The African presidents use a thousand tricks to stay in power by always deploying good reasons that endorse their populations in a painful simulacrum.
African dictators are not short of ingenuity to develop the cult of their person. The latest is Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been elevated to the rank of “eternal Supreme Leader”. In doing so, it is part of the tradition of a number of dictators like Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Muammar Gaddafi, or Mobutu who have also been fruitful in initiatives and stratagems to gain the ascendancy over the people.
If the responsibility of the dictators is obvious, that of the peoples, “adhering” to their ploys, is not to be avoided. How then, do African dictators manipulate their peoples?
The instrumentalisation of historical references
The history of the African continent has, over time, recorded heroes who still make Africa proud today. Decades after the official independence of African countries, anticolonialist rhetoric continues to galvanize peoples and propel their authors to power no longer for real change but just to change the hand in power and sometimes exercise more dictatorship.
This lever is often exploited by the dictators who are standing as a last bastion against neo-colonialism in front of populations prepared for a long time to see the colon as the source of all the misfortunes.
It is therefore a way for dictators to divert the attention of citizens from the essential concerns by crystallizing the fight against neo-colonialism.
Since then, they reflect the ideal of a prosperous country where milk and honey flow for all, surfing on a possible deluge that would occur after their departure.
Thus, Mugabe periodically took anti-white decisions such as the agrarian reform or the indigenization law, which did not help his people but legitimized his prolonged presence in power. A kind of signal was periodically launched to remind his fight against the white settler.
Often in disgrace with their people during their term of office because of bad governance, dictators reconcile themselves with their propagandist habits in the run-up to the elections to put the people to sleep and prolong their rule.
Thus, the communication of some leaders is based essentially on propaganda inspired by the fears and desires of the people. The lie, the manipulation and the intimidation are erected in mode of governance.
It is in this category that the communication of Ben Ali that instrumentalized the fear of the radical Islam of the Tunisian people by presenting itself as the last rampart and thus perpetuate its reign is inscribed but in the genre.
For others, the instrumentalization of ethnic and tribal fractures is a powerful vector of communication to divide and rule. Thus, some leaders claim to exercise power in the name of their ethnic group or their clan. So they manage to take refuge behind this alibi to galvanize their supporters against possible protesters making them believe in conspiracies on the basis of ethnic rivalries.
This is a way of diverting attention from political issues. In this register, Sekou Toure distinguished himself by inventing a “peul plot” against his one-party regime and consequently against the people.
It is in the name of this conspiracy, broken down by the media, that he led an unprecedented repression against Peul ethnic and mainly intellectual and influential people in the chieftaincy to extinguish any hint of protest. If dictators make it a point of honour to refine their communication, the reception of the messages remains the condition of the success of the operation. What facilitates the receptivity of peoples?
In Africa authority is presented as sacred, often innate and divinely inspired. As such, even if they are elected according to a modern system, the leaders would climb in the hierarchy of their clan. But the traditional conception of authority confers on the one who benefits from it an undivided and incontestable power. This conception of power transmitted in traditional African education is at odds with the democratic principles that sanction a separation of powers and even admit institutions of counter-power.
The father or family authority is respected and revered. This trait of education is often extrapolated by the expressions “father of the nation” or “father of independence” used to install in the unconscious peoples the image of paternal authority at the head of the country.
Ignorance of peoples
In the camp of aspirants to power, the diagnosis is often simple. Attempts at discussion are assimilated to resignation to negotiate with the ethnic group, or the social group represented by the ruling leader. This predisposition to defend his clan, his ethnicity or his region dissolves any pre-eminence of the general interest and increases the receptivity of the people to the communication strategies of the dictators who know how to use it.
Indeed, if today the States exist, it is the fact of the colonization and the introduction of relatively new modes of government on the African continent and practically non-existent in certain countries of the same continent. The populations kept in ignorance therefore remain foreign to the system, vulnerable to propaganda. It is also this fault that some dictators benefit to orchestrate misinformation to their advantage. Abdelaziz Bouteflika is still unclear in the media about his state of health through video shots and audiovisual trickery.
The communication vectors of dictators are numerous and multiform and their favoured by the predispositions of the populations to answer them. It is imperative for African peoples to overcome ethnic, tribal and regional considerations in the political arena. It is a condition of their tranquility.