Democracy in Africa or African Democracy?

The Western world believes that the concept of democracy is alien to the African continent. Westerners say that it is a concept that has come from their side of the equator.
This notion raises a lot of questions.
For example, is democracy a universal concept or it is Western? Does democracy mean the same in the Western and in the African context? Are there any international standards for democracy?
In answering these questions, the Executive President of Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe, Archbishop Johanes Ndanga, believes that democracy is not alien to the African continent.
He says the West is not the be-all and end-all of democracy, and has been involved in many atrocities in many parts of the world. Therefore, before preaching democracy to the world, the West should first apologise to Africa and rectify its conduct and how it engages with the rest of the world.
“When Africans were fighting for independence, they were fighting for democracy. Countries from the West must know that they were primarily responsible for disrupting African democracy through colonialism.
“So for them to say democracy is alien to Africa is a further insult to the African continent. Instead, they should apologise to the African countries for the atrocities they committed,” says Archbishop Ndanga.
He goes on to say: “Bristol and Coventry were built using African slaves. This shows that the West is brutal and evil but democracy is not brutal – it is inclusive. Because of this reason and many others, the West has no capacity whatsoever to referee the continent on democracy.”
The problem is that many Africans cannot conceptualise democracy outside of what the West tells them, and this is a problem that afflicts both the continent’s leaders and the ordinary citizens.
Archbishop Ndanga says, “African leaders at times tend to be stupid when they sit to be addressed on democracy by the West. They should know that Western democracy as it is presently structured is a route to recolonise the continent. This is why the West is arresting and killing some African leaders and claiming that they are promoting democracy.”
As such, Africans should come up with models that truly serve the continent and its citizenry.
“It is high time African leaders come up with models that truly represent the African continent. The models should counter problems that are coming from the West and meet our development challenges.
“Africa needs think-tanks that draw on the ideologies of people like Sam Njoma, Patrice Lumumba, Robert Mugabe, Thabo Mbeki, Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah. These think-tanks must be funded through the African Union and blocs such as SADC. Their purpose will be to come up with the political and economic development models that Africa needs for it to realise its full potential.”
In addition, the archbishop says, these foundations should promote Africa’s renaissance by setting the agenda for progressive change throughout the continent, and to create platforms for dialogue to promote the birth of a continental movement driven by a new cadre of thought leaders dedicated to our continuous political, social and economic renewal.
These think-tanks should establish themselves as premier African centres for dialogue, research and publication.
The idea is to promote a brand of African democracy that dovetails with our historical and contemporary context and feeds into our developmental aspirations in the short, medium and long-term.
Archbishop Ndanga says: “The African continent should not look East or West for solutions but it should look inward and forward.”
In this regard, the archbishop believes, churches have an integral role to play by way of contributing to debate and formulation of implementable ideas.
“For example,” he notes, “indigenous churches should sit at some level on SADC and AU panels so that we contribute to Africa’s growth.”
Bishop Divas Chakwenya concurs, saying: “Democracy revolves among both religions and politicians. Therefore, the African continent should use its churches to further promote African democracy.”
An effective way of cementing African democracy, Bishop Chakwenya says “is by constantly generating content preferred by Africans and not behaving like puppet chiefs during the colonial era who betrayed the continent”.
Bishop Chakwenya goes on to point out that, “It is unfortunate for the West to say democracy is alien to Africa because when the West looks at Africa, it sees resources not people. The people of Africa are ‘Third World’ and the resources are ‘First World’. Let’s start using these resources to create a democracy that enriches the people of Africa.”


June 2013
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