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Africa: Democracy Slips As Africa Progresses Mwesiga Baregu
The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
Africa: Democracy Slips As Africa Progresses
15 November 2011
Dar es Salaam — We concluded the last column with a global picture of receding democracy and rising authoritarianism. This trend obtains in both the domestic and the international spheres. Internationally, the UN is either being sidelined and rendered redundant or it is being used to justify illegal unilateral action by western powers.
The recent unilateral invasion of Libya by Nato forces is a case in point. It stands as testimony to growing impunity in the conduct of international affairs. This trend began with the invasion of Kosovo (1999), continued in Iraq (2003), Libya (2011) and there are now clear indications that Iran may be the next target.
Domestically the declining democracy trend has grown in the same period. This suggests that there could be a causal relationship between international impunity and the growth of authoritarianism i.e. international impunity feeds domestic repression.
The declining trend has continued with the largest setbacks, in 2011, being recorded in Africa where declines were noted in Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zambia. Improvements were noted in Kenya, Nigeria, Somaliland, and surprisingly, Tanzania. To demonstrate how quickly situations can change, Guinea, received an improvement in status from Not Free to Partly Free.
This trend is also confirmed by the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (2011) which states, inter alia, "... the general trend in Africa is one of imbalance. Many countries have improved in both Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development, while the majority of countries have regressed in Safety and Rule of Law and governance.
Commenting on the 2010 Freedom House report, the Economist (Jan. 14, 2010) notes: "...the worrying thing is that the cause of liberal democracy is not merely suffering political reverses, it is also in intellectual retreat".
The report itself multiyear spate of backsliding is the longest of its kind since Freedom in the World was first published in 1972, and threatens gain dating to the post-Cold War era in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the former Soviet bloc.
Among the reasons advanced to explain this phenomenon are:
- Intolerance by the western countries to alternative, homespun alternative approaches to democracy.
- Preoccupation with elections and procedures to the detriment of substantive issues.
- The rise of China reinforces the belief that dynamic economic development requires a firm political grip.
- Growing economic hardships keeping people preoccupied with the challenges of coping and survival.
- People's disillusionment with the performance of elected representatives and parliaments' effectiveness.
- Forceful imposition of democracy and failure of stabilization eg. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya,
- Growing corruption combines with poverty to fuel he buying and selling of voter IDs and buying out competitors.
- Public cynicism ballot buying, etc. leading to declining voter turnout.
- Unchecked concentration of power in the executive branch and resistance and inflexibility of incumbents to craft new constitutions, election management bodies, etc.
- Incompetent and politicized election bodies lacking popular legitimacy
- Low or declining quality and access to education which keeps the majority of people steeped in ignorance.
- Falling popular expectations of citizens and securitization of elections leading to declining voter turnout.
It is generally agreed that a government that mistreats its people also fears its people.
This is being currently demonstrated in Tanzania almost on a daily basis. The recent political developments in Arusha are a clear example. By coincidence, on the day that Mr Godbless Lema was denied bail, I was in Arusha together with Dr Slaa and Mr Tundu Lissu. We were attending a seminar on Electoral Democracy in Africa taking stock of the last few years to identify the successes, failures and challenges. Mr Lissu and I had made presentations in the morning and Dr Slaa was to present in the afternoon.
At lunchtime news reached us that the Arusha Urban MP Lema had been denied bail. On receiving this information and in anticipation of possible overreactions by his young supporters we decided on taking preventive action.
Thus my two colleagues went to town to calm down the situation and remove the crowd from the courts area which was done successfully. Ironically, instead of this move being appreciated, both my colleagues and many others ended up being arrested and are now appearing in court. Needless to say, Dr Slaa, who was to appear with Mr Mangula of CCM, could not make his presentation on that day. In the event, as if by conspiracy, Mr Mangula ended up doing a solo!
I will not comment on the substance of the case. All I would like to say is that incidents of police overreaction are increasing in numbers, intensity and impunity. It is a dangerous trend which must be stemmed at any cost!
Professor Baregu lectures at Saut"Every form of true education trains the student in self-reliance." [Dr. John Henrik Clarke]
"A good teacher, like a good entertainer first must hold his audience's attention, then he can teach his lesson."
[Dr. John Henrik Clarke]
"The events which transpired five thousand years ago; Five years ago or five minutes ago, have determined what will happen five minutes from now; five years From now or five thousand years from now. All history is a current event." [Dr. John Henrik Clarke]
"Yes, I'm an extremist. The black race... is in extremely bad condition. You show me a black man who isn't an extremist and I'll show you one who needs psychiatric attention!"
"People involved in a revolution don't become part of the system; they destroy the system... The Negro revolution is no revolution because it condemns the system and then asks the system it has condemned to accept them..."
"When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that he will not do to acquire that freedom. Whenever you hear a man saying he wants freedom, but in the next breath he is going to tell you what he won't do to get it, or what he doesn't believe in doing in order to get it, he doesn't believe in freedom. A man who believes in freedom will do anything under the sun to acquire . . . or preserve his freedom."
"I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they'll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action."
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