Just how much trouble can a country take before it tips over? There is no straight answer. It depends on the strength of its foundation and institutions.
Take the case of Uganda last month. Its president of 37 years (and counting…) was jeered and his motorcade stoned while on a campaign trail. It seemed as if the eyes of the nation had been poked. What followed are days of chaos across the country.
The security forces reacted as if stung by a bee—beating up citizens on the streets and Opposition leaders. This left some of them with permanent and life-changing injuries.
Yesterday, the leader of that group jetted back into Entebbe after treatment abroad. His colleague is on life support in India.
But look across the Atlantic in the US and Europe. Since Donald Trump took over leadership of the US two years ago, he has suffered quite a bit of humiliation. He has been heckled and called names and not-so-flattering books have been written about him.
Recently, he was left out of list of guests at a funeral where the who-is-who attended. More seriously, a woman recently came out to describe the shape and size of Trump’s private resources hidden in his trousers.
In countries with weak institutions any of the above incidents would lead to mayhem. Take, for example, the funeral to which Trump was not invited. An African leader would have banned the entire event and the poor dead would be buried at night or left to rot somewhere in the bush!
In the UK, Teresa May has been facing challenges of her own. Ministers have resigned in rebellion to her policies and called her names. But she has taken it in gentle strides.
Across to the other side of Europe, the chaos in Italy have been legendary. At best, it has been the art of comic relief. Silvio Berlusconi is a man who has reduced the art of statecraft to some sort of a pastime game to which he returns in between his serious private businesses. But the ship of State hums along anyway.
If one has any illusions that in Africa governance still has some distance to cover then they just have to look at our institutions and the way they come under duress with the least of pressures.
The legal system, or the semblance of it in the Democratic Republic of Congo, moved quickly and snapped off any possibility of the Opposition leader Pierre Bemba contesting in forthcoming elections. The polls have been postponed ad nauseam at the whims of President Joseph Kabila who took over power eons ago after the assassination of his father.
Tanzania often comes under strain at the slightest provocation. Media houses will be shut down, journalists shot at and Opposition politicians beaten up.
Africans must, rather than focus on taking power, commit themselves to building institutions that would provide strong national pillars that will keep the engine of State humming along even when the centre is brought under strain. – Writer is the Dean, School of Communication at Daystar University