31 October 2007

African Leadership… or lack thereof… Principle #2

“Tight lips send away enemy ships”

I realize that this is not how the saying goes but what many mizungu (translation: white man) don’t understand is that this is how it works…

Here’s an example… currently President Museveni is facing charges of canceling a billion dollars in loans that the Ugandan government gave away to government agencies and investors and another set of charges of giving away Ugandan land to investors… both without parliaments approval…

His answer to these allegations… “Please let’s not argue”

Translation… “I’m not talking and there is nothing you can do about it”

I have seen this time and time again… Powerful Ugandan Man doesn’t get his way (whether he is right or not)… his response is to say nothing at all and just do what he wants… silently he is screaming “try to stop me!”

Most Americans respond like a desperate ex-girlfriend who doesn’t get the clue… they keep calling, keep leaving messages and keep wanting to talk about feelings… they need a friend to shake them and say, “He’s moved on!”

Usually confused, frustrated and irritated they finally give up and move on themselves… Powerful Ugandan Man wins!

It’s a silent passive aggressive stance… which fits well into the culture… Ugandans would never say anything negative to your face... especially something specifically about you… so in the midst of conflict they rely on the faithful old saying… “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all”

So in dealing with Powerful Ugandan Man the answer is not to draw a line in the sand or he’ll stop talking… give him suggestions, give him options, find something he’s doing right and point it out, be patient… and most of all… keep the discussion going… because once he puts on his poker face and the room turns to silence… it’s Game Over!

Some might wonder why I’m writing this… its because most people who want to do work here in Ugandan receive a warm welcome but to their shock and dismay eventually they come up against Powerful Ugandan Man… and he was the same man who gave such a nice welcome!


Teenietinyt said...

Yeah, this truely should be the #1 "cultural tip" to ANY travelor planning a trip...it is EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING when you discover this on your own, and have nobody to explain this and you have no idea how to respond.

John said...

This phenomenon's not just in Uganda, nor Africa.
Think of a time when sin was in your heart. What did you do? Were you quick to agree, did you go silent or did you just wait for someone else to change the subject?
I think it is being aware that this behavior might not be limited to cross-cultural experiences.
I will begin by raising my own hand on this one....
Ultimately,how can you help a country change when every experience reinforces that this behavior is the way to get ahead and/or become wealthy. Keep praying, brother.

freedom said...

what happen to mcdonalds?