Africa urged to shun wholesale imports of Western democracy models

By Costantine Sebastian ,The Citizen Reporter

 Dar es Salaam. Africa’s attempts to ape democracy models, mostly from the West, have been the major causes of governance pitfalls, economic failures, democratic chaos and overall growth nightmares that continue to haunt the continent, according to development strategists and activists.

They want Africans and their leaders to quickly shun the trend that has led to failed states and stuck most people in the quagmire of abject poverty. The strategists and activists warn that without changing the status quo, the future and prosperity of Africa will always remain compromised.

Speaking at the 2nd International Conference on Democratic Governance in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, held in Kigali early this week, participants called for a new internal development order. Many wondered why most African countries were still so poor, unashamed of their status as economic beggars and recipients of development aid when the continent was blessed with abundant resources.

“The time for change is now,” noted Dr John Samuel, President of the Institute for Sustainable Development and Governance in India. “Our countries should immediately adopt democratic models that suit their circumstances and address their individual needs.”

They suggested that the models that can propel the poor nations to prosperity are those which take into account the culture and historical background of the people.

The scholars, practitioners, decision makers and other development stakeholders at the three-day conference emphasized the need for home grown initiatives on problems affecting the developing world.

Under the theme, “Accountability and Youth Engagement for Sustainable Development,” they maintained that unity was a must especially among African countries if they are to have a voice on world matters.

“Direct implementation of models imposed or suggested by Western powers will never bring real change and make a significant difference in our lives,” Gabonese journalist Yves Laurent Goma told The Citizen on Sunday on the sidelines of the summit meeting held as part of Rwanda’s Commemoration of 20 Years of Liberation.

Organised by the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), the UN and Cheyney University of the United States, the conference sought among other things to explore constraints to good governance. It also explored emerging opportunities of democratic governance and has been one of the highlights of events to mark 20 Years of Rwanda’s Liberation that climaxed on Friday.

The conference is a biannual event which was first held in Philadelphia, US in 2012.

“With 54 countries, Africa can have a voice but the problem is African countries are so easily manipulated and divided,” said Dr Jendayi Fraser, the former US under Secretary of State for Africa Affairs.

Emphasis was also put on the need for increased cooperation over competition among African countries. Dr Sumbye Kapena from the School of Business at the Copperbelt University of Zambia noted that “Africa can have one voice if we all stop competing and put our voices together.”

Some participants said African leaders too, have a hand in the continent’s woes, with a Tanzanian delegate suggesting that good leadership was most important for the future of Africa, but that this was currently wanting in many of these countries.

He described the current generation of leaders as mostly a total failure and let-down. He called on the old leaders still in power to exit the political arena and let a new breed of leaders take charge.

“Consider our case (Tanzania)…we shouldn’t be poor with all the natural resources and human capital around,” he pleaded anonymity lest his views hurt some people in high places.

“We have been mostly let down by poor leadership and bad policies…full stop. Just look at Rwanda and you will see what I mean,” he added noting that discipline and seriousness at all levels was lacking in his country.

Meanwhile, Mr Bulent Akarcali, a Turkish entrepreneur and a panellist at the conference, criticised Western donors for imposing policies on developing nations, arguing that directly copying democratic models from the West tended to disrupt governance and undermined prospects for long-term development.

“Countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia were targeted by Western powers because of their wealth in natural resources. All that the big powers want is to disrupt governance and get what they want, so they forced developing nations to implement systems of democracy that undermine the history and cultures of people,” Akarcali said.

“Real democracy must not be complicated and must put into context the cultural systems of countries. Europe and America are not a monopoly of democracy and they should not dictate models to Africa and Asia.”

Rwanda Management Institute Director-General Wellars Gasamagera echoed the views of Akarcali saying “there is no rule book for governance” and that every country is involved in a unique process based on its own internal challenges.

“Citizen participation is the key at all stages of democracy, yet levels of participation vary according to contexts and situations,” Gasamagera said.

Rwandan Local Government Minister James Musoni urged that all countries still on the path of development should seek home-grown initiatives in order to bring about meaningful transformation to their societies.

“It is generally accepted that ‘democratic governance’ comes as a pre-requisite to the broad socio-economic development of society. However, in order to translate a principle into tangible results, … strong political will for good, inclusive and accountable governance stemming from the very top, is key in the establishment of effective and citizen-responsive institutions,” he said.


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