Multiplex: Local Leaders – Africa Case Study – Duncan Olumbe – Cape Town 2010


>>My name is Duncan Olumbe. I come from Kenya
where I lead an organization called Mission Together Africa. It is a great privilege to
share as we continue to explore this session on local leaders in the global context. I
hope to share or to capture three areas before we break out into groups of discussions. One I would want to briefly mention some of
the issues or areas that we are engaged. As it is almost impossible to talk about Africa
from north to south or east to west. But we’ll try. Secondly, I want to celebrate what God is
doing in the great continent of Africa. To celebrate our heroines and heroes of faith
who have gone before us, some of them already with the Lord as we speak this afternoon.
But lastly, I would want to engage very briefly some growing concerns on the future of leadership
within our African context. As I’ve already mentioned, it is impossible
to really talk and explain in depth the diversity of Africa so I will talk of my experience
and what I’ve seen so far. I talk and share with you not as an expert with a long CV of
many experiences, but as a slightly younger leader who is seeking to serve God in his
generation. What are the issues, what are the challenges?
What are the joys? What are the pains? What does it mean to serve God as a local leader
in a context which is increasingly being called the global village? Nothing exemplifies this
better than seeing my colleagues — or seeing a Maasai moran or warrior out in the fields
of Maasai Mara watching and guiding after their cattle with a ‘rung’ or small stick
on one hand and on the other hand a mobile phone. Perhaps Nokia in saying connecting
people. You instantly see the clash of worlds and
cultures in such a picture. There are amazing stories that time would fail me to get into
of men and women, boys and girls, who in very difficult situations as my co-presenter Paul
has mentioned of serving God. Most of the Sub-Saharan Africa is and continues to experience
great growth in Christianity, yet in a context of huge economic, political, technological
and whatever else, huge challenges that are there. I stand here briefly to celebrate what
God is doing. Some of the good, amazing, great things that God is doing. One, I would love to laud and appreciate the
role done by many of our African sisters and brothers, the pioneer leaders, those who have
shown us great example in faithfulness and sacrifice. I would not be standing here if
it were not for people, some of whom are here, like the Reverend Doctor Gottfried Osei-Mensah
and others who blazed the trail before us and showed us that it is possible. You mention great men and women like the late
Bishop Genani Lome (?) who paid with his dear life because he stood for godliness and for
Godly leadership. They are a great inspiration to us and I would not mention others, the
latest great giant of Africa, Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo, who very recently went home to be
with the Lord. They are great examples in their many ways. They are not perfect and
I don’t mean to imply that, but they left us and they’ll continue to leave us a legacy
of sacrifice and faithfulness. Among those people also to celebrate the other
thing that God is doing is a group of leaders committed to growing younger leaders. Quietly
like bush fire, quietly like rumors, but very deliberately looking around, isolating, identifying
and nurturing younger leaders. We praise God for such people because we do not take it
for granted. The versatility and the flexibility of some of these leaders is amazing because
in some of the contexts where we serve, as a Christian leader, you are a quasi-doctor
of some sort, a marriage counselor, you are a politician and you are all these other things
all in one. You are not necessarily – there is no sense of specialization. We appreciate
some of these things. But while we celebrate these, and the list
is long, I think it is only fair to explore some of the growing concerns. One of them
is what I call the identity crisis. Who am I as an African leader, young, emerging, speaking
in English? How connected am I to my rural background, that is the tribe I come from?
How relevant am I when I get back down there is where the rubber meets the road? The tension between the global and the local
is very deep. And I think inadvertently it seems we have over celebrated the universal,
the global. So the more eloquent, the more educated you are, it seems, the more you climb
the leadership ladder. Is education, theological training or whatever it is a factor of good
leadership? I doubt. The whole issue of identity crisis also manifests
itself in this animal called ethnicity or tribalism. Who will excise the ghost of tribalism
from African leadership, where as it were, even some of the church positions are elected
not on virtue of their qualifications and calling by God, but on the virtue of which
tribe they come from? The pressure from the Western world to compare
and contrast us with other leaders, I think puts undue pressure, especially on some of
us emerging younger leaders, often leading to burn-out and exhaustion. What can we do
as we seek to nurture this leadership? Quickly the second problem that I would raise
is the issue of what I call the authenticity or credibility crisis. The commercialization
of Christian leadership and the over-professionalization of leadership whereby unless you have all
the qualifications, we tend to dismiss other people and again I go back to the earlier
question: who is a better leader, the one who is serving God faithfully in an obscure
village out there, semi-illiterate or sometimes totally illiterate, or the one with many,
many theological degrees? Without despising education, I think we have to go back and
ask ourselves, are we meeting the credibility crisis? Are we engaging issues of authenticity?
The challenges of briefcase leadership and briefcase organizations, where, Africa, where
oh Africa, are your servant leaders? Thirdly, the third and last is a challenge
of what I call the leadership transition crisis. Forgive me if I sound too cynical here, but
there is a serious problem on leadership transition. Some of our older giants, Christian leaders,
I think you’ve served your generation. Please, give way for younger leaders. How can the
older leadership identify and develop younger leaders? How can those who have stayed in
leadership for too long say we served, we did our bit, it is time to live for others?
But at the same time the younger leaders like myself, where is a place of elder statesmen
and stateswomen so that they’re treated with dignity and respect and allowed to continue
to move on? These are some of the questions that I have.
These are some of the things that I think as we engage local leadership in a global
context it is not a ‘one all fits all’ situation. We have to ask these hard questions
and go back to the Bible and ask God to hold our hands and to lead us as we seek to lead
others in our local context. If we do not have our roots in the local context, however
high we fly in the global context, I think we have lost it. May God bless you.

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