Bah! Humbug! Only a sissy is fit to be a servant leader!

Mahatma Gandhi - a model servant leader

1. “Bah! Humbug! Only a sissy is fit to be a servant leader!” Thus blurted out rather loudly, a well-dressed, grey-headed gentleman as he eased himself into a seat next to me at Shilin Station in Taipei, Taiwan; I was riding on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) on my way home in Danshui District, New Taipei City. I remember thinking: Phew! It is not every day one gets to see a seriously drunk Taiwanese; for the Taiwanese are not drinkers, as drinking is not an essential feature of the Taiwanese culture. And the next thing I knew, he was belching noisily, evidence perhaps of some intestinal embarrassment due to an excess of alcohol, most probably, Kavalan whisky, one of Taiwan’s great exports! Leaning across as it were, to apologize slurring his words, and belching continuously as the waft of alcohol passed me gently in the air-conditioned light railway car, he blabbed out words which I could charitably make out as: “It’s not that I’m this clumsy, but I have had a little too much to drink. It’s been a while since I last had a drop – three years to be exact! But today is a special occasion. My only child, my son, has just graduated from National Taiwan University with a degree in law. I divorced his mother many years ago. But I was invited to attend the graduation ceremony including the dinner afterwards at the Chun Hsuen Sichuan Cusine Restaurant, which I attended. And for the first time, perhaps due to the exuberance of the occasion, I took a little drink this time to help loosen my tongue, as I am a very shy man. My only wish now is for my boy to follow in my footsteps and go to Harvard and read for a doctorate in jurisprudence” No sooner had he finished apologizing than he was off. “Oh, look!” he said more alive now than moments earlier, “Here we are! Beitou is my station.” And that was that: he was gone! I never got to find out from him why he thought only a sissy was fit to be a servant leader!

I too supposed a servant leader to be a sissy

2. But it fills me with great shame to have to place it on the record here that I too once thought that only a sissy was fit to be a servant leader; for I was sold on the idea on the efficacy of a strong masculine leader, perhaps in the fashion of the swaggering machismo of Donald Trump, the sort of leader as some are in the habit of saying, gets the job done! For growing up as I did in Amin’s Uganda, I have first-hand experience of the grim reality of hopelessness in Africa. I witnessed at close quarters the needless loss of life and wanton destruction of property. I well remember as a child seeing for the first time the astonishing sight of fully-grown men cry out of sheer despair. The sight unnerved me. It is true that I did not at the time know the significance of what I was witnessing, but I now understand that theirs were tears of extreme frustration borne out of a feeling of impotence at their particular circumstances. Truth to tell: it seemed to me then as it does now, that there appears to be nothing in the world that can or is capable of explaining the seeming disregard with which African governments treat their citizens. The consequences resulting from such treatment are such as to leave any reasonable observer utterly speechless – speechless largely out of shock, pure and simple!

Uganda answers to a bloody history

3. Take for example events within my living memory in Uganda. The eight years of Amin’s brutal rule 1971-1979; which were followed by two years of chaotic Uganda National Liberation Force government 1979-80; in turn followed by a five year pitiless and brutal civil war 1981-85, waged against Milton Obote’s second attempt at running the country; followed by six months of chaos under the Tito Okello military junta; before ushering in what now appears to be an indefinite rule of Museveni. Ever since taking power in 1986, the Museveni government was mired in a forbidding civil war in Northern Uganda which some have even considered as a form of genocide on the Acholi, and the Langi people. So bad were the conditions that in 2006 the Civil Society Organization for Peace in Northern Uganda published its report, ‘Counting the Cost: Twenty Years of War in Northern Uganda,’ in which the report said that “Rates of violent deaths are three times higher than those reported in Iraq following the Allied Invasion in 2003.” There is no doubt that this was a man-made calamity. A catastrophe that was made even more tragic as it appeared to be taking place amid the seeming conspiracy of silence on the part of Western powers. During that period, there was a clear discrepancy for example, in the response given by Western powers in relation to the appalling situations in Darfur and Zimbabwe, on the one hand, and the apparent genocide in Northern Uganda, on the other. Apart from the late Archbishop Janani Luwum, who incidentally died a martyr in 1977 after he objected to Amin’s brutality; there has been of late, not a single cleric of any significance who has had the courage to stand up in protest; rather, the church appears to be more exercised by the sexual mores of LGBT(s) than the continuing travesty of justice in modern Uganda. This discrepancy was very troubling indeed. It still is!

Breathtaking culture of impunity

4. I have difficulty with the use of the word genocide and think it should be applied sparingly when dealing with fraught subjects such as the one which took place in Northern Uganda. To be sure, the United Nations Convention on Genocide defines genocide as “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” This is why I am careful not to describe the tragedy in Northern Uganda in terms of genocide, to do otherwise would be tantamount to accusing the Museveni government of killing the Acholi people in Northern Uganda, as a matter of policy. But there is mounting circumstantial evidence which is beyond the scope of this blogpost, to suggest that it indeed appears to be a deliberate policy of the Museveni government to bring about the eventual destruction of the said peoples, that is, by not doing enough to resolve a crisis in the region which lasted almost as long as Museveni has been in power. The horrifying truth is that circumstances which gave rise to an allegation of genocide lend credence to an uncomfortable reality – in that although many African leaders do not set out to deliberately kill people per se, they simply do not care! They are far more interested in remaining in power at whatever cost. In the case of Museveni, all his government seemed to have succeeded in doing was to deny that the tragedy ever took place in the region, his government only acted to disband the internally displaced camps in April 2006 after coming under overwhelming international pressure. Twelve years on, coupled with countless other human rights abuses and brutalities, including those which occurred during the ‘Kasese massacres’ in 2016 the message is now very clear; that the future of Northern Uganda and the country as a whole will remain bleak as long as it serves the Museveni government’s interests.

The promise of a strong man leader is a worthless hope

5. Like many Ugandans who witnessed the complete collapse of both the state and the economy during those six months of the Tito Okello military junta, I disagreed with my own father and welcomed Museveni’s ascent to power in 1986, notwithstanding the fact that his rise to state power was thanks to the barrel of the gun; but even then, there were persistent signs which showed Museveni to be just another brutal African dictator. Indeed, what is now emerging in Uganda following the outrageous amendment of the 1995 Constitution by Parliament in December 2017 is a new type of political culture – of an extremely powerful paramount chief – a paramount chief who is accountable to no one and above the laws of the Republic of Uganda. The discovery of oil in Western Uganda will, in my opinion, probably prolong Museveni’s grip on power for many years to come. It is now self-evident that right across the continent of Africa, charismatic leaders having seized power as freedom fighters or liberators, are afterwards reluctant to hand over power to anyone except to a close relative. It is a phenomenon that is all too alarmingly widespread in Africa. I am constantly amazed at the extraordinary length to which freedom fighters/liberators will go to hang on to power, even if it is at the expense of destroying the very achievements they’ve strived so very hard to achieve. The recently deposed Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe illustrates this point strikingly. The only conclusion one can draw from this phenomenon is that the supposed constitutional republics are now mutating into presidential monarchs in all but name; resulting in a melancholy sight of wickedness taking the place of justice, law and order; and the tears of the oppressed going unnoticed, while the oppressors wax even more fat in their accumulated power.

Dictatorship is an African trap like no other

6. Visiting the UK for the first time in the latter part of 1987, I made an eye opening discovery, which in the subsequent years caused me to look at Africa in a completely different light. Until then, and like most African people, I too was very defensive about Africa, my defensiveness bordered on the extreme pan African nationalist; I had accepted without question the idea to the effect that, given Africa’s undeveloped democracy perhaps it was better to give up a little freedom in exchange for peace and security. Indeed, I subscribed to the view that a degree of benevolent dictatorship was a good thing on the basis that the real world being as it is, the vast majority of Africans would probably have to endure one at some stage in their life any way. Why? Because Africa’s unique circumstances were such that only a strongman type of dictatorship could realistically provide quarrelsome African tribes – whose numbers are so diverse, with some form of order as opposed to chaos – a scenario that is an everyday feature right across the African continent. Although the circumstances alluded to still remain the same, I have now changed my opinion. I consider this argument as misconceived – the very argument that has provided an alibi to Africa’s failures for a very long time. If there is any hope of breaking the malign force wrought by tyranny and dictatorship, perhaps the time is ripe to look again at Africa with a fresh pair of unsentimental eyes – with a view of seeking out new practical solutions, of which servant leadership is but one, in order to break the African trap of dictatorship.

We need a lot more than the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’

7. For the avoidance of any doubt, if we take the situation in modern Uganda by way of example, it will be found that her present posture would test even the fabled ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ to resolve decades-old impunity, corruption, public finance mismanagement and blatant abuse of human rights. As recently as August 2018, participants in a chaotic by-election in a Northern Ugandan District of Arua, in which electioneers, members of Parliament of Uganda, crowds and all; were un-ceremonially treated to brutal beatings, torture, and the killing of an innocent driver, carried out by Uganda’s supposedly most disciplined branch of the army, the Special Forces Command. Indeed, I very much doubt if Solomon in his wisdom would venture himself on such undertaking as Uganda. This is because ultimately there can be no solution in Uganda apart from a comprehensive re-evaluation of her moral values. To attempt a search for such a thing would in a sense condemn many Ugandans to fall into the African trap alluded to above, of believing in the old fashioned concept of a ‘strong man leader.’ There are no easy answers.

What is a servant leader?

8. However, try we must! It is for this reason that I would like to propose an alternative form of leadership for Ugandans to consider – a servant leader. But what is a servant leader? The best definition outside the Biblical object lesson in which the Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself and washed the feet of his disciples, is that which was coined by the late Robert K Greenleaf in his famous essay, ‘Servant as Leader.’ The essay was published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf argued thus: “Servant-leader is [a] servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature…The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Examples of ‘servant leader’ – Nelson Mandela

9. Flipping through television channels the other day, as one does on a lazy Sunday afternoon when nothing much seems to be happening, I stumbled upon a biographical documentary film on the life of Nelson Mandela. Until then, I had never heard of it. The documentary, “Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation,” brought back many powerful and vivid memories (see video below). I well remember being enthralled by the sight of Nelson Mandela walking hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie, leaving Victor Verster Prison on that historic day the 11th February 1990, cheered on by an extraordinary crowd; the whole event was broadcast live across the world. How he was driven through a sea of well-wishers, black and white, to Cape Town Hall, where he made a moving speech; calling on the South African minority government to commence negotiations as quickly as possible and that the armed struggle against the violence of apartheid would not end until there was a realistic prospect of a peaceable resolution.

Servant leader – Nelson Mandela – embraces people(s) and unites a country

10. Considering how much he had suffered, namely, the personal pain he suffered, which is too well documented for me to repeat here; he for instance endured 27 years in bondage, including the forced separation from his family; Nelson Mandela had the extraordinary good sense to rise above his pain and losses and humbly accepted the challenge to serve his country in the most remarkable way. I well remember the dire predictions in the press at the time, of the unleashing of mass violence and retribution on the white rulers for the evil of apartheid when he assumed leadership, which were afterwards proved unfounded. Rather, it was his love of South Africa as a country which shone through the more powerfully; his conviction that the country should be a democracy with one-man one-vote open to all citizens that is truly astonishing, writing as I am in the 21st century world which seems to be aflame with politics of polarization. Nelson Mandela is remarkable for setting aside his personal differences, something which is hard to imagine in a modern black African country such as Uganda; he worked with those who had imprisoned him at Robben Island, to facilitate a peaceful transition of power. Wonder of wonder: he did the unthinkable by publically embracing his ‘ENEMIES,’ that is, he took the South African Rugby team to his bosom, wearing the South African Rugby jersey, beaming with pride and a Cheshire cat smile plastered on his face! I remember shedding a tear or two, something that was so out of character for me; I was brought up to be a stiff upper-lipped sort of chap. It is not just the English who are stiff upper-lipped! Nelson Mandela’s coup de grace was to willingly walk away from ‘POWER’ after serving a mere one term as the President of the Republic of South Africa.

Servant leader – Mahatma Gandhi

11. But if Nelson Mandela as a servant leader was willing to entertain violence in his fight against injustice in a socially complex country such as South Africa, and lead her to full representative democracy, there was another remarkable servant leader, who distinguished himself by resisting injustice with nothing more than non-violent civil disobedience in an even more complex country; for India was and still is a fascinating and diverse country, with many languages, cultures, castes, and religions. Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was remarkable for his leadership of the masses in India; he was an important architect and significant leader of the Indian freedom struggle. During the said struggle for freedom in India, Gandhi put into practice his servant leadership principles of non-violence and fasting, which led to the humbling defeat of the British Empire, forcing the British to declare independence to India on August 14, 1947.

Servant leader – Mahatma Gandhi – delights in serving the poor for their joy

12. It is well said that as daylight can be seen through very small holes, so little things will illustrate a person’s character. A story has it that when Gandhi was practising law in South Africa; he was wont to volunteer himself to work as a nurse in hospitals working among the poor, in his quest to identify with their suffering. When the black plague broke out in Cape Town on 1st February 1901 and rapidly spread to other towns such as Port Elizabeth, Gandhi volunteered to nurse victims at Reitfontein Plague Hospital, in complete disregard to possible infection, while fully aware of the risks to himself and his family. Writing about his experience in his autobiography, “The Story of My Experiment with Truth,” he writes: “…service can have no meaning unless one takes pleasure in it. When it is done for show or for fear of public opinion, it stunts the man and crushes his spirit. Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.” Thus we see that joy lay at the heart of Gandhi’s servant leadership. It’s no wonder that he was the inspiration of many great leaders such as Martin Luther King and Africa’s very own Nelson Mandela. His life’s work touched even a lowly chap like me; it is Mahatma Gandhi who inspired me to read law, so that I too may one day be of service to others.

Servant leadership works in business as well

13. But can the concept of servant leadership work beyond realms of politics and governance of a nation, that is, in business? Ms. Sally Percy in her delightful article, the inspiration of this blogpost: “Are You Ready To Become A Servant Leader?” which was published in Forbes on 2nd August 2018, thinks so! She concluded her article with some very practical tips thus:

Legendary Indian independence campaigner Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is generally considered to be a great example of a servant leader. Some of the best-known proponents of servant leadership in business today include Tony Hsieh, founder of online shoe and clothing company Zappos, Howard Behar, former president of coffee chain Starbucks, and Melissa Reiff, CEO of specialty retail chain The Container Store.

So what does it take to become a servant leader? Weston offers some basic tips for those looking to adopt this approach:

  1. Remember that the core ethos of the servant leadership style is the wellbeing and the development of people. So replace monthly progress meetings with an ongoing performance management framework that covers work-life balance along with the delivery of tasks.
  2.  Use weekly one-to-one meetings as a forum to discuss career progression, lessons learnt from mistakes and shortcomings, and to exchange valuable feedback. Employees perform best when they feel as though they’re making valuable contributions, so regular check-ins are instrumental for keeping performance on track.
  3. Use specialist software for people-centric insights. This year, analyst and research firm founder, Josh Bersin, predicted that employee feedback software would become widely used within workplaces. Employers have various options for regularly rolling out quick-fire employee pulse surveys to assess workplace culture and increase transparency.
  4. Celebrate top performers with incentives that show them that their contributions are valued. Today’s workers often value non-financial incentives, so team lunches, small perks such as discounts or birthday lie-ins, or additional days off are all welcome rewards.

Servant leadership – the arts and crafts

14. Those pithy tips simple though they may appear, but they do actually work in the successful conduct of any important endeavour in real life, even an undertaking as small as a charitable art gallery. A little instance by way of illustration may now be mentioned. During the height of the Major Financial Crisis of 2008, when I was footloose and free after closing down my consulting firm, an Irish lady friend of nearly 30 years standing roped me in to help run MK9 Art Gallery in Milton Keynes. MK9, originally known as AIM Art Gallery, was the brainchild of the redoubtable Anglo-Japanese lady, the late Mrs. Edna Eguchi Read FRSA. Although the gallery is now defunct, having finally closed her doors for good, I think in 2017, she nevertheless beat the odds and surprised many with her innovative and exciting programme of exhibitions; we held a new exhibition every month and the gallery was the talk of Milton Keynes for a while. Many artists in the counties surrounding Buckinghamshire and beyond beat a path to our doors in the hopes that the gallery would exhibit their work. One eventful day however, it so happened that we found ourselves with an empty slot in our exhibiting schedule. For the life of me, I cannot remember how we came to have an empty slot, but we were happy to leave the gap as is; we saw it as an opportunity to bring up-to-date our housekeeping including many other sundry activities. The art business is such that there is always something to do in the gallery.

A local difficulty in a busy art gallery

15. I think it was during my short break after a heavy lecture in ‘Management Accounting for Decision Makers’ at BPP Business School in the City of London, when I received an urgent phone call from one of my colleagues on the gallery’s management committee. “The two want to resign!” said the treasurer in a voice pregnant with shock. She continued, “If we don’t do something fairly quickly, we will have no choice but to close our doors to the public…the two are so critical to the success of the gallery” The context of the apparent urgency was owing to the fact that we were still in the restructuring process, and the gallery was as yet to be put on a sounder footing; the charity’s future was at that time still hanging by a thread. The cause of this unexpected turn of events was a group of three young Fine Art graduates, I think they had just graduated a few months earlier in 2011, all with a First Class Degree; they were each of them the first to go to a university in their respective families, and thus naturally very proud of their achievement. But their extraordinary achievement had strangely gone to their heads, to the extent that they imagined they knew everything there was to know about the art business; their arrogance insulted two of our most experienced members on the management team, who were 75 and 89 years old respectively. They both knew the art industry inside out based on their respective careers in the art world both in the UK and abroad; and, the 75 year-old had spent part of his career championing the cause of refugees, he always spoke about a Ugandan refugee whom he had personally helped through university; the said refugee went on to become a big man in the Museveni government. In the interest of discretion, the leading man in question shall remain nameless.

Seriousness is a hallmark of servant leadership – accountability

16. It was fortuitous that the incident occurred on a Thursday afternoon, and I learned about it on Friday mid-morning; it gave me a whole weekend to crisis manage the situation. I advised the treasurer to let the young men proceed with their plans for the exhibition, taking full responsibility in the setting up of the ‘artworks’ display and hanging (there is a certain skill required in ‘hanging art’ and galleries are distinguishable by their unique signature respecting the way they display art); and that I would look in first thing the following morning to resolve the problem and speak to the offended committee members individually in person if possible. But, how on earth does one resolve the problem without crushing the young men’s dreams, and, at the same time assuage the legitimate anger of the offended members? I would be a liar if I told you that I knew a lot about servant leadership at the time, I did not. We had not even started reading about leadership at BBP Business School, as the MBA programme for that year was still unfolding. But I knew that if I confronted the young men directly, I would end up nowhere with them and they would probably have quit, causing us considerable embarrassment; and, I would have lost two irreplaceable members of my management committee to boot. I however had the gumption to humble myself and go in and play the servant and clean the toilet, the kitchen and the storage area. One of the reasons for the dispute was that the young men had point-blank refused to volunteer to help with the cleaning of the said facilities as they considered themselves above such work. For a small charitable gallery that we were, it was essential to keep our costs down and that meant doing most the odd jobs in the gallery ourselves. We often asked exhibiting artists to join in; for we were, every one of us, a volunteer.

Servant leaders do not ‘lord-it-over’ – are big enough to be little!

17. Thus on Saturday morning the following day, I donned my scruffiest gear, which made me look like a jobs-no-body, and set out for the gallery in Milton Keynes. When I arrived, I found the young men and their crew busy setting up their exhibition; and, without saying a word to them, I set about cleaning the toilet, the kitchen, and the storage area. I even cleaned the entire floor of the gallery, making sure that they saw me doing it. When I was done, I left and went back home to make personal phone calls to the aggrieved parties. The young men mistook me for a cleaner; they even complimented my cleaning skills to the treasurer, who told them that we had no cleaner. She asked them to describe the cleaner they were speaking of, and discovered that it was me. She explained to them that the little man they just described was in fact the gallery’s chairman; she went on to add that it was because of me they were given permission to exhibit their work in the first place. For the art-works selection committee had originally rejected their work, it was my intervention which gave them a chance of a life time. Considering how incredibly difficult it is for young art graduates to get their first big break, what they heard left them completely dumb struck. They repented their folly. They immediately offered to apologize to the two offended committee members and resolved to help out in any way they could, including cleaning the toilet – which they did to everybody’s satisfaction. The long and short of the story is that the gallery survived to fight another day during the continuing financial crisis, and their exhibition was a success. But what has this anecdote got to do with servant leadership in Africa and Uganda in particular? Answer: a great deal!

Standing up to strong men of Africa

18. The last 60 years of post-independence Africa will go down in history as the age in which strong men escaped the bar of their country(s) because of their long-headed ways of evading the law; they are very good at keeping within legal bounds, and yet are great villains; or if they go over the line they hire clever lawyers to plead for them, be they as guilty as they may, and through craft pleading they escape from justice. This reality sticks in the craw of right thinking people both in Africa and abroad, that the time seems appropriate for us to seriously concern ourselves with the study of leadership, especially servant leadership. And, zooming in particularly on Uganda, the tragic by-election in Arua District, Northern Uganda, in which a politician’s driver was brutally murdered in cold blood and 33 politicians and activists were subjected to merciless torture; it is urgent for a meaningful dialogue on the country’s future to take place, that is, if Uganda is to emerge from the growing crisis unscathed. Moreover, the high-handed government’s response to the said Arua incident is probably the best evidence we have to support the appropriateness of this study; for it shows that the cracks in Museveni’s NRM system of government are now widening into crevices and soon, little by little, the whole edifice which has taken 33 years to build, will in the not too distant a future, come crushing down. Let us now consider the types of challenges likely to greet a servant leader with special reference to Uganda.

A word to the wise – pay close attention to the big picture

19. But to those who dream of an imminent collapse of the Museveni government, especially those who have fallen in with the new ‘People Power’ crusade championed by a one-time musician turned politician, one Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a word to the wise: Please pay close attention to the big picture; that is, consider the reality on the ground in Uganda today as it is, and not as you would wish it to be. First, reckon with the fact that Uganda is a very different country today than it ever was; for the country is now a byword for moral decay, in which notions of love, friendship, compassion, humanity, humility and forgiveness have since lost their meaning, depth and dimension. Secondly, be cognizant of the fact that Museveni is a desperately proud man. In my experience, proud men are apt thus to take it very much amiss if they are not given leave to dictate and give law to all about them, and to censure those as ignorant and obstinate, and all that is naught, who cannot in everything say as they say. In other words, it is one thing to expect an ageing and tottering dictator/freedom fighter like Museveni – to change and give up power in order to survive and save his skin: it is quite another to expect him to give up state power peacefully and to commit what the Japanese call, hara-kiri. Having yourself tasted his broadsword in Arua in Northern Uganda, it behoves you to be under no illusion about his willingness to employ terrorism and violence if they suited his purposes. Indeed, I have a dreadful prescience that Museveni will never be dislodged from state power without a bloody fight and anything less than a complete defeat will be in the circumstances not acceptable to many Ugandans who have suffered so much for so long. So what practical steps can we realistically recommend to the likes of the young Kyagulanyi?

Endure the dictator – he is a mere man

20. Speaking at Ming Chuan University in Taipei the other day, a precocious law student who had recently heard about the upheavals in Uganda put me on the spot and asked me directly what I would do if I were in the shoes of the young Kyagulanyi or any opposition leader in Uganda right now. I answered thus: Do not be driven to act precipitously in a desperate bid to remove Museveni from state power, but go the extra mile and endure him. Yes, you heard me right, suffer the dictator! The worst thing he can do to you is kill you, and after that, he can do nothing! It should be remembered that Museveni is a mere man – he is flesh and blood – he too shall go the way of all men. For as the writer of Hebrews is wont to remind us: it is appointed for every man to die once, and after death, judgment. Now I accept that it is a bit rich for me to make such a recommendation, seeing that I am sitting so far away in the relative comfort in Taipei, Taiwan; I am not in the immediate danger of harassment from Museveni’s security agents, I do not get to feel his broadsword. But I have given this issue a great deal of thought over many years; and I do not make the recommendation lightly. In ‘Bloody Independence – we wuz robbed! – Part 2,’ I addressed precisely this very situation thus: “…now is not the time to draw the sword of war, but to sheath it. We should, if possible, and in so far as it depends on us, resist the temptation to resort to violence; for anarchy is worse than any government, even a government presided over by [Museveni].” I suggested that “…we should make it our business to urge all educated [Ugandans] to be of good courage; and get to work cheerfully and patiently. It is needful to sacrifice private interests to the public welfare, and to lay aside all animosities among ourselves, that we may cordially unite against a common enemy, dictatorship. We should, however, not work confusedly, or in a hurry; but rather, we should take our time, and we shall be done the sooner or at least we shall have done the better; for if we work in a hurry, we shall do the work by halves.”

Uganda is a very young country – every single young life is precious

21. I think it was General de Gaulle who once complained about the difficulties of ruling a country which had 200 cheeses: now Uganda is not France, but how much more difficult do you suppose it will be to rule an impoverished country like Uganda, which boasts 56 tribes, two Abrahamic religions plus a panoply of so-called charismatic churches with dubious doctrine, they teach perverse things instead of speaking the Word of God – bringing shame on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep; four officially recognized indigenous kingdoms plus many others as yet not recognized under the current law of Uganda; and, an exploding population now numbering 40 million strong, 77% of whom are below the age of 30. The truth is: meaningful change in Uganda will be exceedingly slow and extremely painful. Building a successful representative democracy which sets clear boundaries on the powers of government; creating a market economy, that is, setting up a framework in which people’s talents and virtues are mobilized and not crushed; all of which buttressed by the rule of law, providing among other things, the confidence necessary for entrepreneurship, banking and the development of trade; providing legitimacy and stability to private property ownership – and the sense of personal responsibility – is an exceedingly tall order indeed! It will necessarily require a great deal of time.

The youth are Uganda’s best hope – invest and engage them

22. It is precisely for this reason that I went on to recommend in the blogpost cited above to target young people, the next generation as it were, with a view of supporting them. For “…they are liable to make what we might describe as a ‘young person’s mistakes’; they may not apply themselves with sufficient rigour to the small but hugely important business of nation building. Unless we help the next generation to set the wheels in motion, there is a real danger that they will lose a great deal of time and may even repeat our mistakes, the rather because, being young and inexperienced, they may be tempted to put off or even underestimate the difficult undertaking which is before them; whereas, if we enthuse and equip them, and have resources ready to hand, the most challenging part of the work would be over, and this might encourage them to get on with the fiendishly complex work of nation building in the strength of their youth.”

Give a servant leader a try

23. Ultimately, the future of Uganda must rest on good foundations; and these are always in the end moral and social, not material – not even foreign Aid money. The rule of law mentioned above, is the sum of moral and social values; for Ugandans must in the end see beyond this generation and the next, to see what she may look like in say, a 100 years’ time; and this, they cannot do without a servant leader at the helm. Accordingly, if I had had a chance to engage that drunken Taiwanese gentleman I met on the MRT, as I journeyed home in Danshui District, on the outskirts of Taipei, I would have impressed on him that a servant leader is not a sissy. On the contrary, a servant leader is the very epitome of courage, exactly what an impoverished country like Uganda most needs today in her hour of crisis. Uganda has tried a freedom fighter for a leader, who has enjoyed a fair crack of the whip, 33 years and counting; I think it is time now for Uganda to give a servant leader a try. Whether it is the young Kyagulanyi MP or some other opposition leader, we must leave it to the Ugandan people alone to decide on the issue. They deserve better!


Mandela (also called Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation) is a 1996 documentary film directed by Angus Gibson and Jo Menell. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.


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