|low graphics version | feedback | help|
|You are in: Talking Point: Debates: African|
Monday, 13 November, 2000, 17:00 GMT
Presidential photos: A bad idea?
It is quite common across Africa to find large ceremonial photographs of the Head of State on display in public and private areas.
Is this a wrong move or should other African nations follow the Ivorian example?
This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.
Displaying presidential photographs does not benefit either the people nor their leaders in any way. This is a common practice by dictators who want to instil fear and gain respect by force. A popular leader will always be judged by his good work towards his people.
Cecilia M. Dube, Zimbabwe
In Amin's Uganda, we used to have shirts bearing the photo of Obote and Pope Paul VI, commemorating the latter's visit to Uganda in 1969. Amin's soldiers would aim and fire live bullets on anyone wearing that shirt. The target was not the wearer but the photograph; and harm to the wearer is collateral. We grew wise and discarded the shirts even if it was the only one we had. Now, dare ask me what is in a photo?
What is in a photograph? A leader's image is no problem as long as the owner serves the people well.
Hanging presidential portraits in public places just makes the president feel too powerful. It's a recipe to dictatorship.
Yves Florent, Burundi
The display of a leader's photograph
in public places only serves to develop
a personality cult which would
degrade the spirit of democracy.
The development and cultivation of a personality cult
in Ethiopia is a good example. Mengistu Hailemariam
was represented as being "super human" which
he finally started to believe himself.
He was so detached from reality and
the public that the cult contributed to his demise.
Photographs should be displayed in museums and
I don't have a problem with presidential photos, because they display the pride of the leader to a visitor or whoever is unable to get a glimpse of the president.
God Bless the Queen! If we had a Queen, I'd say yeah, go ahead and display, but for the Idis, Mugabes, I'd say aghaah!
It's right to put up pictures of leaders who've had a positive influence on peace in their respective countries. We're proud to see Nyerere's face everywhere. As an advocate for peace and unity, he reminds us of where we come from and how important it is to have peace. His smile brings peace to our hearts and if his picture can do that to the Tanzanians, then leaders who have left positive legacies should be given a chance to do the same.
In Kenya, my country of origin, presidential pictures must be displayed on all business premises. This is not enshrined in our law but is readily enforced.
Well done Mr Gbagbo, popular leaders do not need to remind the people who is looking after them.
Ever notice that these in these "leader photos", the president always looks younger?
Africans like citizens of other civilised nations owe their allegiance to their beloved countries and continent, not to incompetent megalomaniacs.
Africa needs patriotism, not cultism. Maybe all those 'presidential' photos should be replaced with flags?
When Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, he used the presence or absence of his portrait in German homes as a control measure to communicate to the German people that no opposition would be tolerated. Looking back on recent leadership in African countries it is not difficult to imagine a similar scene repeating itself, where the absence of a portrait is used to root out even the weakest opposition in the form of persons with political dispositions other than their leader. It is the place of a leader to work for his/ her people not use them as a vent for her/ his vanity. Laurent Gbagbo has made a revolutionary move; the response of other African leaders will reflect their understanding of leadership.
Peter Kaiza, Tanzania/ England
I think it would be more appropriate to post pictures warning about the dangers of Aids, suggesting prevention measures and the President's agenda for the development of the country.
African Presidents realise that the
more we see their pictures hanging
everywhere, the more we get mad.
I disagree with portraits of Presidents or Heads of State being displayed in public places. I think this is done to reinforce their presence all over the country and intimidate people. I don't see pictures of Prime Minister Helen Clark in public places in New Zealand. True democracy is yet to prevail in Africa.
Bitrus Cobongs, Nigerian in the USA
The best place to
display any respectable image should be determineded by the people.
If our Presidents performed well, we would, as individuals, display those portraits out of pride. The decision on whether or not to display a portrait should be left to individuals. Public money should not be used for self-serving portraits of leaders who secretly wish to be some form of a deity to their own people.
I think it is proper to display OFFICIAL pictures of a president in significant state institution reception areas and in diplomatic missions abroad but certainly not on domestic highways, airports or shopping malls.
After winning the election, why should they continue advertising themselves? Those who do so must pay for public space like any advert/ banner.
Gbagbo is the man! Portraits of presidents should not be hung in any office except their own. I agree that they become despots and some have even gone as far as printing local currency with their portraits.
Paolo Scattoni, Italy
Photographs of presidents in public places is a sign of dictatorship, and it's an abuse of the minds of the people of that country.
Gbagbo's portraits will only serve to infuriate the opposition who do not recognise the fairness of the Ivorian election. In my opinion it's a politically smart move.
Knut Blom, Norway
Côte d'Ivoire has made a good choice in following Eritrea's example. A country is more than a 'President'. Photos are only appropriate to monarchies.
Hanging photographs of the Head of State on display in public places appears to be an expression of solidarity with the person in power. Where there is a dictatorial regime or a country that has just witnessed a revolution, sometimes under the guise of democracy, hanging photographs of the Head of State may be an indication of the popularity of the revolutionary leader. This may explain the reason why the practice is very common in African and Arab countries. The new President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast appears to be changing the 'norm'.
Sam, Ghana/ USA
All these photos typically do is bolster the vanity and insecurity of the continent's leaders. When, as frequently happens, they go beyond this and impose their features on their countries' banknotes, (thereby unwittingly contributing even more to their depreciation) the practice becomes even more objectionable. Africa needs to put a stop to this form of personality cult. Well done,President Gbagbo!
I do not think having the photos of presidents or dictators has any impact on the national unity of a country. I will neither applaud nor condemn the new Ivorian president. It must be the choice of the people. I know that in Ethiopia there are people who post the photograph of the late King Haile Selassie, 25 years after his death. Let the choice be left to the people - to post or not to post.
Ajibola Robinson, Nigeria-USA
What you need to do is include pictures on currencies - and probably statues in public places - to see that the phenomenon is not unique to Africa. Look at countries like the UK (home of the BBC) and other advanced countries (with current or posthumous pictures as in the case of US) to assess this issue globally rather than have another go at Africa.
It's a common thing in any country to put photographs of the Head of State in government locations. However, in Africa, most leaders use them as a symbol of power. Therefore, it's hard to tell them or encouraged them to take their own pictures down from public owned sites.
Mbida Claude, Cameroon
Gbagbo has done the right thing. A president is merely the first among equals, a servant and representative of his country. He is not some demi-god or the great provider. The sooner this message sinks in, the better.
People have had it with presidential pictures hanging over their heads while stupid policies put their future in jeopardy.
Just as it is commonplace to find pictures of the Queen on walls in Britain, this is nothing more than a sense of belonging - and anyway why is it that everything Africans do must be degraded as tribalism, cronyism etc?
Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng, Ghanaian resident in the UK
Personally, it is no use having pictures of presidents. The most painful point is when the people, whom the person is supposed to serve, have not being paid, can't find a daily meal yet while en route to work or to visit a friend or family member, see a photo of the president, beautifully dressed and healthy.
President Gbagbo has hit the right button on this one!
Mobutu, Nkrumah and Cote d'Ivoire's own Houphouet-Boigny became despots largely as a result of such subtle appeal to the psyche. National unity is achieved through a leader's foresight in a policy of inclusion. His ubiquitous image in public places or on the national currency has never made the grade to unite the population and rule wisely.
Mani, USA/ Sierre Leone
I am a Sudanese studying in the UK. I went around the country but didn't see a portrait of Prime Minister Tony Blair on the streets of London, Oxford or any other cities in Britain. But in African cities it is a show of prestige that the president is in control.
Bravo Mr. Gbagbo!!
They can have their portraits displayed all day and all night, as long as those displaying them do not use public funds for their procurement.
If a symbol of national unity is to be used, it should be a coat of arms and nothing more.
03 Nov 00 | Africa
Ivory Coast fights personality cult
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to other African stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy