“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” -Lord Acton
It strikes me that a great chasm seems to exist between who we are as people and who we would like to be. It further strikes me (one more and I’m out!) that humans desperately need accountability to ensure that we are moving towards becoming who we would like to be. Built with an innate need for companionship/community/society, it would seem to me that though the rubbings and friction caused by being around others (and the closer we are the more friction we generate!) are often a pain and sometimes our least favourite thing, they might be a lot more necessary than we realize in keeping us in check, in keeping us accountable, in keeping us human.
Wise groups of people though history have realized this, ensuring that principles were laid down in constitutions and systems of government so that those with the greatest power and the thus the greatest freedom to make decisions, were still kept accountable for their actions. Sometimes those systems break down – as they did in central Europe in the late 1930s, leading to a small group of people who sought to become who they thought they should be even if it came at the expense of others. It took the intervention, labour and sacrifice of many of the world’s nations to hold the Nazi party in check and to bring them to account.
A series of similar breakdowns seem to have taken place in Africa through the last few decades. Though the continent has seen inspired, wise and sacrificial leaders like South Africa’s Nelson Mandela or Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, so many of Africa’s leaders have tragically left a legacy of self-seeking, self-serving, selfish behaviour – from doing whatever it takes to seize and keep power, to using national budgets as personal expense funds, to brutally crushing any dissent. The International Criminal Court (ICC), established to investigate charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, is currently investigating 8 situations worldwide – all of them sadly in Africa, several of them tragically against current or former heads of state. Even more heartbreaking is that some of these leaders are now accusing the ICC of being racist and pushing for the African Union to withdraw from the ICC. Accountability isn’t fun.
When it works however, accountability can be a powerful motivator. It can keep neighbours from harming each other, nations from invading one-another, the powerful from stealing/hurting/exploiting the weak. It can help people strive for and attain astounding goals, it can help ensure the development and growth of people, communities, and nations.
If we are to establish this company through which to bless communities in Africa, accountability would need to be hardwired into it – accountability to the public in North America, ensuring that our workings were transparent, honest, and true. Accountability to our partners in Africa to ensure that we truly did seek blessing for their communities, and not just profit. Ultimately though we would need a commitment to model accountability and transparency in all our business dealings, to mentor, foster and encourage accountability in all we did and all we worked with, and to require that accountability of those we partnered with. Before accountable leaders can be elected, accountable leaders have to be cultivated.
This, it strikes me, could be a good thing. That’s three and I’m out!