Friday night in Katavi, Uganda must have been an eerie place that year. I wonder whether there was a sense, as the sun went down of the drama that would unfold. The unspeakable act of village justice which then took place when 31 year old community leader Madirisha had his head and genitals chopped off and then cooked after claims of adultery boggles the mind.
I don’t want to labour the adultery issue. I don’t even want to speculate about the gender aspect, and what might have happened if this man had been a women. I don’t want to investigate the surprise that we all must feel considering this is Africa, the victim was a man, and the issue was adultery. Go ahead and admit that it crossed your mind that this must be an over-reaction considering these three things. After all men committing adultery in Africa hardly makes news. But like I said, I don’t want to go there.
The place I want to linger is over the issue of leadership. The fact that this man was a community leader ( other sources say a politician). I want to believe that this position made him more vulnerable to criticism, judgement and ultimately to the harrowing ordeal that cost him his life.
Let’s hope it happened fast. I wonder if he even had a sense of what was going on or why when the five people (I am presuming them to be men) barged into his room, wielding machetes....Were they shouting? Did they call him names? Were they sure it was even him lying there? Was his wife in the room? What was her role in the drama? What about the one (or ones?) he committed adultery with? Was she gorgeous? Was she young? So many questions....
But there is no question more piercing to me than the one I ask in the headline. In the face unsympathetic criticism, ruthless judgement and thorough condemnation, who would want to be a leader?
Do we only want to lead when the voices of the people we lead are kind and complimentary, when their words are coated in honey and their opinions of us are high? Leaders often want affirmation, and sometimes end up surrounded only by those who agree with them.
But real leadership requires more from us. It requires that we walk our talk, that we live out the kind of values and ways of living that we claim to espouse. It requires sacrifice of personal comfort and pleasure sometimes just for the purpose of being a decent role model. Sometimes it even requires that we give up something gorgeous and exciting, something that makes our hearts sing and blood hot...something....Yeah. Its tough.
Who’d want to be a leader?
I write to lend you my courage, to help you find the words for the things that frighten you; the things you feel, but are not yet ready to say. I write, to tell the stories of our time and to edify those whose stories I tell and their audiences.