Some leaders wield enormous power in their home that everything about their country revolves around them. Africa has had many of such leaders from who praise singers have made fortune and careers. In spite of bestriding their country’s political landscape with impervious carriage and air of invisibility circumstances made them leave for exile only to get humbled by circumstances or die there. EMEKA CHIAGHANAM identifies some of such African leaders and their stories. He x-rays the events leading to their exile and death. Excerpts:
MOHAMED SIAD BARRE
Somalia has disintegrated into chaos since Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991 after his 22-year rule in Somalia ended. Barre was the President of the Somali Democratic Republic from 1969 to 1991.
He came to power in 1969 after the coup d’état that overthrew the Somali Republic following the assassination of the country’s second President Abduldirahid Ali Shermarke.
Barre leaned towards socialist policies by institutionalising reforms that nationalised major industries and farms, including banks, insurance companies, and oil distribution farms. He established Somalia as a one-party, Marxist–Leninist socialist State, renaming the country the Somali Democratic Republic.
Barre’s popularity declined from the late 1970s as opposition to his dictatorial regime grew because of the deteriorating economy and growth of tribal politics.
On 26 January 1991, Siad Barre was forced by opponents of his regime to flee Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, retreating to his clan homelands. Barre temporarily remained in the southwestern Gedo region of the country, which was the stronghold of his family.
He made efforts to recapture Mogadishu for many months by launching a military campaign to return to power. He twice attempted to retake Mogadishu but lost to a band of vengeful Somali militia bent on pulling down his government, coupled with disagreements between his own family and supporters.
In May 1991, he was overwhelmed by General Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s army and was forced into exile.
He first fled to Nairobi, Kenya but resentment by opposition groups with a presence there protested his arrival and support of him by the Kenyan government. In response to the pressure and hostilities President Daniel Arap Moi, referred the problem to the President of Nigeria, Maj-Gen Ibrahim Babangida, then also chairman of the Organisation of African Unity.
In 1992, Barre and his entourage were evacuated by plane to Lagos Nigeria, where lived and died of a heart attack on 2 January 1995. He was buried in Garbaharey District in the Gedo region of Somalia.
MOBUTU SESE SEKO
Mobutu came to power as the third head of state of Zaire. He assumed the country’s leadership with the help of Western powers masterminded by the colonial master, Belgium but led by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba, one of Africa’s bravest politicians and independence heroes who stood his ground against imperialism.
Congolese army on Mobutu’s order gruesomely murdered Lumumba. The vast, rich resources of Zaire were at the centre of the fight and who controls it became an issue.
The United States and Belgium installed Colonel Mobutu, who they found worthy; they saw him like a strong pillar of anti-communism in Francophone Africa. Mobutu was once Lumumba personal aide after the country gained independence Lumumba made Mobutu Secretary of State to the President.
Lumumba, a key advocate in the Pan-African movement, leaning towards the Soviet Union to neutralise Western influence was unwelcome by the United States and Belgium.
Mobutu amassed vast personal wealth through economic exploitation and corruption while in office claimed that his political ideology was “neither left nor right, nor even centre.” He ruled Congo, which he renamed Zaire for 31 years stifling political opposition and amassing a fortune while the country’s economy crumbled.
The diminishing ideological and geopolitical struggle between Western nations and communist nations known as the Cold War in the late 1980s saw Western nations reduced aid to Congo. The United States in 1990 cut direct aid to Congo, accusing Mobutu’s regime of corruption and human rights abuses.
In 1991 with growing, economic deterioration, and unrest, Mobutu was under pressure to reform; he announced the creation of a multiparty system to chart a new course for the country.
Mobutu thwarted any significant change until a widespread rebellion led Laurent-Désiré Kabila with the aid of neighbouring Uganda, Rwanda and Angola forced Mobutu to relinquish power on May 16, 1997 and fled into exile. First in Lome, Togo, where President Gnassingbe Eyadema, ordered that Mobutu left the country a few days later. On May 23, 1997, Mobutu moved to Rabat, Morocco, where he lived until his death on 7 September 1997.
While northern and southern Nigeria bickered on her political future, Kwame Nkrumah led Ghana to become the first black nation on the African continent to gain independence. He became the first African leader to be overthrown and equally the first to die in exile. He served as Ghana’s first prime minister, later the country’s first president.
Nkrumah, once a mentee of Nigeria’s Nnamdi Azikiwe supported nationalist movements in other African colonies and initiated the union of the United States of Africa. He was instrumental in the creation of the African Union, then Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) in 1963.
Meeting Nnamdi Azikiwe as a secondary school student, spurred his interest in Black Nationalism, advised by Azikiwe, he attended Lincoln University, Zik’s alma mater. After independence, Nkrumah has a long series of an internal battle with dissidents in new Ghana. In 1964, he proposed a constitutional amendment that would pave the way for his ruling Convention People’s Party (CCP) as the only legal party, the amendment passed cementing Ghana as a one-party state and conferred on Nkrumah president for life.
But Nkrumah would face a bigger challenge. After the Africanisation of the civil service from 1952-60, that it affected mostly expatriates from the United Kingdom, relieving them of their jobs. But the number of foreign workforces rose again from 1960-65, most of the new expatriates came from former the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Italy.
The shift suggests that Nkrumah was shifting from the West to the Eastern bloc. Beginning of 1961, Nkrumah demonstrated this by touring Eastern Europe and China proclaiming solidarity with the countries he visited.
In February 1966, while on a state visit to Vietnam and China, Nkrumah was toppled in a violent coup d’état led by the national military and police forces, with backing from the civil service and support of Britain and the CIA. The coup leaders titled themselves the National Liberation Council.
Nkrumah lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea and died in Bucharest, Romania, where he had gone for medical treatment on April 27, 1972.
IDI AMIN DADA
Idi Amin Dada Oumee, call him Idi Amin, the name widely identified with the former Uganda leader. But Popularly known as the “Butcher of Uganda”, and considered one of the cruellest despots in African history. Amin’s Uganda abused the golden chance to make the country referred to as the Pearl of Africa, an economic haven but left the country pauperised.
Idi Amin was the third President of Uganda; he ruled the country from 1971 to 1979. On 2nd Feb 1971, he declared himself president of Uganda. From his first speech to the Ugandan nation in January 1971, he declared, “I am not a politician but a professional soldier.
I am, therefore, a man of few words and I have been brief through my professional career.” Supporting that line of thought, he stated further, in another speech, “My mission is to lead the country out of a bad situation of corruption, depression antislavery.
After I rid the country of these vices, I will then organise and supervise a general election of a genuinely democratic civilian government.”
Far from his statements, Uganda under Idi Amin’s rule was a country saturated with terror. Multiple reports have that Idi Amin killed hundreds thousand people during his eight-year rule. International human rights groups and Ugandan exile tabulated close to 300,000 people the number of people killed in his regime of terror.
Some historians argue that Idi Amin came to power with good intentions for his people, citing the appointment of well-qualified administrators to most of the positions in his first cabinet, but became power-drunk and started abusing people as time went on.
In his first year as president, Amin ordered massacres of large numbers of Langi and Acholi troops suspected of being loyal to the former president, Milton Obote.
In what Amin interpreted as a divine message in 1972, he announced that God told him in a dream to expel Uganda’s Indian and Pakistani populations, who owned almost all of Uganda’s businesses.
The expulsion of Indians and Pakistanis whose businesses were handed over to Ugandans who lacked the experience running profitable enterprises caused major business in the country to fail; thus the high prices, corruption, and dwindling economy.
By 1978, Amin’s support base had shrunk significantly coupled with increasing dissent from the populace within Uganda under the weight of an already collapsed economy and infrastructure. On April 11, 1979, Idi Amin was overthrown by Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania People’s Defence Force and Aided by Ugandan nationalists in exiles who had united on the platform of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA).
Amin fled the country first to Libya and finally settled in Saudi Arabia, where he died of kidney failure in Jeddah on August 16,2003.