Vicious and cruel as they are, most of our dictators take time out from their sadist tendencies to entertain us in one way or another. Egypt’s Mubarak, whose demise has already been concluded by Washington, his onetime unrelenting Godfather, in a hurried move to stop a possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover, has sacked his government and replaced it with his own government. The American media is now peddling El Baradei, and even a possible coup, while Mubarak seeks to find a voice with the Egyptian masses claiming that he backs their quest for freedom while he continues to butcher them. But Egyptians are not as gullible as he thought. Hosni’s new-found religion as a democrat opposed to his own hand picked ministers has not convinced anyone.
The comical ease with which African tyrants continue to live in their ivory towers as though all the major political and economic problems of their countries were scenes from Alice in Wonderland is beyond disturbing. As both comical and disturbing as a Central African first lady who is known to give audiences in below zero-degree air-conditioned rooms at the presidential palace in order to parade her authentic Siberian fur coats in the heart of the tropics… Woe betide whoever forgets his or her winter coat! As disturbingly comical as the wife of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin, who after sadly observing how impossible it was for her Husband, the Prime Minister, and herself to afford their child’s school fees for lack of money was exposed for spending over 1.2 million euros on haute couture in Europe! But with husbands copying the likes of the late Idi Amin and Jean Bedel Bokassa, are such absurdities unjustified?
And whilst Meles Zenawi basks in the shameful glory of a one-party-one-ethnic rule system, the king of Swaziland, from the comfort of his stately home in a backdrop of poverty and HIV stricken subjects, has decreed that no girl who reaches puberty would be allowed to have sex for five years so as to decrease the risk of Aids. And as foreigners exhibit exemplary gullibility, trying to fathom the wisdom of the King’s edict, Swazis have continued to laugh out loud knowing that the King is only trying to insure that his usual supply of virgin maidens at the annual Reed Festival remains… well, intact.
Those silly laws
So Malawi is about to pass a law (Local Courts Bill of 2010) that would make farting in public punishable… “We have serious issues affecting Malawians today. I do not know how fouling the air should take priority over regulating Chinese investments which do not employ locals, serious graft amongst legislators, especially those in the ruling party”, said an irritated commentator. “The Bingu wa Mutharika led administration is to introduce a draft of legislation that seeks to criminalize an everyday natural occurrence of “passing gas” with the intention to “mould responsible and disciplined citizens?”, another asked annoyingly. If only the hundreds of thousands of starving Malawians afflicted by starvation and famine could eat to their hearts’ content, gather in front of the parliament where the bill is to be passed and foul the air in protest of an aberrant bill!
The list of silly laws in Africa is getting longer by the day: A ban on trousers in Sudan; A ban on underwater sex in Swaziland; A ban on Christmas under former leader of Equatorial Guinea, Macias Nguema; A ban on Music in Somalia under al-Shabaab… But as funny as these laws may be, even sillier laws from wealthier countries mostly outmatch them. In Bushland, America, that is, Texas, for example, there are laws that state that when two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each shall come to a full stop, and neither shall proceed until the other has gone. The state of Texas has also made it illegal to take more than three sips of beer at a time while standing, while Saudi Arabia has banned women from driving cars and declared that being poor is against the law and that men caught earning less than a “reasonable” income can be imprisoned.
The “reasonable income law”, of course, won’t affect the high and mighty ex-Tunisian dictator Ben Ali who plundered his country’s wealth and fled with his family to Saudi Arabia. Mubarak, on the other hand, has vowed not to flee despite finding himself in the exit lane. An uncomfortable situation that makes authoritarian leaders from Algeria to Yemen through Jordan smile at the wrong sides of their mouths. But like a stubborn virus, Cote d’Ivoire’s Gbagbo has continued to ignore calls to transfer power to Alassane Ouattarra, notwithstanding the world record number of mediation talks; Mediation talks that is now to be controlled in part by Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Yes, the same Mugabe who is being emulated by Gbagbo. The same Mugabe who used his anti-imperialist rhetoric to fend off criticisms of his horrific human rights record. Africans need to organise a billion-man-march to Addis Ababa and pass bad smelling wind in front of the African Union building in protest of such shocking decisions.
A wind of change is blowing in many countries and encouraging a real people’s Revolution that augurs badly for tyrants. The fall of Saleh as well as the separation of South Yemen could be in the making. But above all, one hopes that whole process educates the oppressed African about the power of her or his voice. This is an opportunity to take our destiny into our own hands, rather than allowing those autocratic leaders the luxury of taking time off their plundering sessions to enact pathetic laws and edicts that compromise our self respect as individuals, nations and continent.