One evening, back in 2010, I found myself stuck in Dar es Salaam’s soul-destroying evening traffic. I was trapped on Ocean Road, which leads from the ferries crossing the harbour past the presidential grounds. Often clogged with government workers and ex-pats trying to escape to the peninsula and beyond, the local street sellers have long-since adapted to this particular group, often selling international magazines (the Economist!) and informational maps and posters. It is here that I picked up my 2010 African Leaders Calendar poster, which devotes 90% of its space to African heads of state and 10% to anything calendar related.
I never put the poster up – it always sat on a shelf behind my desk in the department. It started seeming terribly out of date after the Arab spring and the second Ivorian civil war, so I started crossing presidents off when they were no longer in office. Not as part of some macabre hit list, but just to keep track of who had left. Out of the 56 countries represented, about 12 heads-of-state are no longer in power. The reasons for an X are myriad – failed re-elections, retirements, untimely deaths, revolutions and coups. Not always, but often, an X represents a shift for the better – or at the very least change.
Today I crossed off Professor John Evans Atta Mills, president of Ghana, who died yesterday. It’s not totally clear what illness Mills died of, possibly a complication of his throat cancer. I’ve written before of the tendency for African president to unexpectedly fall off their perches, felled by common ailments of the elderly such as cancer or strokes.
Two and a half years have seen an attrition of about 20%s. How long until that number hits 100%? At the top of the poster sit two of the stalwarts: Museveni and Kagame. I fear it will be quite some time before this calendar is finished.
By the way, if anyone can get their hands on either the 2011 or 2012 posters, let me know.