The dilemma of leadership and democracy in Africa : a reflection on general elections in Burundi.
This study investigates leaders as source of conflicts in a polarized Burundi society. The study adopted a qualitative-interpretative methodology in which social actors like politicians, journalists, members of civil society were interviewed, the outcome of which was matched with relevant literature on democracy, governance, and peace building in Burundi in order to answer the study’s critical questions. Eighteen respondents were purposively selected six from each social actor’s group were interviewed such that data was generated through face-to-face interviews. The data collected was manually analyzed and interpreted using an open coding. Burundian leadership system was grossly hampered from pre-colonial era when the colonizer, who was more interested on self-enrichment than developing the local citizens, hijacked and extinguished the monarch of “Ganwa”. The African leaders who took over leadership after the independence unfortunately adopted the colonizer’s egotistic leadership style. The situation was further exacerbated by excessive hunger for and desire to stay in power of post-colonial African leaders. The long lived divine appointment to leadership was forgotten; new local leaders instead impatiently adopted self-appointment system. This gave birth to the systems of coup d’état that was replaced by democratization of 1990. The study further showed that even in so-called democratic regime, the authoritarian African perpetrate elections manipulation using violence to seize or remain in power against the craving of electorates. Thus the use of arms becomes the only tool to drive successful candidates to elections. Contrary to common opinion the “Arusha” negotiations of Burundi power sharing was revealed to be another source of conflicts than ethnic diversity. Corporation of Hutu and Tutsi political leaders for their common interest as elites suggested a new ethnic group as source of war, “ethiny of leaders” who are ready to sacrifice anything to protect their power-intoxicated selfish interests. To adequately assess the leaders’ behavior and their leadership system, the study has adopted the authentic theory of leadership which stress on living examples of leaders who respected the needs of their followers. Findings confirm that leaders are the source of all problems that Burundi has experienced since the beginning of the transition process. Through the disguise of democracy, elites make war for positions of leadership and in the process people suffer tortures, arbitrarily arrest, and killings while others run into exile. The study concludes that Burundians are under bondage of politicians and need liberation from their own leaders. The study recommends strong institutions, unity and decentralization of power. These three elements would restore the power of the state yet bringing back dignity to the people as citizens who hold power to vote in or out their leaders without interference of elites.
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