The divide and rule system that colonialists used to conquer and control Africa is still manifested in Africa’s political structures today. Acquisition of independence did little to dismantle this system. That this is why tribal and regional jealousies takes a lion’s share in Africa’s body politic. While in functioning democracies voters seriously analyze presidential political aspirants, their manifestos, and votes from an informed point of view hence breeding sound micro and macro-economic policies, tolerance of divergent views and better health systems, among others, in Africa, voting is not always objective. It is informed by the desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of other tribes or regions.
In Africa, the voting experience leaves the voters polarized, divided, bitter and vengeful. It is not uncommon to find a few political elites or tribes dominating leadership and lording it over the rest. This is true in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Congo Brazzaville, Gambia and Cameroon.
What should be done to overcome ethnicity and polarization which for decades have characterized African politics and thrown transformational leadership out of the window? In my opinion, the solution lies in eliminating the office of the president and adopting a presidential commission governance system with members drawn from the technical bench people, hailing from all regions of the country, who chose a chairperson to lead the commission for one year on rotational basis.
The ideal number of this proposed presidential commission should be between four to eight members, depending on the regional demarcation of a country, where, a country is found to have many regions, some should be merged and harmonized, to make that country, not have more than eight regions. Where a region has many tribes, a commissioner representing the region on a presidential commission, should be periodically be chosen from each tribe.
Some of you may be wondering how term limits, which I strongly believe in, will be applied. They will be incorporated by making commissioners to serve, for instance, for five years eligible for re- election only once. The terms of the commissioners will not elapse at once. Depending on the numbers of commissioners, two or four commissioners will be elected from two or four regions after every two years hence as the terms of other two or four commissioners are about to elapse, the terms of the other two or four commissioners will still be ongoing with, say, three more years to go.
Under this system, monopoly of power and political patronage that has led to corruption, resource misallocation, and lopsided priorities will be checked. In this new arrangement, there will be no leader will be worried about being overthrown. The big man syndrome will cease. All critical decisions will need to be agreed upon after consultation and consensus. Building strong and independent institutions that are capable of promoting transparency and accountability in Africa can only take root under this proposed arrangement.
Political governance systems since the post-colonial period to date have only birthed egoistic leaders interested majorly in wealth accumulation and power retention through weakening institutions and institutionalizing political patronage. This needs to change. Africa needs leaders who are transformative, build empowering institutions and promote harmonious existence. This can be attained through restructuring our governance structures and adopting the presidential commission governance system, which has for years worked in Switzerland.
By Moses Hategeka
The author is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher and public affairs analyst.