Africans are too tolerant, respectful of 'Leaders for life'– Kofi Annan

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Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan says some African leaders abuse the tolerance disposition of their citizens to perpetuate themselves in office.

He said it is unthinkable that in a nation of millions of people, only one person will lead for decades without giving chance to others.

Speaking at a programme held in his honour at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra Thursday, the former UN chief said the courtesies of Africans continue to be abused by their leaders.

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The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient recounted his experience at an African Union (AU) Summit where he overheard two leaders debating who had overstayed in power.

“One said I’m 32 [years] and the other I’m 32 and a half,” he narrated, adding he thought they should be ashamed of themselves but they were not.

Mr Annan said the ‘Leaders for life’ syndrome continue to be entrenched because the leaders have created an environment that stifles opposition.

The African continent has come under focus over the years because of issues of poverty, lack of education and a seeming powerful leaders some of whom abuse their power.

At the turn of the 21st Century, there were more than 10 African leaders who had over stayed in power.

They include Rwandan President, Paul Kagame who rode on the back of the country’s 1994 Genocide to come to power and Republic of Congo’s Denis Nguesso who is the longest serving ruler in Africa. Mr Nguesso came to power in 1979.

Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe is also one of the longest serving leaders since his days as Prime Minister in 1980.

Mr Annan believes the ‘Leaders for life’ syndrome must end on the continent.

Making a case for young leaders, the Ghanaian diplomat said opportunities must be given to the youth to lead as well.

He said Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah was 48 years when he became Prime Minister and Egypt’s Abdul Nasser was 38 years when he became President.

"We must remember that one is never too young to lead nor too old to learn," he said, adding African leaders must ask themselves how the continent's resources have benefited the youth.

Mr Annan said the continent is at the crossroads and the way out is for the leaders to pursue reforms that meet the aspirations of their citizens.

"More than ever our future is in our hands. [And] we must ride the wave to come together to affirm the way of the continent," he added.

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