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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 12:18 GMT
What should ex-presidents do next?




They are certainly small in number, but with Nelson Mandela taking up the post of negotiator at the Burundi peace talks in Arusha, the spotlight has been put on the role of former presidents.

What part, if any, should they play in public life? What can they, as unelected old men, continue to offer Africa? Is it wise for Mandela to take up the vacant post in Arusha?

The late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere largely failed to make any headway at the talks, so why should Mandela feel he can do better?

Would it not be better for former presidents to retire to their farms and allow a younger generation of statesmen to take their place? Or should they stay involved in domestic politics as Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda has done?

Or do they point the way for Africa's other leaders... by retiring in good time, and then using their knowledge and experience to help the rest of the continent?


I wish Africa could have as many Jimmy Carters as possible. The greed that keeps people in power for 27 years or more makes them lose touch with the governed. As a result these leaders become unpopular and start to fear for their lives. A decent ex-leader who respects the constitution and his people (while in power and thereafter) will always be sought for advice and to make peace in regions that are in conflicts. Their judgements and impartiality will be respected. Taking Africa's wealth and depositing it, for retirement, in European and American banks at the expense of the suffering public is an unforgivable crime that sinks the continent deeper and deeper into poverty
C. Harry Gbesi, USA/Liberia

Nelson Mandela set Africa a great example by voluntarily stepping down and allowing democracy to gain a stronger foothold. But where ex-Presidents, such as Mandela (and before him Mwalimu Nyerere) in Burundi or Ketumile Masire in Congo, can help bring peace to Africa with their moral authority - then why not?
Richard Wood, UK

African Ex-Presidents should not settle in their farms when the continent still needs them. In my opinion African Ex-presidents need to create an organisation. This organisation would solve some African problems in two ways. It will enable them to work together and it would be an incentive to those African Presidents who have ruled for so many years despite the ineffectiveness of their policies, to pass the position to those who are more capable.
Eugenio M. Paulo, Mozambique

I think that the first problem is in defining who should be referred to as "Presidents". Do we consider murderers, thugs, etc. that elevated themselves to the post of "President", via murder and pillage of their very own populous "President"? If you bowed out gracefully at the end of your term, and did not leave a track record full of murder/conspiracy to commit murder etc., then by all means you can participate in anything you desire, or are asked to. We need the help of the Mandela's but not the Idi Amins of Africa.
Saspo, United States

Ex African Heads of State should stay out of domestic politics and retire peacefully to their homes. However in special cases, they could be given the role of mediators or negotiators such as the role Mandela is playing now in the Burundi case. Having said this, I like to state however that all ex heads of state should be considered for any appointment locally or internationally. Those considered to have been corrupt have no business advising anyone.
Joe Kwabena Adjaka, Ghana

As a proud citizen of Botswana it saddens me to realise that most people don't seem to give our ex-president, Sir Ketumile Masire the respect he deserves as one of the few "decent" African leaders to have ever given up power to fresh and young leaders. He deserves to be mentioned in the same category as Nelson Mandela and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. There are the few who can be guides to the young leaders.
J. Kefentse Sento, UK

We Africans are not blessed with having ex-presidents. They are very few for reasons we all know. Those who are lucky enough to retire with grace should dedicate their life to bringing peace in Africa. It is disturbing to see some prominent x-presidents are reluctant to deal with African issues but settle to bring peace between Israel and Syria. This kind of behaviour leaves most Africans with more questions about our ex-presidents.
Tamyalew Abbai, Ethiopia

African culture provides us with a powerful blend where both the young and the old have a role to play in a society. Most African leaders fear to retire for reasons of uncertainty of their future. There is nothing wrong with ex-president continuing participation in world's affairs. Ex-USA presidents are such a good example.
Maurice, Kenya

I think African presidents, after relieved of the burden of power, can contribute to the solution of many African countries problems - even those that they were unable to solve when they were in power.
Manuel R. Ferreira, New York, USA

Transition between generations is like a chain. It should not be broken. Former leaders who have led their countries toward democracy as Nelson Mandela did should have their say to help the country or other countries in Africa.
Mamadou Thiam, USA

We need all these respectable men and women, especially those who are genuinely serious about us Africans, to come together and be the real hero of our time. We have the potential to be the greatest continent on Earth. We have the intellects, resources to pull this through. We are all over the world helping our adopted home to be better. We just need our Elder Statesmen to assume the role of leadership and make Africa, what God has in stock for her.
Ademola Adesida, Nigerian

Retired presidents like Mandela, the late Nyerere, Masire, whether alive or dead will always be a good example to African's new generation of leaders since they have shown that it is possible to be independent vis--vis your country and country-fellows.
Safari Radjabu, Denmark

We should not be sceptical of the "statesman" role our leaders can play, whatever their failing. Reagan is respected in spite of "Iran Contra"; Nixon was rehabilitated; Clinton is still President despite what he has been through since his election in 1992; and just see what Kohl is going through. Yes, our leaders have their failings and we should not condone them.
S.S. Adzei, Ghana

Those ex-presidents who stepped down from power without pressure would be remembered across the continent and should be given a role in the world politics. But those removed due to bad image should just retire in his or her rural area and to forget taking a statesmanship role in the world.
Michael Aringo, Zimbabwe

Africa needs all the great leaders it can get. Ex-presidents with integrity like Mandela should follow his suit and turn their attentions to the whole continent. All other ex-presidents, who have stolen so much from their people, should just fade away and take their places in the history books, so that they don't cause anymore harm.
Kate, USA

Ex-Presidents should be regarded as advisers who provide words of wisdom to new leaders. Their role should merely be on a consultative basis in especially resolving crisis situations. This does not mean that they have all the answers but their expertise can be of great help to upcoming leaders.
Goodwell Lungu, UK

Many ex-presidents get themselves in certain activities because they are still "eyeing" the position they left as leaders of their nations. People who retire need rest and their activities should be advisory in nature. It is often easier to see where things are going wrong when not on the stage.
Michael U Adikwu, Germany

I think that the old statesman have a major role to play in restoring peace, stability and tranquillity in the African continent. In that sense they increase their sense of respect and share their wisdom and vision of the African continent with other Africans. However the role of conflict resolution and management should not be solely be left to the retired politicians, but rather international institutions, especially the OAU, the UN.
Shipwata Kadhikwa, Namibia

It is our tradition in Africa to respect old and experienced people. Former presidents meet these requirements. A good father cannot rest in peace if he knows that the sons are fighting.
Adelino Muchanga, Mozambican, studying in UK.

I think Africa's ex-presidents ought to wash their hands from active politics and play the vital role of mediation and reconciliation. This to my point of view will bring once and for all a lasting peace and stability to our continent.
Mustapha Jawara, USA

I think ex-African and world leaders have a role to play as far as they are fit and prepared to do so. Not only Mandela but also Castro or Gadaffi have a role to play when they retire, if they want to. International politics is a dirty game and people have different opinions and ideas, so I think people should not be hated because of that. After all the West is guilty of double standards on many occasions and what is democracy? It is people being free to express their views. So we need former leaders from across the political divide.
Eric Aboagye, UK

The future generation of Africa needs able-leaders they can count on in times of trouble. The ex-African presidents (honourable ones) should continue playing the role of "Statesman". They are the visions of "things to come" - as the new century dawns. We shall be proud to produce people like Jimmy Carter of United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of Russia.
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

Leadership, whether spiritual or civil requires special qualities. The foremost quality I believe is more interest in the people and less in oneself. Ego massaging which is the hallmark of most African Leaders has no place in sincere and honest leadership. Their lack of vision compels them to project themselves. Their role after the job will be non-existent. Legacies are not in cement and mortar but in the hearts and minds of the people you were fortunate to be placed in-charge. Memories last longer in the hearts and minds of people much more than in lifeless buildings and constructions that may be a way of projecting one's ego. People often know when leaders are sincere. It is the case of a shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd is to protect the sheep at all times. "By their fruits we shall know them" as the old saying goes.
Henry Williams, New York/USA

With the exception of a handful of African ex-presidents like the Mandela, the rest should retire infinitum, wash their hands off politics, local or international, allow impeccable and vibrant young Africans to rule.
OB Silla, Gambian in USA

I don't think it's a bad thing for former presidents to continue to play major roles to help Africa to end wars, poverty, dictatorships; especially when we have people like Nelson Mandela. Those former presidents should have high standards of morality, ethics and impartiality for them to merit the trust from everyone.
Alexis, USA

All spectrum of possibilities (from quiet life after retirement to further participation in home or international politics or even business) totally depends on individual personality and situation around this individual.
Yevgeni, Russia

Perhaps, the question should be: "what shall egomaniacal politicians do when they retire"? Which is easy enough to answer. They should become more human! More honest! And, more down to earth!
Dave Adams, USA

Past Presidents should not take up such positions of statesmanship. They should allow young and energetic African statesmen to do these jobs. What I will suggest they do is to be special advisers to democratically elected governments in power and place at their disposal the vast experience they have got while they were in the seat. After all we say in Africa that 'Experience is the best teacher'
Joy D S Amegbe, Ghana

My personal view is, they should rest and enjoy the respects of their statesmanship for their respective country and the whole continent. But we may need them, because, what is happening in Africa is horrible. There is fighting going on in most places, for example; in east of Africa there is wars, social unrest in other places.
Please statesmen, if it's necessary, please carry on the good works and you will be rewarded. For those who still think, they can use guns to come to power, know that, history exist and it is always never possible to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Elvis A. Asamoah, Netherlands

Small number indeed because many want to be in the position for their life. It so much depends on how successful the retired president was when he was in active politics. Who would want Mugabe, Museven or Kagame to play a role of a negotiator when they retire. Their foreign policies are outrageous.
It takes a man of Mandela's vision to be a successful negotiator. Many presidents are afraid to retire because they are afraid they will spend the rest of their life in jail. That is why they manipulate the constitution and seek re-election after their legal term is over.
Clement Terence Chiwaya, Malawian living in USA

No they should not stay in politics. They should give way to the younger generation with fresh ideas. Look at what is happening in Nigeria where the younger generation always gets shut out of the political process.
However I do believe that credible ex leaders can be beneficial to on going peace and stability in Africa. I definitely wouldn't want someone like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida mediating on my behalf. Sadly there are only a handful of credible leaders available.
Isaac, UK

I think Africa's ex-presidents should follow the lead of their American counterparts, and write books!
Peter Crawford-Bolton, UK in US

As long as the former presidents are healthy and vigorous, they should be encouraged to continue playing an active role in world politics. This need becomes especially urgent now that globalisation is a real phenomenon - while global political leadership is not (yet).
It is political heavyweights like Mandela who should be charged with driving key global processes like developing human rights frameworks or addressing ecological problems. He has the experience and goodwill to do so.
History has shown time and again that if political leaders of highest calibre are not in charge of global issues (such as with UN) then not much happens. Similarly, resolving local/regional but potentially explosive conflicts such as in Burundi merit the focus of the likes of Mandela.
Oliver Loode, Estonia

The ex presidents should retire dignified and write memoirs and possibly comments about actual or gone matters. But they should stay retired and not mix into active politics in any form in any tasks anywhere.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

As a general rule ex-presidents should behave like old soldiers and merely fade away. Exceptionally, Nelson Mandela may have something to offer because he was democratically elected and has been a model of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Chris Klein, UK

For most the most fruitful career would be financial advice for those wishing to make offshore investments.
James, UK

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