This month’s discussion is based on the “Open Letter to Africa’s Present and Future Leaders” written by the 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows. Among other recommendations, the letter urges “the establishment of a high-level African Union led campaign to fight tribalism and inequality in all its forms across the continent. Each country should establish a Commission Against Tribalism and Inequality (CATI) to fight the scourges, and to protect vulnerable minority groups. CATI should bring politicians using ethnic manipulations to perpetrate violence to justice and stop them from participating in future political contests.”
The question we are asking our forum members is whether ‘tribalism’ is the scourge of African liberation and unity or the expression of our cultural diversity that must be harnessed for our development? Must we get rid of our ethnic and national identities to embrace one African identity or are they the building blocks for pan-African identity and values?
AN OPEN LETTER TO AFRICA’S PRESENT AND FUTURE LEADERS
“This continent has suffered too much.… We need the assistance and commitment of … young leaders to continue to speak up on behalf of the poor and the marginalized, and seek a better life for all” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, April 2007
From Angola to Zimbabwe, questions abound about Africa’s present state. All capitals listed between Abidjan to Zanzibar, are not new to the rising voices of Africa’s sons and daughters who wish to know the fate of their land. Some express this concern through silent hope, others through evident fear, and many others look in no other direction than that of their leaders – those we have come to know as the captains of the ship of the state. Others even argue that Africa’s answers remain with future leaders, and not today’s. But there has been a crisis of leadership in Africa. The hopes and dreams of the citizens of this continent have been dashed by our post colonial leaders – from the heroes of the liberation struggles through to the leaders of opposition parties that subsequently emerged.
The citizens of Africa deserve a brighter future, and that begins with visionary leaders who can answer the challenges that Africa faces as part of a global community in the 21st century. Recent events across the continent are cause for serious concern: from the crisis of corruption in Nigeria, the political tensions in South Africa leading to the 2009 election, or the political crisis in Kenya which is turning a once prosperous country into one that is marred by bloodshed and ethnic tensions. The ongoing conflict in Sudan, the current crisis in Chad, or the socio-political and economic meltdown obtaining in Zimbabwe have all caused great instability in the lives of millions of Africans across the continent.
We do not seek to play the usual game of just listing the problems but join our voices to that of over 920 million Africans to demand fair play in political processes. Though all of our democracies are young we expect our leaders to be men and women of excellence who respect the electoral process and as such the wishes of the people. As young people in Africa who are leaders in politics, business, health and information technology, we stand together and re-commit ourselves to the ideals of true leadership, and we make the following recommendations:
(a) The establishment of a high-level African Union led campaign to fight tribalism and inequality in all its forms across the continent. Each country should establish a Commission Against Tribalism and Inequality (CATI) to fight the scourges, and to protect vulnerable minority groups. CATI should bring politicians using ethnic manipulations to perpetrate violence to justice and stop them from participating in future political contests;
(b) Political leaders must be servant leaders and use their power and influence as a tool for socio-economic change rather than oppression and fuelling personal greed;
(c) The establishment and strengthening of relevant institutions (judiciary, electoral commissions, etc) that ensure independence of the Electoral Regulatory Authorities in each country; and the establishment of an AU Electoral monitoring body which monitors election and has a clear, well defined set of guidelines which it uses to determine if the process is free or fair;
(d) The rediscovery of our true identity as Africans, to embrace and inculcate the moral base of honesty, love, peace and integrity. We believe that people of integrity would not allow a beautiful, socially and economically stable country like Kenya to collapse into political disarray;
(e) The strengthening of our national economies, and systems to ensure the provision of adequate health care, education and other social services that will equip all Africans to partake in a better future.
As young leaders in our own various spheres of influence, we as the 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows find silence at this critical moment inconvenient. We believe that silence and inaction in the face of yesterday’s challenges are responsible for the anomalies we see across the continent today. We lend our voices to the call for African leaders – today, and in the future – to consider the common good over personal fears or greed. We are proud of those who have shown us that leadership is about service and call on all other leaders to remain true to the spirit of purposeful leadership.
Signed: 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows