What are we looking for in the first EAC President?

Come 2015 the colonial boundaries and walls that so divided the people of East Africa will come tumbling down. That act alone will be the greatest form of political consensus ever to have come from our leaders.

Come 2015 the colonial boundaries and walls that so divided the people of East Africa will come tumbling down. That act alone will be the greatest form of political consensus ever to have come from our leaders.

In this new dispensation my attention is drawn to one critical issue. Who is likely to go down in history as the first Head of State of this new and unique political entity?

This is a question that has occupied my mind for quite some time. Put in another way, the question is “what are the attributes of the kind of leadership we, East Africans, need?

I now turn to the frontrunners. I will go straight to one of our leaders who have been extremely passionate about the EAC since it was revived.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is clearly a front runner for this slot. There is no doubt that Museveni is a senior African statesman.

However my contention with a Museveni EAC presidency is premised on just one single issue. This is the leadership succession issue.

A good leader worth his salt ought to offer a credible and acceptable path for his succession. Indeed leadership succession is one of the challenges bedeviling the African political landscape.

An answer to this puzzle ought to come from the leaders themselves.

Within East Africa, Museveni is the longest serving president having been in office since January 1986.If he has to ascend to the EAC presidency starting in 2015 he will have been president for 29 years.

Although it is said that revolutionaries like him do not have a sell by date, another 10 year term within EAC will be a tad bit too much I believe.

This is because within the EAC Kenya and Tanzania has jealously guarded its two term limit on presidency since Mzee’s Nyerere and Arap Moi left the scene. Uganda is the exception to this rule.

Perhaps I will not be judged too harshly if I say that the most credible attribute a president can have is clean and transparent leadership succession.

This is going by the kind of reverence that we hold for personalities like Nelson Mandela and to some extend Daniel Arap Moi, Benjamin Mkapa, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Joachim Chissano and others.

Here in Rwanda President Paul Kagame has emphasized clearly and categorically that he will adhere to the Rwandan constitution, which stipulates a two term limit like Kenya and Tanzania.

It is only Uganda which is clearly left out. President Kagame’s reassurance sets him apart from many other leaders in Africa, past and present

To me, that is what the EAC needs. We need leaders who are able to plan in a credible way their succession paths; period. Legacy through succession is part and parcel of leadership.

This is precisely where Museveni might have missed the point. The EAC needs leaders who can provide continuity through proper succession.

ojiwah@gmail.com 

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