Retired presidents –do they have a role in East Africa?

Retired presidents –do they have a role in East Africa?


In return, they are expected to go by a certain level of decorum that sees and maintains their role as that of senior statesmen. They are expected to provide counsel and be the conscience of the nation both at home and abroad. In a way, the life and doings of a sitting American President are such that one must make enemies and those enemies are always waiting to settle scores whether an American President is in office or is retired.

Thus American Presidents are subject to protection by the US   Secret Service and in return, they keep their business to peace projects & interventions around the World or to Social Responsibility pet projects that carry their names with a view to doing good for society. These  feel good factors are thus funded by Corporates and giant international companies that wish to be associated with these pet projects of the Presidents.

It may be research, cancer, HIV Aids or peace quest. In East Africa today Tanzania leads in the numbers of ex-Presidents with Al Hajj Ali Hassan Mwinyi (Mzee Ruksa) & Benjamin William Mkapa. Kenya has Daniel Arap Moi. Uganda’s many ex-heads of states are dead. However, the debate around the role of ex-heads of states is beginning to rage across East Africa on whether or not these veterans should continue or not to play a role in the governance affairs of their countries and indeed East Africa and if so, what role those should be.

Kenya seems to have struck a chord by making it clear that such Heads of States must stay out of politics and for a country whose politics is fragile to say the least, proponents believe it is for the good. This has been done in the newly re-written constitution and it has ensured Retired President Moi stays in the back ground even as his 24 years in power is lampooned by critics for it’s failings. Tanzania is grappling with the role of ex-Presidents and it is taking shape inside CCM.

This is significant because CCM has been the ruling party since independence even under different name hence what happens in CCM is a pointer to the debate about the general role of ex-Presidents in the Governance of the country. Proponents of a stronger hand of the retired Men of Office are saying they need to be used in an advisory capacity to sitting Presidents, a proposal that does not seem to be sitting well with backers of the current office holder and part of the aspires to this office.

Those for the idea of a Presidential Council, are speaking about a ruling coalition of some kind that will make “decisions on tough issues facing the nation. Their theory is that such critical decisions that have the welfare and well-being of a country need the minds of more than one man and those who should be given the reign should be ex-Presidents. Men (as there are no women yet), who have sat on the hot seat and know what implications these decisions can have-make or break.

CCM is going from crisis to crisis over the so-called corruption elements in it’s ranks. The choice to stay or leave the party has been given to the perpetrators a choice they  have not taken and the fear is that expelling them may present CCM with an elephant in the house. The elephant may go berserk and wreck havoc. So what to do? Put in place a Presidential Council to make decisions. The opponents say it is duplicating the role of the President and argue that any winner of that seat should be left free to govern without the baggage of the ex-leader.

They make reference to the fact that President retired Benjamin William Mkapa has been heard to say some of the things that are happening today would not have happened if he were in power. What do you do with a meddling ex-President? That is the question? How busy do you keep a guy who has been shuttling across the world so that he does not ruin the image of the sitting guy? Does the ex-have a role in East African Community and African Union? Are their perks good enough to attract them to retire? Are they corruption free enough to win the Africa Leadership award started by ex Celtel Owner?

Can they be examples of good leadership that can be emulated and can they preach what they practiced? As Tanzania does it’s new Constitution Mkapa and soon to be Kikwete’s role as retired Presidents will come in for sharp focus and we all wait to see what shall happen. The writer , a Media consultant , is the founder of  Media Development Rights Agenda. He can be reached on   info@mediagenda.net.

Author: K”OYOO Nick

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