No to Mo money

In return for stepping down after just two terms in office, Botswana’s (ex) President Festus Mogae will receive $5 million over the next 10 years, and $200,000 per year for the remainder of his life.

From where does this generosity spring? Mo Ibrahim’s prize, whose purpose is to get the incentives right for African leaders. (The full Time story is here, and the NY Times one here.)

Here’s what I wish I knew: did this money play any role whatsoever in Mogae’s decision? I doubt it.

More importantly, are the autocrats of the continent swayed? Also doubtful.

Some leaders are motivated by a vision–one that usually includes them at the head of the state–and a measly $5 million won’t do much to change that intrinsic, possibly insane, motivation and megalomania. Witness Ugandan President Museveni’s ridicule of the Ibrahim prize last year.

Multiply this effect by twelve if the autocrat loathes or fears the politicians that could take his place. Do not underestimate the personal and ideological hatred that pervades personal rule.

And don’t forget: Presidents fear not just their own skins, but that of their cronies. Why has Mugabe held so tight to the reins of power? His generals and ministers may be giving him little choice. Perhaps the Old Man even cares about their fate.

To treat an autocrat as though he were a greedy schemer and not a man of pride and prejudice is misguided. To treat an autocracy as an individual and not a network of power-brokers is naive.

I’m thrilled that Mogae is getting the money; he deserves it. But let’s call it what is is: not an incentive for bad leaders, but a golden handshake for the good ones.

Happy retirement, Festus.

3 thoughts on “No to Mo money

  1. wouldn't be surprised to find out that the money is, at least in part, a payoff for stepping down 18 months before the election so that khama could move in & appoint his own cabinet (replete w/ military pals) w/o ever being elected to office. so much for democracy, eh?

    of course, mogae came into office the same way, which ensures that party control over the state (and esp the gatekeeper role for the diamond industry).

    one thing that mogae was not happy w/ was u.s. pressure to meddle more in zim, which lt. gen. khama had no problem with. and then, combining the militarization of botswana's govt, along w/ the intelligence bill, khama's obsession w/ secrecy, spying & authoritarian order, not to mention his early efforts (rebuffed, so far) to rule by decree, curb free speech, etc, and botswana fast slips from anything qualifying as a democracy

    years of the u.s.' military-to-military relationships/patronage of the BDF are now paying off. most of the officer corps are IMET grads. khama is pro-AFRICOM in hostile SADC territory, ready to take on more responsibility & swim against the current, as exemplified by his boycotting the august SADC summit following elections in zim.

    compared to what that proxy role portends, several million dollars payoff to mogae is a cynical drop-in-the-bucket

    some related web references
    mmegi: At long last Khama will face his son

    african security review: THE BOTSWANA DEFENCE FORCE: Evolution of a professional African military

    daily nation: Is Botswana’s new leader hero or dictator?

  2. Agreed, BUT $ matters on the margin AND it’s a type of celebrity prize — like Peace Nobel — that opens new doors.