Why are there still so many monarchies among the 193 states
of the world? 44 countries have heads of state from a single family under a
primogeniture system. But it is hard to find any common thread that explains
their survival or revival. There are ten European monarchies including Britain
and 16 other countries that recognise the monarch of the United Kingdom as head
of state.

 In Asia there are Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand,
some small Pacific islands and the mountain kingdoms of Bhutan and Nepal. The
Arab world has six monarchies, all from the early or mid 20th century.
They have oil money so not much pressure, internal or external, for democracy.
The African monarchies are Lesotho, Swaziland (both small kingdoms that were
British protectorates), and Morocco – does it count itself African these days?
It is still not a member of the African Union.

Recently there has been a trend by African rulers to hand on
their countries to their sons or brothers. Here is a list:
Gabon: Ali Bongo succeeded his father Omar in 2009
Congo: Joseph Kabila succeeded his father after his
father, Laurent, was assassinated in 2001.
Botswana: Ian Khama is now President. His father
Seretse was Botswana’s first president.
Togo: Faure Gnassingbé was installed when his father,
Gnassingbé Eyadéma, died in 2005.
And some that are trying, or have tried, to engineer a
family succession:
Uganda: Yoweri Museveni has been grooming his son,
Muhoozi, for the presidency. Muhoozi is a brigadier in the army. The idea of
his wife, Janet, succeeding him has also been floated but she does not have
popular support.
Cameroon: there are reports that Paul Biya would like
to hand over to his adopted son Franck Biya.

Equatorial Guinea: President Obiang Nguema would like
to keep power in the family but his favoured son and one-time deputy president,
Teodoro Obiang Mangue, faces corruption charges in the US.
Kenya: Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first President,
Jomo Kenyatta, is running for president, although it looks more likely that he
will be on trial at The Hague rather than on the throne.
Ghana: Nana Akufo Addo is running for president in
Ghana’s forthcoming election. His father was the second president of Ghana.
And some that tried but failed:
Senegal: Abdoulaye Wade tried to make his son Karim,
his successor. The people of Senegal made it very clear they did not want him
and he had to drop the idea.
Malawi: when Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly earlier
this year, his close associates tried to install his brother Peter Mutharika as
president. They were thwarted by the army and the judges who stuck to the
constitution, rescued Joyce Banda from house arrest and installed her.
If there are others let me know. It seems to me that in many
cases a president has become so untrusting of his colleagues and peers, so
removed from his people, so paranoid that the only people he can rely on are
his own close family. This in turn suggests that such presidents have not built
institutions, mechanisms of continuity. Indeed they may have deliberately
destroyed them to ensure they stay in power. That implies they care little for
their country, only for their own power and status. Apres moi, le deluge.
The model should be Switzerland. Current head of state:
Eveline Widmer-Schumpf. Have you heard of her? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t
because her term of office is just one year. A truly mature country runs itself
without need of visionaries and bullies.
It will be interesting to see what happens in Ethiopia after
Meles Zenawi’s death. His legacy depends on what preparation he made for
succession and continuity after 21 years in power. If the country remains
peaceful and continues to grow, then Meles will have been a good leader. If it
falls apart then he was not. Let’s hope that his successor will at least
release some of the dissidents and journalists who were jailed for just
criticising his policies.
One last story about Meles. He was only 57 when he died but
he was lucky to have survived that long. In an interview in November 1989 when
the war against the Mengistu regime was still raging, I asked him if he had
been in combat. Instead of answering he took my hand and pressed it to his
temple. There was a hard lump there. “That’s an AK 47 bullet”, he said.
Article By Richard Dowden who is a contributor at African Arguments


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