The politics of leadership – Part I

Sunday May 12 2019


By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

On May 4, South African Broadcasting Corporation interviewed Mr Julius Malema, the leader of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters party.

The thrust of his thesis was that in Africa many political leaders are only interested in promoting themselves and their personal interests, and any reference to the interests of their party, constituency, let alone nation, are only secondary and least important unless they propel those leaders to their desired personal goals.

At first, the concept of politics of leadership sounded obscure and uninteresting. However, in reality of the motives of most leaders of today, yesterday and time immemorial, the promotion of self and those dearest and closest to them were and are of the same persuasion.

In ancient history, the deeds and misdeeds of leaders such as Samson and Delilah of Palestine, the Queen of Sheba, the pharaohs of Egypt, the emperors of Rome and the maharajahs of India, let alone the royal kings and great chiefs of Africa and America were always motivated and driven by personal interests and of those they loved and trusted.

The idea that they were moved by the plight or interests of anyone else beyond themselves or their immediate families and trusted members of their inner cycles is out of the question. It is, therefore, not surprising that even in today’s politics whether in a democracy, a dictatorship, an oligarchy, communism or even anarchy, self-promotion and aggrandisement are the political driving motors of leadership.

In countries where political leaders have been forced to give lip service to the ideals of serving common interests of the community because of their alleged patriotism and love of country, this is only a smoke screen behind which the real motive of promoting self and self-interests are hidden.

British kings Henry III, George and relatively recent Edward VIII and Prince Charles were driven by nothing more than the love of pretty women. Former Arab leaders from Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were motivated by their greed for power. Gaddafi’s thirst for love and dominance of Africa made him aspired to be the first king of the whole continent of Africa.

In African countries such as Sudan, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Central African Republic (CAR) and Uganda, leaders were not thinking of the interests of their people when they abandoned the principles of why people had welcomed them and instead embarked on a voyage of discovery of personal fortunes and glory.

In the case of Bokassa of CAR, he declared himself emperor because he admired the way French emperors and despots dominated the French people. Idi Amin of Uganda was outraged because Bokassa was his rival in seeking glory and had been told that even though he was president and Field Marshal, the title of emperor was superior to all his. In rage, he consulted his retainers to discover what title was greater than that of emperor. That is why he became the Conqueror of the British Empire.

Samuel Doe of Liberia disclosed that he only overthrew his government because he wanted to feel how nice it was to be president and commander-in-chief of the army. Uganda’s John Okello overthrew the sultan of Zanzibar to show that a pure African could rule over Arab Africans.

Finally, the removal of the controversial age limit which caused fierce battles in Parliament, damage to valuable property and led to physical brutalities were caused by the politics of leadership of keeping President Museveni perpetually in power.

President Museveni himself justified Malema’s opinion when he revealed on separate occasions that he is the only leader in Uganda with a vision and that he is nobody’s servant, but only governs this country for his own benefit which led many Ugandans to believe that he does not care for, serve this country or work for Ugandans as a whole

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.