Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An NGO to address leadership issues in Africa

A panel discussion was held on possibilities for sustainable growth in Africa. They discussed if donor countries are meeting their unprecedented commitments for aid and debt relief and what African governments are doing to create the conditions for sustainable growth. Among the panel members were Mbeki (SA), Bill Gates,Tony Blair, Sirleaf (Liberia), Kaberuka (ADB) and  Bono. This session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, "The Shifting Power Equation," was titled "Delivering on the Promise of Africa."

It was amazing to me how they all made valuable contributions and Tony Blair ever so modestly brushed on Africa's problem of poor leadership - they call it the "good governance" issue. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that there can be no planning if there is no leadership or direction.  Why is there nobody who will address this issue?


Diplomacy in itself has let down the people of Africa in the sense that it comes in the way of addressing the continent's biggest problem – leadership. For example South Africa could have stopped the madness in Zimbabwe by now but its only a few weeks ago that it "took a firm stand against the recent assault of opposition leaders in Zimbabwe".


Amazingly, one individual has shown interest in addressing the issue.Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim (of Celtel fame) created a 5 million USD cash prize for Africa's most effective head of state. Harvard University has the task of measuring and ranking the effectiveness of the African leaders.


Each year the winning leader will, at the end of his term, get $5m (£2.7m) over 10 years and $200,000 (£107,000) each year for life thereafter. "We need to remove corruption and improve governance," Mr Ibrahim said.

Unfortunately, this good billionaire is in the noble fight alone!

Moreover, most corrupt leaders amass a crude amount of wealth and since corruption usually comes with nepotism, there are also extended family beneficiaries. So you see, the pay-off is not even close to offsetting the opportunity cost of not stealing from government coffers. I can almost see one cheeky corrupt president chuckling at the thought! (Think the GWB chuckle!)


Diplomacy itself has let down the people of Africa in the sense that it comes in the way of addressing the continent's biggest problem – leadership. For example South Africa could have stopped the madness in Zimbabwe by now but its only a few weeks ago that it "took a firm stand against the recent assault of opposition leaders in Zimbabwe".


Here is a plan - I would like to start an NGO that advocates for the building of an institution whose primary role is to apply checks and balances on African leaders. This could be under the auspices of the African Union or the United Nations or even independent of these existing organizations.


Just like WTO governs rules of  international trade, this institution would set rules for leaders and have the power to bring leaders to task for failing their people in failing to comply with these rules of "good governance". This institution would address issues of corruption, freedom of speech, influence peddling, enforcing term limits etc. It would bring to book those leaders who would otherwise not be tried by their own courts for these crimes.


Of course getting leaders to sign up for membership in such an institution would be an uphill task but this is just a thought and can be built upon by you the reader.

What other roles could this institution play? And what functions could be added to make it palatable enough for African leaders to sign up for membership?




Sam said...


Last evening I had the chance of looking at your blog. I was intrigued by the fact that you come from a line of revolutionaries and that your great great father fought the colonialists. I think that coming from such a background provides one with a powerful and inspirational foundation to fall back upon when one is pursuing one's own struggles, knowing that other great leaders have trodden this path before us.

As you continue to strive on the path of looking for solutions for our continent, I would like to make one simple suggestion: That whatever ideas you conceive, make sure that it will be understood by the masses.

Perhaps you will agree with me that the most powerful weapon successful revolutionaries have used is the people. Most of them, Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Chev Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and even George Washington here in America, and of course, our own African dictators, all succeeded in the changes they led by utilizing ideas that were well understood and accepted by the masses.

When we talk about the concept of Good Governance and the lack of checks and balances in Uganda and most of our African countries. The question must be raised: are these concepts that only the elite grasp? Does the ordinary person from deep down in the village, like Kanyandahi where I come from, understand the crisis we are in, or how it affects them? And if not, is it at all surprising that when you and I start making noises, they will look at us with bafflement? What are the chances that we shall have their support?

Any revolution or meaningful change requires the support of the masses. This support can only come when the people understand the issues, and how these affect them where they are today. They will then be supportive of an agenda that offers solutions. This is the bottom-up way of revolutions.

Fr. Sam Akiiki

Anonymous said...

An NGO to address leadership issues in Africa

Your idea of forming an NGO sounds great. Whether our African leaders would sign up for such a an idea, is an uphill struggle to expect. However, you have a good vision. To see a vision take off is not always easy, but if one has faith, courage and the determination in what you are doing, eventually you overcome hurdles and see the vision come true. For the last ten years, I have started two small NGO's and launched several programs, and I am now designing a program that is aimed at helping American teenagers, so I am speaking from experience.

When you begin the NGO, why don't you also consider using it as a step for reaching out to the masses and educating them about the importance of your goals and objectives, good governance and checks and balances?

What if such an NGO would take up the role of sensitizing the masses and reminding them that voting and electing a good number of members of parliament from the opposition side is a good idea?

One could illustrate the point using the United States of America as an example. As you may know, in this country, in 2000 the voters put one party in charge of the running of country, both branches of the government, the executive and the legislative were from the same party. But what we saw over the course of five years was massive corruption, abuse of office and power from the members of both branches and the arrogance and almost dictatorship from the President. With the election in November, the voters made the decision. You can see there is a change

If there is a way someone can promote such idea and sell it to the common man, and people understand that to vote for the party in power is actually not the only way of demonstrating your love for one's country, trust me, you will see changes taking place in Uganda and elsewhere on the continent.

I have watched with interest the campaigns back at home for some members of parliament. In almost every scenario, I see the president coming out to campaign for the candidate of his party, and asking people not to vote for the opposition, because they will just make “NOISE IN PARLIAMENT”

To the ordinary person in the village, they don't understand what making noise means. Perhaps they think that such a derogatory statement refers to people who HAVE NO BRAINS AND ARE useless and have nothing to talk about.

These masses need to be helped to understand that when the opposition leaders are making noise in parliament, they are pointing out issues such as corruption, freedom of speech, influence peddling, enforcing term limits etc

Of course the implementation of such effort would require lots and lots of money. May be this is where people like Mo Ibrahim should be persuaded to invest their money? Recently Hon Adolf Mwesige made an inspiring comment when he was at my village at the burial of my friend Phillip Muhangazima. He praised the journalist Andrew Mwenda, the son of the deceased for his role in keeping the politicians on their toes.

If you remember, Hon Mwesige , when he was the deputy attorney general, is the same man who issued a legal opinion concerning the arrest of Col Besigye that contradicted that of the government. I wish we had more politicians of Mwesige caliber whose political thinking are mature. Unfortunately we don't!

Sam Akiiki (Rev)