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Failed leadership is taking us backwards

ALEXANDER CHAGEMA
By Alexander Chagema | May 5th 2016

By now, poachers must be a panicked lot; they are so frightened they will leave our jumbos and rhinos alone. That is what the Government wants us to believe after the setting ablaze of over 100 tonnes of ivory by President Uhuru Kenyatta recently.

But I have news for you; if you believe that flapdoodle, you must be new in Africa. It is not the first time ivory is being burnt to send a message the postman doesn’t deliver, and certainly not the last.

It is highly probable that on the dais where the President and other dignitaries sat, some of the brains behind the steady decimation of the endangered species in Africa also sat and watched. It takes money, political connections, meticulous organisation and resources to hunt in the protected wild.

Transit points for elephant tusks are the airports and marine ports; some of the best guarded institutions in the country. Plainly, ordinary folks don’t have what it takes to run down an elephant, kill it and send its tusks to destination abroad.

I will not belabour the point which I believe is merely symptomatic of the malaise that denotes systemic failure across the African continent; nothing is ever taken seriously.

Because of this, Africa’s best nations, among them South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt are barely a few feet away from the spot where they were 50 years back; socially and politically.

Ironically, African countries with an abundance of natural resources are the world’s worst basket cases; a consequence of failed leadership. The optimism that was rife in the late 1950s when the struggle for self-rule in Africa peaked has been rudely dashed.

What the masses got is not what they bargained for. The ideals pioneer freedom fighters, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela and Abdel Nasser stood for were betrayed by subsequent African despots who clearly stood for nothing.

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It was latter day Presidents, the likes of Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Seseko of Zaire, Jean Bedel Bokasa of the Central African republic, Sani Abacha of Nigeria and Omar Bashir of Sudan who, through their brutal regimes, and by persecuting and subjugating their subjects, imprisoning and executing opponents gave reason for self-preservation and in so doing inadvertently entrenched tribalism that is Africa’s bane today.

The extent of virulent tribalism is aptly captured by Christopher Hitchens, an American atheist and author who opined “there is almost no country in Africa where it is not essential to know to which tribe, or which sub group of which tribe the president belongs. You can trace the lines of patronage and allegiance that define the state”.

Needless to say, African rulers are blatant tribalists and if by any chance there are true nationalists, the fingers of one hand outnumber them. The African leadership has done all it can to maintain the dubious reputation of Africa being a dark continent.

And just to drive the point home, an African heads of State brotherhood was cobbled up to pull Africa out of the International Criminal Court unless they are exempted from the unwanted attention of the court for their indiscretions.

The champions of that mission are undeniably Kenya and South Africa, two countries whose socio-political dynamics are similar.

From greatness, the two countries are headed in the opposite direction. Political intolerance purely out of selfishness reigns.

Like in Kenya where one tribe has produced three of the four presidents we’ve so far had, the Xhosa have given South Africa its first two presidents; Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

During Mbeki’s rule, other tribes complained of exclusion much the same way as in Kenya where the Kikuyu are perceived to be overbearing.

Yet despite there being evidence that the Zulus of South Africa; Inkatha Freedom Party adherents, only voted for the African National Congress after the election of Jacob Zuma as president while the Luos and Kikuyus voted on one side after Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga overtly agreed to work together, the need for tolerance and embracing political diversity continues to escape the leaders we entrusted with the responsibility of steering our countries to national cohesion and integration.

Kenya ranks among the most tribalistic countries in Africa today. A list of institution heads, departmental heads and parastatal chiefs would read like a tribal chiefs gathering. We must face the truth and stop burying our heads in the sand.

We need to move away from a situation where seemingly two major tribes, the Kikuyu and Luo, are each trying to woo the other 39 tribes to their side in their supremacy wars.

When everyone partakes of the national cake as espoused in the Constitution, the need for groupings to agitate for shares would not be there and then we can start building a nation called Kenya.

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