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e-book The Ashgate Research Companion to Political Leadership

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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. Ethics comprises principles and concepts that guide humans between right and harmful behaviours Paul and Elder In the Cambridge dictionary of Philosophy, ethics is used interchangeably with morality Audi , 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 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. Whereas democracy is gaining currency in Africa, it is liable to fail if it is not rooted in humanness.


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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 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. You share what you have. 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. Iconic African leaders mirrored Ubuntu in various ways.


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  • 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 ; Meillassoux , and discrimination of women, ethnic violence, and power abuse remained prevalent Achebe ; Dangarembga 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 ; Mayanja and Bisaso 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 ; Tripp Traditionally, Ubuntu was transmitted to children and adults alike through stories, proverbs, myth, folklore, art, poetry, theatre and songs.

    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. 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.

    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 asserts that there is a relationship between personality and leadership. 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.

    Introducing an article

    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 , the crisis of ethical political leadership is a crisis of parental and educational leadership.

    Ashgate Research Companion to Political 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 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 ; Mutibwa Volkan 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.

    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. 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. Transcendence and self-actualisation are unachievable without rigorous self-reflection and emotional intelligence to overcome egoism, selfishness and greed.

    The Ashgate Research Companion to Political Leadership - CRC Press Book

    One way to achieve transcendence and self-actualisation is through a life-giving spirituality. Political leadership in Africa will be served well by leaders with a sound spirituality marked by ethical principles and behaviour. Spirituality is what motivates a person to live in a mode that is truly fulfilling and life giving.

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    Ubuntu fulfils the person, and empowers the person to be generous, hospitable, forgiving and loving in a community where humanity is inextricably interconnected Tutu Bhindi and Duignan argue for a restoration of ethics and spirituality in leadership. 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.

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    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 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. 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 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 The heart is the source of love, considered to be the most transformative power in the world Washington The intellect alone, or merely being driven by power and politics, never leads to comprehensive life-giving decisions. According to Kenneth E. Boulding , the broadest meaning of power is the capacity to foster social change and to achieve common goals.

    In Uganda, political powers are exercised primarily through the intimidation of citizens. Leaders need to realise that their legitimacy comes from the people, who they should serve, and not the gun. But did he walk the talk? Ottaway 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 Afro-pessimist Eurocentric scholars and some African leaders argue that democracy is a Western invention and not applicable to Africa. What is foreign to Africa is the majority versus the minority concept of western democracy Mandela African traditional systems of government such as the Buganda Kingdom, practised democracy long before the colonial period Mangu ; Mayanja and Bisaso Mandela 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.

    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 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. Respect for the rule of law and the separation of power between the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive is fundamental to 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. 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.

    The leadership crisis will be transformed if the economy empowers the vulnerable. For example, in developed nations where the majority of the population are economically stable, civil war is unlikely. Poverty reduction, employment provision, and economic security ameliorate not only the leadership crisis, but also insecurity Jeong ; Paczynska Structural transformation that challenges inequalities at national and international levels is crucial.

    The core oppresses the periphery at the national and international levels. At the national level, economic rehabilitation and human-centred integral development are prerequisites to the transformative process Jeong ; Jeong ; Museveni 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 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 ; Museveni Corruption must be eradicated if leadership is to improve. The East African Bribery index ranked Uganda as the highest in the region, at Strong measures to prevent corruption and white-collar crime in public institutions are key to leadership reform. For ethical leadership to thrive, elected officials must be held accountable by the citizens Hershey 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.

    enter Transforming leadership cannot occur without peace, necessitating the election of peacemakers and mediators into leadership. 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.

    The Challenges of Political Leadership Today

    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 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.