Democracy is not brought into existence by rhetoric and long speeches of how it is a present reality in countries that have never had free elections. Kim Jong-un can talk about democracy all he wants but the sane will never take him seriously. Democracy should not just be a word but a state of affairs. Sadly, Africa’s revolutionary parties that campaigned for majority rule know no limits when it comes to democracy. Like George Orwell illustrates in his popular novel, Animal Farm, it is now a case of the pigs becoming more and more like humans by the day, the saviours becoming more and more like the oppressors. Just because it is a native, driving slaves and silencing opposition, it does not mean the situation is better today than it was in the minority rule regime. It is simply some sort of modification of the same problem that was. Some sort of freedom was found in the 20th century, but whatever was found, has been lost in time and suffocated by greed and corruption. Opposition parties to the monstrous revolutionary parties (that are still riding the wave of “we fought for your freedom”) have become more and more relevant by the day. It is a pity they are being whipped into line; which line should not exist in a democracy.
First things first, there has been a rise in the number of Presidents on the continent who feel they have to extend their stays in office for various “compelling” reasons such as “the people still want me in power”. This is ridiculous because the same people are the custodians of their constitutions and for them to take a complete U-turn on principles they once so promoted is a bit preposterous. President Nkurunziza of Burundi is one such example of a premier who has people begging him to unconstitutionally stay in power. How convenient for a president who should be reaping the fruits of his expired terms in some ranch in beautiful Burundi! Considering how widespread political violence has been of late in Burundi, we can safely assume that people have learnt to support Nkurunziza regardless of their personal convictions. They have been whipped into line. With youth militant forces like Imbonerakure of the ruling party still in existence, the President is seriously undermining democracy.
It would be a disservice to the art of telling it like it is if we do not mention President Paul Kagame who purportedly only has ten people opposing his presidential bid in Parliament. Thank you for that piece of information, Rwanda, but the third term should not even be up for votes or debate. With such a fluid state of affairs that allows for big changes when it is convenient to some people, what is the point of law? If laws are going to be dependant on how Presidents feel, why do we even have them? Is this the way Africa fashions her own way forward? A President should not wake up one day and say he wants to run for a term that is obviously spanning beyond what is constitutional. President Kagame has said he is open to going out of office and that limits should not be changed. The world awaits to see if that is not just political gibberish to further certain ends. What is clear though is that it is not right.
President Zuma of South Africa rightly put it when he said, “This business of us agreeing to serve two terms, only to realise ten years is too short, is a problem.”
Africa is also the subject of ridicule because of Presidents like Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea who have been in power for more than thirty five years in each of their jurisdictions. In fact, of the world’s longest serving (for lack of a better word) Presidents, fourteen are from Africa. Lest one is deluded to think these leaders have been in power because their leadership acumen is absolutely phenomenal, we will bring attention to the state of affairs in their countries. Zimbabwe’s 2008 economic meltdown is something of text book proportions. Things like that should be studied and not lived, yet Zimbabweans were forced to not only live through that but smile and celebrate the patriarchs of the hell they were living in. Nothing much has changed since then and anyone who suggests anything to the contrary disappears like Itai Dzamara, a civilian who disappeared earlier this year. The government has not even tried to show any interest in finding the man. Eritrea on the other hand has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes but all this is pocketed by just a few considering how low the country comes on the UN Human Development Index. Most people are living in abject penury yet the big man continues to lead.
It has been said that countries that have monarchies do not have the moral standing to chide African countries over terms of office but this argument falls flat considering how Presidents are not born into office but are put there by the people. After all, who is to say Western countries governed by monarchies should be the standards of democracy? Should African countries also have monarchies just because the UK still appreciates that system? Why not be the architects of true democracy that appreciates every man’s views and does not create monarchies under the guise of constitutional amendments? It is a fact that all democracies undergo some evolutionary process and Africa is still finding its footing with regards to that. Hopefully the “we died for this country” mantras that provide convenient façades and justifications for oppression and looting will die down and African democracy will move towards better days. Africa should define real democracy!
(Header Image Credit: International Business Times)