Monday, April 13, 2015

Reflections On Leadership, Good Governance And Development In Africa

H.E. Joaquim Alberto Chissano


April 2015
University for Development Studies (UDS)
Tamale – Ghana

Dr. A. B. Salifu
Chairman of the University for Development Studies (UDS)

Prof. Haruna Yakubu
Vice-Chancellor of the University for Development Studies (UDS)

Deans of Various Departments and Colleges of the University

Distinguished Guests

Students of the University

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed an honour and privilege to me to have been chosen to deliver the Third Edition of the Africa Leadership lectures at such a distinguished university of Africa. I’m happy to offer my humble contribution to this exercise aimed at stimulating discussion and action on African leadership and governance, in the hope that this exercise will support and enhance development in Africa.

In this lecture I wish to share with this august gathering my “Reflections on Leadership, Good Governance and Development in Africa”. These reflections are essentially based on my experience at the helm of my country, Mozambique, as well as on the interaction with fellow African Leaders during my tenure as Leader of Mozambique.

Senior Officials of the University;
Distinguished Students of the University;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Africa is often regarded and described in a rather negative way, as a continent suffering from poor leadership. Afegbua and Adejuwon (2012) provide an overview of that negative reading, by portraying Africa “as a continent facing a leadership and governance crises”. They argue that “Africa’s failures have come about largely as a result of frequent leadership change, lack of ideology, policy reversal and weak institutional pattern.. The leadership selection process in Africa is seen as often taking the imposition pattern and that African leaders frequently come to their position with limited experience. Hence, the decline in moral and discipline, caused by bad policies, eroded professional standards and ethics, and weakened systems of governance.”

However, I beg to differ with this view and should like to point out that there is out there a different Africa moving forward. As a matter of fact, Africa’s political landscape is changing for the better. We have moved from one-party democracy to multi-party democracy; from life presidency to tenure presidency; from unconstitutional changes of government to democratic changes of government.

The economic landscape has also changed drastically. Africa is considered to have some of the fastest growing economies in the world. With changing political and economic landscapes, new legal requirements to promote democracy and good governance are being adopted and sustained. We as Africans should claim the credit and be proud of these tremendous achievements.

Indeed the African continent has come a long way in embracing democracy and democratic values as a way of building good governance and ensuring respect for the rule of law. Colonialism was a classic case of bad governance. The post-independence leadership had to entrench its legitimacy on delivering to the people. Good governance was, therefore, an imperative for post-colonial Africa’s political landscape. To ensure good governance, African leaders had to recognize the need to institutionalise or reinforce a system of checks and balances.

Multiparty democracy provided the opportunity for different political groups to compete and accede to political power. Through democratic values and principles it was possible to promote the notion that there was life after presidency and that life-presidency violated the basic rights of people to choose their own leaders, through elections.

Since then, elections have become common as Africa goes through electoral processes on the continent every year. We can say that democracy has taken root on the continent and good governance is evolving within the context of democratic values and principles. All these remarkable developments happening in Africa attest to the effective leadership being pursued by African leaders, around the continent.

Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Mozambique has been going through a wave of political, constitutional, social and economic reforms aimed at strengthening governance systems and institutions. These bold reforms have demanded strong leadership for them to yield much needed positive results.

When I became President of Mozambique, in November, 1986, following the dramatic death of President Samora Machel in an apartheid regime masterminded plane crash, my country, as most others in Africa, was a single-party state that was facing a devastating war, led by the then called MNR (National Resistance of Mozambique, later renamed Renamo) against the Government. It was clear from my first day in office that my immediate and fundamental task as the leader of the country was to find a permanent solution to that destructive conflict affecting the Mozambican people.  Over time that followed, my awareness was reinforced through the frequent contacts I had with the people in different provinces of the country and many other groups in our society, namely, religious groups, civil society organizations, the media, among others. In all these contacts, the common denominator was the need to put an end to the prevailing war, and that the President had to take the lead for the materialization of this goal.

However, among those social groups there were differences on how to reach that goal: the most prevailing mood across the country was that it was necessary to fight and finish off the “armed bandits”, as Renamo fighters were then labelled. Other groups, in particular religious groups, among others, were of the view that a negotiated solution should be pursued, as this would be a first step towards a national reconciliation, leading to a permanent peace.

The vast majority of the population, particularly in rural areas, held the strong view that the Government and I in particular should not meet and negotiate with those who took up arms to inflict untold levels of suffering to their fellow countrymen, killing without discrimination old people, youth, children, women and men, and, at the same time, destroying the economic and social infrastructure of the country, including schools, health facilities, roads, railways, bridges, power stations and transmission lines, farms, industries and housing.

The degree of Renamo’s cruelty and atrocities in Mozambique, was documented, among many other publications, in a 1988 report produced by Robert Gersony, an American consultant commissioned by the US State Department. His main conclusion was that, in terms of brutality to the populations, Renamo was worse than the Khmer Rouge, known for the atrocities they committed in Cambodia, under the Pol Pot regime. 

For these reasons, initially, I was not finding any popular support to pursue a negotiated settlement with Renamo. To change this state of mind, I had to work hard, talking face to face with the people, in all the 128 districts of the country, including in the localities and villages.

On the other hand, for the majority of my colleagues in the FRELIMO party leadership, being this rebel group a creation of the minority regime of the Southern Rhodesia, led by Ian Smith, and later adopted, financed and logistically supported by the apartheid regime of South Africa, Renamo was only an instrument of foreign aggression, without any political legitimacy and constructive agenda for the country.

In their opinion if negotiations were to take place they should be with “the owner of the dog and not with dog”. Although these were valid and strong arguments, they were however overlooking the fact that the previous attempt to end the war through an agreement between the Governments of Mozambique and apartheid South Africa, the 1984 Nkomati Accord, failed to produce the intended results and that failure was an indication that negotiating with the apartheid regime alone was not sufficient.

I was convinced that it was possible to find a permanent solution to the war, but I first needed to address the reluctance within the party and the society at large. To that effect, I started a patient dialogue with the different strata of our society and within the FRELIMO Party structures as well. Gradually, the mood stated to change in a positive sense, until I felt that I had reached enough consensuses within the ranks of my party and with the population in general to pursue a direct dialogue with RENAMO.

The next challenge in the preparation of successful negotiations was to change the existing constitution, moving the country from a single-party state to a multiparty democracy. This was an important step, as one of the reasons for the failure of the previous direct negotiations which took place in Pretoria between the Government of Mozambique and the RENAMO Rebels, during the Presidency of Samora Machel, following the signing of the Nkomati Accord, was precisely the lack of political space in the constitution for the independent existence and action of other political parties. In other words, it was necessary to create conditions for the exercise of multiparty democracy.

To kick-start the process, a new draft constitution was submitted to public debate and enrichment through people’s ideas and inputs across the country and in the diaspora. The public debate took around two years and was held in all districts and most localities of the country. Among the key innovations proposed in this draft were the opening of the country to multiparty democracy, the adoption of market-oriented economy and the expansion of freedom of expression.

The outcome of the debate was that the overwhelming majority of the people in the country were opposed to multiparty democracy, as it was viewed as a highly divisive risk to the country, with the potential to nurture tribalism and other forms of division, fuelled by ambitious and unscrupulous politicians.

Within FRELIMO, this risk was particularly felt given the history of divisionism the organization had to face during the liberation struggle, coupled with the sour experiences of other countries.

Furthermore, for some comrades, the change from socialism to capitalism, as they put it, was not acceptable, on ideological grounds. For them, the proposed changes amounted to a betrayal to the masses. Indeed, some of these comrades had joined the liberation struggle precisely with the conviction that socialism would be the official doctrine to be pursued by the liberation and be adopted by the independent Mozambique. In fact this actually happened in the FRELIMO Third Congress, in 1977. Therefore they felt it very difficult to accommodate the proposed changes, both emotionally and ideologically.

I did not take these arguments and reservations lightly, as I knew well the valuable contribution the concerned colleagues gave to the liberation struggle, as well as their strong dedication to the newly independent country. But, on the other hand, I could not let the status quo prevail, as the demand for peace was pressing in the country, as I said earlier.

All evidence I had strongly suggested, on one hand, that a military solution to the conflict was not feasible, and, on the other hand, that without political space for independent existence and activity, Renamo would not accept any peace agreement.

Against this background, I had therefore to steer the Mozambican people and Frelimo Party itself, through a patient, systematic and methodical dialogue, which created the necessary political conditions for the adoption of the new constitution, in 1990. I had to explain that, although the majority of our population did not favour multiparty democracy, it was advisable to open space and opportunity for those minorities who eventually wanted the multiparty system to be able to create their own political parties, including Renamo, to be allowed to do so, as a contribution to peace. I added that if the majority of the people were supporting FRELIMO then, there should be nothing to fear as they would continue to do so.

On another hand, I was following the world trends that pointed out to the need of reforms particularly in Africa towards multiparty democracy. Some African leaders tried to convince me not to accept any pressure to change from the one single Party State we had. Some of such advisers were very well respected leaders by the western great powers.

I would like to mention as one example the wise maen that was the late President Felix Houphouhet Boigny of C├┤te d’Ivoire. He told me that I should be careful with the advice of the Europeans, as they were false friends who did not care about the bad things that could happen to our countries if we were to follow their advices or pressures. And he illustrated what he was saying with is prediction of what would happen in his country if it were to adopt a Multiparty State system. He said: “My country will be divided on tribal lines. There will be war my brother, Joaquim. You should avoid that to happen in your country.”

H.E. Joaquim Chissano pays courtesy call on Ghana's Prez John Dramani Mahama
Fortunately, I had already taken my decision to move towards multiparty democracy. When a number of African Heads   States participated in a meeting, at La Baule with the late President Mitterrand of France, where this European ruler tried to call for a change into multiparty democracy I had already taken the decision.

I told President Mitterrand that had already decide to introduce multiparty democracy in spite the fact that my country was one of the poorest in Africa, with the lowest rate of literacy (above 80%) with a weak state apparatus, with a meager judicial base with no magistrates, a weak police service and above all it was a country chattered by a war of destabilization. I told him that I was taking a risk.

I suggested him to launch a “Mitterrand Plan” to help in the reconstruction of Mozambique and the building of the multiparty democracy, which in my view was not to be achieved uniquely by the adoption of a low. It had to be built progressively and for a long term and all of these required a lot of money. Multiparty system is an expensive system. But one has to recognize its positive aspects.

Internally in Mozambique, I had argued that our country was not a closed Island where outside ideas would not penetrate, especially in the era of the new technologies of communications. I defended that it was better that we lead our own changes instead of being forced to change by any form of pressures or be forced to copy from formulas created overseas for the Continent. That is why we were the first to change among the countries with a single party system particularly in Southern, Central and Eastern Africa.

At the same time we established a limit of term of office tenure for a Head of State. In what concerns the dangers of division of the country on tribal and religious basis, In Mozambique we had reflected under my guidance about the possibility of the emergence of tribal, regional or religious based parties and we had thought about the legal ways to avoid it to happen. For instance a Political Party to be registered had to prove that it had some support from all Provinces of the country and that it was open to citizens from any religion.

Concerning the debate about the economic orientation or model to follow, it was necessary to explain that although neither socialism nor capitalism were perfect economic systems, the adoption of the market-oriented economy by Mozambique was a pressing necessity, because we had started to invite investments from the capitalist countries and since the beginnings of the 1980’s we had come to the conclusion that the aid from the socialist countries was inadequate for the needs of our development. We had started to make changes in our economic and trade relations.

In 1985, while I was the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of my country I visited the Soviet Union as an envoy of President Samora Machel and I was amazed but the interest shown by the leaders of that country on the changes that Mozambique was introducing in its economic management.

They had perceived the value of our changes probably beyond the value we gave to it. It was repeated when I went there again in 1986. Later, when I was already the President of the Republic of Mozambique the then Ambassador of the Soviet Union expressed his sympathy with changes we were undertaking saying that in his opinion Mozambique had started  “its Perestroika” much before the Soviet Union. 

Here again for the adjustment of our economic conduct to the changing times we should not wait to adopt the pertinent political and economic bold decisions if we didn’t want to adopt them under pressure from the donors and international organizations. The interest of change was ours.

Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

What I’m sharing with you is just a summary of a long and tortuous political, economic, social, cultural and emotional process of reform, with moments of doubt and frustration, which culminated with the signing of the Rome Peace Accord between the Government of Mozambique and Renamo, in 4 October 1992. Indeed, the level of objectives to be achieved was very high, as was also very high the level of obstacles and challenges to overcome.

The implementation of the Accord was another major challenge, as it was necessary to mobilize the people to avoid revenge and other hostile acts that could give excuse to Renamo to abandon the process and go back to war. It was also necessary to mobilize other forces in society, in particular religious groups, to preach messages of peace, pardon and national reconciliation.

The messages should also be targeted to Renamo membership. Indeed, the implementation of the Accord was a challenging process to Renamo, as it had to change from a military rebel group to a political party, learn and practice politics and democracy, try to build internal cohesion among members exposed to different realities during the war, manage their expectations, build relations with other political forces, adapt to life in urban areas, to be exposed to the scrutiny of the media and other forces in society, etc.

Soon it became clear that the signing the Rome Agreement was just one step, an important step indeed, in a long-term process leading to better living standards of all Mozambicans. The same attitude of remaining focused on the pursued objective, but at same time managing obstacles and other challenges along the way, had to be kept in the simultaneous process of consolidating peace, resettling refugees and displaced people, rebuild economic and social infrastructure to provide basic services to the populations, reforming institutions in conformity with the new constitution and creating the legal, judicial and institutional framework for the long-term development of the country.

Senior Officials of the University;
Distinguished Students of the University;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

The fundamental objectives set for that period were achieved, namely, to end the war, consolidate peace, resettle refugees and displaced populations, national rehabilitation of infrastructure and the laying of the foundations for the long-term development of the country.

In this process, we have paid particular attention to institutional development, through a combination of human capital development and enabling legal framework. Our understanding is that the quality of the relations between the government and the citizens, including the respect of their rights, largely depends on quality of the public institutions in place. In turn, the quality of these institutions depend on the professional quality of their cadres and the legal norms that guide their organization and functioning, in addition to other resources made available. I’m convinced that good governance we talk so much about today, shall be more ensured by capable institutions, public and private, including the media, rather than by personal intervention of the leaders.

Coming back to our post-war agenda, I have to say that we were successful in this enterprise because we adopted the right working methods, consisting of collective discussions of the country’s challenges, setting of priorities and building consensus on how to solve them. In the debates, there was space for intellectuals and technical experts, but also for the common citizens. The debates were followed by decisions. Quite often the decisions were not easy to take, but they always needed to be timely.

During my childhood and youth, among my friends and colleagues I always used to naturally help or assist those in need, as I was concerned with their success and above all with the success of whatever we were doing. I also liked to do things myself, instead of asking others to do it for me, unless it was absolutely necessary.

With time, this spontaneous attitude became more consolidated and fundamental aspect of my relation with others. I started to realize that people would quite often choose me to be their leader. Only later I understood the reason behind that preference. They found in me somebody dedicated to the common cause who very often advanced some alternative solutions even if it was about combining their ideas and recognize their correctness. They felt that I supported them in the fulfillment of their respective roles.

Today I understand this as a leadership style, but as I said it was natural and spontaneous. This may lead us to think of born leaders. The qualities of born leaders are good. This is the kind of Samora Machel, myself and other leaders in the southern Africa Region. But my experience shows me today that in the era of modern technology and sciences including economic sociological, political and the attempts of codification of patterns of Good Governance and Leadership, training of young people who are the potential leaders of tomorrow becomes very much a necessity and this has to start during the school age.

Those who have born qualities of leadership still may emerge as the best leaders among the trained ones in leadership. And besides theoretical training they should pass through a practical experience of serving as subordinates in public and private sectors. They should be good servants before becoming good and excellent leaders.

I believe that natural potential for leadership can be developed by training and education, as I said earlier. That is why that we, at the Joaquim Chissano Foundation, are in the process of creating with some partners an Institute on Leadership and Governance, to train, educate, disseminate knowledge and develop leadership skills in interested citizens, enabling them to improve the performance of their public and private institutions.

Distinguished Guets;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

In my opinion leaders emerge in a process of collective pursuit of common aspirations. And the best leaders are those who never aspire to become leaders, those who did not chose to be leaders but they become leaders by the recognition by their peers of a number of qualities that inspire the whole group or at least the majority of the group involved in an activity aimed at achieving a defined objective.

Normally such persons are distinguished by their dedication in the pursuit of the success of the tasks of their collective, the success of their enterprise without caring with singling out their personal contribution to the pursuit of the cause. On the contrary they are keen to see their colleagues succeed in their assignments. The success of the collective work leading to the attainment of the common goal is the only satisfaction such distinguished persons look for.

They do not expect praises to their work, they do not expect to be thanked or paid for what they do, anyway not more than the remuneration established for them whenever remunerations are paid in the   organization or group where they exercise their activity.

Normally their views are listened to by the other members of the group for they do come very often with suggestions to improve the overall work of the team. That’s why they start to be followed by the others in whatever they do or suggest, they are very often consulted and finally chosen to lead

Without being prescriptive, I believe that the supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible. I share the view that the roots of effective leadership lie in simple things, one of which is listening. Listening to someone demonstrates respect; it shows that you value their ideas and are willing to hear them with due attention and consideration.

I also believe that all organizations need the capacity for leadership to appear anywhere it is needed, whenever it is needed. Isolationism deludes leaders and leadership style. When I was Head of State and Government I always took decisions by consensus after listening to all members of my Cabinet

Leadership is essentially about keeping all stakeholders united and committed in solving the multiple and increasingly complex problems our countries are faced with. This includes the identification of the political leader with the people. In the case of Africa the contact between them must be very frequently personal. The use of modern communication technology should come as complementary. The people at all levels must participate in the search of solutions for their problems.

Collin Powel, the Afro American General who was once Secretary of State, said that “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems, is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care and therefore you do not deserve to be a leader. Either case is a failure of leadership.” I could not agree more with him!

We are all aware that as a leader one is not there to make a living, through unscrupulous means and tactics. Self-enrichment using the position of authority is a lethal poison in leadership. You are there in order to enable your organization and ultimately your country to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.

You are there to enrich your organization, your community and, therefore, your country and, as a leader, you impoverish yourself if you forget the reason why you are there. Very often leaders tend to forget that they became leaders because a group of people thought they had the required qualities to address their common demands and aspirations for a better livelihood.

Senior Officials of the University;
Distinguished Students of the University;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Concerning development, the main challenge our countries are faced with is to adopt a long-term strategy, as development does not happen overnight. In that strategy we need to ensure that the interests of different groups in society are harmonized, which means that every citizen should be ensured of space to pursue his or her legitimate economic interest or business. Thus, the role of public institutions is key as I said above, as they should make sure that existing laws and regulations are applied equally to all citizens, irrespective of their position in society.

When fairness is not applied, citizens develop sentiments of indignation, exclusion, marginalization and revolt, which can lead to conflicts. Governments need to understand that, today, citizens are more aware and knowledgeable of their rights and will fight for them, whenever they are violated. In order to prevent the violation of the rights of the citizens, in particular their economic rights, the appropriate public institutions shall ensure that all government officials, whatever their level of responsibility should be accountable for their acts. In other words, the struggle against corruption shall be enhanced in our countries, and thus stopping impunity.

In the development agenda, ordinary citizens want to see tangible results. They want to see roads, hospitals and schools being built. They want food, food in their tables and food security. After having gone through the horrors of war, they want to cherish peace and stability. Their major concerns are basic human needs and they will respect the leader who can deliver such services.

Many leaders remain locked in their offices while leadership is about going to the people, discussing with them and addressing their concerns and demands. Leadership is about delivering on promises made. If you make a promise, you must deliver – and that is what accountability is all about. A leader should not promise what he/she cannot deliver.

The challenge of leadership is to anticipate demands and aspirations of the people and design appropriate strategies to address them. To this end, leadership must have the requisite capacity to anticipate, or in other words, to read the minds of the people and address their expectations.

As I said earlier, there are no magic or infallible formulas that will take you to the success. There is a high element of risk and uncertainty involved, but the best way to manage those risks is to be in constant contact with the people, is to be accessible to them. When this happens, people will always have opportunities to share with you their views and sentiments about the prevailing situation, even making suggestions and proposals to correct errors and mistakes.

With these working methods, the leader ensures the participation of the people, the common citizens, in addressing the developmental challenges of the country, thus making room for them to complement the work of the intellectuals and technical experts. These working methods provide a new dimension of accountability, which is people-centered, but, again, in complement with what experts produce.

In this regard, leadership requires organizational structures and systems focusing on addressing the demands and aspirations of the people. In the current wave of social media, leaders cannot promise and not deliver, for this will almost certainly invite something like what is now commonly referred to as the Arab spring.

Discontent and popular uprising are part of leadership’s failure to deliver. Sometimes leaders see things but they do not believe what they are seeing. Leadership for development is anticipating and addressing potential trouble spots and not waiting until it is too late. Early warning demands early action.

Senior Officials of the University;
Distinguished Students of the University;
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me conclude by submitting that our countries need to adopt mechanisms for assessing effective leadership, such as the Mo Ibrahim Index. We may not necessarily have to adopt the Mo Ibrahim index. However, we need to have some indicators for measuring success or failure, towards the development of an effective leadership; one that is transparent and accountable.

I thank you.

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