FACING THE CHALLENGES OF DEMOCRATIC IN AFRICA
By Moses Gibson Jr,
confronting Africa's democratic experiments are many and complex and include entrenching constitutionalism and the reconstruction of the postcolonial state. To move Africa forward, emerging democratic governments would have to confront a legacy of POVERTY, ILLITERACY, MILITARIZATION, and underdevelopment produced by incompetent or corrupt GOVERNMENTS.
Recent experiences in Africa illustrate the difficult and daunting task of consolidating democracy on the continent. Available evidence indicates that many of the new democratic regimes remain fragile and some of the euphoria of the early 1990s had evaporated. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the authoritarianism and statism of the early post-independence years was in retreat, and, where it persisted, was vigorously contested in a context in which democratic aspirations were firmly implanted in popular consciousness and the PLURALIZATION of associational life was an integral part of the political landscape. It was indeed a mark of the changed times that, whereas previously development had been regarded as a prerequisite of democracy, now democracy is seen as indispensable for development.
The challenges confronting Africa's democratic experiments are many and complex and include entrenching constitutionalism and the reconstruction of the postcolonial state; ensuring that the armed forces are permanently kept out of politics, instituting structures for the effective management of natural resources; promoting sustainable development and political stability; nurturing effective leadership, and safeguarding human rights and the RULE OF LAW.
In Africa, as elsewhere, DEMOCRATIC government and respect for HUMAN RIGHTS are closely linked. Democracy is the best means the world has produced to protect and advance human rights, based on individual FREEDOM and DIGNITY. In turn, respect for human rights is the only means by which a democracy can sustain the individual freedom and dignity that enables it to endure.
Despite some improvements in some parts of the continent, Africa remains the site of very serious human rights problems.
Only a handful of countries that hold the regular multi-party elections in Africa are rated as free, and in line with international and regional standards.
The basic rule of the DEMOCRACY GAME is that the winners do n't forever dislodge the losers. It is important for the consolidation of democracy that LOSERS believe in the system and think that they can get back into the game.
* AFRICAN governments must create an enabling environment in which traditions and values of the constitution will be able to take root and where rights and duties are set out. In this process, the separation of powers must be facilitated.
* Government must allow institutions to work and must allow citizens to exercise their rights, to live in accordance with their religious beliefs and cultural values, without interference.
* The legal order must be based on human rights, societal awareness of the instrumental and intrinsic values of democracy, a competent state, and a culture of tolerance.
* Democracy requires that those who have authority use it for the public good; a democratic system of government begins by recognizing that all members of society are equal.
* People should have equal say and equal participation in the affairs of government and decision making in society, because, in the final analysis, government exists to serve the people; the people do n't exist to serve government.
* In other words, governments must enhance individual rights and n't stifle their existence. Repressive laws on many African countries' statute books against personal liberty and habeas corpus must be removed from the statute books.
In addition, most of the countries in Africa operate "semi-authoritarian regimes" because they've the facade of democracy; that is, they've political systems, they've all the institutions of democratic political systems, they've elected parliaments, and they hold regular elections. They've nominally independent judiciaries. They've constitutions that are by and large completely acceptable as democratic institutions but there 're, at the same time, very serious problems in the functioning of the democratic system.
Semi-authoritarian regimes are very good at holding multi-party elections while at the same time making sure that the core power of the government is never going to be affected. In other words, they're going to hold elections, but they're n't........... the regime is n't going to lose those elections. Semi-authoritarian regimes intimidate voters. Semi-authoritarian regimes manipulate state institutions for self-ends—governments don't respect the laws, and don't work through institutions. Semi-authoritarian regimes amend constitutions anytime they want.
Semi-authoritarian regimes will n't introduce fully participatory, competitive elections that may result in their loss of power, and some are even unsure of how far they really want to go toward political pluralism in their countries. AFRICAN POLITICS is generally speaking, a matter of personality, n't programs.
A strong and effective democratic process should be able to establish a functioning administrative structure; and address the issue of how leaders are chosen; the issue of how different institutions relate to each other; the issues of how officials should act, for example, how the JUDICIARY should act, the independence of the JUDICIARY from other branches of government, and the problem of how the decisions that are taken by these DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS can be implemented.
To move Africa forward, emerging democratic governments would have to confront a legacy of POVERTY, ILLITERACY, MILITARIZATION, and UNDERDEVELOPMENT produced by INCOMPETENT or CORRUPT governments. The syndrome of personal dictatorships and the winner-take-all practice as we have in some West African nations for example would need to be addressed, and there must be full respect for human rights; constitutional government and the rule of law; transparency in the wielding of power, and accountability of those who exercise POWER.
In most AFRICAN COUNTRIES, a tremendous amount of information does n't circulate beyond a small portion of the urban population, owing to illiteracy, language barriers, and costs. Because the individual ignorance of personal rights and understanding of what DEMOCRACY means has encouraged AUTHORITARIANISM in AFRICA, POLITICAL education at the grass roots is necessary. If a genuine democracy is to become a reality in AFRICA, the participation of the masses has to be sought by POLITICIANS, and n't bought by MANIPULATORS.
POLITICIANS should try to understand what the masses know, because they sometimes lack the ability to articulate their interests and grievances. However, POLITICIANS also should be educated about human rights and respect for the constitution. Education is crucial to the development of a culture of tolerance, which, it is hoped, would contribute immensely to the creation of an enabling environment for DEMOCRACY.
Oui politians must encourage citizens to learn the habits of civil disobedience on a massive scale. They must encourage people to go out and demonstrate, to show their opinion regarding issues, because we must eliminate the culture of fear.
ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY: It is unrealistic to expect that AFRICAN COUNTRIES will suddenly reverse course without internal pressure from civil society groups and INSTITUTIONALIZE stable DEMOCRATIC government. The significance of a strong and energetic CIVIL SOCIETY in the transition to democracy cann't be OVER-EMPHASISED. Perhaps one reason that AFRICA has n't CRUMBLED into total ABSOLUTISM is because CIVIL SOCIETY has managed to survive, providing a mode of expression against AUTHORITARIANISM, despite systematic efforts by the state to destroy it.
It is INCUMBENT upon CIVIL SOCIETY to promote socialization by moving people away from thinking about the state and encouraging them to think what they want without FEAR. The public must fully participate in the affairs of STATE, with the state protecting their rights to be recognized. In this context, the value of the role of CITIZENS and CIVIL SOCIETY is to organize and articulate the interests of local communities and the grass roots to the highest levels—even bringing about the change of LAWS by serving as effective pressure groups.
Many governments are n't willing to create an enabling environment. But by standing up, civil society organizations can insist and force governments to create a space. We must keep the culture of resistance alive and continue to question AUTHORITARIAN rule especially on the important issues of HUMAN RIGHTS, CONSTITUTIONALISM and rule of LAW.
POLITICAL PARTIES, HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS and other CIVIL SOCIETY groups should mobilize the people to reject ECONOMIC POLICIES dictated to African governments by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which have exacerbated poverty in AFRICA. The demand for participatory democracy should n't be limited to conduct of FREE and FAIR elections only. It must also include the management of the economy in the interest of the people, otherwise, the fragile DEMOCRATIC process in bound to COLLAPSE.
With the pending elections in West Africa, civil society organizations in West Africa gathered in this forum should unite in sending a clear message to the ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES (ECOWAS) and AFRICAN UNION (AU) that the subversion of DEMOCRACY under whatever guise. Following this meeting, our engagement should be to immediately commence sensitization and mobilization of the population against the MANIPULATION of constitutions and ELECTORAL LAWS, as well as the ELECTORAL PROCESS.
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