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Dictators and the art of quitting gracefully

Boston, Aug. 28 (Reuters): Attention African leaders: Don’t wait to be forced from office in a messy coup — Boston University wants to show you the art of giving up your job gracefully.

The private university announced yesterday it has created a residency programme to foster democracy in Africa by demonstrating to the continent’s leaders that there is life after office.

The first head of state to take part in the Lloyd G. Balfour African Presidents in Residence Programme will be Kenneth Kaunda, who led Zambia to independence in 1964 and then ruled the southern African state for 27 years.

Over the coming year, the school will furnish Kaunda with a house in Boston’s posh Back Bay district, round-the-clock security and a stipend of an undisclosed amount.

In exchange, Kaunda will give lectures and take part in policy discussions both on campus and around the country. His papers will also be compiled by the university’s African Presidential Archives and Research Programme.

Charles Stith, a former US ambassador to Tanzania who now runs the African presidential archives at BU, said he hoped Kaunda would be the first in a long line of African leaders to take part in the unique residency programme.

“What we’re doing represents an example of the potential opportunities after the presidency.

“If that can serve as the impetus for some folks to move on (and leave office), then we’re happy,” he said.

Stith said it was a “real coup” for the university to have landed Kaunda, who will take up his one-year post next month.

Democracy in Zambia experienced a bumpy ride under Kaunda, who declared the country a one-party state in 1972. Nearly two decades later he called multi-party elections, and stepped down gracefully when he lost to trade union leader Frederick Chiluba.

“He’s really a man for all seasons,” Stith said of Kaunda. “He is a living embodiment of Africa’s past struggle against colonisation, and his commitment to democracy and free-market reform makes him a symbol of Africa’s present and future challenge to live with globalisation.”

Stith said he had his eye on at least a dozen current or former African leaders to succeed Kaunda, including former South African Presidents Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, who helped negotiate the country’s transition from apartheid.

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