Dos Santos: The Angolan man who loved to ruleBy TEE NGUGI | Friday, September 14 2012 at 09:51
None of the reports or anecdotes we had heard had indicated that President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola was a competent dancer.
Well, for a man of his age and position. So when an old man appeared one afternoon in Old Nyati’s compound singing and dancing to a Kizomba song, none of us – not even the village sage himself – could have guessed his identity despite the familiar elegant features and bearing. But we were not to remain in ignorance of his identity for long, for when he was done with his repertoire of song and dance, he announced without fanfare: “Eduardo Dos Santos at your service.” Then he shouted, a clenched fist in the air, “Aluta continua, forward with Santos.” He was happy, he told us, to have won the election for the ... He scratched his head, trying to remember.
“Anyway,” he announced without a hint of embarrassment, “the important thing is that I won. And I have come here for a few days of private celebration and reflection.”
He was indeed a happy man, for whenever anyone passed by his house at the edge of the village, he would call out, “Aluta continua,” to which he encouraged the passerby to respond, “Forward with Santos.” After which interaction, he would resume his singing and dancing.
The president’s memory of the terms he had served might have failed him, but they totalled a massive 33 years in power and -courtesy of his latest win- counting.
Longevity in power is the ambition of every African president. But whether effected through thuggery - as has often been the case – or by election victory, too long a stay in power results in situations inimical to political and economic development.
First, a network of friends and kin of the president entrenches itself in key administrative and business positions, ascertaining that opportunities and wealth circulate among themselves. The underclass grows, slums expand, despair and resentment build.
Second, impunity fuels and protects the excesses of the elite. Money meant for projects disappears into already bulging pockets. Corruption, selfishness, mediocrity, wealth accumulation become the mainstay of national culture.
Third, the president usurps the powers of state institutions so that his demise or otherwise indisposition leaves a country prone to anarchy and collapse. Real democracy, therefore, implies and demands change of leadership.
What causes the insatiable hunger for power and wealth of an African president, I was pondering one day as I walked past Dos Santos’ house. It was late in the afternoon and the president was practising new dance steps. He sat down on a bench to rest and that is when he saw me. With his fist in the air, he shouted his favourite greeting. “Forward with Santos,” I replied. He seemed to be in a mood to talk, for he waved at me to join him on the bench.
“Isn’t it wonderful to win?” the president gushed as I sat down beside him.
Encouraged by his happy disposition, I asked; “Sir, would you not like to retire and enjoy quiet family...”
“Nope,” said Dos Santos without a hint of ambiguity. “I can enjoy family time while president.”
He paused for a while before continuing. “As a matter of fact, being president ensures that the time I spend with family and friends is quality – the best resorts, the best wining and dining paid for by the state.” The president looked up with a gleam in his eyes, no doubt, enjoying the memories of many an exquisite experience paid for by the state.
Purpose of democracy
“Look,” he said at length, “to impose a term limit before a president has completed his development agenda is to deny people the development they so much need.”
“So,” I began tentatively, “term limits are okay if a president has completed his development agenda?”
The president smiled widely, and pointing a finger at me asked: “But when do you know when he has completed it?”
I hesitated for a while.
“Exactly,” said Dos Santos, and in a line reminiscent of Johnnie Cochran’s ‘If it don’t fit, you must acquit’ that set OJ Simpson free remarked, “don’t impose a stop if you can’t suppose.”
“But, sir, they say the purpose of democracy ...?” I began. Dos Santos cut me short.
“Democracy and human rights do not fill up bellies,” he said emphatically.
It was now evening and the moon was out. The president went inside the house and returned with a small radio tuned to an Angolan station. A Kizomba song was playing.
“Let me teach you how to dance Kizomba,” he cried in delight. And so it was that the sounds of Kizomba punctuated the moon-drenched evening.
- Big Brother Africa star arrested on fraud charges
- Four killed at TB Joshua church stampede
- Kenyan call girls go high-tech
- Zimbabwe lecturer jailed for Mugabe 'donkey' slur
- The girl who met Gaddafi 'in hell'
- It's a tough life for Sierra Leone's gays
- Nigeria escalates Boko Haram offensive
- Succession: Suddenly, Uganda is up for grabs
- Four Nigerians among 5 shortlisted for African writing prize
Beyond the ballot