Odinga’s surprise package for new AU Chairman — Paul Kagame

BY: Jennifer Ofori-Boateng
Paul Kagame
Paul Kagame

Last Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the 30th African Union (AU) Summit ended with a call for strengthening the continent’s resolve and capacity in the fight against corruption and poverty as part of actions towards the early attainment of the union’s long-term vision dubbed: Agenda 2063.

Other highlights of the summit included the election of Rwandan President His Excellency Paul Kagame, as the new Chairman of the union, operation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) policy to enable the free movement of persons and goods, implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), as well as the launch of a levy on eligible imports policy and many more.

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New leader

The election of President Kagame was refreshing, as he has proven to be a capable leader in the transformation of his own country Rwanda from “ashes to beauty”. He is the leader of the African country of eight million people that was plunged into a chaos of slaughter which left over one million dead.

To his credit, President Kagame has, since he took over after the genocide in his country, provided the leadership that has made it possible for widows, orphans, killers and survivors to find the heart to forgive, recover and rebuild the amazing Rwanda we see today.

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Given what he has done with and for his country, I have no doubt in my mind that President Kagame has what it takes to mobilise the AU for the attainment of Agenda 2063 which has been clearly envisioned and spelt out.

He has experience in managing and ending conflicts, poverty, corruption and above all putting in place measures for socio-economic transformation.

His country is the only one in the world where there are more women in the legislature than men.

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He must be a master craftsman at gender mainstreaming and re-engineering for development to have achieved such a record in favour of women in the National Assembly.

But that is not all - his leadership has so far delivered, sustainable progress in economic growth, health, education, technology, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, enterprise, etc.

My only concern with Rwanda during my last visit in December 2015 was the feeling that I was in a “Police State”, from the airport to the hotel and everywhere I went till my departure.

But I was assured the presence of armed policemen everywhere was part of the security system required for rebuilding the nation without any disruptions. “It will soon be over,” I was assured by a Rwandan management academic that I shared my concern with.

New problems

Few hours after the refreshing developments at the AU Summit, opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) Leader, Raila Odinga, presented a hitherto unknown problem in the continent’s political governance history.

Odinga had taken an unofficial oath as the “People’s President” of Kenya, compelling incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta to jet back into the country from his five-day official visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he participated in the AU Summit that saw the election of President Kagame as the new Chairman.

President Kenyatta is reported to have landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in style and to an unusual reception that asserted his authority as the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Kenya. The message was unequivocal – I am the elected President and I am in charge!

No one knows how the new problem in Kenya will pan out. What I am certain of is that Odinga’s move is a dangerous one that must not be allowed to stand as precedent on a continent that is already late in the race to development.

It must, however, be managed with absolute tact and care so as to avoid destabilising Kenya which is critical for the anticipated peace and development in the entire horn of Africa region.

Capable leadership

New as the Kenyan challenge may be, I am hopeful that appropriate solutions will be found. Kenyans have seen conflict before and they know where this contention can lead their lovely country if it is allowed to get out of hand.

As an incoming Chair of the AU, President Kagame showed a deep appreciation of the African challenge, as well as what it would take to overcome. In his address at the summit, he said: “Africa’s defining challenge is to create a pathway to prosperity for our people; especially the young people,” adding that: “Elsewhere, this has been achieved through industrialisation.

But the growth trajectory that transformed Asia is not necessarily any longer a viable option for Africa, simply because we waited too long.

Technology has evolved so rapidly in recent years, that Africa’s window to follow that strategy is narrowing much more rapidly than previously understood. We are running out of time, and we must act now to save Africa from permanent deprivation.”

Well, when you hear such forward-looking statements from a leader with a sense of urgency, it can only boost your confidence in his or her ability to deliver to expectation.

It is my hope and prayer that Chairman Kagame will remain focused and dynamic in his leadership of the continent as the challenges keep changing. Yesterday’s solutions will not necessarily solve today’s problems.

Dynamism is required!