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Seminar with Swiss Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud

Strathmore Law School was privileged to host, Jacques Pitteloud; Swiss Ambassador to Kenya for a lecture with law students. He impressed the youthful audience with his excellent grasp on issues in Africa and the emphasis that the solution to Africa’s problems lies in its youth learning from the mistakes of current leaders and avoiding falling for the same. He has a wealth of experience in diplomatic relations having worked as an ambassador for Swiss government to Rwanda during the dark days. Currently, he serves as the ambassador of the Swiss government to Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles and Burundi. This has given him a wide experience in African affairs so much so that he considers himself African and better still, his wife is Rwandese.


In his opinion, Africa, by this he meant countries that have similar economic, social and political issues, will not benefit from ‘Pan-African solutions’ because in the first place, Pan-Africanism was derived from states demarcated by Europeans during the colonial rule. Assigning boundaries without regard and without the engagement of the locals pitted unfamiliar neighbours together. This has clearly been disaster, since Africans did not participate in that demarcation, hence Ambassador’s conviction that solutions cannot come from there.


Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud argued that in order to understand Africa’s problems, one must first critically look at the cultural diversity of its people. He reckoned that in the last 20 years in Africa, he had witnessed an abundant diversity in many African countries such as Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya.  He remarked that what had gone wrong with Somalia is that several European regimes had tried to force their systems of administration on the country and had failed miserably. Indeed, he argued that inculcating a foreign system of governance on a people who have a societal structure and harmony ends up being catastrophic.


To prosper as a nation, one must have an understanding of common interests for the region, and then get people working together for peace and prosperity.  This, he reckoned, does not mean that one gets a backing from tribal homes to fight other communities. Current politics in Africa has seen tribes vote for leaders from one’s community while ignoring to choose leaders who can deliver the mandate of the people. He used Switzerland as an example, with its many communities, Germans, French and other small ethnic groups; yet all work in harmony for the good of the country.

He informed the audience that Switzerland is run like a corporate organisation where citizens are the shareholders who appoint leaders as their representatives. If the leaders do not deliver, they are removed from office. This analogy he stated should be used as a form of governance in Africa.

Leadership also took central stage in his discourse. Ambassador observed that African leaders have been so extolled past their due. He noted that “the big man” mentality that Africans associate with their leaders is disconnected even with the traditional systems that it cannot bear well with developmental objectives. The consequences of such “big men and (women)” were corruption and impunity in society. The solution to this was developing the rule of law to reinforce accountability and transparency on the part of the leaders.


Finally, he noted the significance of ethics and the educative role that it plays in the formation of capable leaders from the youth. He implored the students to embrace ethics as a lasting solution for “without ethics the future is doomed.”


 Jacques Pitteloud poses for a photo with SLS Dean, Dr Franceschi and SLS students.