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Political leadership: George Ayittey, Simon Heffer, Martin Wolf and Maha Azzam

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 28 November 2011

On Start the Week Andrew Marr discusses the pursuit of power, and the art of leadership, from dictators to technocrats. The Ghanaian economist George Ayittey sets out the fight against tyranny in Africa and around the world, while Maha Azzam looks to see whether Egypt could learn any lessons from his assertion that many of today's despots were yesterday's freedom fighters. The columnist Simon Heffer discusses how the desire to protect or assert power has distorted the course of history, and the economist Martin Wolf assess the rise of the technocrat in Europe.
Producer: Katy Hickman.


    As Egypt faces yet more street protests in its struggle for democracy, the Ghanaian economist George Ayittey points to Africa’s long history of failure in tackling dictators. As the African saying goes, “We struggle very hard to remove one cockroach from power and the next rat comes to the same thing. Haba! (Darn!)”. In his new book on tyranny, he argues that to defeat despotism, intellectual freedom and a free media must come first, before political and institutional change. He also asserts that economic liberalisation, often seen by the West as the catalyst for change, should be the last consideration.

    Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

    Free Africa Foundation

    It's a chilly autumn after the Arab Spring: almost a year after a wave of protests swept the Arab world many countries are still in turmoil. Protesters in Egypt are back in Tahrir Square, thousands of people have been killed in Syria and the future of Libya is still uncertain. Maha Azzam is an analyst at Chatham House and was also part of the original protests in Egypt. She believes huge strides have been made by breaking down the barrier of fear created by Hosni Mubarak’s regime, but warns there is still a long way to go before Egypt can become a truly democratic civil society.

    Dr Maha Azzam - Chatham House

    The major events in history have been dictated by one aim: the desire by leaders to assert or protect power. So argues Simon Heffer in his essay A Short History of Power. From the days of Thucydides to the present, Heffer suggests that states pursue power for one of four reasons: land, wealth, God and minds. Understanding these forces may offer us a glimpse of why history is destined to repeat itself.

    A Short History of Power is published by Notting Hill Editions.

    A Short History of Power

    Greece and Italy are now being run, not by democratically elected leaders, but by appointed technocrats. The Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, argues that at times of such financial turbulence, it’s competence, not charisma, that’s needed. But he warns that the job they have to do is potentially unachievable, and the biggest threat to the survival of the Eurozone is that they fail and hyper-popular, nationalistic regimes come to power.

    Martin Wolf - FT.com


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