Democracy under siege in Africa

African leaders must learn to admit when mistakes happen otherwise no one will take Africa seriously.

The political impasse in the Ivory Coast, replicating the unfortunate precedents in Kenya and Zimbabwe, is a cause for concern for all democrats.

The ushering in of multi-party systems and parliamentary democracy was a sigh of relief for many Africans who had known nothing else but single-party dictatorships and the attendant military coups.

It would seem the curse of dictatorship is still blighting Africa, albeit under the guise of multi-party systems and the associated “free and fair” elections.

For how long should the policy of appeasement and accommodation be allowed while millions of people are suffering? Is it not time that African leaders learn to respect the will of the people?

When the electorate speaks through a vote, that vote must be heard and considered supreme over-and-above the selfish interests of one individual wishing to cling to power against the will of the majority.

True leaders do not override the voices of the multitudes.

African leaders ought to learn that there is a time to play a part in the development of their countries and that there shall come a time to go.

Surely, our leaders must understand the simple logic that the role of the people is to put leaders into positions to manage countries on their behalf and not to own countries as personal possessions?

Representative democracy means that people choose one person at a time for a given period to lead.

It is the same people, through an election who may retire leaders and leaders must accept to be retired.

When that retirement time comes they must not refuse to go.

We have a sad situation where some leaders behave as if countries belong to them in their individual capacities or to the army or the police or even the dreaded secret intelligence services.

How else should the people ask leaders to step down peacefully except through an election?

Yes, we do have those who fought for the independence of their countries and are wrongly using that as the passport to permanent tenure and would not listen to their citizens when they vote them out.

Yet those who went to war fought to bring democracy and the right to be heard through one’s vote.

Greed for absolute power has led to the oppression of those who supported the struggle from the home front.

Those who sheltered the freedom fighters, those who gave them food and clothes and most importantly supplied them with information are today disqualified as unworthy.

Genuine freedom fighters who actually waged the bush war do understand that it is not only them who fought for freedom.

Everyone fought in his or her own way, those who decided to go and hold the gun and those who participated from the home front.

Since those who cling to power in Africa do so allegedly in the name of the people, then the interests of the people should come first.

The people’s voices must be heard when they speak of which they always speak very loud and clear. The will of the people must always be respected.

Some African leaders have painted a bad image of Africa by clinging on to power when the people want them to go.

That is modern Africa’s tragedy. It is now a clear trend in Africa that when one loses an election, one may declare themselves the winner disregarding the vote outcome.

The tragedy is in fact in the complicity of other African leaders who tolerate that nonsense.

Instead of dismissing the loser, they craft the so-called power-sharing deals.

They neither understand nor care about how difficult it is to manage power-sharing deals between losers and victors.

These deals do not solve anything, as they are by design meant to accommodate the dictator/loser.

The deals perpetuate the problem as the losing party tries to revive its lost glory.

Evidence abounds that you can never build a strong government, usher in good governance systems or formulate appropriate policies in these kinds of arrangements.

The big question for us in Africa is: What is the point of holding elections if the losers would continue to claim victory?

Electoral institutions are rendered dysfunctional by being forced to declare losers as winners.

Hiding under the guise of brother mentality, African leaders have failed their people by not correcting this rot in the African political playing field.

What happened in Kenya and Zimbabwe must not happen again on our beloved continent. It must not be allowed to happen again elsewhere in Africa.

As Africans, we should pride ourselves as a principled people and genuine democrats who want to put the people first.

We should forget about what is happening elsewhere, be it in the West or in the East.

There is a tendency to imitate what is wrong because it once happened in Britain or anywhere else in the world. We can not correct a wrong by another wrong.

Let us learn to do things the right way.

That a mistake happened in Kenya and then in Zimbabwe should teach us that it must be avoided in Ivory Coast.

It is mind-boggling to hear that some leaders are suggesting for Ivory Coast the same arrangement as in Zimbabwe.

If that scenario were to be allowed, then it would only serve to confirm that democracy is under siege in Africa.

There is only one thing that African leaders should tell Laurent Gbagbo: “Please go!”

Those mistakes must be corrected now in Ivory Coast. Be bold enough and tell Gbagbo to listen to the voices of the people and ensure that he goes peacefully.

As Africans, let us free the people, for all they want is a better life. They want a leadership that will deliver real change. They want peace and harmony. They want a future for their children.

Thokozani Khupe is vice -president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and also Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe

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