Dear Ben Ali,
We have learnt with profound shock and sadness the news of your forceful departure from Tunisia, apparently at the behest of angry, unemployed youths. We are all quite surprised at the speed with which you were willing to break our Code of Conduct by actually listening to and accepting the will of the people.
Your decision to listen to, rather than shoot, beat, teargas, arrest, torture and murder those unemployed cretins that flood the streets has set a dangerous precedent that, you must be aware, has now spread to Egypt, forced a cabinet reshuffle in Jordan, and sown seeds of discontent in Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.
We were under the impression that Comrade Robert Mugabe has set us all a useful example of how to ignore public opinion and economic collapse to stay in power. You are aware that reforms in countries like Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, and Liberia have left our club with fewer members. The cruel hand of death has robbed us of Comrades Mobutu, Sani Abacha, Gnassingbe Eyadema and El Hadj Omar Bongo, among others.
Similar reforms saw us lose Comrade Moi in Kenya but we believed we could bludgeon our rivals to a draw and remain with a fighting chance to share power. It is this new survival strategy that Comrade Gbagbo is applying in Ivory Coast and one we believed you had at your disposal. If push come to shove, as it did in the streets of Tunisia, we expect that you would call out the boys in the uniform and teach those demonstrators some lessons in physics (the velocity of bullets), biology (the disintegration of bodily parts that come into contact with said bullets), and chemistry (the effect of teargas on unemployed demonstrators).
That you allowed the media to remain active were others have been quick to shut down radio stations and newspapers was a surprise and unfortunate miscalculation, as was your decision to offer concessions, when you ought to have appeared on national television to stare down your rivals, promise new laws to keep them in check and throw a few cents and districts, or biscuits, into the hungry and angry crowd.
With the benefit of hindsight, maybe it is our fault, as members of the club. We assumed, after you cunningly got rid of former president Habib Bourguiba by declaring him senile, and then winning several elections by landslides, that you were actually popular or had built a well-oiled pipeline to supply the taps of patronage.
It is ironic that your successful efforts to help the UN declare 2010 as the International Year of the Youth have returned to haunt you in this manner. Ungrateful, unemployed bastards! As you can imagine, we are all watching Comrade Mubarak try to weather the storm in Egypt and have advised members to announce promotions and pay rises in their armies, just in case. We are urging democratic and electoral reforms only as a last resort.
We hope your beautiful wife Leila has been able to pawn some of the 1,500 kilogrammes of gold she withdrew from the Central Bank to take care of your financial needs and that it will not be taken away from you. You must recall how we looked on helplessly as the Swiss handed back to Nigeria money that Comrade Abacha had diligently saved in their banks, in total disregard of the welfare of his orphaned family.
While in Riyadh, look out for relatives of the late Comrade Idi Amin who might offer some local knowledge and assist you settle into desert life. We doubt it is the first place any of us would choose for exile but please identify some well apportioned plots of land (preferably near oasis) for some of us, just in case this bloody thing you started keeps spreading.
Until we meet,
Your old friends in the African Despot’s Club.