How David Cameron’s Resignation Put the Spotlight on African Leaders
David Cameron’s resignation has been largely overshadowed by Britain’s vote to leave the EU. After all, one man’s career is small fry when the whole world is trying to figure out what it all means.
For every theory and argument about Brexit there seems to be an equal opposite. Some say Africa’s largest and most promising economies will be hit the hardest. Others say African nations could benefit as the UK looks to strengthen its ties outside the EU.
One thing people largely seem to be in agreement on is this: if David Cameron was African he wouldn’t be resigning.
What if David Cameron was African?
As reporters gathered outside number 10 Downing Street, people knew what to expect. Rumours that David Cameron would announce his resignation were in full motion. And the truth is they didn’t really need confirming; what other choice did he have?
Cameron’s decision to bite the bullet hasn’t been brushed aside by everyone, though. In some parts of the world a government losing out in a referendum alone would be unfathomable. But for a nation’s leader to step down as a result is something many voters could only dream of.
It didn’t take long after the prime minister’s announcement for the question to be asked: what if David Cameron was African?
Twitter puts the spotlight on African leaders
Soon after Cameron announced his resignation #IfDavidCameronWasAfrican became a trending topic on Twitter. In true satirical fashion, African politics found itself under the Twittersphere spotlight. Cameron’s modest six years in charge were quickly compared to some of Africa’s longest-running leaders.
David Cameron resigns, Mugabe still stands
— Nate (@keddah83) June 24, 2016
It has been a busy year for Africa’s democracies – not least in the East African region. A predictable referendum result for Rwanda President Paul Kagame opens the door for him to secure a third term in power. Soon after elections in Uganda saw social media blackouts, opposition arrests and accusations of vote-rigging dominated headlines.
#IfDavidCameronWasAfrican you wouldn’t be tweeting. He would have shut down the Internet
— H (@HarrietSmallies) June 24, 2016
The result from Britain’s EU referendum may have come as a shock. It could well bring some nasty side-effects to Africa’s largest and most promising economies, too. But, in terms of demonstrating how democracy is supposed to empower a nation’s people, it shows how far Africa still has to come.
What does it take for an African leader to step down?
With eight of Africa’s current leaders having ruled for 25 years or more, age tends to be the curtain that falls on most regimes. Hopes for a more democratic Africa were on the rise during the 1990s. Following Nelson Mandela’s high-profile release, South Africa led the way for emerging democracies across the continent.
That hope appears to be fading, though. Elections in Africa are becoming increasingly ceremonial with little room for any Brexit-style surprises. The likes of Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame – who both seized power before winning their first elections – look set to become leaders for life.
Ethiopia offers a welcome exception in the East African region, where President Mulatu Teshome was elected for the first time in 2013. Unfortunately, it’s the ruling party’s grip on power, rather than the president himself, raising question marks over Ethiopian democracy.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) currently holds all 547 seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
An important year for African democracies
Pressure on South African president Jacob Zuma to resign are only increasing. Cameron’s resignation has fuelled demand but the country’s economic struggles have been coming for some time. The worry for Zuma is his country’s dependence on the British pound will hurt the economy further as the effects of Brexit are felt around the world.
There’s growing pressure in Kenya, too, as it gears up for presidential elections next year. It can’t afford a repeat of the violence that accompanied its last two elections, although tensions are already on the rise.
The spotlight will be on Rwanda next year as Kagame prepares to run for a third term in power.
While Kenya will likely hold on to its label as a true democracy, Rwanda is teetering on the edge of turning into another defacto dictatorship. A total of six elections in African countries next year put a number of reputations on the line – many already tarnished.
It seems Africa will have to wait before it sees a leader follow in David Cameron’s footsteps.