Covid-19 will expose Africa’s tyrants

Covid-19 will expose Africa’s tyrants, by Ian Birrell.

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria in 2015 — amid a wave of disgust towards the corruption that plagues his giant nation — he promised to put a stop to politicians flying abroad for medical treatment. It was a popular pledge, especially after revelations that the state spent $1bn a year on health tourism for rich elites while offering dire services for almost everyone else …

So there was fury the following year when this leader in his seventies flew to London for treatment of an ear infection. … But Buhari was not listening. He went off on several more trips and, by the end of his first term last year, had spent at least 170 days in Britain on health grounds.

Buhari is far from the only African leader to display such lack of faith in his own nation. Robert Mugabe died last year aged 95 in a Singaporean hospital, having so wrecked Zimbabwe and its medical system that life expectancy plummeted by 26 years at one point. …

Meles Zenawi ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, suckering Western admirers who overlooked his savage repression as they fell for his talk of development — yet this wily despot died in a Belgian hospital. Omar Bongo ran Gabon for 42 years, then died in Barcelona having plundered his country’s wealth obscenely while leaving his tiny 2.2m population trapped in poverty. …

I could keep going with this list of shame — and these are just the leaders. All are surrounded by teams of aides and layers of acolytes, many showing similar hypocrisy as they fail nations filled with impoverished citizens then flit abroad to foreign clinics when falling ill. …

Enter COVID-19:

Suddenly many of the continent’s self-serving elites must stay at home if sick. More than half of Africa’s international airports have either closed or limited flights. Lockdowns are being imposed.