Sunday, January 27, 2008

Charisma, People of Charisma

I have followed Barack Obama's riocheting rise to prominence in world politics with a bit of awe. Must admit that there are few people just like him. Made me to start thinking of the power that some people have. The power of Charisma.

What is Charisma?

Dont know whether I can put a finger on what it is. To me, it is the power to sway others. Maybe with intellect. Albert Einstein had that, I think. Maybe with oratory- Churchill?, maybe with writing- Shakespeare, to me at least. And Wordsworth.

Or the force of personality.

Where does Obama fall?

Some are gifted with charisma, and do use it to make others their slaves. Slavery of the mind. I am thinking of the guy who led his cult to death, giving them 'Kool Aid'. And of course the Kibwetere of Kanungu in Uganda. He burnt them dead.

Martin Ssempa is definately charismatic. Yes, and it is our problem that we are up against him in Uganda. Us as in Kuchus.

It is interesting to realise the power of a charismatic person. Ssempa is a case in point.
I personally do not like the guy, so what I am going to write is highly suspect.

Ssempa is a handsome, personable man. Very well spoken, articulate, and knows his way round the field of people politics. He is a 'pentecostal' pastor, with a Church at Makerere University which he founded. He is charismatic, and here lies the danger of charisma.

Ssempa is vain, and not a good man personally. (Ahem, I am allowed my conclusions here, am I?) He does love power, and seeks it. He is not very clever. Well, I must admit that he says he has an MPH and PhD. The honorary kind, if I am not mistaken. But I might be.

Because he is charismatic, Ssempa jumps up and down on his stage and preaches to his enthralled flock about the beuties of sexual abstinence, how masturbation is a terrible sin, and how Uganda has made its name on the HIV front by following the godly family values of abstinence and being faithful. And this to twenty something zealots.

Ssempa is so illogical in his logic that many laugh at what he says. One has to laugh, but when you hear the fervour of his flock, you cannot help getting concerned. They believe in him. Simply, without thought, without criticism, without any fear.

They are willing to injure me, in the name of their god and Ssempa, yes, because one of the things that Ssempa is rabid about is my sexuality. Homosexuality.

Think I am lying? Check out these posts. One and two. That happened in November 2007, and yes, I had no doubt that Ssempa's flock had no qualms about hurting me in the name of their god.

Maybe that is my definition of charisma. The quality to sway other human beings to follow you in a certain direction.

Told you that I do not like Ssempa. He sincerely believes that he is my friend. And I believe that he believes so. He believes that the best thing for me is to die, (maybe be imprisoned, at least) all in the name of turning me away from homosexuality. Yet he is my 'best friend'. That is according to him. His very words.

But all that is charisma, yet used badly. Is there a person who used it well? Jesus of Nazareth. Churchill. Is Nelson Mandela charismatic, or is it the charisma of hype that surrounded his 27 years in prison?

There is one guy that I have no doubt was charismatic. And he was intelligent enough to use this for the good of his nation. As he saw it.
An unsung hero, to most of the world. Reviled by some, revered by others. Julius Kambarage Nyerere. First President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

I know most in the west have never heard of him. And those who did, heard that he was a 'communist' and thus 'bad'.I did have the luck to know a bit. And I must say that I was struck by his charisma.I am not a Tanzanian, and what I write about him are things which I picked up as I grew up.

Nyerere was a school teacher. He led his country of Tanganyika, to independence. And he was President for 26 years.

Yeah, you may say, typical African strongman. President for life.

But that is where you would be very wrong.

Nyerere was indeed a highly intelligent and charismatic, and human person. He had a vision of the unity of Africa. Negotiated the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to make the Tanzania we know.The only still surviving such union in Africa, if I'm not mistaken.

His was the time of the cold war. And the turbulence of post independent Africa. The west courted him. Kenyatta of Kenya was amenable to the west. Nyerere prefered his independence. He did not like the USSR. And, in the cold war, he embraced China. Instead of USSR. He kept his country truly free. In that day of ideological wars, Nyerere liked socialism. I think it appealed to his sense of duty to the country that he led. But he did not want to embrace it as it was exported from USSR and China. He developed a political philosophy of his own. African Socialism, or Ujamaa.

Our nations post independence were nothing like they are now. Disparate ethnic groups united by a conqueror called a Colonialist, and then left on their own in 'independence'. Zaire, or the DRC has never got over the post independence convulsions, to date. In Kenya, an 'African Strong Man', took over, saw his opportunity, made himself rich and powerful and have a dynasty etc. And they were never truly united.
What is happening today in Kenya is basically a symptom of that. Kikuyu against the rest of the country. Reprehensible, but reality.

I was once in Tanzania. One thing that impressed me, then, as ever was the unity of the country. They are Tanzanians, and they know that they are. We Ugandans, are Ugandans second, but either Baganda, Basoga, Alur, Iteso, etc, etc first. Our ethinicity is something which we strongly believe in.The unity of Tanzania, I have no doubt, was Nyerere's doing. His long reign. Oh yes, it was a reign. His ideas, his promotion of one language of unity. Swahili. And his charisma.

Multipartyism came to Tanzania in the late 80s, if my history is not wrong, and people found that they could talk about what they liked and what they did not like, openly. And they did.

At that time, Nyerere had stepped down. Voluntarily.

He allowed (true to agreement) the President of Zanzibar to become President of Tanzania. An imbecile, (I am allowed a personal assesment, aint I), if there was one. But Nyerere was the power behind the throne.

The country started to move towards multipartism. Slowly, hesistantly. And of course the powers that were felt threatened. They decided to renege on that promise.

Mzee Mwalimu Nyerere, revered Father of the nation (Baba wa Taifa) called a press conference. And at that press conference declared that multi partyism was the way to go. And that was it. When I heard that I was cynical. He had ruled without allowing dissent, but now was forcing his succesor to have an opposition? I thought it hypocritical.

But he was not yet finished.

The ruling party had to choose another man to lead. The imbecile (my pen just slips), was term barred. And of course there was jockeying for positions. Who would be the next man?Nyerere looked through the list of the likely candidates, and was not impressed. He declared all of them unfit.

The country waited for Nyerere to play king maker.

Interestingly, the current president was younger but very popular. Nyerere rejected him. Too young, his words, I believe. So, he chose an unknown political entity, Benjamin Mkapa, and proceded to campaign for him across the country, and win him his presidency.
And, personally, I believe that this time the old man saw true. He chose a good man.

I once did hear Nyerere speak, in Swahili. I was amazed.

I did not know Swahili, and Nyerere was not president at that time. I was in a place that was a hotbed of dissent. Cross my heart and hope to die, I listened as this elderly, revered gentleman talked on the radio for over an hour. I understood nothing of the language. Tanzanian Swahili is very, very good. And too hard for me.

What I did understand was the rapt attention of almost everyone where I was. They were not forced to turn on their radios. Indeed, they would revile and joke about the sitting president's escapades and switch off the radios when he was talking. But when Nyerere decided to talk non stop for a full hour plus, on radios which the populace could switch off if they so wanted; they broadcast it, to their neighbours and friends who did not have one. They listened, and listened in the heat of Dar-es-Salaam. Those doing work did their work quietly, listening to that charismatic man.

I must admit I was deeply critical of the man at that time. Well, in keeping with the environment I was in. But, despite my lack of comprehension of the language, I noticed the thrall into which it seemed everyone was. A magic spell that settled on all the listeners.Baba wa Taifa, the Father of the nation was speaking. And literally, the whole nation stopped to listen. And they did listen.

Nyerere is now dead. Still as revered as he was. In keeping with his frugal style, he never amassed the wealth that his neigbours did. When he decided that the 'socialist' way was not the way for his country, he relinquished the reins, into the hands of an (imbecile) but still oversaw, for 8 long years. And during that time, he personally steered the country towards a market economy, and multi partyism, and a democracy, the African way. Using the huge prestige of his charisma and the awe of the populace.

Yeah, I was impressed by the man.

Incidentally, besides writing his own philosophy of leadership in Africa, I hear he translated the full works of Shakespeare into Swahili. Truly a man of many parts.

(I must confess when I heard about the translation I was deeply prejudiced. I was younger, and demonstrably more stupid than I am at the moment.)

Anyway, going back to the subject of charisma, Is Barak Obama in the mold of a Nyerere?If he is, with all his idealism and talk of hope and charisma, well, maybe the US will have a president they will respect, and indeed hold in the awe of JFK. If he becomes president.

If he is indeed as charismatic as that, I do not envy Hillary Clinton's bid to beat him. Even if he is still the underdog.



Anonymous said...

A very diverse post. I heard that in the debate to choose between Mkapa or the current president, someone reasoned that Kikwete was more goodlooking and therefore more suitable. To which Nyerere responded by saying that if people felt Kikwete was goodlooking, they should take him out for a cup of coffee, not invite him to the presidency.

Anonymous said...

pastor martin ssempa, is the Man..i just love his boldness, and his never giving up spirit....he is the man we need for this nation....a voice that will speak against immorality in uganda.
He is definately your friend that's why he speak out for the boys and girls who are being abused and misguided.

His flock is right to fallow him and support him....for they know what they want and will settle for less.

gayuganda said...

Hi Tetue,

welcome. That was typical Nyerere. Headstrong and dismissive of some opinions. What suprised me was the fact that, after touting 'Ujamaa' for years, he was the chief instrument in rolling it back. Maybe his successor frightened him!


Yeah, I know to you Ssempa is the man. He is the Man to quite a number. As I have stated, and of course I know you believe in him and his charisma.
That is what people said of Kibwetere. And of Hitler. And many others. Anyway, you are entitled to your view of him.


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