The year 2011 will go down in the African political history as one of the most memorable.
The year represents the start of the third and latest stage of the growth of the African political leadership landscape after the decolonisation of the 1960s that ushered in the first breed of African leaders and the end of the cold war era of the 1990s that brought in what is now known as African home grown revolutionaries.
As the year comes to a dramatic close, and as African leaders are poised to meet in Addis Ababa next month at the African Union (AU) summit, the writing is on the wall for our leaders. The message is that the continent is for political change.
Actually, the year 2011 suggests that Africa’s greatest burden is leadership. The leadership challenge is what hinders Africa from the transformation we all yearn for given that the continent is generally is resource rich.
When three leaders from North Africa, known to be avid practitioners of cult leadership, were ousted by mostly young political activists with very little political experience-the event triggered a chain reaction in the entire continent that is likely to be felt for many more years to come.
This is due to the fact that just a few years before, say when Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup, no one could imagine Libya without Col Gaddafi or Egypt without Field Marshal Hosni Mubarak. Both epitomised the cult leadership common in Africa.
One of the major reactions of the events in North Africa, this year, was that, collectively, African activists organised popular and mostly non-violent protests in 15 countries in a bid to pass the message of change to leaders.
However, peaceful transition of power on the continent, is one of the rarest occurrences, presenting Africa with a particularly frustrating that must change if the continent is to reach its potential.
Next year, over 30 African countries are scheduled to hold elections. Going to the polls can be an edgy and sometimes bloody, if what happened in Ivory Coast is anything to go by. The same applies to DR Congo where, rather than offering the innocent Congolese an opportunity for political renewal, the just ended election is opening up old wounds that are likely to take its citizens to its dark days.
However, Africa is not likely to be purely held hostage to its past. Sweeping changes such as rapid economic growth plus changes in geo-political system that has seen the rise of the east coupled with advances in better communications, means that Africa will tackle head-on the leadership crisis bedeviling it.
There is light at the end of the political tunnel. There are few African leaders who are already serving as role models and agents of change in African and are slowly changing the political landscape.
Some of the new crop of African leaders have been studying the success borne by the Asian Tigers as one way of leapfrogging their economies to transform. Such a daring experiment in Africa that looks up to the east is happening in Rwanda.
Within the last 10 years, Rwandans have experienced sweeping reforms that have left both friends and foes in awe. Such major reforms have brought in varied forms of reviews and established Rwanda as one of the countries to closely watch next year.
The author is an editor with The New Times