OPINIONPeople Daily

From across the globe, leadership challenges persist

It is difficult to miss the contrasts and gap in leadership emerging from across the globe. From across the Atlantic, the US has been reeling from one challenge after the other. The most shocking opening act of the year was the mass shooting of school children in Florida. By the time the gun went silent 17 laid dead.

President Donald Trump, who rode to the White House on the back of the support of the National Rifle Association, the grouping of rightwing gun-owners, had trouble appeasing both the gun-owners who were interested in status quo and moderates who wanted to change gun ownership laws. Still, a simmering issue continued gnawing at the heels of Trump’s administration.

The women in his earlier life are still showing up with one claim or the other. Then there is an issue that will not go away for Trump—the question of the role of Russia in the 2016 elections. The Special Council appointed to investigate the hand of Moscow in the US elections is relentless and now circling around the president himself.

Trump, through his tweets and unscripted approach to leadership has not helped stabilise his administration at all. In just the last few weeks, he has ignited a trade war with US trading partners by declaring tariffs on steel and other commodities that America imports. This has not gone down well with the partners and now the Europeans, who have not hidden their disdain for the American leader, are threatening to retaliate.

On top of that senior officials in the administration are streaming out of the White House, eroding the confidence Trump needs to provide leadership in the world. It is hard to exhaust the challenges facing this president! Then attention turns to Europe.

For a long time, Germany has provided a steady hand in the sub-continent. But since the second half of last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel has found it difficult to form a government.

Although she won the elections she did so with a reduced margin and had to form a coalition government. She only succeeded to do that this week and even then with a lot of challenges. Germany may not be in a position to impose her influence in Europe as the strongest economy did previously.

Then the turmoil in the UK is far from playing out. Theresa May is struggling to implement a Brexit that would be appealing to the majority of Brits. May was not one of the Brexiters, however it is to her that the challenge to implement the outcome of the referendum to exit European Union fell.

Now with the clock ticking, it is hard to see how London can focus on the world scene when it is not even clear the kind of relationship and role that this financial capital is going to play in Europe leave alone the world.

It is the bad boy of Europe, Russia, that appears to just roll on. They are accused of having interfered in the US elections. There are also fears they interfered in the British referendum. And now there are fears they are positioning themselves to influence the midterm elections coming up in the US.

This fluidity in leadership is happening in Africa just as much as it is happening elsewhere. South African economy initially seemed to rally around the rand following the ouster of Jacob Zuma and installation of Cyril Ramaphosa as president.

But now the rand does not seem to be sure. In Kenya, the fissures of post-election still stir; and now we are broke! Ethiopian Prime Minister resigned not too long ago and nobody is sure of the health of the president of Nigeria. It is from China then that the assurance and stability in leadership in the world scene is flowing from.

President Xi Jinping just finished his first term and in the beginning of his second term has moved to change the rules of the game so that he does not have to face the encumbrances of term limits.

It would have been impossible to do that if he did not have the control of the party machinery. China is modernising in every sense: its military, economy, evolving policy on the international scene and its overall place in the world.

Leadership space abhors a vacuum. With much of the world looking inside and particularly an increasingly inward-looking US, somebody will step up the plate to take charge. More and more, that someone could be China.

How do the changes that China is making inspire the rest of the world? Most of those in Africa will look east with a sense of confidence. Even as the US secretary of State, Rex Tillerson visits Africa this week, it is not very likely that most African leaders will sit through his lectures. Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language & Performing Arts at Daystar University

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