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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 September 2005, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
Africans trust religious leaders
By Grant Ferrett
BBC News

Nigerian boys
Nigerians identify themselves closely with their religion
Religious leaders are particularly trusted in Africa, a BBC World Service Who Runs Your World? survey of global attitudes towards power has revealed.

Three-quarters of those questioned in Africa identified religious leaders as the most trusted group, compared to only a third worldwide.

Politicians in Africa, as in the rest of the world, are the least trusted.

Less than a third believe their government reflects the people's will, with Nigerians especially unhappy.

Selection of facts and figures from the global survey

In Nigeria 85% of those questioned trusted religious leaders and a similar proportion were willing to give them more power.

Asked who had had the most influence on their decision-making over the past year, 13% of those surveyed in Africa said religious leaders. The global figure among more than 50,000 people questioned was just 5%.

Asked which was the most important in defining themselves, a majority of Africans put religion above any other factor.

Surprisingly few identified ethnicity as the most significant factor - just 6%, roughly the same as the rest of the world.

South Africa and East Africa bucked the trend, with people putting a greater emphasis on nationality.

And South Africa produced the highest figure of any country in the world when asked if the government reflected the will of the people - 59% of South African said yes.

So who or what runs your world? And do you agree with this survey, should religious leaders in Africa be given more power? Do you think they should be trusted more than elected politicians? Or should intellectuals have more of a say in the running of your country?

Let us know your views using the form below.

A selection of your views will be broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 17 September at 1700GMT.

I believe religious leaders do play a major role in people's lives and we should encourage this. However, the deep-rooted cancer of corruption within churches and other religious organisations should be checked. Corruption is rampant among religious leaders in some places. The real mission of the church for example is not on the agenda of many church leaders. Their real agenda is power and money.
Josephat Mua, Silver Spring, Kenyan in USA

I think it is first of all God who runs this world. I totally agree with this survey but I do not think religious leaders will be able to take that power to rule a country, they do no have all the ideologies and mathematical principles to govern a country. You can pray to God all the time for peace and progress but you still need infrastructural policies to move your country forward.
Desmond Lamptey, Accra, Ghana

The facts still remain that African political leaders are the bane of corruption and consequent underdevelopment in Africa today. This has cost them of the confidence of their people. Religious leaders are the ones that comfort the suffering masses with their motivating sermons and advice. To trust them with power rather than selfish politicians who serve their bellies and incur huge foreign debt for Africa. Intellectuals on the other hand, should be partially trusted with power because the see their positions as an opportunity to make up for what their career could not afford due poor salary and lack of working incentives. Although experience has shown that African intellectuals are easily infected by dubious and corrupt politicians the moment they are in leadership positions. So religious leaders are preferable if supported, but I guess dirty politicians will not allow them to smell power.
Emelike Obinna, Lagos, Nigeria

This is one survey I can remember in recent times conducted by BBC African Service that seems to be 98% true. I totally agree with this survey as much as many in Nigeria would do. We as Nigerians truly believe in our religious leaders and as a Christian I strongly uphold what I hear from my pastor than I would do simply because I have listened, followed and grown by these instructions and I have come to see for myself that over the years most of these religious leaders do practice what they preach even though they maybe some bad eggs amongst them.
Lucky Imarhiagbe, Nigerian living in the UK

Intellectuals should have more of a say in the running of the country. We should not divide people in any way in their religious groups as these bring conflicts. Since time in-memorial Africans lived together not thinking of which religion one is. Let it remain so.
S. Msangi, Usangi, Tanzania

The message from your survey is that religious leaders have great influence on many Africans. Hence, it is important that our political leaders consult and involve the religious leaders more and more in decision-making. But I do not think that we should give religious leaders more political power. It will greatly corrupt them and interfer with their religious role.
Nii Clottey, Iowa, US

It doesn't surprise me that a people whose mentality is warped by decades of junta dictatorship prefer sectarian to authentic political leadership. What bigotry and military government share in common is regimentation and intolerance of alternative views, that over time turn their victims into psychological infants incapable of any true independent thoughts. More than foreign financial aid, or any thing else of the sort, what Nigerians - leaders and followers - badly need at the moment is to re-learn what democracy and plural society are about. They once were adjudged the very best in these among the third-world countries just emerging from colonial rule. That was in the early 1960s; before the first putsch.
P-J Ezeh, Nsukka, Nigeria

What we need is a balance. Not too much of anything. The reason politicians are not trusted is because they basically promise more than they can deliver and even though they were to do their best, change does not occur overnight, it takes time and generally, they can never please everybody. Though intellectuals have great knowledge, they definitely do not know everything. There is more to knowledge than books. A government should then have intellectuals, politicians and religious leaders. On who these people should be is up to the masses to dicern hopefully in fair, open elections.
Eva Kagiri, Tampere, Finland

My world is run by African and Muslim influences. Yes I agree with the survey. Religious leaders should be given more power. But also traditional leaders like kings, chiefs and clan leaders should also be given more power. They are still influential in sub-Saharan Africa. Examples are kings in Uganda especially Kabaka of Buganda. If free and fair elections are held in Africa, nobody should have more power than the elected leaders who have the people's mandate. The intellectuals should form a strong civil society, a prerequisite for a free and democratic society.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

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