IT’S INTERESTING THE WAY African leaders seek medical attention in the West or in countries, such as South Africa, where medicine is based on the Western model. The latest such example has been the kindly, generous dictator of Gabon – Hajji Omar Bongo Ondimba – who passed away, leaving billions of US dollars, at the Quiron Hospital in Barcelona in Spain after 41 years in office.
A Ugandan commentator, Muniini K Mulera, points out that Bongo is the last in a long line of Africa’s Big Men seeking Western medical care.
Botswana’s Sir Seretse Khama was rushed to London in 1980 in a bad way. Terminal abdominal cancer was diagnosed and, to his credit, Botswana’s first president flew back to pass away in his homeland. That hater of all things Western – Ahmed Sekou Toure, of Guinea – died on the operating table at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in 1984 aged 62. In 1987, Chief Leabua Jonathan of Lesotho died of abdominal cancer in a Pretoria hospital. He was en route to London for surgery.
Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi died in a Johannesburg clinic at about 100 years of age, while Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania died in London’s St Thomas Hospital, where he’d been diagnosed with leukaemia.
The list goes on and Mulera comments: “Who, we must ask, would willingly choose to die next to the wretched of the earth?”