January 4th, 2012
Democracy Fails Africa
The heading is actually a misnomer. Democracy fails everywhere, at least in its popular definition and application today. Multiparty democracy as promoted and appealed for globally today, is a political system based on campaigns, politicians, parties, advertisements, sponsors, elections and tenures. Every one of these properties of popular multiparty democracy are not just inadequate, but evidently detrimental to healthy societal functioning and development on the short term, and more critically, the long term.
We limit our discussion to Africa because the promoted version of western democracy is foreign to Africa, just being introduced and applied, and as such at stage of address and redress.
Although Kenya has a strong economy, the botched elections that recently took place put this beautiful country on the “Failed State” list with other African nations using western style democracy to elect their leaders. This list of considered failed states includes: Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Cote D’Ivoire. There are other countries in Africa who want to believe that this system of democracy is working although it is clear that their country stands on the brink of being classified also as a failed state.
The elections that took place on December 27, 2007 have kept Kenya in the spotlight of world news daily because of the violence that has spread outside of the capital, Nairobi. World leaders, in their effort to help bring an end to the violence that is destroying the country, have traveled to Kenya, called the leaders of both parties, and asked former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to try to negotiate a peace settlement.
As I watch and read the news reports about the tragedy in Kenya, where nearly 1,000 have been confirmed dead, 300,000 displaced, stores looted and property burned, I am convinced that the Westminster System of Democracy is a failure in Africa.
Africans, as most people of the world, long for democracy where the masses are free to choose their leaders without a trail of death and destruction before and after elections.
Africa needs a form of government that speaks to its culture and traditions. In many areas of Africa, the influence and importance of tribal leadership cannot be dismissed. Any system of democracy that is developed must take into consideration the reality of tribalism. Intro. excerpt from-‘Democracy’ fails Africa, By A. Akbar Muhammad, 2008
Brief history of today’s democracy
There have been varying forms of what may be called democracy at all ends of the world for millenia. However the structure of today’s democracy originates from 6-7th century Greece. The Athenians developed this system as a means of resolving popular revolutions of the masses against the few ruling aristocrats. In 508 BC, Cleisthenes, created about 10 political parties/groups, replacing family alliances and loyalties with group alliances. Pericles, known as one of the greatest democratic leaders went on to enable poor occupy political seats and create the democratic identity we have today, based on a system for many over the few. There was more adjustment, including the principles drawn out by Aristotle, Plato’s student, who promoted the concepts of liberty and numbers over worth and status.
Democracy went through an age of decay for several centuries till its reawakening in 17-18th century modern Europe. The English re-instated the system with greater political party defines. And today, the United States promotes democracy as not just a choice of societal organization and governance, but the all in all criteria of national recognition as against castigation.
So what is wrong with modern democracy?
Like we said earlier, everything. We will analyze the fundamental principles to appreciate the flaws.
1. Majority rule
a. Majority rule, minority oppression: Immediately the flaw of this is recognized. Majority win, minority lose. Majority is not concordant with ‘good’, ‘righteous’, ‘reasonable’ or any other such positive term. And minority does not mean the opposite of these. Majority may represent as little as 51%, while minority is 49%. The odds of exchange is not much more than the toss of a coin. Democracy based on this principle can be defined as a system that automatically has a majority oppress a minority. In what is called ‘Tyranny of the majority’. There must be oppression for there to be true democracy, based on this principle.
b. False majority: What we in democracies see as a majority is actually almost always a false majority. This error is only absent in 2 political party systems. Let’s imagine parties ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’. ‘A’ won a majority of 40% of the vote. ‘A’ however represents a radical party with absurd principles. The real majority of the population detest ‘A’. However there are two reasonable choices, rival to ‘A’. Choice ‘B’, and choice ‘C’. The majority of the populace, 60% are divided, 26% vote for ‘B’, while 24% vote for ‘C’. ‘A’ wins. 60% is the true majority, however in the multi-party democratic system, the true majority is most often lost among contenting rivals, and the harmonious minority wins a majority due to the divisions as demonstrated above. This critical issue is identified in the late Gaddafi’s green book. Another related defect of the democratic system is the ‘Voting paradox’, simply put, the majority may lose a majority preferred choice, because their top choice did not get in. ‘Run-off’s’ and the ‘electoral college’- indirect democracy system in the US, with differential block power, are few of desperate techniques used to attempt to deal with some of these issues.
c. A ‘crazy’ majority: When the democratic process installed Hamas as the government in Palestine, with their winning in an open, free and fair election, the United States secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice immediately added to the definitions of democracy:
“Democracy brings not just rights, but it brings obligations and responsibilities too,” Rice said. “And one of those responsibilities is to care for and to be a fighter for peace, and not for war and not for violence. Democracy and wanton violence, democracy and terrorism, are incompatible.”
Of course that is not democracy, that is humanity. This makes us wonder what the true agenda of promoting this ‘concept’, globally is. Now, let us state clearly, that we are not in any way defining ‘Hamas’ as crazy. Not any more than we may define the USA election winners as crazy parties too, today. ‘Crazy’ is a relative term, and this drives home this critical point. The crazy majority of a nation in democratic systems selects leaders with only internal consideration, that may be the worst leaders for global stability. In this sense, democracy is a most selfish, (internal selfishness) system of government selection. Only if all nations are allowed to vote for a particular nations leaders can this error be fixed, or if a universal order, system or code is adopted. Nuclear Pakistan can elect radical leaders who will constitute a terrible threat to India, because a ‘crazy’ majority wishes for such, and likewise Indians may select the ‘crazy’ choice of a ‘crazy’ majority, thus leading to global dis-balance. A system of selecting leaders must put global safety and suitability into consideration, democracy fails to do this.
As Henry Kissinger, a permanent seated US political guru and policy maker, put it in 2009, during the swearing in of US president Obama:
The financial collapse exposed the mirage. It made evident the absence of global institutions to cushion the shock and to reverse the trend. Inevitably, when the affected publics turned to their national political institutions, these were driven principally by domestic politics, not considerations of world order.
d. An unaware majority: How much do the people know? Are they informed on the intricacies of the choices to be made? Have they ever dedicated in-depth thought into the affairs and events to be decided? How then can and should they vote, when they are so apart from what may need to be done. A contestant simply entices them with what sounds good and he is bought. Money certainly prevails as it makes anything look good. This system denies logic and can not guarantee any success. People who make decisions including selecting viable candidates must be enlightened in the requirements and must have dedicated time and deep thought to it. The masses are simply not capable or equipped to know what choices the Nation needs.
Why Facebook Works and Democracy Does not
We are told that this means that the system worked. But in what sense does it work? It only means that the well-organized minority prevailed over the diffused majority. This is about as peaceful as the kid’s game “king of the mountain.”
Facebook has nothing to do with this nonsense. Your communities are your own creation, an extension of your will and its harmony with the will of others. The communities grow based on the principle of mutual advantage. If you make a mistake, you can undisplay your friend’s posts or you can unfriend him. This hurts feelings, sure, but it is not violent: It doesn’t loot or kill. Read more on this …
2. Political parties
There are simply too many ridiculous issues with political parties. A few:
a. Mortal enmity, the deadly children’s game: As kids we all divided ourselves into teams. Blue team and red team. For the game, contest or match, we aligned strongly to our team, but when competition season was over, we tossed the markers and were united. This game is now played in the adult political scene. We have elderly people, ages over 18 years, playing a children’s game to deadly proportions. Not just every 4 years, but all year through, in democracies, adults associate themselves with love and hate based on political party affiliations. He is a democrat, I don’t like democrats. She is a republican, I can not get along with her. In presidential campaigns, we see such filth being thrown at rivals of other political parties (mud slinging). This can not be right. This is a children’s game gone too far. Adults should not be defined by strict life choices and liked or disliked based on group affiliations. In Europe and America, socioeconomic class differences and race are played upon to create political divides and advantages, while in Africa, traditional and ethnic divides easily come into play and as a result, become exaggerated.
Political affiliation-ships are the new pinnacles of the sex-race-bigotry social discrimination charts. In Africa we see these political rivalries reaching most dangerous levels. Creating, fostering and fueling great ethnic divides and feuds, resulting in thousands of deaths and many more being displaced, the result of the mortal enmity and friction that arises from democracy. It’s the same pattern in Ivory Coast, in Kenya, in Somalia, in the Congo. The recent horrific Laurent Gbagbo- Alassane Ouattara crises, which divided Ivory Coast along ethnic and historic lines and brought the nation to the verge of complete civil war, finally paving the way for a France led foreign invasion and western exploitation of Ivory coast, was a direct consequence of the democratic game. But to make things worse, this 2010-2011 political violence crises is a repeat of the 2002 civil war, the mortal enmity and divide first created by the initiation of democratic rule after the 30-year presidency of Félix Houphouët-Boigny. Conflicts in Africa are the consequence of the colonialists nation-creation process in the continent, and the continued mortal divides are again the result of Africa foolishly messing with the colonial ‘democratization’ project or ploy.
Related: NewsRescue- Conflicts in Africa- Introduction
In Nigeria, Africa’s wealthy and most populous nation, two deadly terrorist groups were created as a result of the adult political game. In the oil rich South, a thug governor, Peter Odili of Rivers state, armed bandits to battle his rivals. After he won election, the armed bandits persisted as the MEND terrorist group, responsible for kidnappings, murders and grave economical sabotage via disruption of Nigeria’s oil flow.
The economic losses as Nigeria’s oil output was decreased to less than half, resulted in 10s of thousands of deaths. Just as MEND operations were being curtailed with a billion USD government Amnesty program, the ugly head of a political game monster emerged in Nigeria’s impoverished North. Another deadly radical terrorist group, Boko Haram (Western civilization is bad), comprised of former thugs who were organized and armed to secure the political win of the then campaigning state governor, Ali Modu Sheriff.
“Just like the Boko Haram issue, it started like a Borno affair but now it is becoming a national problem. I remember when I was the Deputy National Chairman of the ANPP, I went to the state (Borno) to commission some projects and when we were driving along one of the major streets, I saw young boys selling petrol in jerry cans and I asked him (the governor), why he allowed them to be selling on a major road like that, and he said, “no, no, leave them they are very useful, during the general elections, we can use them to turn everywhere.”
“So, it means they were used during the elections. So, that was how it all started. And if you remember, we had the same problem again in Rivers State where one of the former governors used thugs and at the end of it, they became militants. So, there is always reason for something”, he said.
According to BBC report by Rob Walker, decades of deadly riots and even vengeful cannibalism in Jos, in Nigeria’s middle belt Plateau state, are described to be the result of politicians setting up and taking advantage of ethno-religious divides to eradicate wards of non supporters.
The rivalry and game to win gets deadly all over the world. The bitterness could be heard in Hilary Clinton’s voice, in her 2009 visit to Nigeria, when she described democracy as ‘still evolving‘, and cited the Bush- Gore contest as recent evidence.
“You know we’ve had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too.”
Nigeria recently re-embraced democracy after a long haul of military rule. Even though the democratic dispensation has without evidence, been attributed to the national development since its re-application, Nigeria has never been in more precarious times. There is so much corruption within the executives; the corruption coupled with North and South frustration, terror and insecurity is promoting a fear of multiple secession, the nation serially dividing into 6 or more little pieces. This would other wise have been impossible under a non democratic, and adult political game obsessed and self absorbed democratic system.
b. Manifestos: Again another infantile and really frustrating property of today’s democratic systems. Human beings are mosaics and not single colors. You can not box people into limiting manifestos with strict defines. This is why we hear ‘far right’, and ‘far left’ leaning categorizations being used for the electorate as well as candidates. Truth being that many tip over into the next party, or totally topple over into it. When candidate present themselves as belonging to a party with particular set manifesto, this is frank insincerity, and a house built on false foundations is bound to crumble.
The manifesto system compounds deadly divisiveness of democracy among adults and promotes dishonesty. Candidates must be allowed to retain their uniqueness and a mix of so many parts and principles, and this is what selection of leaders should depend on. It is common place to hear of voters simply checking all boxes under a particular political party for all offices, without even knowing the candidates. Africa will not move forward with such behavior in its contesting and voting adults.
3. Campaigns, advertisements and sponsorship
Big business runs politics. The current Occupy rioters that have been posing a serious headache for the United states government, know this fact and hence do not focus on protesting against the government, but focus the crux of their campaign against Wall street. Corporate industry sponsors politicians, and lobbyists determine and define policy in democratic nations. You can not afford to bite the hand that made and feeds you. Democracy is hence extremely dangerous for Africa. In nations trying out this system, corruption is getting to most of it. Nigeria under its democratic dispensations have epic levels of government mismanagement and corruption. Legislators earmark combined earnings and salaries at levels as high as N88 million monthly, about 600,000 USD/month. In Ghana, since the end of the Rawlings revolution which actually was, according to analysts, the saving grace for Ghana, the political process keeps getting dirtier. In 2009 when Obama visited Ghana, the ‘Voda phone’, bribery scandal among Members of parliament was rocking the nation. The last election saw increased levels of bribery and violence, with threats of importing neighboring Nations military. There were riots with property incendiarism. The elderly and too young were registered to vote as election malpractice was predominant. As Ghana proceeds with democracy, and the distance to the Rawling revolution increases, Ghana is not making progress, but actually falling gradually, but steadily. During the 2008 US presidential race, Senator McCain bitterly complained that Obama only defeated him on Jewish money donations. Obama had 10:1 advantage in total campaign money. McCain Couldn’t Compete With Obama’s Money –
Money buys votes, consciously and subconsciously. In Africa, politicians actually pay the electorate, pay election officers and also hire thugs. A system where the presidency is bought by sponsors and commercials is not a process expected to bring dependable progress. To address this error in popular democracy, we must dissociate campaigns from sponsorship. The government must fund all contestants equally and they must all be granted equal media time so the masses know who they are voting for and what they are about. Money must be taken completely out of politics. There must be total overhaul to enable candidates be chosen on merit and intellect, and also to enable them serve based on a commitment to the masses as against a commitment and debt to their sponsors- Big business and the media. African nations must quickly learn from the crippling errors in western democratic nations.
Sponsorship can be both internal and external. When winning a nations presidency is sponsored from abroad, then you even have a bigger problem of systematic colonization. The United states is known to bow to the Saudi Arabia dictatorship because this government finances the US, candidates and government. In 2011, the president of of the IMF, Christine Lagarde visited Nigeria demanded that Nigeria along with other African nations removed fuel subsidies, thus increasing fuel pump prices and causing national distress, hardship and paralyzing strikes. Foreign manipulation is a known advantage of democracy and an understood reason why the western world is so interested in imposing western democracy in Africa. They control the global media and global finance, and as such, they immediately select national leaders. They are also able to utilize national leaders to create and sponsor regional terror for their goals. A system of selection not dependent on money or media is the only insulation from local business and foreign power manipulation and blackmailing African national leaders.
4. Tenures and Terms
a. Truncation of good and prolongation of bad: Term limits stems also from ancient Greece. Presidential republics limit the number of terms a president can serve. Parliamentary systems do not employ such strict limitations. An official may be limited to 2 terms, in which case, after serving these he can never again run for that government office. With this system if an officer is the smartest, most fit and best for the job, he must be sacked and replaced with other choices, even though less competent or totally incompetent. This system can not work in Africa where politics is known to be a dirty game, and good men are very hard to find in it. If a leader leads well, as does for instance the leader or Emir of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, there is absolutely no logical reason to remove and replace him because he has expired a western democratically select term. And if a leader fails to deliver, he should be ejected likewise without waiting for him to complete stipulated tenure. Life expectancy is too short in Africa to spend it waiting for an incompetent leader to expire his 8 years. Terms must be totally discarded in African governing systems.
b. Progress reversal: Democratic systems allow for a reversal of progress each dispensation with the total overhaul of government officials. There can be no guaranteed continuity of development with new leaders replacing the expired ones. In fact the security of the nation is at grave risk alternating all hands that lead national affairs. This is why true democracy does not exist anywhere in the world.
There is a systematic fashion of maintaining ‘god-fathers’ in all democratic nations that are progressive. In the US, we have the electors of the electoral college, these officials are the king makers and they are permanently elected officials who maintain continuity of governance. Elected leaders in the US democratic system are more of showmen, simply the public face of the permanent, real policy makers and maintainers behind the scene. Like we mentioned earlier, the United states is not a true democratic nation. Another powerful nation, that is able to survive and maintain its ambitions and policies against all odds, including crippling western sanctions, Iran employs the same not-true republic system. In Iran there is an ‘expert council’, the Imam council who remain permanently in seat to shore the interests of the nation in a dependable, continuous fashion. This is because it is not cerebral to transfer national decisions to completely new individuals every 4 or so years. You can not change the father or brain of a house every few years and expect progress.
c. Revitalized embezzlement: New administrators and officials each new dispensation enter office with a new, fresh, zealous start to setting up corruption and embezzlement networks. Each official upon entry rushes to steal as much funds as he can, within his limited term, and does not focus on good governance and upon his term expiration, the incoming does the same all over again. Limitless terms will eliminate this problem.
Related: NewsRescue- How The IMF-World Bank and (SAP) Destroyed Africa
5. Cost vs Benefit
Nations pay cash for trash: The national economic burden to set up democratic elections in Africa, is tremendous. Officer salaries, voting registers, voting materials, transport, logistics, and all other running costs, runs from hundreds of millions to billions of USD. This would be OK if the result was worth it, but obviously it is not. Democratic systems end up selecting at best, rich, influential and charismatic members of the public, no better than anyone else, but possibly worse. The standards to contest for position are basic- an ordinary college degree, interest in governing and money backing. At the electoral operation cost to nations, there is simply no ‘return on investment’. More sensible systems of selection must put into consideration, and set as qualifying criteria, greater skills of leadership, higher intellectual abilities and better measures of morality, as against the basic requirements, including the more often than not, negative financial-muscle requirement of candidates in the present popular democratic systems.
It is time for something new
Africans can no longer afford to wait, strive and hope for the perfection of a system that has not succeeded anywhere in the world since its inception over 2000 years ago. It’s time to move on to systems with better track records that can actually work.
Related: NewsRescue- African Civilizations of ancient America
The famous African revolutionary singer and prophet, late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti sang about democracy:
“Democrazy, democrazy, Crazy demo. Demonstration of craze, crazy demonstration, if e no be craze, why for Africa as time dey go, things just dey bad, poor man dey cry, rich man dey mess. Democrazy, Crazydemo. Demonstration of craze, crazy demonstration. If good teacher teach something and student make mistake, teacher must… talk so, but oyinbo(white-man) no talk so, na support dem dey support, that means them teaching get meaning, different meanings. Different type of underlying meanings. That is why I say, that is the reason of my song, that is the conclude, the concluding of my song. I sing I say I beg everyone to join my song. Teacher, teacher no be lecturer be your name. Teacher, and lecturer be the same. Person you teach finish yet done die dey go. Me and you no dey for the same category. Me and you no dey for the same category. No be same category. Category oh! Category oh! No be same categoooo! No be same categoooo! No be same categoooo! No be same categoooo!” that “democracy is democrazy, demonstration of craze”. That as things progress, it gets worse in Africa.
That “democracy is democrazy, demonstration of craze”. That as time progresses, it gets worse in Africa.
The popular adage goes: Insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. Perhaps it is time Africans check the remedy being sought and used. A popular misconception is the correlation of progress with democracy. This is totally unfounded. The United states, now heading into economic turbulence is actually not even a true democracy, as described above.
Advanced nations are simply wealthy nations, either by virtue of natural or stolen resource. Poverty brings ignorance and chaos. With continued deterioration of European economies, we see increased chaos and rebellion- the recent Robin-Hood riots of the UK, the Occupy protests in the US, Greece violent riots and the like. Denominator- poverty. And with this, we see increased government brutality and limitation of freedom. In the UK, August riots, not only were the numerous youth called horrible names, but also harsh punishment was meted out on their entire households and the government hastened to ban social media.The US occupy riots are facing similar ‘third-world’ government responses, with a total media black out and government brutality. (See: Economic Riots in NYC- Occupy Wall Street protests continue with Media Blackout )
Africa’s problems are due to colonial confusion and continued exploitation and not the lack of democracy. A recent documentary, and result of extensive research which featured on the National Geographic channel, Guns, Germs, and Steel, in answering the questions on Africa’s recent ‘lack of cargo(wealth)’, figured out that- not the lack of democracy, but geographic advantages in natural wealth were most responsible.
Again Akbar Muhammad says:
Africa cannot follow the European or American style of democracy.
The Europeans developed this democracy from Greek influences and have had hundreds of years to improve upon this system of government, contrary to the nations of Africa who have only enjoyed freedom from their colonial masters over the last 50-plus years.
Africa needs a think tank comprised of “the best minds” that can develop a form of democracy that speaks uniquely to the African experience, considering what’s in the best interest of the country, considering tribalism and inclusive of advice from traditional elders. In tribal tradition, when one of the “sons” of the tribe is running for office, it is expected that most members of the tribe will support him.
As this western-style democracy pits tribe against tribe, there are forces at work dividing the Nations of Africa: The North Africans (Arabs) against the Sub Saharan Africans (Blacks). As Africa fights, America and France are planning to build military bases on African soil. Africa is struggling to maintain its freedom and self determination, allowing military bases will erode this freedom.
America is the number one trading partner with Africa and Europe is not far behind. However, they no longer have an exclusive on Africa’s natural resources. The new scramble for Africa now includes China. The wealth that Africa is receiving from the sale of oil and other natural resources to the East and West should be used to further develop its infrastructure, improve education, strengthen the economy and create jobs so young people of Africa will not feel the need to flee the continent looking for greener pastures in the West.
All across Africa, African leaders seeking to be elected are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund these multi-party elections patterned after western style democracy, a path that Africa should not and must not follow. In America, the cost of the current 2008 presidential elections will exceed $2 billion.
Kenya brings home the reality that trying to adopt the colonial master’s system of government for the people of Africa is a miserable failure.
The Heads of State that convened in Addis Abada at the African Union Conference, beginning Jan. 31, must keep Kenya at the top of the agenda if Africa and the World is not to face another Rwanda.
Part B of this paper discusses indigenous African systems of government and better methods for Africa.