Evelyn N. Mayanja is a Ph.D. student, Department of Peace and Justice, University of Manitoba, Canada.
The crisis of ethical political leadership is responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment and insecurity, and its social and structural injustices. Strengthening ethical political leadership is trepiditious, given the deeply engraved status quo that appeals to political elites who command power and benefit from the system through semi-democratic, semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regime types. Using an interdisciplinary approach of peace and conflict studies, the paper analyses the crisis and proposes a model for strengthening political leadership through African Ubuntu ethics and the involvement of local, national and international actors to achieve sustainable peace and social justice.
The deficit and crisis of ethical1 political leadership pose enormous challenges to Africa. Bad leadership manifested by persistent human rights violation, bad governance, dysfunctional institutions, patronage, electoral fraud, manipulation of ethnic differences, corruption and personalisation of power hinder the prevalence of peace and social justice. Powerful political elites feed on the state, prey on the weak, use national resources for self-aggrandizement, and deprive citizens of collective goods such as medical care, good education and employment. When people’s human needs are not met, protracted social conflicts and wars are inevitable (Burton 1990; Sandole 2001). It is presumptuous to assume that the change of guards at the helm of society, either through coup d’états or fraudulent elections, will lead to sustainable peace and justice. Strengthening ethics is fundamental to the crisis, necessitating a moral imagination, creativity and networking of actors at national and international levels. The best is still to come for Africa. The model of Botswana’s2 economic and political success, along with the courageous leadership of Nelson Mandela, Joachim Chisano of Mozambique and Kofi Annan’s leadership at the United Nations, hold promises for Africa. We can do better with transformed political leadership. Research, education and praxis are key to envisioning interventions towards ethical political leadership.
In searching for preventive and transformative measures to the political leadership crisis, it is crucial to consider some poignant questions. What leadership is needed for Africa, and Uganda in particular? Can the current leadership be trusted to retain legitimacy and credibility while developing constructive andmeaningful policies to address the crisis, and if not, how can they be ousted peacefully? What went/is wrong in the system and how can it be rectified non-violently, given that first post-colonial African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere strived for nationbuilding but their successors lost the plot (Adamoleku 1988; Assensoh 1998). How does ethical political leadership come about given that those who assume leadership positions have witnessed only ruthless, violent, power-thirsty and corrupt leaders? If African political leadership does not change, which legacy will remain for future generations? What role can the international community play to strengthen ethical political leadership in Africa? What theories and praxis can help in averting the leadership crisis?
Using an interdisciplinary approach of peace and conflict studies (PACS), the article analyses the deficit of ethical political leadership and proposes a model of strengthening ethical political leadership in Uganda as a mirror to Africa. The first part contextualises and conceptualises the leadership crisis in Africa with emphasis on Uganda. The second part examines the relationship between leadership transformation and peace from a PACS perspective. The third part examines the role of African Ubuntu ethics in strengthening ethical political leadership and proposes a framework for intervention.
1. Contextualising and conceptualising the leadership crisis in Africa
Africa is rich in natural and human resources, presents ‘a rich mosaic of tremendous diversity of countries and peoples’ (Schraeder 2000:2), and is a continent in transformation, which scholars refer to as the ‘African renaissance’ (Mangu 2006; Schraeder 2000). However, due to bad leadership, Africa remains politically, economically and socially underdeveloped, with a legacy of poverty and hunger, civil wars and violent conflicts (Agulanna 2006; Ali and Mathews 1999; Museveni 2000). The 2012 Ibrahim Index of African Governance revealed the severity of the leadership crisis and governance to the extent that the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was not awarded (Ibrahim 2012). Many African leaders lack an ethical commitment to good governance, respect for human rights and rule of law, and to responsibility and accountability – all of which could guarantee that Africa’s resources are harnessed towards healthy living for all citizens (Lyons and Deng 1998).
Africa’s leadership crisis is manifested by trends of corruption, persistent abuse of power, lack of respect for the Constitution, and failure to create an environment for the continuous evolution of succeeding generations of young African leaders with competence, integrity, vision, commitment, and skills for peacebuilding and social justice (Mutibwa 1992; Ngwane 2003). While the struggle for independence was spearheaded by some ‘first-rate political leaders, the nation-building phase has not only failed to produce leaders of comparable stature, but has also witnessed a decline in the achievements’ – aggravated by unethical leadership and bad governance (Adamoleku 1988:95). Uganda is no exception to this trend. In light of this evident crisis, I would like to delve into the leadership trends that characterise Uganda’s context.
The Tarnished Pearl of Africa: Uganda
Uganda, once the pearl of Africa, is now, in its fifth decade of independence, experiencing ‘a chronic state of backwardness’ (Mutibwa 1992:127) resulting from personalisation of power, corruption and authoritarianism. The country has had eight presidents, the majority of whom came to leadership through military coup d’états (Schraeder 2000:367).
President Museveni (2000:10) asserts, ‘Uganda has been very unfortunate in having particularly bad leadership’. Museveni’s acquisition of power was considered a hybrid3 of revolutionary leadership on the continent, but it gradually lost traction (Mutibwa 1992; Tripp 2010). Structural imbalances that underlie social conflicts are enormous, as political leaders plunder the state and the economy for themselves while the majority of the population suffer poverty, mass unemployment, repression, and denial of basic rights and dignity. About 85 percent of Ugandans practise subsistence agriculture in rural areas, live in abject poverty with high income inequality aggravated by the political elite’s corruption, the government’s huge spending, and the education system that never prepares the youth to be job creators (Kiiza 2012). For example, Mutibwa (1992) argues that Uganda has been reduced to ruins and has not addressed the distortion inherited from the colonial era.
Three leaders4 manipulated the national Constitution to maintain power, knowing that being ousted forcefully implies not only loss of access to state patronage, but also imprisonment, exile or death (Nsubuga 1999). Museveni, ruling since 1986, tactfully thwarts democratic processes. Multipartyism remains nominal while election fraud subtly takes place. Museveni keeps promising prosperity for all while he and his immediate hanger-on exploit national resources for personal gains. The executive controls the legislature and the judiciary, and the rule of law is replaced by the law of the ruler (Abdul-Raheem, Biney and Olukoshi 2010). While Uganda ranks among the world’s poorest nations, Uganda’s military spending in 2009 was US$328 mn, in 2010 it increased to US$450 mn and in 2011 defence spending was US$471 mn (Ken 2011).
Establishing sustainable peace, security, social justice, functional institutions, and democratic governance is impossible without ethical leadership. Multifaceted national and international approaches to leadership, involving stakeholders from the youngest to the oldest need to be envisioned.
Envisioning an ethical political leadership
According to Ackerman (2004:448), ethical leadership ‘is the result of a tough, and often conflict-ridden process of institutional design’. There is neither a mechanical formula nor an independent theory to respond to the crisis of leadership on the African continent. Ethical leadership does not emerge spontaneously, out of natural goodness or nobleness of heart of charismatic bureaucrats. Strengthening ethical political leadership entails a peaceful ‘mental and structural revolution’ (Ngwane 2003:1), to alter the system that enables unethical people to assume political leadership (Mutibwa 1992). Urgently needed are short and long-term strategies for inculcating ethical leadership values from childhood. Maathai (2009:111) asserts that ‘unless Africans from all levels of society recognize and embrace the challenge of leadership, Africa will not move forward’. Crucial is the breaking of the chain of self-serving, self-subservient and egoistic political leaders, while focusing on sustainable structural transformation (Hampson and Mendeloff 2007).
Dealing with systemic problems necessitates the examination of the entire system – ‘its dynamic and structure’ (Lederach 1997:26). Important also is the transition from violence to sustainable peace, from divisive ethnic politics to the politics of unity, from coercive power to integrative power, and from dictatorship to democracy, justice, constitutionalism, citizen participation, accountability, and the rule of law (Boulding 1990; Museveni 2000; Mutibwa 1992).
Raising consciousness is crucial for citizens to realise that the way things are is not how they should be, and that the way political leaders are leading their nation requires urgent improvement. Freire (1999) suggests that liberation necessitates raising political consciousness of the oppressed to become aware of the context in which they live and its impact on their lives. The leadership crisis is a latent conflict where some citizens are unaware of power imbalances and injustices that affect their lives. Thus, Curle (1990:9-10) proposes ‘three forces’ to establish and preserve a ‘constructive order’, namely the ‘active force’ that fosters development in terms of ‘purposeful growth and change’; the ‘passive force’ of peacemaking, which builds and restores a state of harmony; and the ‘neutralising force’ of education as a source of knowledge and attitude that enhances development and peace. Africa has religious and cultural ethical elders, who must be instrumental in educating citizens and speaking truth to political leaders (Abdul-Raheem et al. 2010; Curle 1990). Curle (1990:54) observes: ‘If leaders know that we are aware of something of which according to our social or religious principles we should disapprove, yet say nothing, they may suspect both our courage and our integrity’.
Strengthening ethical leadership necessitates the application of transformation tools (Curle 1990), coupled with the ‘moral imagination, the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist'(Lederach 2005:ix). Mediation, reconciliation, justice, and peacemaking are benchmarks to transforming the crisis (Curle 1990; Lederach 1997). The trend of not involving women, children and youth in decision-making needs to change, given that the mother is the primary educator of every person (Byrne and Senehi 2009).
In the following section, I explore the gap in current PACS literature, and propose interdisciplinary approaches to transform the leadership crisis with emphasis on Uganda. I believe that current developments in PACS have not addressed ethical political leadership as a major contributor to peace and justice. Yet, its interdisciplinary approach potentially provides mechanisms for strengthening ethical political leadership, and understanding how the leadership deficit in Africa contributes to the continent’s conflicts, wars and underdevelopment. I believe that African ethics, practices, and methods may provide remedies to the crisis.
2. Political leadership and peace scholarship
PACS literature that deals with conflict resolution/transformation does focus on exploring the root causes, but rarely considers the deficit of ethical political leadership as a root cause to conflicts across the globe. For example, Sharp and Paulson (2005:25) admit that long standing conflicts, injustices, oppression and violence are ‘created or maintained by the actions of individuals and groups that control State apparatus, using its vast resources, bureaucracy, police and military forces to implement and enforce their own will’. However, they do not propose remedies towards solving the leadership problem.
Lederach (1997) examines the role political leaders play in conflict transformation, but does not consider bad leadership as cataclysmic in exacerbating conflicts. Great leaders, particularly Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., devised non-violent resistance to political oppression, but did not accentuate strategies for strengthening ethical leadership (Burrowes 1996; Galtung 2011; Sharp and Paulson 2005). In establishing the roads to peace, Galtung (1996) proposes democracy, respect for human rights, and bringing the government closer to citizens, but does not underline bad leadership as a contributor to undemocratic systems and does not highlight measures for strengthening good and democratic leadership.
Peacebuilding and pre- and post-conflict processes, including those of the UN in nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, tend to focus on peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and economic rehabilitation, but not on transforming leadership. Without transforming the process of creating leaders, conflicts are only temporarily settled. When new leaders come to power, they do not only replicate the mistakes of their predecessors, but they also heighten the tyrannical rule to sustain them in leadership. For example, in Uganda, when president Museveni came to power, he acknowledged the ‘price of bad leadership’ that had dehumanised Ugandans, and he declared his rule as a ‘fundamental change’ (Museveni 2000:3, 10). Yet his regime is proving to be no different.
Like the former Ugandan dictators (Idi Amin and Obote), Museveni came to power through a coup d’état, gerrymandered the constitution to sustain his rule, administers the state as a family business, and takes advantage of people’s abject poverty to disenfranchise voters by buying them off with items such as a kilogram of sugar, and vote rigging (Abdul-Raheem et al. 2010; Mutibwa 1992). Uganda is once again failing in ethical leadership and governance, and gradually sinking into insecurity and structural injustices.
I consider it crucial therefore, in the following section, to explore strategies and processes for strengthening ethical political leadership for sustainable peace and social justice in Uganda and Africa at large. I propose an interdisciplinary approach based on Ubuntu ethics.
3. Political leadership ethics: Ubuntu approach
Ethics comprises principles and concepts that guide humans between right and harmful behaviours (Paul and Elder 2006). In the Cambridge dictionary of Philosophy, ethics is used interchangeably with morality (Audi 1999), and is concerned with what is right, fair, just or good in essence; what we ought to do, and not just what is convenient or congenial to the majority (Preston 2007). According to Northouse (2004:302), ethics pertains to the leader’s being and actions, characterised by ‘respect, service, justice, honesty and community’. Central to ethical leadership is the responsibility to respect people’s dignity, to be sensitive to their needs as opposed to egoistic self-aggrandizement, and to create an environment of nurturance, trust, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation (Heifetz 1994).
In Africa, Ubuntu philosophy is the ethical code that holds hope for a political leadership renaissance. Ubuntu is rooted in humanness, respect for human dignity, love, relatedness, communion of beings, and promotion of the collective good. Ubuntu offers an indigenised African framework that would add a unique flavour and impetus to leadership.
Leadership would be service to society and not ‘a money spinning business venture; or a rare opportunity to feather one’s nest and bequeath material security to one’s offspring’ (Kumuyi 2007:19). Whereas democracy is gaining currency in Africa, it is liable to fail if it is not rooted in humanness.
Ubuntu springs from Muntu (a human being), a word found in all Bantu languages in Africa, meaning being human and concerned with others, summed up in the maxim ‘I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am’ (Mbiti 1969:108-109). It is the collective consciousness, solidarity, and humanness of every person (the living, the living dead and the unborn), in relation with supernatural beings and nature (Mbiti 1969). ‘Ubuntu means that a person becomes a person through other persons’ (Lötter 1997:46). Living in communion with others is ‘a morality of “conduct” rather than a morality of “being”‘ among people who are interconnected (Gyekye 1996:58-62). Karsten and Illa (2001:613) observe that ‘Ubuntu expresses an African view of the world anchored in its own person, culture, and society which is difficult to define in a Western context’. Ubuntu implies living virtuously in a spirit of caring and community, responsiveness and dignity, peace and harmony, getting rid of what dehumanises and destroys life. Virtues of kindness, generosity, hospitality, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, and solidarity are components of Ubuntuism.
Ubuntu […] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say […] ‘Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.’ Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ […] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are (Tutu 2000:35).
In political leadership with the state as a human community, the core of Ubuntu is humanness, interdependence, caring, sharing, fostering participation, and service for the collective good. It is about the leader’s integrity, honesty, justice, and accountability, as opposed to rampant corruption, human rights abuses, clinging to power, vote rigging, and bad governance (Agulanna 2006; Cartwright 1983; Gray and McPherson 2001). Iconic African leaders mirrored Ubuntu in various ways. Nelson Mandela’s humanness and community sense is illustrated by his selfless attitude of reconciliation, forgiveness, endeavours to unite all South Africans, and care for the vulnerable. Nyerere’s Ujamaa (familyhood) philosophy fostered care for all the vulnerable in Tanzania, to the extent that he retired without owning a decent house or having amassed wealth. Seretse Khama transformed Botswana’s economy, from once among the world’s poorest nations to a powerful engine, when corruption was uprooted and resource revenues were utilised for infrastructure, health and education. While in other African nations with a depository of minerals, civilians languish in poverty as revenues serve political leaders’ interests, these three leaders served their constitutional terms of office and gave way to other leaders. ‘Will their examples ever be followed by leaders and would be leaders in Africa today and in coming decades?’ (Maathai 2009:112).
Arguing for Ubuntu does not mean that there were no abuses of power in pre-colonial African communities. Slave trade by African merchants was commonplace (Davidson 1980; Meillassoux 1991), and discrimination of women, ethnic violence, and power abuse remained prevalent (Achebe 1996; Dangarembga 1989). However, in traditional kingdoms such as Buganda, although the kings ascended to power through lineage and were believed to possess divine powers, they were ousted once they betrayed the expectations of the ruled (Ayittey 1991; Mayanja and Bisaso 2010).
Ubuntu ethics also implies respecting constitutional leadership’s term limit instead of self-perpetuating in power. Examples of long-ruling presidents are: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda since 1986, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe since 1980, Teodore Obing Nguema Mbugo of Equatorial Guinea since1979, Paul Biga of Cameroon since 1982 and José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola since 1979. Maathai (2009:114) observes: ‘The pathology of power only intensifies the longer a leader remains in office’, and thwarts ethical leadership. When President Museveni came to power, Uganda was envisaged to be a model of democratic rule, people empowerment, participation, and accountability, particularly through the ten points programme (Mutibwa 1992; Tripp 2010). Thus, Melo, Ng’ethe and Manor (2012:23) observe ‘two Musevenis’ – the ‘first Museveni’ who was ethical, established the Local councils (LCs) for citizen participation, and vowed to empower the vulnerable; and the ‘second Museveni’ who manipulates the constitution to extend his presidential term, suppresses political opposition, is corrupt, patronising, and least of all cares about the collective good.
There cannot be ethical leadership without society’s return to Ubuntu ethics (Salawu 2012). Traditionally, Ubuntu was transmitted to children and adults alike through stories, proverbs, myth, folklore, art, poetry, theatre and songs. It is the Ubuntuism that I learnt from my mother’s life: examples and teachings that empower me to see the gap in Africa’s ethical political leadership. Needed is the inculcation of African ethics using both traditional and modern means (television and social media). The family is the basic institution for value education, yet in Uganda, the family is weakening. Poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and the degradation of the moral fabric disempower families from playing their parental educational roles. The crisis of leadership reflects the struggles of the family. Conversely, schools have the potential of passing on Ubuntuism, if teachers are conscientised. In summary, I propose that varied actors and institutions need to collaborate to teach ethical leadership values grounded in Ubuntu philosophy if peace and social justice are to ensue. Considering that no ideology is absolutely sufficient for social transformation, scientific approaches are important to complement Ubuntu.
4. Approaches for strengthening ethical political leadership
A closer look across Africa illustrates ‘personal rule’ where presidents and their hangers-on become corrupt, and empty national coffers and resources for personal aggrandizement (Cartwright 1983:2). The following section examines the interdisciplinary psychological, political, economic and peace approaches envisaged for ethical leadership interventions, with Ubuntu as the foundation for their implementation.
Steinberg (2005) asserts that there is a relationship between personality and leadership. Personality is the springboard of the leader’s ethical and cultural characteristics (Masciulli, Molchanov and Knight 2009). Ensuring the building of good personalities from childhood is an intervention towards resolving the leadership crisis. The inner character of the person develops from infancy onward, which highlights the importance of inculcating Ubuntu in early socialisation processes. However, when political candidates are campaigning, it is difficult to have accurate data on their early life, let alone people in the society who can interpret the data effectively. Autobiographies tend to focus on adult achievements and not on early life history. Childhood and adolescent inferences that politicians divulge to the media tend to be self-serving, and fail to provide data for psychological analysis.
Psychologists, particularly Freud, pinpoint stagnation in the developmental stages (oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital) as affecting adult life, and suggest that caretakers need to ensure a successful accomplishment of those stages. In the socialisation process, a healthy family environment and schools are vital to character formation and leadership training. According to Jansen (2011), the crisis of ethical political leadership is a crisis of parental and educational leadership. It is a crisis that manifests the neglect of Ubuntu in the family and schools. For example, Gandhi prided himself in the contribution of his mother to his character and integrity, which are vital to leadership (Gandhi and Fischer 2002). In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela recounts how his teachers encouraged students to become leaders: ‘We were told by our teachers: “Now you are at Fort Hare (the oldest black university in South Africa), you are going to be a leader of your people”‘ (Mandela 2010:26).
In Uganda, parents and teachers tend to use corporal punishment and harsh language in correcting children, which implicitly correlates aggression with power. These trends could spring from the violent, oppressive and brutal reality to which Ugandans are exposed (Museveni 2000; Mutibwa 1992). Volkan (2001) underscores the impact of transgenerational trauma whereby a traumatised generation of society passes on the trauma to future generations through stories and behaviours. Parents and teachers need to heal and to learn positive parenting skills that empower and teach children life-giving approaches to leadership and power. Children learn to be leaders, peacemakers or aggressors from home. However, while childhood experiences are crucial, an adult politician is responsible for fostering his or her personal change. For example, Nelson Mandela witnessed various forms of violence and abuses, but strove for personal change that enabled him to work with different races and classes of people to end apartheid in South Africa. Thus, Jansen (2011) argues that in difficult times, social change is impossible without personal change and courage, grounded in one’s convictions, self-awareness and self-transformation.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs underscores the satisfaction of human needs before an individual can attain self-actualisation and empower others. Ideally, ethical political leadership requires an individual who has attained self-actualisation, transcendence and freedom, exemplified by leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere. Mandela’s transcendence is illustrated by his forgiving his oppressors after spending twenty-seven years in prison. As a leader, in accordance with Ubuntu that values every person, he strove to unite and to empower South Africans as he declared:
I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’ (Mandela 1990:181).
Transcendence and self-actualisation are unachievable without rigorous self-reflection and emotional intelligence to overcome egoism, selfishness and greed. Thus, Curle (1990:23) proposes that it is important to dig out the ‘illusory sense of “I”, the cravings and antipathies and guilt without which ethical leadership is unattainable’. It is for this reason that Ubuntu centres one’s existence in interconnectedness to the community – I am because we are – versus egoistic self-aggrandizement common among African political leaders. One way to achieve transcendence and self-actualisation is through a life-giving spirituality.
Ethics and spirituality
Political leadership in Africa will be served well by leaders with a sound spirituality marked by ethical principles and behaviour. Wong (1998:364) defines spirituality as the element which ‘involves ultimate and personal truths’. Among the prominent world leaders such as Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr., none was without a sound spirituality. Spirituality is what motivates a person to live in a mode that is truly fulfilling and life giving. Ubuntu fulfils the person, and empowers the person to be generous, hospitable, forgiving and loving in a community where humanity is inextricably interconnected (Tutu 2000). Bhindi and Duignan (1997) argue for a restoration of ethics and spirituality in leadership. Leaders who fail to transcend egoism, are self-subservient and ruthless in the ‘promotion and protection of “I”‘ (Curle 1990:189). Such leaders lose humanness, the core of Ubuntu, in the struggle for power and material riches, forgetting that earthly life is temporary.
Given the history of war, violence, political and ethnic hatred in Uganda, leadership transformation requires a capacity for forgiveness and non-violence from leaders and citizens, without which the country will never have peace. Forgiveness sustained by love and hope are crucial to addressing the crisis of leadership. Love in this sense is the highest good, and not sentimentalism; it is understanding and being compassionate with goodwill for all people, rooted in respect for human dignity and the mystery and sacredness of every human person (Washington 1991). Mandela was able to rebuild South Africa with a government where ex-revolutionaries sat alongside ex-enemies because of his capacity to forgive his oppressors. In his quotes, Nelson Mandela (2012) underscores that forgiveness is a powerful weapon that liberates the person and removes fears: ‘As I walked through the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I did not leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison’. I suspect that this resolution is rooted in Mandela’s high state of Ubuntu philosophy consciousness. Human nature has its strengths and limitations, its potential to do good or harm. Ubuntu consciousness can influence our human nature towards the good. Where there already is harm, a peaceful future lies in forgiveness. Tutu (2000) asserts that there cannot be a promising future without forgiveness.
Forgiveness and reconciliation entail the engagement of the heart, and wisdom necessary for leadership (Curle 1990). The heart is the source of love, considered to be the most transformative power in the world (Washington 1991). The intellect alone, or merely being driven by power and politics, never leads to comprehensive life-giving decisions. Lederach (1997:25) argues that ‘more than hard politics is needed to support sustainable transformation and change in the society’. It is the Ubuntu wisdom that approaches power with care for the collective good, knowing that ‘when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, treated as if they were less than who they are’ the whole human race diminishes (Tutu 2000:35).
Politics and power
According to Kenneth E. Boulding (1990), the broadest meaning of power is the capacity to foster social change and to achieve common goals. Appropriate use of power is key to preventing the spread of unethical political leadership that violates citizens’ dignity and rights, and is contrary to Ubuntu ethics. Democratic rules and policies agreed upon by all citizens or their legitimate representatives are crucial (Hydén 2006). It is unethical when politicians who consider themselves to be above the law lead a nation as though it were a private business (Hydén 2006).
In Uganda, political powers are exercised primarily through the intimidation of citizens. Political leaders control the security organs, and invest hugely in sophisticated weapons, even using them against citizens who dare to challenge a leader’s malpractices. Important is the rebalancing of power without recourse to military or physical power, where the parties ‘recognize one another in new ways … and increase the level of awareness of their interdependence through mutual recognitions’ (Lederach 1997:65). Leaders need to realise that their legitimacy comes from the people, who they should serve, and not the gun. Urgently needed is the practising of legitimate political power through democratic processes and not coup d’états or fraudulent electoral processes.
Museveni (2000:176) asserts that Uganda must have democracy and democratic practices that empower citizens to ‘choose their government and influence its policies’ and to guard against ‘sectarianism and opportunism’. (But did he walk the talk?) Ottaway (2007) also argues that democracy is a system suitable for healing political divisions, as it facilitates transition from dictatorship and helps nations rebuild after civil wars. Civic education is crucial to empower citizens, security organs, political parties, the legislature, judiciary, and the media to make democracy irreversible (Ottaway 2007). Accordingly, ‘democracy is a precondition for African Renaissance and the terminus ad quem of our common struggle’ for a unique leadership model rooted in Ubuntu (Mangu 2006:150).
Afro-pessimist Eurocentric scholars and some African leaders argue that democracy is a Western invention and not applicable to Africa. Democracy, however, is at the core of Ubuntu that values every person’s contribution. What is foreign to Africa is the majority versus the minority concept of western democracy (Mandela 1994). African traditional systems of government such as the Buganda Kingdom, practised democracy long before the colonial period (Mangu 2006; Mayanja and Bisaso 2010). Mandela (1994) recounts how his leadership was influenced during childhood while observing the regent and his court where everyone who wanted to speak, spoke, and where democracy meant that all men were listened to, that the leader spoke last and that a decision was taken together as an interconnected people.
Citizen engagement in the political processes is necessary to tame African leaders’ authoritarian tendencies. Ho-Won Jeong (2005:83) argues that to avoid militarised conflicts, citizens need to have access to decision-making institutions since ‘concentration of power in state institutions’ controlled by ‘one group aggravates social and political cleavages’. Ackerman (2004:447) argues that ‘co-governance’ is the best way to tap into society’s energy. As stated by the United Nations; ‘Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his [or her] country, directly or through freely chosen representatives … The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’ (United Nations 1948:#21). This will of the people cannot prevail where dictators control the security organs. A transition from militarisation to civilian rule will promote ethical leadership, while police and military training in Ubuntu will empower them to respect human rights and dignity, and to foster non-lethal security methods.
Institutions and procedures of democracy need to be remedied, especially with regard to competitive, multiparty electoral processes and citizen freedom to exercise their political rights and responsibilities (Gaventa 2006). Ackerman (2004:448) argues that the ‘celebration of free and fair elections is one of the most powerful pro-accountability mechanisms in existence’, that ensures that suitable candidates lead the nation. Citizens will express their will and consent on who leads them when the electoral process is not marred by fraud, voter intimidation or persecution of candidates as it is the trend in Uganda. Adherence to Ubuntu would safeguard against these abuses of power. Equal justice is critical when settling disputes between the ruling and other political parties. This might ensure that political election malpractices and collusion with the electoral commission are tackled justly. It is also crucial to establish a ministry of peace and social justice to deal with issues of peacebuilding, national reconciliation and social justice.
The practice of assuming power through coup d’états and manipulating the constitution to extend presidential term limit during the rule of Milton Obote, Idi Amin and Museveni is unethical. The constitutional provision on the presidential term limit must never be altered without people’s consent through a referendum. Respect for the rule of law and the separation of power between the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive is fundamental to ethical leadership. The United Nations asserts that ‘respect for and promotion of the rule of law and justice should guide all activities and accord predictability and legitimacy to their actions’ (United Nations 2012:§2). Leadership interventions need to ensure that law courts do not favour only the ruling elites or having justice ‘sold like a commodity to highest bidders’ (Museveni 2000:21). A strong parliament, motivated by the Ubuntuism of ‘I am because we are’ and not manipulated and bribed by the executive, is fundamental to strengthening ethical leadership.
Leadership succession by young people motivated to serve beyond personal interests is long overdue. The future of any nation with a vision is invested in the young. Ubuntu philosophy encourages the initiation of the young into leadership as was the case for Nelson Mandela. Uganda needs a generation of critical youth to rise and refuse to be cowed into abusive and corrupt politics where they ‘serve as door mats for the system’s authoritarian boots’ (Ngwane 2003:1). The academia and critical think-tanks that carry out research and analysis of key government agencies, which could even be published in the media, are instrumental in cultivating critical minds. Burrowes (1996:80-81) argues that intellectuals have the responsibility to speak the truth to the powerful and expose their lies, yet since the state is ‘the source of their power, prestige and economic reward’, they resort to trends of ‘obedience, self-deception and an uncritical attitude’.
The leadership crisis will be transformed if the economy empowers the vulnerable. Paczynska (2008:238) argues that economic growth and expansion of the middle class is fundamental for the ’emergence of a vibrant civil society which in turn places ever greater pressure on the state to establish more participatory forms of governance’. For example, in developed nations where the majority of the population are economically stable, civil war is unlikely. Meeting citizens’ human needs is a long term solution to the leadership crisis. Poverty reduction, employment provision, and economic security ameliorate not only the leadership crisis, but also insecurity (Jeong 2000; Paczynska 2008).
Structural transformation that challenges inequalities at national and international levels is crucial. According to the dependency theory, modernisation and globalisation foster Africa’s structural dependence on Western economic and technological powers (Mac Ginty and Williams 2009). The core oppresses the periphery at the national and international levels. In An agenda for peace, Boutros-Ghali (1992:33) advocated that the UN and the international community need to provide ‘support for the transformation of deficient national structures and capabilities’ to establish and strengthen democracy. At the national level, economic rehabilitation and human-centred integral development are prerequisites to the transformative process (Jeong 2000; Jeong 2005; Museveni 2000). To meet citizen needs and tackle structural injustices, the society needs to address communal disintegration aggravated by lack of values, and of relationships and meaning found in community and civic life (Dukes 1999). Neglect of Ubuntu ethics of caring and sharing is a major source of the leadership crisis in which corruption is entrenched. Community-based incentives to strengthen self-reliance are important, given that aid through the government gets embezzled by the corrupt government officials (Jeong 2005; Museveni 2000).
Corruption must be eradicated if leadership is to improve. The 2012 East African Bribery index ranked Uganda as the highest in the region, at 40.7% (Transparency International 2012). Strong measures to prevent corruption and white-collar crime in public institutions are key to leadership reform. Uganda’s ministry of Ethics and Integrity, and the Inspector General of Government (IGG) are ideal organs to tackle corruption, but their purpose is futile since they are controlled by very corrupt officials. For ethical leadership to thrive, elected officials must be held accountable by the citizens (Hershey 2012). Corrupt leaders must be investigated; imprisoned and required to return stolen funds with interest. Local and international bank accounts of African political leaders must be frozen when convicted of corruption.
While the entire peace theory is fundamental to leadership, this section underscores three elements: 1) the necessity of electing individuals who are on the side of peace, 2) the cultivation of a peace culture through education, and 3) national reconciliation.
Transforming leadership cannot occur without peace, necessitating the election of peacemakers and mediators into leadership. Humanness, ‘more than hard politics’, is needed to establish ethical leadership (Lederach 1997:24). It is a big mistake to elect criminals and tyrants into national leadership. It is inconceivable that warriors who have killed, recruited children into their rebel groups, raped and committed atrocities against humanity become leaders.
Uganda’s history, characterised by colonial oppression, ‘political and constitutional instability’ and the ‘struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation’ (The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995:preamble) requires national reconciliation and healing. Because of such a history, Ugandans are more traumatised than we think, and sadly when they become leaders, they often reflect what they experienced and maybe even govern with feelings of hatred. As Freire (1999) puts it, the oppressed internalise the image of the oppressor, adopt his guidelines and become oppressors. I have witnessed political leaders and citizens who are angry and always wonder why. When there is a protest, Ugandans do not only burn car tires, but burn people with petro-filled tires. They threaten those of different ethnic groups and kill. In political rallies, politicians slander and demean each other. Colonialism and the intermittent wars stripped Ugandans of their humanity and moral consciousness. Needed is a peacemaker, one capable of dialoguing to embody peace, reconciliation and forgiveness as Nelson Mandela did, and of working towards healing the country. The leader’s non-violence and peace will gradually lead to a humane society – as happened among the Iroquoian people of North America (Rice 2009).
More than twenty civil wars have been fought in Uganda, and violence is part of the status quo. Such a predicament can hardly guarantee sustainable security and peaceful coexistence. Mutua (2007) argues that Uganda cannot recover, unite and rebuild without reconciliation and confronting the ills that have tormented people for five decades. Lederach (1997:24) poses that reconciliation needs to engage ‘the restoration and rebuilding of relationships’, as a journey to the sacred place of our humanness (Lederach 1999). ‘Without forgiveness’ and reconciliation, ‘there really is no future’ (Tutu 2000:255).
Mutua (2007:21) proposes three steps to reconciliation and recovery: 1) Objective and courageous confrontation of the atrocities. Such a process must be ‘national, inclusive, transformational, and cathartic’. 2) Although the government needs to facilitate the process, it must neither control nor own it. An independent, objective and authentic body of wise people must be entrusted with the responsibility. 3) The process must include ‘especially those who have been aggrieved’ regardless of the ‘nature, seriousness, or severity of their grievances’. All Ugandans, are affected either as perpetrators, bystanders or victims. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa can serve as an example to bring the perpetrators to confession and justice, and the victims to compensation and reconciliation between and among individuals and groups. Without reconciliation and healing, transgenerational trauma continues to wound our posterity (Volkan 2001), aggravating the leadership crisis. Narratives of peace counteract the narratives of war, violence and revenge (Matyí³k et al. 2011) propagated by the media and violent political speeches, which, according to Galtung (2011), are socio-political obstacles to a culture of peace.
A culture of peace (Boulding 2000; Galtung 2011), established through peace and civic education for all citizens, is fundamental to preventing the leadership crisis. A combination of the indigenous and the world religions’ approaches to good leadership and peacebuilding are great resources (Funk and Woolner 2011; Galtung 2011; Hamdesa 2011). The young and adults alike, should learn practices of peace, ethical leadership, social justice, forgiveness, reconciliation, nonviolence and environmental care. Important is to empower women who are the first educators of all children to pass on Ubuntuism, leadership skills, and a culture of peace.
To strengthen ethical political leadership, the approaches of socio-psychology, ethics and spirituality, politics and power, socio-economics and peace are inextricably linked. With Ubuntu at their centre, and implemented systematically with the involvement of national and international actors, they form a framework that would transform the leadership crisis.
5. Strengthening ethical political leadership: An integrated framework
This section suggests a multidisciplinary framework that draws from various disciplines, actors and processes to strengthen ethical political leadership in line with all that has been explained above. The ethical leadership crisis in Uganda and Africa does not explicitly make headlines in global newspapers. While the international community mobilises for humanitarian and peacekeeping measures when wars and violence leave citizens in inhumane conditions, no equal efforts are made to mitigate the leadership crisis. A multidisciplinary framework is proposed to ensure the involvement of varied actors at the national and international levels in averting the leadership crisis.
Shape of the framework
The constituent parts of the interdisciplinary approach revolve around Ubuntu ethics. Social psychology, economics, political science and power, ethics and spirituality, and peace are presented in a cyclic manner around Ubuntu to suggest the principle of systemic thinking and the community sense of ‘I am because we are and because we are therefore I am’ (Mbiti 1969:108-109). Everyone’s contribution counts. The logic is that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ (Diamond and McDonald 1996:4). The actors in each track are different, yet they need to network and to complement each other to establish interventions to the crisis.
In every track, research, education and praxis are crucial. Research involves the academia, think-tanks as well as informal research to generate knowledge. Education entails the passing on of the research findings, and leadership values through civic and peace education to all citizens. Mandela (2012) asserts: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Praxis includes acting and empowering citizens to non-violently strive towards leadership transformation. To ensure the sustenance of whatever is functional, it must begin with the family and be accompanied by monitoring and evaluation.
Promoting ethical political leadership: An integrated framework
A working matrix for the structural framework
|Tracks||National actors||International Actors|
|Social Psychology||Parents, especially the mothers, the ministry of education, teachers, the community, institutions that contribute to a child’s development, and women’s movements.||United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), States and diplomats|
|Ethics and Spirituality||Religious, cultural, community leaders, the media and ministry of ethics.||International Group of Elders including former Archbishop Tutu|
|Politics||A critical mass of citizens, the government, political parties, the electoral commission, the military and the police, the legislature and judiciary, the ministry of peace and social justice, academicians and critical think-tanks||African Union, United Nations, powerful nations, International governments and NGOs, and World or African social forums|
|Economics||Local businesses, the government and social movements||Private investors, multinational corporations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and other donors|
|Peace||The family, ministry of education, the ministry
of peace and social justice, parents, teachers, academicians, think-tanks, the media, the military and police, telephone companies, all citizens
|International Criminal Court, individuals and organisations|
Track 1: Political leadership transformation through psychology
As mentioned before, no strategic theory for social change is complete or satisfactory without recourse to human behaviour (Burrowes 1996). The national actors under this track are: 1) The ministry of education who should design compulsory national curriculums that foster holistic development focusing on leadership and value education. 2) The parents and educators who need to be empowered and trained to guide children in the socialisation process. 3) The community who must reinforce Ubuntuism for mutual support. 4) Political leaders who will need to foster their psychological development, rise above egoism and greed, and work towards transcendence, life-giving relationships and self-actualisation (Curle 1990). Maathai (2009:113) suggests that ‘the realization of good leadership could start with an African president or prime minister stepping forward and declaring: We have a problem in our country. We are cheating and undermining ourselves, and we need to change’, adding that he or she will imbibe the ethical values of honesty, fight corruption for the collective good and put human beings above the accumulation of wealth.
Track 2: Political leadership transformation through ethics and spirituality theory
Ethics and spirituality, rooted in Ubuntu that values the community, humanness and wellbeing of every person, are major interventions in the leadership crisis and nation building (Bhindi and Duignan 1997). Spirituality rooted in respect and love for the other, alongside trust, authenticity, humility and peace among others will liberate the country.
The major actors at this level are, firstly, the leaders in 1) the cultural, 2) religious and 3) community spheres. These leaders bear social and religious responsibilities, and they need to guide society according to social and religious principles. Ugandans adhere to either African traditions or modern religions or both, which could be used as an avenue to rebuild the nation. Rootedness in a genuine spirituality leads to integrity, care and generosity, which are fundamentals in Ubuntu. Leaders have the responsibility to denounce malpractices of corrupt political leaders. For example, Bishop Desmond Tutu contributes greatly to the liberation and rebuilding of South Africa and he could be a model for others. 4) The Media should combine traditional and modern modes of communication to pass on values. 5) The ministry of ethics should advise the government to be ethical in its practices, especially with regard to transparency and corruption. At the international level, Global Elders, a group of 12 wise men and women, would offer expertise and guidance to political and religious leaders (Telegraph 2007).
Track 3: Political leadership transformation through power and politics
Democracy and diplomacy are peaceful processes for nation building where there is legitimate power derived from free and fair elections (Diamond and McDonald 1996). It is important to have functional checks and balances on political leaders. Coercive ‘power over’ citizens, backed up by violence, needs to be transformed through collective action to become ‘power to’, which empowers and results in ‘greater justice’ (Gill 2012:34). To be strengthened, is ‘power over oneself’, manifested by self-respect, honesty, integrity, humility and respect for others, which leads to ‘power with’ the citizens through citizen participation and horizontal accountability (Burrowes 1996:84). In this process, the implementation of governmental laws and policies is fundamental to political leadership.
The national actors in this track are: 1) A critical mass of citizens, empowered through political and civic education. According to Maathai (2009:115), for ethical and democratic leadership to prevail, an informed ‘critical mass’ is crucial to protest, monitor government action, call leaders who violate their rights and collective good to ethical practices. 2) The government needs to practise democracy, constitutionalism, positive peace, citizen engagement, respect for opposition political parties and respect for human dignity and rights including press freedom and freedom of expression. Political leaders think ‘ethically, politically and imaginatively in relation to different forms of power and a range of social and ecological constraints’ facing Uganda (Gill 2012:34). 3) Political parties need to give voice to and represent the political perspectives of citizens. 4) The Electoral Commission should act justly and not only in favour of the ruling Government. 5) The military and the police have to serve national interests beyond the rulers’ interests, following human rights frameworks. 6) The legislature and judiciary should work independently from the executive to foster the common good and the rule of law. 7) The ministry of peace should develop a coherent paradigm of sustainable peace across the nation and within government. The ministry would design an agenda for peace, establish and support activities that promote a culture of peace, be assertive about non-violence, spearhead civic education, coordinate plans for national reconciliation, and design strategies to prevent violent conflicts. 8) Academicians and critical think-tanks must generate knowledge through research and praxis to convince political leaders and citizens that change is needed. Progressive political entities need to be grounded in ‘a realistic consideration of how existing structures and forms of power either constrain or facilitate the full realization of human capabilities and potentials, as the necessary framework for visualizing new social and political relations’ (Gill 2012:34).
At the international level the major actors include: 1) The African Union, to strengthen its peer review mechanism, renounce leaders who assume power undemocratically including those who commit electoral fraud, and reinforce ethical leadership, insisting on the resignation of political leaders who fail to abide by the ethical code. 2) The United Nations, to assist Africa not only with peace keeping but to tackle the root causes of bad leadership, without which nations relapse into violence. 3) Powerful nations could also help in uprooting dictators, and refuse to sell arms to them or to rebel groups. 4) International governments and non-governmental organisations could be instruments of peace and sources of education for ethical leadership. 5) World or African Social Forums are to spearhead ‘prefigurative and strategic‘ politics (Gill 2012:183) to generate social change by educating politicians and citizens to act in line with the principles envisioned for the prosperity of tomorrow’s world.
Track 4: Political leadership transformation through economic theory
At the national level, corruption should be curbed by dismissing and imprisoning corrupt officials and compelling them to return the embezzled funds with interest. Structural transformation that fosters human security and social justice is needed to change the entire system of processes, policies, institutions and structures that provide for human needs and to build an economically stable citizenry (Botes 2003; Burrowes 1996; Burton 1990).
Actors at the national level are: 1) The government, who could bridge inequality gaps and ensure changes in the decision-making processes which concentrate power and resources in the minority of elites and constrain the majority. 2) Social movements, non-government organisations, critical think-tanks, university students, civil society, media houses and other actors who should challenge the financial and cultural supremacy of the government. 3) Business people who could support education programmes for leadership transformation and peacebuilding, establish ‘peace through commerce’ movements and make peacebuilding a constituent part of business life, with special emphasis on women and youth (Hauss 2010:217).
At the international level the actors would include: 1) the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation – all of which could challenge bad governance and assist in punishing corrupt political leaders. 2) International non-government organisations, particularly the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that rewards African leaders for good governance, could invest in leadership training and establish an academy for training future political leaders. 3) Foreign investors, multinational corporations, and developed nations should detest the practices of corrupt political officials to achieve their business goals.
Track 5: Political leadership transformation through peacebuilding
It is important to elect peace lovers into leadership, peace education and national reconciliation positions. The national actors are: 1) The ministry of peace, established to develop a comprehensive paradigm for sustainable peace across the country, by supporting activities for promoting a culture of peace thorough ethical leadership. It would also design processes and systemic responses for reconciliation and reconstruction where political animosity has caused conflicts and citizens need to be trained in ethical leadership and peace. 2) The ministry of education can design curriculums for peace education and ensure that it becomes a compulsory subject and that teachers are trained to present it. 3) Academicians and religious leaders could establish mechanisms for national reconciliation and forgiveness in collaboration with the ministry of peace and social justice 4) The media could foster reconciliation by eliciting apologies from perpetrators of conflict-causing conduct. 5) The afore-mentioned actors could work with the military and police to transition from hostilities and violence toward community reconciliation and respect for human rights. 6) Telephone companies could use the social media for peacebuilding purposes.
Actors at the international level are: 1) The International Criminal Court, who could empower the structures of the African Union and nations in ethical leadership. Money spent on convicting African tyrants could be used to better the infrastructures of health and education. 2) Generous individuals and organisations could assist in the establishment of leadership academies for good education.
Lack of ethical political leadership is holding Africa back. Strengthening ethical political leadership is key to rebuilding Africa as a powerful engine, given her natural resources and human capital. Ubuntu philosophy holds hope for transforming Africa’s ethical political leadership crisis and preventing a similar crisis in the future. Ubuntu‘s focus on humanness, human dignity, the collective good, and interconnectedness of all beings is fundamental to building Africa as it grapples with the leadership crisis, conflicts and underdevelopment. The strength of psychology, economics, ethics, spirituality, politics, peace and social sciences would complement Ubuntu to achieve the desired goal. The enormity of the problem requires the involvement of stakeholders at the national and international levels. The involvement of women and children is critical to ensure the inculcation of Ubuntuism and leadership in future generations. The best is still to come for Africa. Research, education and praxis are crucial to consistently envision, monitor and evaluate interventions in the crisis.
A framework should be established and leadership transformation should be implemented. National and international actors need to network in dealing with those who are in leadership positions and at the same time prepare the youth to become good leaders. While all interventions are important, building a culture of peace is the foundation of ethical political leadership. Such a culture will open the way to electing peaceful people into leadership positions. I believe that the journey of liberating Africa lies in ethical leadership. Thus, I consider it crucial to establish leadership academies for training present and future leaders. Special attention needs to be given to parents and educators who socialise children at a tender age. Given Uganda’s predicament where the majority of the population are youth, hope lies in offering good education to the young who will take the leadership mantle. I am optimistic about the prospects of an Africa with strengthened ethical leadership. If the youth are trained in Ubuntu philosophy to value and prioritise every person in our nations, they will become responsible, democratic, and even revolutionary leaders who will spearhead ethical leadership and governance for sustainable peace and social justice.
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- Philosophical definitions of ethics exist since the time of Plato and Socrates. Ethics studies what is right or wrong, justice, fairness, virtues, duties and obligations. For the leader to be ethical, it is implied in this paper that he or she is moral, accountable and not corrupt, fair and does not manipulate or abuse people for his/her own advantage. Such ethics is found in one’s heart, worldview and value system.
- Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories where due to good leadership and governance, the country’s desolate position (as was the case in almost all African nations at independence) has been transformed into an upper middle class majority of the population. The leadership deficit in many African countries has hindered economic development and peace. Botswana’s experience illustrates that good leadership is key to a nation’s peace and development.
- ‘Hybrid’ leadership is a type that would be ethical and democratic, and thereby different from the prevailing approaches across the continent. It would be characterised by good governance, regular, free and fair elections, rule of law and respect for human rights, and by enhancing citizen participation, transparency and accountability.
- Obote ruled Uganda twice (1962-1971, 1980-1985). Idi Amin Dada staged a coup d’état, took over power and ruled from 1971 to 1979. President Museveni acquired power through a coup d’état in 1986 and has ruled since then.