By Asiimwe Stephen
If you want to test the mettle of a leader, you present him with crisis, African leaders have been tested in several fronts, the leadership of SPLA have been in the jungles fighting for liberation, signed comprehensive peace agreement in Naivasha, Kenya 2005 voted for independence in a referendum became an independent country and now struggling to reconcile and work together with Southern Sudan.
Let me give an example in South Africa, their leader was imprisoned for 27 years reconciled with all apartheid architects, released and became a president.
In America, a young lawyer Abraham Lincoln from humble roots overcame incredible challenges to become president of the United States of America, serving from March 1861 until his senseless assassination in April 1865.
He led the USA through the civil war a bloody moral constitutions and political crisis of Monstrous proportions but still managed to preserve the union, abolish slavery, strengthen the Federal government and modernize the economy. In surveys of Scholars ranking presidents since 1940’s is consistently rated highly of the many attributes made Lincoln a good man and great president.
I invite the cadreship of SPLA led by his Excellency Salva Kir and former Vice president Riek Macher the amounting challenges of uniting sharply divided the nation in the throes of war. Lincoln like Mandela had established a reputation as a “unifier” long before he was elected president, after Republican Party nominated him for the ill ions senate race in 1858. He delivered his house divided speech, drawing on Mark 3:25 “a house divided against itself cannot stand” After the emancipation, he made enlisting former slaves in the military official government policy.
By the end of 1863 at Lincoln’s direction, General Lorenzo Thomas had recruited 20 regiments of blacks from the Mississippi Valley, Fredrick Douglas once observed of Lincoln; in his company I was never reminded of my humble origin of unpopular color. His rise to the presidency was itself defined by sharp divisions like we have seen in Southern Sudan.
On Nov 1860 Lincoln was elected the 16th president of United States of America beating Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, John C, BrecKin Ridge of the Southern Democrats and John Bell of the new constitutional union party. He was the first president from the Republican Party. His victory was entirely due to the strength of his support in the North and West; no ballots were cast for him in 10 of the southern slave states and won only two of 996 counties in all the southern states, Lincoln received 1866452 votes Douglas 1376957, Breckinridge 849781 and John Bell 588789. Turnout was 82.2% with Lincoln winning Northern States as well as California and Oregon. Douglas won Missouri and split New Jersey with Lincoln. Bell won Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky and Breckinridge won the rest of the south.
As Lincoln’s elections became evident, secessionists made clear their intentions to leave the union before he took office the next March. On 20/12/1880 South Carolina took the lead by adopting an ordinance of secession by February 1, 1861, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgina, Louisiana and Texas followed. Six of these states then adopted a constitution and declared themselves to be a sovereign nation, the confederate states of America. President Buchman and president select Lincoln refused to recognize the confederacy selected Jerlferson Davis as its provisional president on February 9, 1861.
Lincoln tried hard to strike a compromise in its first inaugural address on 4.03 1861, he ended his address with an appeal to the people of South “We are not enemies, but friends, we must not be enemies” an appeal we Africans can send to our brothers, comrades, Salivar Kiir and Riek Machar.
The future of the peace conference of 1861 signaled that legislative compromise was impossible, meanwhile, Lincoln and the Republican leadership agreed that the dismantling of the union could not be tolerated. But would remain gracious and human after winning the war.
Shortly after the surrender, a general had asked Lincoln how the defeated confederates should be treated and Lincoln replied “let elm up easy” His firm stand on slavery bespeaks of a president not afraid to make tough choices.
On 19/061862, endorsed by Lincoln congress passed an act banning slavery on all federal territory. His emancipation proclamation of September 22, 1862 declared the free slaves in ten states not then under union control.
Lincoln comments on the signing of the proclamation was “ I never in my life ,felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper, therefore the story of Lincoln and Mandela shows you the character of a leader ready for
reconciliation despite all challenges.
Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar should know that there is a time when a nation is bigger than an individual, Mandela after the 1994 Apartheid elections he sent a tone of reconciliation.
He invited the wives of key apartheid leaders and ANC veterans for, soon after he visited the wife of apartheid architect Hendrick Ver Woerd and took tea in her home, he surprised many when he appeared in the spring bok team rugby Jersey at the 1995 Stadium in Johannesburg, something that was un imaginable before.
He is also remembered as having appointed his rival, Inkatha freed party leader, chief Buthelezi to act as vice president in his absence, Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar may not be Mandela but for the sake of uniting the people of South Sudan let them reconcile. As Martin Luther said –we shall not blame our enemies but our friends who hear our cries and keep silent.
The writer is a Pan-Africanist
RDC- Kabarole district