Over the last few days many contributors to YOUR LETTERS have written over Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and his alleged corruption, mismanagement, dictatorship, murders, torture, etc. These are the norm in Black Africa but leave ex-rulers liable to retribution. No one has mentioned a major problem when a president is changed sub Saharan style. The ex doesn't open his own foundation (Bill Clinton), travel the world as a revered ambassador (Tony Blair) or wait 20 or so years for the pomp of a full state funeral (Margaret Thatcher). He can expect to be killed together with many of his family and tribe. The last example of this reluctance to go quietly was Sadam Hussein and look what happened to him, his family and tribe.
I have personal experience of two such transitions.
The first was in the tiny East African group of islands of the Comoros Republic. With reputed French connivance Bob Denard and a small group of mercenaries toppled the rabidly Francophobe President Ali Soilih. A week later with all the loose ends tied up the puppet replacement Ahmed Abdallah arrived with full ceremony in an Air France Jumbo and was driven to his residence. Rumour has it that the bullet riddled, fly blown body of Ali was still in the master bedroom to impress upon Ahmed the need to tow the mercenary line. He took note of this for all of 11 years but in 1989 apparently ignored this advice. Officially he was shot by his Africa guards in the presence of Bob who had another presence, this time presence of mind to shoot them stone dead before they did more damage (to whom!).
On the other side of the continent in West Africa, Equatorial Guinea is currently in the news over the trial of mercenary Simon Mann and the involvement of Mark Thatcher (of Margaret's loins) in an attempted coup. The prior successful coup there was in 1979 when the president for life Francisco Macias was overthrown by the present incumbent Teodoro Obiang. A show trial (appropriately held in the Marfil cinema) started just after breakfast (9.30), reached a verdict in time for lunch (13.15) and the sentence carried out by tea time (shot at 18.00). No mañana attitude here but perhaps Teodoro wanted to impress his uncle with his efficiency his uncle being the same (for life) Francisco! In case anyone thinks this smacks of colonialism, British history abounds in similar duplicities. One uncle who did not hang about was Richard of Gloucester. He had his two nephews bumped off - the infamous Princes in the Tower. Age was no excuse Edward V was 13 and his brother Richard only 10. Their uncle became Richard III because of this murder only to get his due comeuppance at the battle of Bosworth by the sword of the first Tudor who became Henry VII - yet another bloody succession.
What to do? Let these criminals off the hook to enjoy their spoils and so encourage others to do the same or be ruthless in their pursuit ignoring the human cost in bringing them to justice? It's not a simple decision.
Playa de Palma