Cut our young leaders some slack people, don’t expect miracles

Arthur, Former Chairman of Media High Council and new Orinfor head, with Minister of State in charge of Cabinet Affairs Protais Musoni (Photo: Timothy Kisambira)

Arthur, Former Chairman of Media High Council and new Orinfor head, with Minister of State in charge of Cabinet Affairs Protais Musoni (Photo: Timothy Kisambira)

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Arthur Asiimwe, fellow columnist, former colleague, close personal friend (and in-law to boot) was given the task to reinvigorate Orinfor, the national broadcast service, as its new managing director.  I wish him the very best of luck because he will need it. Cleaning up the mess in Orinfor will be more difficult than cleaning the mythical Augean Stables.

His task isn’t only removing all the deadwood in Radio Rwanda, Rwanda Television and the Printer, he must also improve programming. All this without being able to carry out a cull in the institution simply because firing staff is notoriously difficult. He will need the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Haile Gebrasalassie, the patience of a saint and the Wisdom of Solomon. All this at the tender age of 32.

Rwanda is a really interesting nation. I’ve lived in a few countries in the world, but I cannot think of one that has so many young people holding the levers of power. It doesn’t matter the institution, you will find 20 and 30-somethings running things. We have Advisors to Ministers who are just 28. Imagine, 28 years of age. That’s incredible.

 

A case of too much too soon? President Kagame attended the Agaciro Fund event organised by Umurinzi Young Professionals- Kigali, 5 October 2012

A case of too much too soon? President Kagame attended the Agaciro Fund event organised by Umurinzi Young Professionals- Kigali, 5 October 2012

And while these youngsters have Ivy League educations, they usually have less than five years working experience in any position. As anyone will tell you, there is a huge disparity between the actual workplace and the university classroom.

I’ve worked in the media industry for the last decade on and off. What I’ve noticed is that, because of the low skills base, people who should be cub reporters (or mere staff writers and journalists) are put in positions of authority in the newsrooms merely because they are proficient in either French or English and have more than rudimentary skills in communication. So, instead of learning the tools of the trade they become leaders. The situation is like the idiom, ‘in the land of the blind the one-eyed person is king’. Lets not forget however, that despite their ‘royalty’, they are still one-eyed.

One of the biggest problems that I’ve had in the career I’ve chosen is the lack of ‘Inararibonye’ (mentors); men and women who I want to emulate and can learn a lot from. Not just about work but about life as well.  All this makes me wonder, where are these experienced hands? Where are the professionals who have worked in institutions for decades, garnering years of institutional knowledge, willing to pass on all their knowledge? I don’t know. Perhaps they have all retired.

 

An artistic impression of the proposed Orinfor HQ's.

An artistic impression of the proposed Orinfor HQ’s.

While I don’t want to live in a country where the vast majority of the leadership is almost senile, it is my belief that many prospective ‘Young Turks’ end up not living up to expectation simply because they end up biting off more than they can chew. Not because they were unqualified or unintelligent but because they weren’t ready. Instead of making them head honchos, perhaps it would’ve been wiser to groom them slowly and let them grow into their positions. Trust me, it sometimes gets overwhelming for us young folk.

I have a theory that perhaps explains all this. The Liberation War was fought and won by men and women in their 30’s.  So the logic is, if these ‘youngsters’ could do it, why can’t the next generation? Those who subscribe to this theory must understand that, first of all, these young people were actually battle-hardened and therefore, experienced. Secondly, they had many mentors who shared with them their life lessons. The lessons that they learnt from Inararibonye are still being applied today as they govern the country.

I’m not saying that we cannot do the job. I’m not saying that we are frightened of carrying the mantle. All I’m saying is that you cannot expect miracles from us. Understand that we shall make mistakes; not because we are incompetent but simply because we are learning on the job.

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