By Staff Writer
Being an opposition leader in Africa requires balls of steel. With most countries led by autocratic leaders who have turned supposedly democratic countries into private fiefdoms, it takes a lot of courage to challenge the status quo. Opposition leaders have emerged and done a pretty good job at putting the powers that be on check and in rare occasions ascended to power. This article takes a look at the tough than nails opposition leaders starting with:
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu
Many knew him as Bobi Wine the artist until recently when he ventured into the murky world of politics. The Member of Parliament for Kyadondo County in Uganda has taken the place of Kizza Besigye to become one of the most recognisable opposition leaders in the landlocked country. Gunning for the presidency in the 2021 Ugandan presidential election against the incumbent Yoweri Museveni under the People Power, Our Power movement, the Kyadondo MP has found himself in trouble with police on numerous occasions. His campaigns have been dispersed by overzealous police officers and some of his supporters have been killed in the process. The politician who is causing Museveni sleepless night was born on 12 February 1982.
Rwanda’s strongman Paul Kagame is not a man who entertains any kind of opposition. He has done a good job at bringing order to his country but has scored badly when it comes to allowing free speech and democracy to thrive. Diane Rwigara decided to plunge into politics by showing interest in running for the 2017 presidential elections. The businesswoman cum accountant went from being a presidential hopeful to a guest of the State. Her courage in contesting for the presidency and ending in jail makes her one of the most influential opposition leaders in Africa.
He ranks among the most popular and loved opposition leaders in Africa. While his popularity in South Africa does not translate to votes that can put him in power, Malema is a darling to those outside his country for telling it as it is. He criticised xenophobic attacks targeting ‘outsiders’ which was not a popular stand among South Africans who felt that foreigners were taking their jobs. The president of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has come out to support Bobi Wine in his quest to dislodge Museveni from power. He remains one of the most influential opposition leaders in the continent.
Raila Amollo Odinga
Opposition politics is synonymous with Raila Odinga. The enigma has been a thorn in the flesh of successive governments in Kenya and is always an inch away from the presidency. It came as a surprise when he decided to join hands with President Uhuru Kenyatta, his political nemesis. He was inaugurated as the ‘people president’ Raila, a feat no other opposition leader in the country would have dared. He is arguably one of the most powerful opposition leaders in Africa if not the world.
Riek Machar is more of an opposition leader than South Sudan’s second vice president. He has used his influence to create mayhem in a country that has not known peace since it gained self rule in 2011. The powerful leader had been accused by his boss Salva Kiir of precipitating a coup. The country went into a civil war pitting Kiir’s dominant Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer tribesmen.
Tanzania was one of the few countries in Africa that rarely made headlines for silencing the opposition. This seems to have changed when John Pombe Magufuli was elected president and this was best evidenced during the 2019 general elections. Chadema party presidential candidate Tundu Lissu put up a spirited fight in the face of political machinations by the ruling party. He fled the country a week after the elections.
Like Raila Odinga, the Gabon opposition leader declared himself president when he lost to Ali Bongo in a hotly contested election. He dared challenge Bongo and went ahead to dispute his win saying that the “the whole world knows who the president of the Republic is: it’s me, Jean Ping.”
The Cameroon Renaissance Movement opposition leader Maurice Kamto has been in and out of prison. He was arrested in January 2019 after countrywide peaceful protests and released 10 months later.
The Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Martin Fayulu was poised to beat Felix Tshisekedi in the 2018 presidential elections. The leader of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development party received most votes in the election but it was Tshisekedi who was announced the winner and sworn into office. He remains very influential in DRC.