I listened intently President Barak Obama’s speech to the “African Union” on July 28 2015 in Addis Abeba (the spelling used by the official Ethiopian Mapping Authority) in Ethiopia. This was an historic moment as President Obama was the first sitting American President to address the African Union. My frustration, and may be your own also, was that President Obama was speaking to some group of people and not the African Heads of State who matter most at the African Union. I am talking about speaking in the presence of the chairperson of the Union, President Mugabe, and not the diplomats and others who filled the African Union arena. That notwithstanding, she who has ears, let her hear.
Among statements that I found interesting was that President Obama said he did not understand why (some) African Presidents do not leave after their terms of office, and especially so, since some of them “have so much money”. According to Obama, you have the money, the presidential term is ended and you do not fancy the restricted State security detail and you leave. You just do not tamper with the Constitution of your country and you fade off into private citizenship. Let me propose that President Obama you just don’t get it. I will explain why I say this.
President Obama, in your case, you get $40 000 annual salary ($3333.33 per month), along with a $50 000 annual expense account, a $100 000 non-taxable travel account, and $19 000 for entertainment (and it is possible you exhausted this when you dined with your Kenyan relatives recently). In your country Mr President, you do not entertain relatives at taxpayers’ expense. Here in Africa, we do.
Mr Obama, you suggest that African leaders should find it easier to leave, “especially that they have lots of money.” In fact, that is the reason they do not or cannot leave. Firstly, that money is stolen and everyone knows it. The police know it, the President’s pastor knows it, the President’s husband or wife knows it, and the Chief Justice knows it. It is because of that that our Presidents on the continent will not leave. Secondly, greed. So the more money our Presidents amass, the more hunger it generates. More money, equals more hunger for more money. No leaving.
President Obama, you suggest that African Presidents should stick to the Constitutions. But our Constitutions are designed to be raped by Presidents and ruling parties. Yours, President Obama cannot. In your country, Mr Obama, the Constitution provides that an amendment be proposed either by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not even go to you for signature or approval. Moving Mt Everest is easier than changing the US Constitution, so you cannot even think about it. Our Constitutions are not even worth the paper they are written on. n