A GOOD number of African Presidents, former and current, are teetotalers.
They stay away from the potent liquids to maintain the sobriety needed to run their countries or protect their personal brand and legacy.
However, there are a few who are known to perform better with some ‘liquid entertainment’.
Below is a list of six African Presidents (former and current) who imbibe(d) alcohol with varied effect.
- Goodluck Jonathan
In May 2013, while on a visit to Ethiopia for the 50th anniversary summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, the then Nigerian leader missed his slot to address the conference because he was too drunk to walk.
Apparently, he had spent the entire night drinking after he received some not so good news about a State election loss back home in Nigeria.
Goodluck was unlucky to lose the 2015 presidential election to former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari. He had been in power since 2010.
To his credit, Jonathan became the first incumbent President in Nigerian history to concede defeat in an election.
- Uhuru Kenyatta
Well, he loves whisky and that’s no secret. Kenya’s President once gave a public speech while visibly inebriated.
He made the (in)famous phrase “security begins with you” during that speech which was in response to criticism against his government’s perceived failure to tackle growing insecurity.
His handlers would have Kenyans believe that the red eyes they regularly see on Kenya’s 4th President are as a result of him spending sleepless nights working for the good of the nation. But we know different: the man loves his beer and the photo evidence is huge.
Infact, Uhuru’s favourite drink isn’t actually beer but whisky, especially Jameson and John Walker Green Label.
In 2017, Kenyatta was photographed drinking a glass of beer at a plant where he officially opened a private brewery.
Uhuru was offered a sip of the brew after he inspected the facility with Kenya Breweries Limited management. It is said Uhuru was asked to just take a sip but to the surprise of everyone, the President drained the whole mug without flinching even once.
A little beer is good for the stomach, said those who defended him while others lampooned him for drinking while om State duty.
- Mwai Kibaki
Another Kenyan President has to make the list! Kenya’s Founding Father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, they say, loved roasted goat ribs downed with a glass of muratina (traditional Kenyan honey beer).
After Kenyatta came Second Republic President Daniel Arap Moi, who never touched beer but loved milk and boiled maize. But the third and fourth Presidents – Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta respectively — have a common denominator by way of thirst for cold beer.
In his hey day as Cabinet minister in Daniel Arap Moi’s government, Mwai Kibaki was a regular drinker. He is known to have frequented various entertainment spots in Nairobi, even downtown ones. He however was forced to quit the habit following a serious car accident as he campaigned for President in 2002.
Kibaki subsequently won the election and served two terms as President between 2002 and 2013.
- Edgar Lungu
Closer to home, Zambia’s recently defeated President and Patriotic Front (PF) leader Edgar Lungu drinks like a fish, those close to him have revealed. But some detail first…
Lungu’s rapid rise from backroom politician to President in one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets revealed a tactical and steely determination that few knew lay beneath his quiet exterior.
In March 2015, less than two months after taking over from Michael Sata who died in office, President Lungu collapsed on the podium while presiding over a Women’s Day celebration in Lusaka.
While his office blamed a bout of malaria and diabetes for his fall, sources close to the President intimated that his over indulgence in alcohol was the cause.
In 2013 while he was Home Affairs Minister, Lungu was exposed by fellow Patriotic Front officials who provided Zambian media with a photo of Lungu having lunch with other officials.
Below the table is a bottle of beer to accompany his meal.
“There is no doubt a constant supply for the beverage was maintained during this period,” one media outlet reported.
In 2019, Lungu dismissed all reports of him being a heavy guzzler of the wise waters. While acknowledging that he did take some alcohol “with moderation”, he said reports that he was close friends with the bottle were smear campaign by people he defeated in many elections as MP.
- Milton Obote
The man who led Uganda to independence in 1962 from British colonialists served as Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966 then as President from 1966 to 1971.
In January 1971, Obote was ovethrown by army general Idi Amin while on a State visit to Singapore. He fled to Tanzania. Eight years later, Amin was overthrown by Tanzanian forces supporters by Ugandan rebels. Obote became President again from 1980 to 1985.
Apollo Milton Obote died in 2005. Media reports claim he died of a stroke, or anaemia, or liver damage, or kidney failure. Other reports however indicate that his death could have been alcohol-related.
Obote was well known for alcoholism. President Yoweri Museveni makes reference to Obote’s drinking habits in his biography Sowing The Mustard Seed.
- Emmerson Mnangagwa
This one is a rare story of a drinker who allocates the first half of the year to some alcohol treats, then follows that with a strange dry six months period. How do we know that?
Well, we didn’t know it until Presidential spokesperson George Charamba told us. In a tweet in October 2019 following the infamous photos of the Zimbabwean leader eating mazondo aboard a plane, Charamba let us all in on the President’s rather weird drinking pattern.
“The little known side of President ED Mnangagwa is the gastronomic one! He loves his curdled milk – hodzeko in Shona; loves bony Zimbabwean beef, including mazondo. He moderately drinks, and strictly from January 1 to June 30,” said Charamba.
“He calls the first six months the “wet period/season”, to be followed by a dry/thirsty period where it’s strictly no alcohol!! This regimen was developed during war years on orders of Commander Josiah Tongogara, following the death of veteran fighter Peter Baya from liver sclerosis.
“The late Baya succumbed to liver sclerosis which doctors traced to heavy drinking of strong Portuguese stuff, itself a form of release from stresses and strains of a brutal war. An angry Tongogara rounded up all top commanders and threateningly reminded them they had all left for the struggle to kill for Zimbabwe or to die from bullets for the same. Never to die from drink.
“From now on, ordered the Zanla Chief-Of-Defence, everyone had to decide on a drinking schedule which interlarded moderate drinking and total abstinence! All did, which is how ED decided on six wet months, followed by six dry ones, to this day.
“In recounting this story, ED revealed there was one man in command who breached his drink vow soon after making it. To get the better of the Tongogara, this brave fighter who lies at Heroes Acre – MHDSRIP – would keep a case of hot stuff hidden under his makeshift bed.
“At the slightest chance, he would disappear into his ‘bedroom’ to gaily re-emerge!! He was never caught, the well-trained guerrilla fighter he was!
“On our way from Lyons, France, President ED Mnangagwa treated all of us his senior staff members to a surprise: sadza nemazondo!! Having spent a few days without that staple, and least expecting it in mid-air, above the land of Gauls, we hungrily made sure there was no dry season.”
Need we add more? You bet not!