Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leadership perspectives Visa-vis World cup in South Africa

Joseph Lister Nyaringo
New Jersey, USA
The entire world was glued on television watching the world cup for the first time from the African Continent. Our two leaders in the coalition government President Kibaki and PM Raila Odinga travelled to Johannesburg for the tournaments’ opening ceremony. I wonder if they learnt any lesson while in a country which has enjoyed majority rule for only 15 years but has comfortably positioned itself in the global stage; surpassing the Continent’s power houses like Nigeria and Egypt.
When South Africa won the votes to host the 2010 World cup, it sent a very strong message to Africa and the world that the post apartheid nation was prepared for greatness globally. It was impressive during the matches … security, infrastructure and logistics to safeguard the comfort of fans who thronged the rainbow nation was well coordinated; a reminiscent of a developed country.
South Africa’s economic grid and governance practices are phenomenal; a sharp contrast with Countries which attained self rule more than a half a century a go like Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, and Guinea. In fact, the Country’s GDP is 10 times that of Kenya despite being 3 years away to celebrate a half a century since we attained independence from Britain.
I don’t want to sound disrespectful to African leaders who took over after independence; but it appears like they were not ready for majority rule. May be things would be better today if the colonialists stayed longer the way they did in South Africa. The challenges we see in the DRC, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, or Kenya, are all homegrown as a result of poor leadership foundation laid upon by the founding fathers.
It must be remembered that if Neslson Mandela could have followed the path that most African leaders took after independence, South Africa would not have gotten the opportunity to host the World cup. Despite the horror of the apartheid regime and Mandela’s incarceration, the white minority rule laid a firm foundation that they passed to the freedom hero and this has continued to define country’s current stature.
Mandela inherited an economically viable Country from the minority predecessor, Fredrick De Klerk and ruled for one term; passing the baton to Tabo Mbeki who perpetuated the same ideals passing it to Jacob Tsuma. Mr. Tsuma recently shepherded the World cup to a successful end.
It’s paradoxical that Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, despite sharing the same colonial heritage with South Africa, cannot measure up to the rainbow nation on good governance, democratic practices, infrastructure, and respect to the Country’s constitution. I’m not implying that South Africans are free from daily challenges but their Country stands on a better platform compared with many African nations.
Shall we conclude that African nations currently bedeviled by civil strife, corruption, governance malpractices and injustices achieved liberation from the colonialists too soon, or post independence leaders were caught off guard before they could set their minds on self rule?
In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe inherited a robust economy from the British, but today the Country is a shell. The citizens cannot even feed themselves, yet the Zimbabwean strongman keeps whining; blaming the West for his Country’s problems. Just recently, the DRC celebrated 50 years of independence from Belgium but there was nothing to celebrate when the country is riddled with poverty, illiteracy, violence, injustices and many other human rights violations.
If Nelson Mandela, suffered for over a quarter a century but after his release and ascendancy to the Presidency proved that political cronyism, tyranny, autocracy, corruption, ethnicity was not in his vocabulary, how come our own Jomo Kenyatta who equally suffered never nurtured the same ideals when he took over from the colonial leadership ?
Nobody thought Kenyatta will renege the spirit of the independence struggle. Nobody thought his reign will be compounded with land grabbing, political assassinations, detaining government dissenters especially those he fought with during the freedom struggle. The first President cynically and tragically aligned himself on ethnic identification through a cartel of tribesmen who misadvised him on key national decisions which is the genesis of Kenya’s present predicaments.
He passed on a devastating legacy to Moi, which has continued to roil our country making it hard to agree on issues that affect the nations especially getting a new constitution. How come former President Neslson Mandela was able to get a new constitution for his people in a span of two years after he became president when it has take Kenya more than 20 years to achieve the same?
My final challenge is for African leaders is to take stock of where they went wrong and devise home grown solutions if they expect to be at par with South Africa.
As we move to see our Country’s rebirth on 4th August, let us not be engulfed by utopia because our great success is dependent upon a transformative leader who will take over our nation under the new constitution. The future is bleak but very hopeful.
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