A warning to Africa’s first ladies to respect Lady Justice

by Trust Matsilele 0

Africa's first ladies to learn from Ivory Coast's Simone Gbagbo's 20 year jail term.

Simone Gbagbo, Ivory Coast’s former First Lady will be serving time in an Ivorian jail for the next 20 years due to her role in the country’s 2010 post-election violence.

About 3,000 citizens were killed due to violent clashes between security forces and supporters of incumbent president Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo will serve time for undermining state security.

During the time that she is expected to commence her sentence, her husband – the country’s former President Laurent Gbagbo, will be awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This presents an interesting case not only in the role that first ladies play when their husbands are in office but even more in the aftermath.

Democracy and governance consultant, Tapera Kapuya said the sentencing should send a chilling warning to spouses of incumbents who might be tempted to abuse power, that their actions can no longer go unpunished.

“The jailing of Mrs Gbagbo strengthens those calling for justices post transitions. For those who take countries to be their personal fiefdoms, violate human rights and corruptly plunder public resources, events in Côte d’Ivoire point to what is likely a future trend across the continent.”

Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa senior researcher at Human Rights Watch says, the jailing of the former first lady is a timely lesson of the need for those in positions of authority to always respect people’s basic rights. Therefore they should desist from acts of injustice because tyranny always has a witness and there is no escaping the long arm of justice.

“For Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe a key lesson she can take away from this case is that if she respects people’s rights, she will have no reason to fear a post-Mugabe political dispensation.”

(READ MORE: ‘Dr’ Grace Mugabe, a neophyte in the bloody Zanu PF politics)

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said first ladies in the continent should seek to further the goals of their husbands through charity and peace building interventions.

“First ladies have a role to provide moderation for their husbands and preach peace when their husbands are at war. First ladies should be loved by citizens of a nation,” said Saungweme.

“When you see first ladies hiring gangs to kill the opponents of their husbands as in the case of the former Ivorian first lady or going on an onslaught spewing slander and hate like Grace Mugabe or showing disregard to the poor like France’s Marie Antoinette, then there is a problem.”

Saungweme says such behaviour leaves first ladies vulnerable to persecution and prosecution once their husbands are deposed.