International bodies, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in particular, are on the forefront, not only shadowing these species with arrest warrants but also sternly cautioning those who play host to these undesirable types to bring them to book for their brutal acts.

In countries under the yoke of these species, civil society, churches, pressure groups, the media and other stakeholders are, one way or another, fighting for the extinction of these species in multi-faceted approaches via a cocktail of techniques.  Strategies range from constitutional to unconstitutional, peaceful to violent, planned or spontaneous, you name it. Everything is going into the mix in this war against tyranny. It is war after all, and all is fair in love and war!

There is one important thing however that those fighting to make tyrants truly extinct ought to learn from their counterparts working to ensure that flora and fauna, currently endangered, doesn’t become extinct.

While in the case of flora and fauna, when endangered species become extinct, they are gone FOREVER; with dictators, doing away with one tyrant, does not guarantee that a country is FOREVER free of tyranny or its reappearance.

This is a lesson that Malawians have learnt the hard way. Malawi today is on paper, a democracy. But due to unchecked flaws, human and constitutional, through a democratic process with elections and all the trappings of democracy; after getting rid of one dictator – the late Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda; Malawians swiftly exposed their soft side to another opportunist: “Ngwazi” Professor Bingu wa Mutharika – who typical of gold diggers, is leaving nothing to chance.

They will get rid of him – that is for sure. What Malawians have done before, they can repeat over and over again. BUT, unless they revisit and change their mentality, political ideology, the flawed constitution; institute checks and balances against corruption, nepotism and greed at all levels; they will after getting rid of Mutharika, again create another beast. Because, as I have alluded to in this very same paragraph history repeats itself; and when it does, the cost goes up.

The questions that people, more so those from Malawi, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, should be asking themselves are:

·        Is it enough to do away with one tyrant only to replace him with another? If not, what should they do to make tyranny truly extinct?

·        How can they, after deposing a tyrant, ensure that no tyrant will again rise and take them backwards?

Can it be that their destiny, as a people, is to struggle and suffer under one dictator after another? To borrow my fellow columnist’s phraseology (Peter Makossah, enough respect) I too beg to differ! What about you?


*Wise One from the East – written for Nyasa Times

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