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Leadership is about probity not age, tribe

Saturday October 19 2019

maritime border dispute

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers a speech during the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 17, 2018. PHOTO | MONIRUL BHUIYAN | AFP 

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I don’t know who sold us the idea that having a young leader, or one from the most marginalised community would result in bad governance, but it is a flawed theory, as Ethiopia has proved.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed, 43, was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize after resolving the conflict with Eritrea that had gone on for two decades.

How long did it take him? Dr Abiy came into office on April 2, 2018. In his acceptance speech, he promised to reach out to Eritrea and resolve this dispute.


On July 9,2018, he had resolved one of the longest border conflicts in our region by implementing the 2000 peace agreement with Eritrea.

It was a non-issue that the prime minister was from the Oromo community that had long been suppressed politically and economically by the country’s previous coalition governments.


Given Dr Abiy’s short but remarkable record as national leader, I can’t help but think of all the failed promises and those that we are yet to receive in Kenya. Where promises have been fulfilled, it has been after a long wait, the population having despaired and moved on to other concerns.

Let’s take a poll: When did you last see a leader make a promise and deliver it fully, on time or even earlier? If you have, then you are among the lucky few. For the most part, we never see it come to fruition; we keep waiting and hoping for delivery.


Yet I cannot fault us for being of faith and taking a chance on leaders to fulfil their mandate. Except we no longer have the luxury of taking a chance on our lives with leadership that influences and affects our healthcare and food security.

This Nobel win is a twofold indicator that we should only seek leaders who have proven that they can fulfil their mandate above and beyond what is expected, while also displaying effective leadership. If none of these are on their record, it shouldn’t matter that they are from one of the largest communities. Never has this ever equated to being an effective leader.

All week long, we have repeated Eliud Kipchoge’s mantra, “No human is limited.” If we truly believe that, we should put it into action by choosing a new breed of leaders from any community, provided there are indicators they can be effective leaders.


But should we fall for the same political fallacies and elect leaders who have proven they cannot and will not deliver on their mandate nor adhere to the Constitution, then we will have no one else to blame when it all goes south.

Let’s also not be too quick to dismiss the youth as inexperienced. Dr Abiy came into office at the age of 41 — one of Africa’s youngest leaders.

Leadership is not age-centred. With political will, any person can meet and fulfil a people’s expectations.

The writer focuses on children’s issues; [email protected]