The Forum

What We Want in Political Leadership

By Ikal Angelei,

So what do we want in our political and civil leaders? Because politics is the “art of the possible,” we want leaders who can practice the political art without selling their souls to the devil. We want people who can achieve maximal results for the common good, as they understand the common good, with the recognition that others can legitimately see things differently than they do. And we want leaders who know that there is no perfect and lasting good in this world, and never dare to promise such a thing to anyone.

We want leaders who listen to others, tell the truth and learn from their mistakes. We want leaders who resist reinventing themselves every few weeks to please and appease one or another political constituency or voting bloc. We want men and women who do not demonize their critics and opponents while alleging to respect them deeply. We want leaders who can compromise their convictions within acceptable limits, without betraying their consciences, in order to achieve the best for the most, as they understand the best to be, in cooperation with their political opponents. We want people capable of changing their minds and admitting their errors. And we want leaders who don’t seek “all or nothing” in ideological battles that no one wins and that produce countless casualties. In a word, we want free human beings to lead us, not ideologues or demagogues.

Some of us want political leaders with the courage to conduct an all-out campaign against national, county and even village terror, crime, injustice and neglect of the neediest by sacrificial spiritual, economic and philanthropic actions that begin with the region’s strongest and richest people. We also want all people, not just the poor, to sacrifice equally for justice, freedom, peace and well being for everyone. We want leaders who tend to be among their country’s wealthiest citizens to be the leading exemplars of such self-limiting sacrifice that would, for the most part, cause them little personal suffering while costing them plenty of money that they hardly need for their personal and familial well being.

In a word, we want leaders who are not prisoners of power, profit, possession, position, privilege and pleasure. We want men and women who demand from others what they demand first from themselves, and who do for others what they would want others to do for them and their loved ones. Some of us are convinced that the first step in reconstructing Kenya’s political leadership is a radical change in the way we elect our leaders. We want an end to the agonizingly extended, disgracefully expensive and endlessly analyzed campaigns that exhaust peoples’ patience and sanity, and lead them into all kinds of temptations. We want a nation governed by people whose actions prove their genuine care and respect. If such political leaders would emerge in Kenya as a whole, and indeed within the counties and various levels of leadership; whatever their present political affiliations, their religious convictions, authentic or alleged, wouldn’t matter in the least. Such leaders would, in fact, be an answer to our prayers.

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