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Friday, July 22, 2011

Beyond Technical (Leadership) Madness in Africa!

The following quote from Paul Tiyambe Zeleza's scathing critique of Malawi's Bingu wa Mutharika is particularly thorny to African leaders(ip) when read alongside the quote further below from Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi:

"...President Mutharika embodies the contradictions of Malawi's political system and the crassness of Malawi's political class. Like so many other so-called ‘peaceful' African states, such as Senegal, the country has yet to make a generational transition in its top leadership. Thus, while many sectors are dominated by the post-independence generation, the president is an octogenarian autocratic who should have long retired from public life as he clearly is out of tune with the aspirations of his relatively young nation. President Mutharika, 77, belongs to the nationalist generation that brought the "first independence" while the vast majority of the population was born after 1964 indeed 45% of the country's 15.2 million people are below the age of 15. To them the president's nationalist anxieties and preoccupations with colonialism and admonition of Britain, the former colonial power, whose ambassador was expelled from Malawi several months ago for referring to him in a leaked embassy cable as "ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism", are outdated and irrelevant. Added to this is the president's apparent megalomania evident in his love for titles including unearned academic titles. For someone who never received a PhD from an accredited institution and never taught at a university he insists on being called His Excellence Ngwazi Dr. Professor Bingu wa Mutharika. He fancies himself an economist and mister-know-it-all. He has removed competent people from key economic ministries and institutions. He increasingly bases economic policy on his misguided understanding of Malawian, let alone African, economic and political history as is clear from his ill-written 700 page book, The African Dream: From Poverty to Posterity, published by his daughter and launched to great fanfare earlier this year..."

- Paul Zeleza


"...There is a technical definition of madness. Madness is to do things over and over again but to expect different results. We have been doing this over and over again since the mid 80s expecting different results every time. Now this is unlikely to be because all African leaders are technically mad. I think that is happening because first, the balance of economic, political and diplomatic forces are such that maintaining the beaten track even if it’s a dead end, appears to be the only option. I think it is also partly because most African leaders are not that young. The main difference between me- Meles now- and Meles 35 years ago is that Meles 35 years ago, as a young person, had the courage and ambition to storm the heaven. Meles now does not have the same type of ambition and courage...Why, Why has the fear of God been introduced into Meles? I think it's partly because of the experience of defeats, the achievements, and the experience of life itself which makes a person wiser and at the same time less courageous and less ambitious. If we could combine the wisdom of age and the courage and ambition of youth then we can break out of a mad situation of doing over and over the same thing..."
- Meles Zenawi

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