VERNON Mwaanga has described Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s attempt for a fifth term of office as insane.
On Monday, President Bouteflika postponed the April 18 presidential elections and said he would not seek a fifth term in office.
President Bouteflika’s candidacy had provoked mass protests across Algeria over the past few weeks.
He has led Algeria for 20 years but has been rarely seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013.
Commenting on the turn of events, Mwaanga, a veteran politician and seasoned diplomat, said President Bouteflika had overstayed in power.
“It was insane for him to offer himself for re-election in the forthcoming Presidential elections,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“I worked closely with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from 1973 to 1976 when we were both foreign ministers of our respective countries. It has been my view that he overstayed in power as President, even after a devastating stroke, which confined him to a wheelchair.”
Mwaanga said President Bouteflika should have listened to public outcry and stepped down much earlier.
He said the refusal by over 1,000 judges to handle an election where President Bouteflika was a candidate had helped stop him.
“Algerians from all walks of life have been on the streets of Algeria demanding his resignation for weeks on end and only today [Monday], over 1,000 judges from all over Algeria, declared that they would not conduct any elections involving President Bouteflika, against the wishes of the people of Algeria,” Mwaanga noted.
“It appears to have been the last straw, which broke the Camel’s back and forced President Bouteflika to decide not to stand for re-election from the wheelchair.”
Mwaanga also noted the Sudanese situation where citizens have also been protesting, demanding President Omar Al-Bashir’s resignation.
He observed that the Bashir government had been using all kinds of tactics and force to repress the demonstrators, and “even declared a state of emergency for one year, which has since been reluctantly shortened by the Sudanese Parliament to six months, much to the chagrin of President Bashir, who is wanted by the International Court of Justice at the Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity against his own people.”
“What will take for many of our leaders to know that their time is up and that it is always better to leave the stage when the audience is still clapping? Is political power so sweet and worth your own people for?” Mwaanga asked.
“President Bouteflika has belatedly taken the right decision to step down and not let Algerian blood spill on the streets of Algeria. That revolutionary country, which fought fearlessly against French colonialism and gave birth to one of the best known revolutionaries Ahmed Ben Bella, whom I had the honour to meet in Algiers, before Zambia gained independence, when I was sent there by the then UNIP president Dr Kenneth Kaunda.”
Mwaanga said that peaceful leadership change and generational renewal were good and honourable things that must be encouraged.
“Africa is an ancient continent endowed with abundant human and natural resources, which must allow itself to change political leaders peacefully and benefit from new leaders with new ideas from time to time,” said Mwaanga.
“It is important to bear in mind that the only permanent condition of Africa and the world is change.”