On December 22nd as the world indulged in the festivities of hristmas, Guinea's ailing autocratic leader for the last 24 years; the 74 year old Lansana Conte went to meet his maker (or whoever welcomes men of his ilk when they pass on).

He has been replaced by the leader of a putsch Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who announced on Radio Conakry the dissolution of the government and the installation of the 'National Council of Democracy.'
Like the fulfilment of a generational curse Conte came to power on the back of another military coup in April 1984 after the death in an American hospital of a bedridden Sekou Toure who had ruled for 26 years from the attainment of independence from France in October 1958. His reign was characterised by brutality, fear, intimidation, imprisonment and all the ingredients of misrule common with African dictators.
Similarly Conte ruled with the backing of the military which has been accused of extra judicial killings, rape, torture and civil unrest.
The significance of the tragedy in Guinea is the confident full blooded return of the military with their primitive instincts into national politics.
For over two decades, since the advent of the so-called wind of change that brought to the fore a "new breed" of leaders, military rule had shamefully taken after the fashion of "modern" polygamy –it was practiced discreetly.
Like a good Christian man will hide his little concubine and meet her in the dead of the night, military men reluctantly converted to multiparty democracy and took to business suits as the heads of "resistance movements" and "revolutionary councils."

They would conveniently call on their allied military wings; the "resistance and revolutionary armies" respectively whenever it was time to apply rough house tactics typical of the military men of old.
Then in August this year Mauritania's military threw pretence to the wind and like Guinea reminded us of the 70s when they overthrew a civilian government.

The stories of Guinea and Mauritania lay bare the legacy of Africa's strong men which is weak and vulnerable societies.
They usually come to power by taking advantage of trouble and chaos caused by the shenanigans of erstwhile strongmen. The population welcomes them as a breath of fresh air and gives them the benefit of doubt whenever they fall short in the initial stages of their (mis)rule.
That is why one can take a gamble on a military coup succeeding. It is like the proverbial bitter food that tastes good to the extremely hungry and deprived.

What follows is entrenchment and self preservation. The woes of Africa are such that throughout the continent there is no time, energy or any other known resource dedicated to building a civilisation that will endure.

Instead it is hideous characters surrounded by their tribesmen, a plethora of opportunists, bootlickers, court jesters and sycophants barricaded in presidential palaces conspiring to rule by hook or crook in perpetuity. It similarly gives rise to an endless flow of contenders trying to unseat them.

Consequently one chunk of the nation's resources is disposed to defend those who want to hold onto power forever while a good amount is used to sabotage their efforts.
While other societies go to the moon and make scientific discoveries our focus and energies are on how we shall be governed and share the national endowment equitably.

To strengthen their position, those in power steal anything they can lay their hands on and kill or exile whoever they deem a threat to their grand plan of plunder.

At the end of the day all institutions that would serve the oversight role are either manned by useless people or are under funded to do anything meaningful for the strengthening of governance.
The police, courts, legislature and ombudsman's office end up on the laughing stock.

The social infrastructure suffers similarly because all the money to set it up and maintain it lines the pocket of the big man's people. Health, education, transport and housing becomes a shambles. The quality of the human resource follows the same route.

Because of the selfish nature of Africa's rulers the master plan of national governance remains in their heads and hands like an individual's new years resolution often baptised as "a vision for the nation."
When such a leader passes on, he is buried with his vision and the nation has to start from scratch as there is almost no ideological foundation to build on.

An abrupt departure also leaves behind a power vacuum as succession is equally in the hands, hearts and heads of strongmen. Anyone may then give it a shot. Despite their unsuitability, the advantage usually falls to the military because of their monopoly of the instruments of force and violence. The vicious cycle then continues.

That is the bane of this continent. We are always working towards starting again after a bad leader leaves office. You can never have a strong society if you take this direction.
May the New Year come with a bounty of blessings!