In This Review

Legacies of Power: Leadership Change and Former Presidents in African Politics
Legacies of Power: Leadership Change and Former Presidents in African Politics
Edited by Roger Southall and Henning Melber
Human Sciences Research Council, 2005, 352 pp

One of the consequences of democratization in Africa is the emergence of former heads of state -- those who have been defeated at the polls or have fallen victim to term limits. Between 1990 and 2004, 15 African presidents lost an election, and 17 retired voluntarily. This interesting volume asks what has happened to these ex-presidents and what has been their impact on national politics. The answer, to judge from the book's 12 case studies, varies according to the individuals' personalities as well as according to the nature of the political system they left behind. At one extreme, Nelson Mandela has been a model of civic-mindedness; at the other, Charles Taylor continues to work to disrupt Sierra Leone's politics from his Nigerian exile. In between, most former leaders appear content to manage some kind of personal foundation or seek an international role as a conflict mediator (albeit not always with equal motivation) while resisting temptations to interfere in their country's politics. Interestingly, there have been very few attempts to prosecute ex-presidents for crimes committed while in office, although threats to do so have encouraged several former leaders to remain on their best behavior after stepping down.