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The Therapy Sessions
Friday, March 05, 2004

Call Aristide's bluff

So Aristide claims that he was kidnapped by US marines.

I agree with many voices I've heard recently in the blogosphere: let's call his bluff.

President Bush should announce that a plane is on its way to the Central Africa Republic to pick up Aristide. From there, he will get a direct flight back to Port au Prince, courtesy of his marine "kidnappers."

My hunch is that Aristide will decline. In Haiti, he will be torn to shreds, and he knows it.

It is one of the odd things about African politics: Africans (and Haiti is really a West African country) turn on their leaders when they are no longer in power.

When the man is wearing the presidential sash, he is looked on with adoration and awe. It is an almost spiritual kind of reverence, compelling people to gladly stand for hours in sweltering heat listening to the most mundane presidential speech.

But once the sash is removed from his shoulder, everyone spits the ex-president's name hatefully and would kill him like a dog if given the chance.

This is one of the reasons why so few African leaders actually step aside.

It seems strange to Americans: we let our ex-presidents - no matter how reviled they are - live out comfortable retirements playing golf and giving softball interviews to Parade magazine.

In African nations, leaders know that once they no longer control the assemblies, courts and police, those forces will be turned against them.

The lucky ones are tried for all their corruption (which is always present: it is necessary to pay bribes to underlings to maintain loyalty);

The unlucky ex-leaders are just killed.

And the fact that African leaders won't step aside makes that next hallmark of African governance only a matter of course: the military coup.

When I was in Sierra Leone, military coups were referred to as "African elections."

Sierra Leone has had three or four coups (I lost count) since I was last there, and none of the new leaders was worth a damn.

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