Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No president can be good leader forever, says Mogae

President Festus G. Mogae led the Republic of

President Festus G. Mogae led the Republic of Botswana from 1998 to 2008.  

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

On Monday, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation unveiled the 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), showing the performance of various African states in the four categories of governance: safety and rule of law; participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

From Tanzania and Kenya in the East, Zimbabwe and South Africa in the south, to Togo and Liberia in the West, the unveiling comes at a time of heightened political activity and drastic socio-economic activitiy.

Political Platform grabbed the opportunity to seek an analysis of the current political events in Africa, through an interview with former Botswana President Festus Mogae, who himself is one of the recipients of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Excerpts:

I am told the newly-launched index seeks to enable governments, citizens and other stakeholders use its findings as a tool to assess the delivery of public services and drive conversation about governance in Africa. How good a benchmark is this tool?

I think it’s a genuine effort to enable us African leaders to improve on the ways we deliver to the people…it’s a serious attempt to measure our performance in the rule of law, human rights, gender and good governance. In a country where there is rule of law, then, there is development, health and accountability…we don’t have to agree with everything said in the index but I would argue that things such as rule of law and good governance are quite relevant…

Let me take you away from the index to the wider picture of African governance. Looking at the state of democracy in Africa? Is the continent progressing or regressing?

That question is answered by the index itself. It…tells you what countries have achieved and in what, [it shows] which countries have deteriorated or improved. It shows which country was where, in the last ten years. However, my own opinion is that in terms of democracy, Africa is improving because there are countries which held elections. There are still others lagging behind but in terms of elections, we are improving. We now have an objective measure of the performance of individual countries, and that’s the index.

There are important events happening right now in Africa, such as the latest Zimbabwe power takeover and the highly-contested election in Kenya. What do these events mean in Africa’s governance? Are there lessons African leaders have to pick from what has happened?

One of the things I would talk about is term-limits. There seems to be a belief that term-limits is a western thing. I don’t agree. Whether term-limits or no term limits, we have to agree that no one can be good for ever. Even football players reach their prime, then, they begin to go down. In leadership also.

There are good leaders, they lead well. Taking an example of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe was a very able man. But, he is old now. If he had left office after ruling for 25 years, he would still be a hero. That’s what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere[of Tanzania] saw.

We saw change of leadership take place in Kenya recently. In that case, is Kenya setting a good example?

I think we have to first look at [the new Mo Ibrahim Index] and what it says about that country…outside that, it’s my personal opinion. However, I get the impression that despite all the challenges that we have heard, there is a gradual improvement in the way elections are held in Kenya. The last time I went on a Commonwealth Observatory Mission in Kenya, it was a time when seizing power was through tribal means.

But I think now I heard the opposition has formed something like a political federation or coalition, I think that’s a desirable thing. Kenyans have learnt from their mistakes. That’s my personal opinion, I would be interested to hear your personal opinion too… [Followed by a little laughter…]

I hope you are also watching the developments in Tanzania. In the last two years, we have a President who has declared war on corruption and is highly praised in Africa for fighting laxity in public service. That’s President John Magufuli. What’s your take on his leadership style?

Well, I have heard about the same things about him—fighting corruption and improving public service. I have also heard that he uses an unconventional style. I don’t really know much about him. By the end of five years, I would wish to look at the Mo Ibrahim Index and see how he will have performed in fighting corruption. Whether he has succeeded or not, I will measure him by the Index. Since older times, your country [Tanzania] is associated well with good governance. Things like corruption happen everywhere, so we have to also measure him [President Magufuli] on good governance.

While on a tour of Uganda recently, President Magufuli of Tanzania and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni spoke in one voice against the International Criminal Court (ICC), that it was meddling in East Africa’s internal politics by interfering with the on-going negotiations in Burundi. How correct is their stance, to you as an African leader?

Well, that’s what they are saying. It’s their personal opinion. We, Africans are the ones who gave way to the International Criminal Court. Now, when it comes to disciplining those in power, we say it’s bad. It’s a bad importation. I think that’s unfair. There have been several cases from Africa which have so far been taken there. I agree that the ICC tends to target African countries, and not others. But, look, there is a problem. We have to think, as African leaders, that there are cases of alleged killings, whether it’s in Central African Republic or it’s DRC, or anywhere in Africa. We are the ones who opted to have this ICC. The problem is that when it comes to challenging those still in power, we tend to say no no no no! We don’t want that.

I am interested to hear how you spent your $5m Mo Ibrahim prize money that you won in 2008?

[Laughter…] I give scholarships to students. I believe in education, so I have spent it on education, mainly for the deaf and blind children.

You are credited for having consolidated the leadership in Botswana when the country was facing an HIV/Aids pandemic. Looking at the HIV/Aids challenge continentally, is Africa winning the battle against it?

Well, I can see there is complacency. We feel that HIV/Aids is no longer an issue. We are no longer dealing with it just as we did in the past. As result, as a result, new infections on the continent, including in Botswana, are going up. That’s why I have formed an alliance [with other African leaders] we call ourselves Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation in Africa, to keep reminding leaders that this enemy has not gone away. That we should continue preaching about prevention such as advocating condom use.