African Leaders Should Emulate Mandela [opinion] (

Africa is blessed to have produced a son who stood the test of time and won global recognition as a freedom fighter and served his people beyond self.

There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela (RIP) wanted to see people free and liberated from oppression, bad governance, and all forms of segregation. He preached the gospel of freedom, forgiveness, reconciliation, equality, liberty and education for all to mention but a few.

Current leaders talk about him as a global icon of peace and an exemplary leader. But what lessons have they learnt from his legacy? Looking around the current leaders, I do not see our next Nelson Mandela.

After decades of struggle, freedom finally came to South Africa and Mandela became president. He ruled for a short term and handed over power, a lesson most presidents have failed to learn. A good president who does not want to leave power is selfish. Mandela could have won several terms but he stepped aside to open space for new leadership. He remained an adviser, a peace mediator and a man to look up to.

Most presidents that come to power through armed struggle often find it hard to leave democratically. They claim to have fought for peace and so they stay to protect that ‘peace’. To me, a freedom fighter should be selfless. We should not require another liberation struggle to liberate a country from its so-called liberators-turned-dictators! Liberation is an act of service to the nation.

Constitutions across Africa are amended just to allow a president run for another term in office. Uganda and Burundi, among others, are live examples of this. Election results are always contested by the opposition claiming the elections were not free and fair.

Looking at Uganda, if you compare the Constitution as promulgated in 1995 and what it is now, a lot of amendments have been made, lifting of presidential term limits being one of the most contentious.

I salute our president, Mr Yoweri Museveni, for the good leadership. A lot has been achieved since 1986. However, overstaying in power undermines true democratic principles. I believe borrowing a leaf from Nelson Mandela would serve Uganda very well. Falling out with comrades such as Amama Mbabazi, Col Kizza Besigye, Mugisha Muntu, Gen David Sejusa, etc, alone is an indication that there is need for change.

As an experienced president in the region, Museveni can be of better use to his country as an advisor, to help breed a new generation of leaders. He can be a peace mediator within the region! In my Samia language, we have a saying that “nende ahina bilahi yesi atula mudiro” which can be literally translated as “even a good dancer leaves the dance floor”

Recently I read an article in one of the newspapers where a minister, who actually happens to be one of the NRM historicals, was saying that no one can just come and say he wants to succeed the president. He went on to mention that “you can’t say you want to take on the chair of your father when he is still standing.” I wondered if that was a representation of democracy or self-interest! That article added that “he will go when time comes or when he becomes old”.

When is that time, and what is the contextual definition of the term old?

In the recent years, the government has offered the opposition a bitter glass of cocktail juice with ingredients such as tear gas, kibooko squad, pepper spray, rape of the temple of justice, etc, etc.

The opposition continues to drink on that bitter cup because they don’t want to watch our country continue on the path to democratic and moral bankruptcy.

Much as we appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made during the armed struggle, we also note on the other hand that that armed struggle came after a failed attempt to power through the ballot. A government that purely came to power by the gun and is not willing to have a peaceful transition is not a true example of a democratic nation!

We need to build democracies that our children and grandchildren will be proud of and know that we set a concrete foundation for our nations! Once again, let us learn from Nelson Mandela.