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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

US General Petraeus scandal and Tanzania`s moral values

11th November 2012
Editorial Cartoon

David H. Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and one of America’s most decorated four-star generals, resigned on Friday after an F.B.I. investigation uncovered evidence that he had been involved in an extramarital affair.

Petraeus issued a statement acknowledging the affair after President Obama accepted his resignation, and the C.I.A duly announced it. The disclosure ended a triumphant re-election week for the president with an unfolding scandal.

“Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA,” David Petraeus wrote in a statement released on Saturday.

“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation.”

We are living in a world full of drama. While to many the events that happen on a daily basis may amount to mere drama, but for those who are tasked to lead others, these are more than just scandals; they have lessons in moral values, integrity and credibility.

Washington may be thousands of kilometres away from Dar es Salaam, but what happened within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) defies the distance between the two cities.

The resignation of the CIA Director General offers a lesson to our leaders in government and its agencies, private sector, and also to us as family people.

While a Tanzanian top government leader can lie and get away with it because we believe in ‘business as usual’ things are different in the civilized world; just a confirmation that you as the head of a sensitive government agency have an extra marital affair is enough to get you fired -- or forced to resign.

To be able to lead others, you have to be a man of ethos, integrity and credibility. That’s why when your integrity, credibility or ethical values are questioned or damaged beyond repair, you have to take responsibility immediately.

Unfortunately for us, that’s not the case. We have this week witnessed in Parliament how some top government officials were found to have lied in Parliament – just to defend their positions.

Today, we have top leaders in both public and private sectors who head sensitive organizations and have been involved in extra-marital affairs to the extent of compromising their judgment, but nothing happens.

We have top church leaders, including bishops, who are accused of having extra-marital affairs with married women from their very same churches, but they still have the audacity to stand at the altar and preach the sixth commandment to their believers.

A leader without moral values and integrity is more dangerous not only to those he leads, but also to his family, and country. As a leader, you are a role model to those you lead as well as the society that surrounds and shelters you.

In Tanzania there’s a tendency that whenever a senior public servant, corporate head or church leader is caught on extra marital affairs, it goes down as a “private affair” and therefore no need for the suspect to take responsibility.

As a nation, we have slowly developed a culture of impunity, especially within the government circles. You can bribe or get bribed but, as long as you know how to handle the situation, you survive another day -- to bribe or get bribed again. You can lie to those you lead or your top bosses, but as long as you have protection from the ruling circles, you survive to lie more in future. Some of our ministers have lied so often, and so do some of our lawmakers.

Whether we hate it or not, as a nation, we need to learn from what transpired in Washington yesterday, when the CIA’s Director General was forced to resign after he was confirmed to have had extra-marital affairs.

When it comes to moral values, integrity and credibility, there’s no negotiation because these are non-negotiable matters especially to those we have tasked to lead our sensitive institutions.

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