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Leaders must not continue hiding behind ‘each other’, let’s be honest

COMMENTARY
By By Alexander Chagema | April 26th 2014

By Alexander Chagema 

At about the same time in March  President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and the Cabinet were holding a retreat at the exclusive Mt Kenya Safari Club while Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was at a similar retreat at a government owned facility, Gabiro combat training centre .

The theme of Kagame’s retreat was ‘ Accountable governance’ and the overriding issue was poverty reduction while that of his Kenyan counterpart was to take stock of his team’s individual success and failure. It provided the opportunity for the president to berate and warn his ministers to pull up their socks or face the sack.

President Kenyatta acknowledged that taxes collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority were channeled towards paying huge salaries that did not match productivity. President Kagame was unequivocal that leaders must work for the people, not for personal interest.

While going for retreats, Rwandan ministers use pool buses, something that would be frowned upon in Kenya. Image is everything here. Coupled with the salaries that MPs and ministers in Rwanda get, it attests to their frugality. That is the antithesis of the situation obtaining in Kenya.

While our leadership subscribes to the colonial principal of ‘collective responsibility’, covering for each other, in Rwanda it has been inculcated in those holding high offices that they must execute their duties diligently, openly and be jealous of their space. Rwanda’s leadership is alive to the fact that collective responsibility largely accounts for lethargy and corruption in government.

Government functionaries must learn to acknowledge failure as well as success, the reasons for it, and device corrective measures to preclude repeats. At some point, failure is inevitable and it is a mark of maturity, a measure of responsibility, to acknowledge where one has failed. Leaders cannot continually hide behind each other, covering failure individually or collectively. We must get out of the mentality that leaders are infallible.

While the Kenyan politician is verbose and adept at making rhetoric, his Rwandan counterpart does not have the leisure to hide or get lost behind empty speeches and schemes.

That President Kagame was not overly impressed with a 6.6  per cent economic growth in 2013, having targeted 7 per cent, as we beamed about 5 per cent for the same period signals his seriousness in managing his country’s resources for posterity and prosperity.

In 1994, Rwanda was literally an abattoir but it has risen from the ignominy of that period to outshine us in many fields. According to the World Bank, its poverty levels are much lower than ours.

Recently, Rwandans celebrated the 20th anniversary of the darkest period in their country’s history while back home, we cringe at the mention of the Wagalla massacre. The laptop project for primary schools that Kenya is unable to implement even as it boasts of being the biggest economy this side of the Sahara was borrowed from Rwanda. It is not a dream in Rwanda for school going children to have laptops.

Kigali is reputed to be one of the cleanest and safest cities in Africa. Even barring terrorists, is Nairobi safe? One only need take a walk down some of the back streets and roads away from the central business district to experience real fear.

On specific days in Kigali, everybody, regardless of standing in society, has to spend hours cleaning up the city and it is perhaps only here that collective responsibility is embraced. I cannot say the same of Nairobi, the city in the sun.    

One positive aspect of the Kenyan retreat was the admission that government systems had failed, jammed by corruption.

The incumbent government inherited the deeply entrenched rot from previous administrations and the continued existence of the architects of that vice in their midst, at the very heart of government, will thwart any attempts that the president makes at snuffing it out.

By his own admission, his office has been infiltrated by these obnoxious cartels. Right and wrong cannot co-exist, so the president must not allow a few sadists to mess up his legacy.

The writer is a correspondent for The Standard

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