President Obama’s address is similar to the proposals our kids made in parliament during the Constituent Assembly Delegates conference in 2004. Our papa Stephen Akabway was the chairperson and David Pulkol (minister of education) was the chief quest. If you remember, each district was asked to send two young delegates to present their proposals to be included in the new Constitution. I was seated among several headteachers. Kids read their speeches. Much of the stuff was very good but none seems to have been included in the new Constitution that came into effect the following year. I still remember two interesting observations:

A boy from Kotido shocked us when he stated that he felt he was not a Ugandan because looking at glittering and well cared for children from other parts of Uganda, it seemed for them from Karamoja, they were from another poor country, why the discrimination, he asked. You could hear sighs from almost the entire room.

Another thing I remember was a proposal from one delegate kid: that parents should have a maximum of 4 children and that they must pay taxes for any extra children. One headteacher observed and said, ” These children are unfair to us, so Mudidi, how much tax would you be paying if this proposal is made into law?” I listened attentively and realized they had several children [ These were powerful policy issues which would serve our country well if examined and shaped] I guess our presidents must have felt uneasy at that Addis meeting with Obama.

It would have been too bad if Obama had asked them by show of hands who was ready to leave voluntarily; and it would even been more interesting if he had asked some leaders to comment about his observations; for example if had asked Presidents Mugabe, Museveni and Kikwete to respond! Obama was only 19 years old when Mugabe became Zimbabwe’s leader; now Obama is about to retire from the US presidency but Mugabe is just beginning anew.

Even the best dancer knows when to leave the dance hall. In leadership development course, Harvard lecturer Professor Ronald Heifetz likens good leadership to a situation where a dancer leaves the hall to watch how other dancers are taking their strokes (Going to the Balcony). The observer will note how some of the dancers are missing their steps and if he had admired one of those dancers messing, then he realizes he was equally wrong and if he went back to dance, he will be conscious of the missteps and avoid repeating the same.

The professor was advising leaders to take time off to consult, reflect on one’s performance and know when to leave for others.

Peter Simon Okurut via the UAH forum

Peter Simon Okurut via the UAH forum


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