The failed and failing states of sub-Saharan Africa - including
Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Zimbabwe - attract the most attention.
But a quiet renaissance of positive leadership is taking hold in the
region, including the Islamic northeast.
The dominant personalities in such battered places as Somalia and
Somaliland are firmly on the side of the United States, and ready to
be helped in rebuilding their states. No state in Africa now seeks
to harbor terrorists; better rewards are to be found in alliance
with the developed world.
In Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, basic
human rights are being respected, and there's a promise of better
times. After a year of principled leadership, Ghana is in the
vanguard of change. If Ghana's gains can be sustained, West Africa
will have another model to help transform a neighborhood
characterized by fractiousness and meltdown.
Nigeria is a problem case. As Africa's most populous and
historically most poorly governed place, its turn to democracy in
1999 seemed dramatic. But President Olusegun Obasanjo has been
unable to lead the nation in a wholly positive direction. Too many
of Nigeria's Muslim-dominated states have thumbed their noses at the
central government. So democratic rule is a phenomenon of the center
only, not of the states.
When the ingredients of visionary leadership are lacking, the
stew of governance tastes sour. When they are richly available,
everyone prospers and AIDS and other scourges seem survivable. The
US and UN need to craft new policies to support and encourage
responsible leadership skills among elected officials across sub-
In South Africa, Nelson Mandela demonstrated leadership without
bullying. As president, he was an inclusionist who convinced black
South Africans from all backgrounds, as well as coloreds, Indians,
and whites, that he was everyone's champion and that he sought a
peace dividend for them, not for himself.
Neighboring Botswana, thinly populated and mostly desert, has
been an oasis of steady, open rule for more than 35 years. Even
before it became the world's greatest producer of gem diamonds,
Botswana was well-run. It endured insults and occasional blows from
apartheid South Africa, ignored the collectivist and authoritarian
fancies of nearby Zambia and Tanzania, and concentrated its energies
not on personal enrichment but on encouraging middle-class
empowerment amid old-fashioned liberal values.
Festus Mogae, Botswana's president, had excellent role models.
His predecessors were participatory, sensible, and focused on what
was good for their peoples, not for themselves and their families.
Sir Seretse Khama, Botswana's first president, had the charisma and
stature to have gone either way. …