Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gunpowder Obsessions and Africa's Monstrous Leadership Styles

You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership-Dwight D. Eisenhower

If the world's economic powers could join hands to uplift the living standards of the poor African continent, humankind's origin and cradle of civilization could provide a lot in return. Ironically, distorted policies and economic strangulation on the continent by powerful half-hearted philanthropists coupled with inhuman practices endorsed by Africa's own ineffective, dictatorial, and lame-brained leaders have set the stage for recurrent rivalry and gunpowder obsessions.
Until donor nations denervate the supply lines that feed Africa's monstrous leaders, suffering and destitution will remain on the faces of millions for an indefinite period. A look at past and current African leaders shows none ever died of underfeeding or food shortage. Perhaps the youngest African leader to leave the political spectrum was Sergeant Samuel Doe of Liberia who died not because of malnutrition but because he was executed by an adversary.

Most African leaders outlast their compatriots in the West in age and in power. Men like Siyad Barre of Somalia and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia were ousted in coups at advanced ages. Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya died after ruling for 15 years. Hassan Guled Aptidon of Djibouti gave up power at an advanced age to his son Ismail Omar Gelle. Julius Nyerere of Tanzania ruled until poor health forced him to pave way for Hassan Ali Mwinyi. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, former President of Malawi left the political scene a bachelor and a senile. He dominated the politics of this landlocked African country from 1958 until his death in 1994. A graduate of Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, the learned doctor left the world without even claiming children of his own. He spent his entire life living with a girlfriend. Is this not un-African? The man who succeeded him, Bakili Muluzi, a Muslim, was no better because his term as President was marred by controversy and scandal over the sale of Malawi’s maize reserves to other countries. Africans don’t gamble with their favorite dish-corn meal!

Omar Bongo seems to be President-for-life for the nation of Gabon. The term President-for-life has been used by merciless dictators who prefer to rule until death. It came to light during the reign of Julius Caesar who made himself “Perpetual Dictator.” Then he was followed by Napoleon Bonaparte, the French leader who crowned himself “First Consul for Life” in 1802. Some rulers prefer to be called “Eternal Presidents”. A few examples of such ruthless rulers the world has seen include: Josip Broz Tito of former Yugoslavia, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Kim Il-Sung of North Korea, François Duvalier alias “Papa Doc” of Haiti, Saparmyrat Ataýewiç Nyýazow of Turkmenistan, Dr. José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia y Velasco who became the first President of Paraguay after gaining independence from Spain, Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia, and Idi Amin of Uganda.

Ironically, Muammar al-Kaddafi is holding Libya hostage since 1969, Hosni Mubarak has refused to relinquish power since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981, and most importantly, Africa's most extravagant ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire died disgracefully in Morocco having left behind billions of dollars of looted money accumulated over three decades of ruthless leadership. Joseph Kabila, the current President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), had his elementary and secondary education in Tanzania and later attended Makerere University in Uganda. A fluent speaker of Kiswahili, Zairians see him as a foreigner. He ascended the throne after his father was gunned down in 2001.

Ironically, all these men ruled their countries through forceful means. They looted foreign aid and stashed them in foreign accounts. Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Charles Taylor of Liberia left millions of dollars which could be used to feed millions of their citizens. While writers categorize leadership styles into transactional and transformational, most African leaders exercise pseudo-transformational-a peculiar leadership approach that instills fear and servitude in their followers. This type of leadership style was put into use by David Koresh, Jim Jones, Adolph Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. It implied the use of repression, emergency laws, and callous seductive applications meant to benefit the authoritarian leader.

James Warren “Jim” Jones forced 918 adherents of the Peoples Temple to drink poison made from a concoction of cyanide and other hazardous chemical products on November 18, 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. Born May 13, 1978 in Indiana, U.S.A, the mass suicide perpetrated by Jim Jones is regarded as the largest and worst of its kind in human history.

Leadership and power are inter-related because both are part of what is called 'influence process' and both have the potential to persuade. Doctors, ministers, coaches, and teachers have the potential to influence people. How do the totalitarian leaders of Africa influence those they lead? Do killings, displacements, division, starving or bickering over petty issues have the potential to influence people who are hungry, sick and homeless in any way?

Leadership is not about false accusations of kuyeenahoo/kuteenahoo (he said; she said). An effective leader must have human and conceptual skills. Leaders must be task motivated and relationship motivated so as to reach a goal by developing close interpersonal relationship. Leader-member relations create confidence, loyalty, and attraction between the leader and the follower. A leader must also set a task structure to be followed with clearly spelled out requirements for the sake of reward and punishment outlined in what is referred to as 'position power'.

Opportunism for the purpose of personal advancement has been an impediment to African social governing. A leader must have the brain to effectively solve problems in a logical, unique, and effective style or way that go beyond given information. The performance of a leader raises productivity and also elevates level of allegiance of loyal followers. The ineffective performance of a leader has been shown to produce disastrous effects and lead to consequences that are detrimental to the overall management of any kind of organization. A leader is a role model who sets examples to be followed by those under his or her command.

Africa does not need arms and monstrous leaders. What the continent desperately needs is economic empowerment, political maturity, environmental responsibility, decent healthcare, and educational enrichment.

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