African democracy is about counting heads and not what is inside them.-Anonymous
It is a continent with beautiful seashores, lush forests and plains that breathe life. She is known for her generosity with love that is so warm it dries you out. Just like Chinua Achebe said in his novel “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes…We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so”. This is the Africa we have, a continent that is full of love it stokes a jealous flame from other continents but this has been clouded by the fragile democracies we have in African countries. The democracies that have been a cause of conflict, genocide, aimless killing, hatred among tribes and other atrocities such as child rape that leave one wondering what became of our shining eye. The countries that have tried their best have a small-minded kind of pseudo-democracy. This is where the incumbent and the opposition are busy demonizing each other instead of working together to form a government that will indeed help the development of a country. An example is Kenya, where political campaigns are ongoing and the presidential aspirants are doing an excellent job at bad-mouthing each other instead of selling their policies to the people. Political tension is also on the rise in this country and it would be essential for the aspirants to preach peace as they woo the voters.
African democracy was on the rise after most of the countries attained their independence but after sometime it began to stall and mostly dwindle. Just as Martin Luther King Jr said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Things fell apart but the African people remained silent, no one said a word when leaders began clinging to power or when the leaders incited people to violence. The situation is now out of hand but the lesson has not yet been learnt. The people forget that the power is in their hands, they can do more than talk, and they can initiate the action. Incumbent leaders are changing or sidestepping constitutional term limits to extend their time in office, this often provokes unrest and leads to lack of economic growth in the countries. An obvious example is Zimbabwe whose president Robert Mugabe publicly declared that as long as he is alive, he will keep ruling. His continued grip to power has driven away investors and the economy of Zimbabwe shrunk significantly after 2000, resulting in a desperate situation for the country, widespread poverty and 95% unemployment rate. Killing democracy equals to a charge of first degree murder on the economy.
Africa lacks some of the most essential elements that democracy requires to work best. As a continent we have to learn to use the people’s power wisely. An example is Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore attempted to amend the constitution to extend his 27 years in power. The people of Burkina Faso stormed the parliament building in 2015 on the day the National Assembly was due to debate an amendment. The opposition was also strong that Blaise ultimately resigned. The government should also know that democracy is not just about the opportunity to cast a vote every five years or every four years but rather their ability to perform and fulfill their promises to the people. Democracy conquers with development. Democracy draws its sustainability and strength from its capacity to meet people’s expectation. One of the most long-standing strength to democracy is extreme poverty. Democracy champions for equal distribution of resources through participation in policy making and decision making processes at every level. This is because income disparities can cause damage to the people’s capacity to hold decision-makers accountable. Democratic participation strengthens the ability of ordinary people to shape their lives.
Chinua Achebe said,“when the moon is shining the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.” How about rebuilding Africa’s democracy and having the kind of leadership that we had when we got our independence? Let us stir up the passion for change and growth. Let us reignite our moon, and then maybe we can have the much desired peace, economic development and right leadership.