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Exit Kabila, but there’s no shortage of dynasties

Joseph Kabila has finally conceded to pressure, and withdrawn as a presidential candidate in the next general election of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Kabila assumed the reigns of power soon after the assassination of his father, the former warlord and then President of Congo, Laurent Kabila.

Kabila become President when he was only 29-year-old. Even though in recent years he has come to spot a salt peppered beard, Kabila is retiring at the youthful age of 47. And that’s just astounding.

Many countries are still republics only in name. Lest you forget, I will remind you that “presidents for life” are still a cancer plaguing the world. 

Kabila does not lack for peers. Faure Gnassingbé has been President of Togo since 2005. Like Kabila, Gnassingbé was installed by the army immediately following the death of his father. Down in Zimbabwe, Mugabe was planning a different route to establish his dynasty. Unfortunately for him, it was his once heir apparent, his wife “Gucci” Grace that led to his downfall.

Were it not for the Arab Spring, two scions of giants of the Arab world would have been callings the shots in Cairo and Tripoli. Both Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar Gaddaffi were not succeeded by their sons. So universally loathed were Gamal Mubarak and Saif Gaddaffi that they were imprisoned after their fathers’ regimes fell.

Outside the continent, there is still a Castro brother indirectly in charge of the island nation of Cuba. Fidel handed the reigns to his brother Raul when it became clear age was making it difficult  for him to handle affairs of state. In Syria, the Arab Spring failed to dismantle the Assad dynasty. Bashar al-Assad clings to power despite fighting an insurgency supported by Western powers on one front, and ISIS on the other.

Interestingly enough, Bashar was actually the wrong brother to take over the presidency of Syria. Hafez al-Assad had been grooming his older son, Basil, to take over. Unfortunately, Basil the “golden son” died in a car accident, and Bashar who had been living a quiet life as an ophthalmologist in London was summoned back to Syria to learn the family trade.

In Central Asia: Azerbaijan is ruled by a king and queen of sorts. The president is Ilham Aliyev, and the vice president  is, of course, his wife Mehriban Aliyeva. By the way, Ilham succeeded his father Heydar Aliyev.

All these dictators have been trying to establish sustainable dynasties. But so far the only sustainable model has been North Korea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is in its third-generation of the Kim dynasty. According to the country’s constitution, the founding father Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994 is still the Supreme Leader of North Korea. Kim Jong-il the son, and now Kim Jong-un, the grandson, have only served as caretakers of North Korea.

—The writer is a Political Science PhD student at Northern Illinois University, USA