Dec 2, 2009, 4:30 PM
All those who listened to US President Barack Obama’s speech at the memorial service in honour of the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa yesterday will, no doubt, agree with us that his point about leaders who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality, could not have been raised at a better forum than this.
Obama lamented that there are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.
He said: ‘‘We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.
‘‘There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.’’
What can be more truthful, given the fact that there are leaders, especially here in Africa, who continue to violate the rights and freedoms of their citizens on a daily basis.
For all too often, we hear our leaders blaming the continent’s woes on the West forgetting that the failure by some of them to hand over power at the end of their term is a major problem.
As we always emphasize in these pages, power belongs to the people, and the world has now reached a stage where no leader or government can rule its people anyhow.
Leaders must understand that the people have long recognized that they have rights, and freedom of choice in the way they are governed.
They must learn to accept and appreciate that it is the people who voted them into office, and thus should show great humility and always give the electorate the respect they deserve.
The scourge of leaders clinging to power has blighted the continent for a very long time, and has never been anything but destructive.
In the spirit of pan-Africanism, leaders must be urged to do what is best for their people, and not just themselves.
Mandatory maximum terms are the obvious solution to this issue. They are in place all over the world, and have proved to be very effective in ensuring that no one person holds on to power for too long.
It ensures fresh ideas, and that young energetic leaders get to serve the people.
With this in place, any African leader who does not agree to sign up at the end of his term would be making clear to the whole continent that their own lust for power was uppermost in their thoughts, as opposed to the good of their people.
Change in this area must come soon, if we are to continue building a unified and highly developed continent.
leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
John C. Maxwell