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​ No American, Briton or Ugandan is indispensable

Edited by Admin
​ No American, Briton or Ugandan is indispensable

British politics is in crisis. Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned in disgrace on July 7. His successor, Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss, who took office on September 6, resigned in disgrace on October 20. The fall of the two prime ministers dented Britain’s reputation for stable government. Political commentators and humourists renamed the country “Britaly,” a play on Italy’s wobbly governments that habitually fall after short periods. Britain’s political crisis has deepened the country’s financial and economic difficulties.  


The choice of Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor of the exchequer, as the new prime minister of Britain offers hope for restoration of sound financial management. However, his Indian racial background may be too unpalatable for the more traditional citizens of the United Kingdom to allow his party, and Britain itself, to heal from the political turmoil. Time will tell. 


Across the Atlantic, the United States of America faces a political crisis too. Donald Trump, who grudgingly left office on January 20, 2021, after a failed coup attempt on January 6, 2021, continues to sow discord and disruption. He has continued with his political campaign based on the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. He is exploiting deep-seated discontent among Americans whose information-deficit makes them vulnerable to easy manipulation. He continues to use lies to stoke fear and racism. It is working. 


Trump has endorsed and sponsored like-minded folks that may well get elected to public office in next month’s mid-term elections. His goal is to democratically recapture the White House in 2024, not only to continue his disruptive policies, but also shield himself from multiple legal problems. He may well get re-elected. Should that happen, expect Trump to resume his chaotic, autocratic style of leadership that resembled that of life-presidents in undemocratic countries.


Throughout the twentieth century, Britain and America were the leading examples of societies with good and reliably stable governments. They had many people from whom they chose leaders that enjoyed well earned respect at home and abroad. British prime ministers like David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee, Harold Macmillan, and Margaret Thatcher were very positively consequential. Whereas some of them had bad endings, they had had several years of stellar work as prime ministers, in pursuit of their parties’ agendas.  


Likewise, twentieth century America was steered by several men who enjoyed honour while in office and continue to be ranked highly by presidential historians. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald W. Reagan, and Barack H. Obama were ranked among the top ten out of 44 presidents in the Presidential Historians Survey 2021.


The ranking was based on (1) public persuasion, (2) crisis leadership, (3) economic management, (4) moral authority, (5) international relations, (6) administrative skills, (7) relations with congress, (8) vision/setting an agenda, (9) pursuance of equal justice for all, and (10) performance within context of the times.


Trump ranked number 41, doing better than only three men – Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan – whose nineteenth century presidencies were good examples of how not to lead. 


There are excellent lessons to learn from Trump’s America and from the current political mess in Britain. Throughout Trump’s tumultuous years in the While House, he attempted to undermine the established rules and traditions that had propelled America to its pre-eminence in the international community, and had contributed to its attempts at healing its wounds from the civil war of 1861-1865.


However, Trump's efforts failed because America had very strongly entrenched institutions that withstood the presidential onslaught. Federal judges, among them those appointed by Republican presidents including Trump, frequently ruled against the president and his supporters. 


The House of Representatives, controlled by the Democratic Party, enjoyed freedom to legislate and to investigate allegations of Trump’s mischief against the United States. The States, which enjoy great autonomy and some independence from the central government, were able to take actions consistent with their own laws without fearing interference or veto by Trump. 


When Trump attempted to hang on to power by encouraging an attack on the Congress of the United States on January 6, 2021, his own vice-president ignored him and sided with the law-abiding legislators that had gathered that day to confirm that Joe Biden had been legally and legitimately elected president of the United States. The army and other security organizations did not bend to the whims of the president in his quest for illegal seizure of power. 


Meanwhile, America continued to function as though there was no crisis in the capital. Planes, trains, buses, and ships kept their schedules. Businesses stayed open, factories churned out their products and social services continued uninterrupted. 


Likewise, even as Truss informed the media that she was resigning after 45 days as prime minister, Britain went about its business as usual. There were no troop movements. The police did not beat citizens. Politicians who had forced Truss to resign were not arrested. There was plenty of evidence that the fate of Britain was not tied to that of the prime minister or other individual. Even the death of Queen Elizabeth II had not destabilized the United Kingdom. 


Former colonies like Uganda should attempt to copy these good habits of the British and their American cousins. Our freedom and hope lie in abandoning our feudal thinking and the illusion that our mortal rulers are indispensable beings. We need to let go of the notion that without our beloved ruler, our country will collapse.


Uganda will collapse if we maintain the narrow view that any single human being has a monopoly on wisdom, ideas, vision, and the ability to lead people whose intelligence is no less than his. One is encouraged by signs that Kenya seems to be moving in the right direction.


Ugandans need to scrutinize everyone that wishes to lead our country. I mean everyone.  Do they have the capacity and mental stability to lead? Do they have good skills in respectful public persuasion, or do they rely on force to assert themselves? What is their track record with crisis leadership, administration, and management ability?


What is the evidence that the would-be leader can effectively provide the political leadership for effective economic management? Do they have the moral authority to lead a country that is in the grip of corruption and spiritual darkness? Do they have the diplomatic skills and capacity for managing our international relations? What is their vision and agenda for our country? Are they capable of pursuing equal justice for all? Can they oversee sustainable professionalization of the armed organizations? Do they have the psychological and practical capacity to turn the security services into completely neutral, non-partisan defenders of the national constitution and the citizens?


Our dream must remain the transformation of Uganda from a captured state to a free society, governed through entrenched non-partisan institutions, where no single person imagines that they are indispensable. 


It will not be easy at all. We may not even see it in our lifetime. However, there is no option. It is mandatory.


© Muniini K. Mulera

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