Are Leaders Born or Made?

By Albino Deng

Towards the end of 1970s, a certain school boy was expelled from Malakal Secondary School. According to education authorities by then, his sin was: – he uttered an unwanted phrase: -“we are born to rule, but not to be ruled”, a statement, which later engulfed in a storm of political controversy amongst some tribal elites.

During a sociable chatting with him this week, now the 54-year-old guy said the alleged statement was made by a skilled hype politician of the time and “he”never said such a statement.

In his view, what was referred to as a leader is someone of diverse academic qualifications and long experiences in service. Thus, not individual(s) tribe’s men or women. This explains that no one can have all the needed qualities by birth or gift of nature to lead others.

On this point, qualities that make an effective leader could be harnessed through formal education, training and continuous hardworking.  Yet, Dr. Saad Addeen Ibrahim, an Egyptian scholar, in his book, “Egypt Institutions and Coptic Minority”-written in 1993, noted that, “leadership is an innate quality that leaders are born with the leadership right from the beginning”.

This view also suggests that some leaders are groomed from the start as far as culture and environment around them could shape them as leaders. For instance, royal families from some Arab and European countries and, even families of tribal sultans(chiefs) across South Sudan fashioned their off springs to become leaders by birth later on the process.

Nevertheless, in many countries around the world, training and exercises are keys for nurturing an all-rounded leader. For instance, if a leader lacks experiences to perform well or lacks of techniques to resolve conflicts, then formal training could help bring about those qualities.

So far, the question as to why there is problem of leadership in South Sudan still remains as much as a paradox. But Dr. John Garang de Mabior, was quoted during the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(CPA) on Sunday 9th January 2005 in Nairobi, Kenya as saying, “Southern Sudan have never ever been developed since the creation of Adam.”

This phrase can give us a little insight about the paradox of leadership in South Sudan. Indeed, many of us who could remember this phrase eventually draw parallels between those who sparked the revolution in 1983, and the present leaders whose faculties seemly undeveloped. What went wrong with these leaders?

Here We Go: -first, despite the fact that most of our leaders were educated from Arabic schools and Arabized or Islamized, still they don’t reflect Arab way of living or even English way of living if they had learned from English schools at all or African way of living.

Second, lack of administrative capacity and political ideals or “grand designs” which could guide them preside over public affairs, third, is the common perception that they devote much time inside and outside the country following-up their own business-network, forth, by virtue, tribalism has become visceral and they become more transience.

Thus, their argument always is not about the nation-building but always about means of seeking power that linked to their own tribes. Notably, our leaders are in power for 12-years since 2005, but they appear out of touch with the public and the outsider world either.

They failed to provide clean drinking water in Juba, the major political, administrative and commercial centre of the South Sudan, roads, electricity, adequate schools. Millions of children have no clear future in neighbouring countries before and after the recent crisis, and a considerable number of children most of them who survived rampant killing in Juba and elsewhere are being taught an authorized school syllabus sponsored by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan(UNMISS) in the camps.

One would acknowledge with pity that most of the present leaders were under the age of thirty when they joined and became warriors during the liberation war in 1983. In fact, many of us take rightful pride on them that they fought the liberation war to ensure that all South Sudanese can pursue their live as they see fit.

Doubtfully, the participation in the liberation war alone cannot validate individual leaders to over stay in power especially if he/she fell short of credibility. Otherwise such a habit can send a wrong signal that there are people who are born to rule not to be ruled.

At this juncture, if South Sudan keeps sluggish in the present situation then, the anticipated result of the on-going national dialogues will ultimately fail because it will be implemented by the same leaders. Thus, one of the narrow gate leading off to relief South Sudanese people relatively, is the prompt intervention of President Salva Kiir, to bring on board: – first, a selective political and technical expertise from the Diaspora and those who were displaced internally during the liberation war and second selective activists from civil society organizations.

In tandem with this there is a need to involve members of the international community for reasons of consultancy. The proposition of this kind is to compose think-tanks who would help formulate the “great-grand-design” charted with clarity which should show the country’s direction for the next coming years.

Our national interest only rest upon individual leaders who are qualified to defend the ethics of life, values of freedom, democracy, justice, human rights and the rule of law; men or women who would shift us from arguments around tribalism, corruption, violent conflicts and humanitarian aid intervention, straight to our concern with the purpose of a sustainable trade, economic growth, and upgrading the security services as well as external relations. “Leaders are born and made to develop the nations not to rule others for nothing”.

Albino Deng is a former human rights activist and a member of Arab Lawyers Union

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