30 December 2017

Ethiopia: To Disavow the Strongman in U.S.


Citizens are the reflections of their leaders. And the latter's success is not only measured by outputs but also the country's condition during one's tenure in office. The leader's legacy instead tests the ability to create other leaders as capable successors. True leaders make their associates feel emboldened and powerful, not diminished and powerless.

When we look at the track records of successive Ethiopian leaders, though, there have been more failures in this regard than successes. The father of modern Ethiopia, Emperor Menelik II had been credited with creating the first Cabinet of Ministers in Ethiopia. The ministers would later become vital when Menelik fell seriously ill. For he did not have a successor popular enough like those who wielded power in those times, his fate then serves as an excellent example of what has happened ever since.

The last emperor of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie was fortunate enough to stay in power for more than four decades. Although he walked a relatively long journey to educate his subjects, he, nonetheless, was unwilling to think beyond his monarchy. This, aside from ending with him being relieved from power, left the country in the hands of the left-wing military junta, Dergue.

The Dergue, starting its reign with a coup d'état, was reluctant to include senior military personnel in his cabinet. Mengistu Hailemariam, guided by his infamous rhetoric that the revolution has transformed from one in the defensive position to one that is attacking, was not ashamed to publicly announce the those who did not take to his views would get the short end of the stick. Thus, it was unthinkable to stand shoulder to shoulder with him, even in his shadow.

In a time where the military was markedly scattered all over the country and Mengistu went into exile in Zimbabwe, no one seemed ready to have the courage to stand in the shoes Mengistu had abandoned. It serves as yet another story of how leaders with overwhelming personalities crippled their subordinates. Fortunately for the nation, the protracted civil war that coloured his incumbency soon ended.

But, the next leader did not fare better. The late Meles Zenawi likewise was unsuccessful in learning from his predecessors, which is evident not only in the current Prime Minister who succeeded him but also in the absence of capable individuals to assume leadership of the party. That is why it took so long to reach a consensus in the recent meetings between members of some of the four constituent parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). It is because the absence of a strong leadership that the current crisis is continuing.

This indicates that Meles' manner of leadership had denied his party the chance to have stronger members who could have been able to carry his legacy on. Like his predecessors, he chose to be surrounded by yes men for the cause and party that he devoted his life to.

The paradox of Ethiopian politics is that it pushes the well experienced and educated from leadership roles only to replace them with those reluctant to change and grow.

And that failure to find capable leadership is not confined to the political sphere alone. In most for-profit institutions, managers or presidents assume themselves as the movers and shakers of all sides of the business while their associates often remain anonymous. Due to this shortcomings, they would be forced to work under extreme pressure and beyond their retirement age. The ultimate effect of this organisational culture could be the demise of the organisation.

There is, for instance, that classic story of the famous businessman who owned several businesses in different regions of Ethiopia. Unfortunately, after his passing, his offsprings were unable to continue his business. That is because he neither coached his children to be independent nor found competent successors to manage his business. This is not an isolated incident and has been the case with leadership in Ethiopia in most areas whether political or economic.

The problem in our country is that we do not have mechanisms to document the life, successes and failures of notable individuals. Coupled with poor reading habits and inefficient media, we have been denied of learning from history.

Governance is the highest form of management, and below that there are several layers of managerial practices. Administration starts at the family, village, informal associations, businesses, labour unions and political parties. Political office could be considered the amalgamation of all layers of decision-making experiences.

Ultimately, it is the manner of leadership that we have been practising in our homes, our businesses and our neighbourhoods that has manifested itself in bad governance at the executive and legislative level. Thus, it should be the responsibility of every one of us to emancipate ourselves from the strongman syndrome. Furthermore, the notion of indispensability is not the quality of leadership, for great leaders have empowered others.

Areyam2004@gmail.com) Is a Public Relations and Communication Officer At Awash Bank. He Has a Blog Called - 'Aglegele.wordpress.com'. the Writer Would Like to Humbly Reiterate That the Viewpoint Is His Personal Reflection.


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