[This article appeared in Hama Tuma’s book, Democratic Cannibalism (pp 30–34) in 2007]



Our leaders are sick; the money they have stolen from us is dirty. So, what else is new?  Where is the news?


It is no State secret that sick people are ruling over us but then again these sick fellows have money and lawyers and may sue us. In other words, I have to be careful and tread lightly. Take Kenya for example. The president, Mwai Kibaki, was sworn into office in a wheel chair and the Kenyan press had reported time and again that he is “in poor health”. His vice president, Michael Kijana Wamalwa, died at 59 after a long illness from “various ailments”. He was the fifth high official of the new Kenyan government to die. MP James Philips Mutiso was swept away by floods but minister Godfrey Parpai died of cancer, Labor minister Ahmed Khalif died in a plane crash but MP Samwel Kihara died in a South African hospital from complications of diabetes. Up north in Ethiopia , President Girma had to be transported in urgency to Saudi Arabia to be reanimated just a few days after assuming his post. Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea had to be hospitalized in Israel (much to the anger of his former Arab backers) to be treated for a cerebral malaria that, at least according to Ethiopian officials, has left its mark on his “rationality”.  Down South, the situation is as worrying. The Zambian president flew to London to get treated for a stroke and the Zambian Civil Servants Union has called for a halt to the practice of sick ministers flying to Europe and S outh Africa for treatment while doing little or nothing to improve health facilities in Zambia itself. 


Which African leader is suffering from Aids? How many ministers and generals are importing the cocktail of expensive drugs to fight the virus ravaging them? Who has terminal cancer? Which Prime Minister had to be treated for herpes or syphilis? For leprosy? Which Prime Minister is a drug addict? Do not expect me to answer these in detail. Unlike you and me, African presidents have the money and the time for long court cases. And yet we can in general write of the sickness of African rulers. They are forgetful of the promises they make when they take over power and we can easily see that they all have an undeclared Alzheimer. They suffer from megalomania, which is defined as delusions of grandeur or mania for extravagant things or actions. The delusion attacks many of our puny leaders as events clearly show like Charles Taylor trying to play big power in West Africa , Rwanda invading the bigger DRC. A mania for extravagant actions defines Omar Bongo, Gadafi, and many other=2 0rulers. In other words, we can safely assert that the fellows leading us much against our will are suffering from various mental disorders. Let us elaborate on this.



There is, to begin with, a serious learning disability manifested by most of them who refuse to learn from history and thus commit the same mistakes that brought death and humiliation to their predecessors. African presidents are not of the learning type– they are impaired or disadvantaged in this respect. Most have what is called panic disorder. They fear their peoples, they are scared of any dissent and they go into a murderous frenzy when confronted by any opposition. Their resort to one man or one party dictatorship is a result of this disorder. The experts talk of bipolar disorder or a combination of mania and depression. In my view, few African Presidents or Prime Ministers are sane or without this disorder. What are the symptoms? We can mention a burst of or an increased energy and activity—most of the leaders are busy bees that achieve nothing but they have enough energy and zea l to meddle in all affairs and to bungle all. The other symptom is also an extreme “high” and euphoric mood; at least in the Horn of Africa , where Kat leaves are chewed by Prime Ministers, this symptom has been noted. Extreme irritability is another symptom and most of our leaders are red-hot angry for nothing, ordering executions and torture at whim, fuming in public against their rivals, promising to shed blood any instant and, like former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu, throwing blood filled bottles to the pavement and vowing to shed the blood of “thousands ” of his opponents (which he did by the way). Another symptom of this mental disorder is talking too fast or jumping from one idea to another and who is the African who will argue with me that our rulers are not sick from this disorder. They talk fast and without pondering on the consequences of their words; they jump from one idea to another, from the OAU to the AU, from one project to another, in other words from one disaster to another. And all this at the cost of the Nations and the continent!


To continue with the symptoms: another is the unrealistic belief in one’s abilities and power. This defines almost all20African rulers. This delusion led leaders of small countries to invade their bigger neighbors, to imagine that with a structure called Nepad the big powers will consider them as their equals, to proclaim themselves presidents for life, to lable themselves Lion of the Nation, Supreme Combatant, Master Mind, No 1 Brain, Great Helmsman, Sun of the Nation, Father of Millions and more. The balance and weight of forces and countries shows that Africa is the last and the most insignificant and yet these sad rulers imagine they are big powers and have some weight in world politics. This is mental disorder par excellence. Poor judgment is another symptom and the African leader with the ability to judge what is good or bad for the nation is a rare species indeed. A tendency to indulge in spending sprees is yet another symptom of the disorder mentioned above and you and I know that our rulers indulge in spending sprees as a matter of routine. From white elephant projects to million dollar mansions and ultra expensive suits (wasn’t it one former Congolese president who bought a million dollar bed?), our leaders spend our money without worry. The costly coronation of Emperor Bokassa was one such example, General Abacha’s orgies another, Omar Bongo’s shenanigans can also be mentioned, and we can add to the list the endless cost of Somali peace conferences. Abuse of drugs and alcohol being another symptom, we can confidently assert that many of our rulers (and not the former ones like Obote a nd Mengistu) are alcoholics, drug addicts or Kat chewers and thus sick. Aggressive and provocative behavior is yet another symptom and in the war torn continent we can see clearly that our leaders are indeed afflicted. And finally, another symptom of this mental disorder is the inability to accept the reality and the denial that anything is wrong. Our tyrants imagine we live in democracies, that we love them, that we cherish their reign and that we believe we shall be lost without them. Come every anniversary, they strut up to the podium (and some hiding behind bullet proof glass boxes) they prattle on about “achieved” economic growth, political stability, democracy, peace and more. Fiction. But they seem to believe it—that is how sick they are.


They are schizophrenic too, imagining themselves to be someone else they are not. Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda believed for a time they were as Congolese as they came and with the right to play havoc with the Congo . Nigerian leaders, the Ethiopian and Eritrean dictators, Charles Taylor and a few others suffered from this identity crisis. Some Kenyan and Nigerian ministers think they are British, all the rulers of the Francophone countries believe they are French. And nowadays, several rulers are ready to think they are American. In reverse, Morocco thinks all Sahraouis are Moroccans– Ivorian rulers insist that many Ivorians are actually “foreigners from Burkinabe”. This is reverse schizophrenia, a modern malady that pushes you to deny the identity of other people.


Our Presidents and Prime Ministers are not only mentally sick but they are also full of microbes that bring respiratory disorders. This comes from counting the dirty currency notes they have embezzled and, as the microbiologists at the Kinshasa University have recently explained, handling dirty notes gives you microbes.  We could tolerate their being infected by microbes but, alas, there are few mental asylums in Africa for the mentally sick rulers and this is why our continent is in20a perpetual mess.

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Open letter to Mr. Obang (Amharic pdf)


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masasebia lemimenan


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