Death penalty for Egypt's Mubarak: How will that play with the tin-pot despot set?
Egypt's former president Mubarak could face the death penalty in his trial. In Africa, several authoritarian leaders have ruled for decades, and harsh sentences could encourage them to cling to power by any means.
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Most African leaders have nothing to worry about, having served their countries capably and in some cases admirably. Sudanese cell-phone billionaire Mo Ibrahim has even created a prize for those African leaders who perform well, and who step down after two terms in office, and Boston University has set up an African Leaders president-in-residence program, to allow retiring African presidents with a graceful departure from office.Skip to next paragraph
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But in a continent where power has all too often been obtained from the barrel of a gun, there are plenty of leaders who would appear to have reason to fret about the nosy intervention of international courts. Some leaders – like former Ethiopian President Mengistu, now in exile in Zimbabwe, and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is facing an ICC arrest warrant for genocide but can travel throughout much of Africa – rely on the kindness of fellow African leaders who resent The Hague’s interference. Others, like Charles Taylor or Chad's former President Hissene Habre, are abandoned by their counterparts, perhaps when their usefulness has run out.
What’s the solution? Some Africans argue that leaders should face justice at home. Others, including a majority of Kenyans, place greater trust in international courts than their own domestic ones, which they regard as either inadequate to the task or hopelessly compromised and corrupt.
What this means is that each of Africa’s 54 countries will have to come up with its own solution. And if African leaders continue to remain in power, disregarding the opinion of their own citizens, they will have to hope that their own people are kinder to them in their final days than the Libyan people were to Muammar Qaddafi.