Apologies A Good Trend Among African Leaders
HARARE, Oct. 27 - UHURU Kenyatta started the trend. On behalf of the party which brought independence to Kenya, he apologised to the people for 40 years of Kanu misrule.
Kenyans may be forgiven for responding with: "It's too late. Many people died when they could have been saved."
In Zambia, which celebrated its 40 years of independence last Sunday, President Levy Mwanawasa made an apology, not to the people of Zambia, but to the founding president, Kenneth Kaunda.
"KK" was harassed and hounded by his predecessor, Frederick Chiluba. Most of the tribulations he endured related to xenophobia. Kaunda was born in Zambia, but of Malawian parents.
He led the country to independence in 1964, then ruled for 27 years before Chiluba beat him in a 1991 election considered free and fair by both foreign and local observers.
But Chiluba's people brought up against him, quite shamelessly, the fact that he was not a Zambian. If they had succeeded in convicting him, it would have set one of the most terrifying precedents for Africa.
Kaunda's critics might say he himself ought to apologise to the people of Zambia, for turning a country of potential abundance into a typical, begging-bowl-in-hand African tinpot dictatorship.
But then he could always say he sacrificed all that to free most of southern Africa from colonialism and apartheid.
But if more African leaders accepted that there was nothing demeaning or humiliating in apologising for their present and past mistakes against individual citizens or the entire nation, a new trend of political honesty might be established on the continent.
Far too many African leaders run their countries as if they had a God-given right to trample underfoot their citizens' inalienable rights to life and liberty.
Invariably, they harbour such a contempt for their political opponents an outsider would wonder if it was personal rather than political.
In Zimbabwe, where most opposition politicians are treated as if they were would-be murderers or confirmed foreign spies, the time may not be far off when Zanu PF may have to apologise for some of its excesses.
Against every opposition party, from Ndabaningi Sithole's Zanu (Ndonga) to Edgar Tekere's, Zum and now to Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC, the party led by President Robert Mugabe has acted with such a single-minded viciousness, the culture of political hatred it has engendered is going to take generations to wipe out.
Politics has been turned into a life-and-death struggle. The sophisticated thrust of civilised debate has been transformed into four-letter word abuse.
If we don't moderate our antipathy towards opposing views, the country's future is bound to be filled with more hatred and more strife. Then, someone may have to apologise for their sins, but risk being told: "It's too late."
The Daily News / allAfrica Global Media
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