Small-scale miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Africa’s political, religious, traditional, social and economic life must come under microscopic scrutiny, and the continent’s leaders, both spiritual and secular, will need to recognise the exact ailment, avoid shifting blame and work out a strategy for wholesome resolution
- Jomo Kenyatta came into power promising to forgive those who had mistreated him. Well, he did very well in that score, surprising even those who had run out of the country because they expected bloodshed. Yet Kenyatta, despite his skills as a statesman, presided over a government that gradually became intolerant. What went wrong? Was it too much power in the hands of an individual?
The words spoken by Milton Obote in 1980 after he was given a second chance to rule Uganda bear repeating: “Never again shall we allow an individual to suppress the will of the country and to destroy our democratic institutions.”
Since these words could very well have been spoken by many leaders who take over from corrupt governments, the question we should ask ourselves is why these very leaders become the individuals who suppress and destroy.
Obote’s sentiments remain mere words until that evil, destructive part of the African is addressed and dealt with. Human nature is such that evil desires can remain dormant for a time but are soon marshaled to the surface when trying times come. If at that time immense power is available to the leader, then the destruction is catastrophic.
Fredrick Chiluba rose to power singing Hallelujah, and even declared Zambia a Christian nation. At the time, the articulate, charismatic preacher of the gospel looked—in every form—saintly. For once, people thought an African nation would be guided by godly principles; there would be justice in the land; there would be no corruption.
But alas, this was not to be. Almost as if guided by a mysterious hand, Chiluba appeared to fall under some kind of a spell. His charisma receded, ushering in the revival of state-sanctioned corruption.
They let him drift
What went wrong? Why would a leader who so greatly impressed the world fall so low? Why did those around him, his family and friends (including Bible-thumping preachers), let him drift?
Jomo Kenyatta came into power promising to forgive those who had mistreated him. Well, he did very well in that score, surprising even those who had run out of the country because they expected bloodshed. Yet Kenyatta, despite his skills as a statesman, presided over a government that gradually became intolerant. What went wrong? Was it too much power in the hands of an individual?
Obviously, something in the leadership of Africa needs to be addressed. Until we dig deep, expose and deal with insecurity, bitterness, anger, hatred and some inordinate behaviour buried deep within those of us who would be leaders, we will continue to repeat the same vicious cycle. Any leader who has not personally dealt with the animal nature in himself is but a time bomb waiting to explode.
A wise leader is one who surrounds himself with people who can confront and challenge his morals, leadership style and actions.
Daniel arap Moi enjoyed a peaceful transition into power after the death of Kenyatta. But Moi, coming from a hitherto undeveloped—almost neglected—community, seemed to have an agenda: develop his area in terms of infrastructure, hospitals, schools and even universities. National resources could be spread elsewhere, but certainly not in the areas where political leaders had a different opinion from that of the status quo. Moi wanted everyone to “toe the line” and those who did not suffered for it—along with their entire communities.
Moi also presided over one of the most corrupt systems in recent times. Chai and kitu kidogo are practices that entangled themselves into the economic bloodstream of Kenya, and the Goldenberg scandal exemplified the lows to which his regime had sunk.
Daniel arap Moi, a charismatic, church-going leader and a preacher, said all the right things, but in due course it became difficult to reconcile the man Moi and the atrocities that took place during his watch.
Mwai Kibaki swept into power riding a mighty wave of a well-planned and orchestrated coalition, which had two rallying points: change the Constitution so that “never again should one man have in his hands immense power”, and “there must be zero tolerance for corruption”.
“Democracy demands that there is tolerance among Kenyans and a readiness to listen to the opinions of each other,” Kibaki promised. “Having a different opinion does not mean disloyalty to the President or the government.”
But before long, his government began to show different signals. It was as if they were saying: “Power is not that bad if it is in our hands!” His government has not come clean on corruption scandals, including the infamous Anglo Leasing.
What went wrong? What changed these people?
To answer that, we need to listen to Hon Kiraitu Murugaru, the first minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the Kibaki government. In February 2002, before the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC), Kiraitu cautioned Kenyans against bestowing a lot of power on the presidency: