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What in the name of ...

Author: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Burundi President, Pierre Nkurunzia
Burundi President, Pierre Nkurunzia

I have not seen the Black Panther film and I don't plan to.  Who needs  Hollywood's stylised fiction about a non-existent African country when there are 54 to 56 (give or take) real and gripping national stories on this continent to marvel at? 

There are many, many moments that  in spite of the plenty deep-seated gripes I harbour, fester and share about conditions and issues in this our homeland,  I am deeply grateful to be a Ghanaian, living today and at home.  This is one of those.  


Burundi's soccer- loving President, Pierre Nkurunziza, is born again.  A minor detail in a country where 80 per cent of the population is believed to be Catholic. The Church there, depending on which side you approach the matter from, has been demonised as the font of fomenting civil unrest against the government or hailed as warriors advancing the cause of human rights. 

What is without doubt, is that Nkurunziza, the son of a Member of Parliament who was a provincial governor with royal links, has abbreviated himself, his credibility and the image of African leaders in the 21st century even further.  Ghana is talking trade, not aid, this brother is talking forever.

The National Council for the Defence of Democracy, the political party in the de facto brutish one party state he has squatted on since 2005, has declared and deified Nkurunzinza.  Why not?  The man was a teacher,   one-time lecturer and   political activist who was once condemned to death in absentia.  In 2014, he also banned jogging in Bujumbura, the capital city, for security reasons.

Nkurunziza has been named the 'Eternal Supreme Guide'. No one is allowed to disagree with him. Even our own Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, our first Prime Minister, President and for some, a living god, had his critics.  Nkrumah also wielded to devastating effect  a Preventive Detention Act, in case you had contrary ideas and attitude.  And that was 50 plus years, four  coups and three republics later.  We have mercifully and quite rightfully moved on.  Amen.

Give Charlotte a break

Nkurunzinza's controversial 're-election' in 2015 for a third term - less than 30  per cent  of the electorate turned out - sparked widespread protests, the forced exodus of desperate refugees and bloodshed.  See why perhaps we should be nicer to our embattled Chairman of the Electoral Commission, a certain Charlotte Osei?  I should work on beginning to warm to her  after her impeachment matter is over.

The new elevation to demigod status for Nkurunziza comes ahead of elections in 2020 and a national referendum. He will inevitably win both, enabling the Eternal Supreme Guide to stay in office until 2034. He will be 71 years old before he ignores or amends the constitution again, or with any luck, peacefully leaves office,  handing over of course to his wife, Denise, or one of his official five children.  Wakanda?  Try Burundi, if you dare.

Shadows in the light

Close to Burundi, in Kenya, Raila Odinga, shadow President, and Uhuru Kenyatta appear to have found enough internal peace to talk 'unity, peace and development and an end to ethnic tensions'.  By tweeting #MbelePamoja, Odinga and Kenyatta appear to be following a well laid-out bromance script that also works globally.

After repeatedly calling each other out publicly  with nuclear menaces, even United States (US) President Donald Trump is prepared to meet directly and talk to his apparent nemesis, North Korea's Kim Jong-un.  It is unlikely that they will be sharing the contact details of each other's barbers; both First Gentlemen have such unique coiffeurs.  

Even as I write this column, Mr Trump has dispensed with the services of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.  In the Ghanaian context, Tillerson was our equivalent of the Foreign Minister.  He has now been replaced by the Director of the CIA; for us that would be the Big Man at the BNI or National Security.  Anyway, let's focus.  As and when the Executive follicles meet, Tillerson will not be there.  At all.  And the world hopes that other minor issues, such as standing down the perennial tensions brought on by threatening armageddon will occupy the two leaders.  Some of us are trying to trade not aid.  

Copy cats

In our neck of the woods, on a familiar note, Sierra Leone has decided to do a Ghana (pre 2016)  and Liberia.  They will proceed to a recount of votes at 154 stations where ghosts, witches and wizards apparently held an all-night session and did not cruise, so far, to victory.  With 75 per cent  of the votes in, the opposition is as I write, leading for for the first time.  And, a run-off for the presidential election remains a likely possibility, that is if neither of the top two candidates delivers more than 55 per cent  of the popular vote.  

Here we go again with the Ghana scenario.  With a difference.  Whosever wins eventually, Sa Loh will have 132 members of Parliament, compared to our 275 'honourables' and unlike us, whilet they are at the voting thing, they also directly elect some 511 local government officials.  Why watch a film when reality, frame by frame, here and out there, is so much more gripping?