Friday, 10 August 2012

The Ideal Ethiopian Leader

What qualities should the ideal Ethiopian leader possess? Commonsense has it that leaders, be they presidents or prime ministers, must be  patriotic, selfless, wise, popular, ambitious, social, orator, charismatic, intelligent, and unifying. These qualities seem to transcend socio-economic and cultural boundaries; these are the qualities sought from a potential leader regardless of time and place. The qualities, one way or another, reflect leaders' state of mind, social skills and emotional intelligence. Election campaigns aim at, albeit much done implicitly, assuring potential voters that leaders really possess the expected qualities. One can however ask whether other qualities are worth mentioning as well. In this post, I like to raise the important  demographic characteristics a 21st Century Ethiopian leader should possess.

My grounds, as before and usual, are based on and considerate of Ethiopian history and current developments on the ground. It should however be made clear that my discussion of leadership qualities does not necessarily and officially assume any regime change in the foreseeable future. Though the Ethiopian government promised that the prime minister would be back to office work in few days (it has been now seven weeks rather), we did not see the country's most influential person to date. This leaves the implication that the governing party may be considering leadership succession early, noting that EPRDF has already promised to bring new generation of leaders to the fore. Moreover, the next election is already on the horizon. All these seem to indicate that it is just a matter of time before we get a new leader. It is thus relevant and timely for citizens to talk about the characteristics of their new leader in good time. 

My major point is that, in addition to leaders' emotional and intellectual maturity, their demographic characteristics must be discussed about. This is particularly relevant to Ethiopia, as the last three decades saw the vivid significance of these factors at national and individual levels. In a way, Ethiopia really needs a significant change and that change must begin from the characteristics/background of her leader. The following are some of the issues that I found worth to raise.    

President vs Prime Minister

My personal take is that the president should assume the highest office of the nation. Ethiopia cannot afford to hire a lame president who is busy cutting cakes and greeting incoming and outgoing ambassadors. The president should preside over virtually every major issue of the country. It just feels great to be represented at the international arena by a president than by a minister. 

Elected vs Appointed

The president must be democratically elected by the people rather than by the parliament or the governing party. If the later appoints the president, manipulation might be put at work, we have already seen it several times. Appointment will be an obstacle for the president to exercise real power freely. My vote must hire the president.

Female vs Male

We have been ruled by gentlemen for centuries and centuries. Although gender in its own right could not be a determinant factor for success or otherwise, it feels great to have a woman president this time. This is something we never tried before. If we do it now, we will have a completely different dynamics and that would be used as a model for the entire female population who seems passive in decision making and politics. Women for sure have several qualities that outsmart men's. We need another Queen of Sheba.  

Senior vs Young

During the last three decades, we have been ruled by men aged in their 30s. And presidency is the highest position of a nation that needs the highest level of maturity. Unfortunately, our previous leaders governed us much by their feelings, emotions and arms than by their intuition, intellect and judgment. So I will not vote for a president who is not say over 50. But am not saying that age is by itself a satisfactory condition; maturity correlates with age. 

Muslim vs Christian

The other factor is religious background of the president. Should our next leader be a Muslim or a Christian? There is some indication that people from both religions try to run for the highest office. It is commendable if it is intended for the service of national interest. The ugly thing comes when they see power as a means to make any form of favor to their respective religions. This is one of the most evil things one could do to Ethiopia. And we have to condemn this bogusness by the harshest terms available. My take is that my president could be a Muslim or a Christian but she must keep her religion at bay. She is as free to practice her religion as ordinary citizens do but should make sure she treats all religions squarely. She must believe in and practice logic, reason and truth while executing office duties.  

Highly Educated vs Educated

I do not expect my president to hold a doctorate degree. Nor I do accept a minimally educated one. Nor I tolerate one that is close-minded. The president must be well aware of socio-economic and political developments at the global and national levels; she must have a matured emotional intelligence and excellent analytic and problem solving skills. To me, being educated is being highly responsible, accountable, open-minded, tolerant, compassionate, decisive, insightful, considerate, ambitious, realistic, and perseverant. 

Ethnic Background

Ethiopia is one of the most mosaic nations in the world, mothering over 80 different ethnic groups. I do not mind if my president is from dominant (e.g. Oromo, Amhara) or minority nationalities as long as she demonstrates the qualities am talking about. Indeed, I will be extra glad if the president comes from the tiniest ethnicities. That should be celebrated as it is one powerful way of ensuring social equity and justice. 

Diaspora vs Local

Should an Ethiopian Diaspora become a president? There are at least two issues here. One, due mainly to political and socio-economic injustices back home, well educated and respected citizens are leaving the nation in exodus. North American and European and lately African organizations and institutions are their employers now. One could easily find a potentially competent president from abroad. Two, Ethiopians residing in Ethiopia are the ones who vividly know and understand all the conditions strangling Ethiopia. They could better manage issues if they run and win the presidency. 

If I have to a make a choice, it would be edifying to see a local Ethiopian taking the noblest office. That will leave an important message- the concept of self rule and the limitless of human potential even amidst harsh environments. Am not saying the Diaspora are foreigners or alien to Ethiopian reality. Am just acknowledging and rewarding those people who keep on pushing the boundaries under very trying circumstances. The Diaspora could be better off if they engage in technical, scientific/academic, and business fronts. 


  1. I have read it and more or less we are on the same page on the majority of issues raised. Very important reflections! I think, we have to unpack things like this so that the possibility of gross judgments could be reduced. A comment I have is that, I felt Dr. Teklu overlooked the important issue to be discussed after he nicely gave an introduction about it. I would be happier if you were able to proceed reflecting more on what it means for a nation to miss its primer for 7 weeks. I think it is a pressing issue at the moment and hope you will be coming up with your usual deeper analysis with the issue you introduced a bit above; succession could by one tier!

    Thanks for the helpful insight!

  2. Thanks Mekonnen.
    You raised an important issue. In my first draft, I give a due emphasis to it but finally and out of hindsight, I decided to raise the least discussed issue so far. I take it that we already have ample reflections of implications of the power vaccum created.

  3. Dr.Teklu,

    I have read your article carefully. It is very rich by itself. The point is how and when ideas like this exercise in Ethiopia? How to bring people, both Diaspora and Local, on such a discussion on getting drastic attitude change?

    I thank you for your wonderful article!

    1. Dear anonymous,
      Thanks for the good words. You raised a vital issue- how and when to 'bridge' Diaspora and local efforts for change. This is a great bottleneck to Ethiopian politics. Ideally, this must be one major role opposition politics could and should play. The problem is that opposition politicians are part-timers and have no adequate time and resource to bring real change.

  4. Wonderful article. This is relevant not only for a country like Ethiopia that has been ruled by war-lords, it is significant also for developed countries. One thing I like about the American way is that they emphasise on the qualities and characterstics of a leader. The points you raised are timely but as long as the people are not involved to elect their own leader the article is useless. Who is appointing our leader? The people must judge the qualities you mentioned nd elect the person they like by the way among the qualities you mentioned you forgot to mention "God-fearing". May God bless our country to get a legitimate leader through a legitimate means.

    1. Many thanks, Leoul! I absolutely agree that an Ethiopian leader should have a fear of God! This is significant as almost all Ethiopians believe in and entrust God. Thanks for reminding. Keep contributing, Leoul.


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