Democracy is not dead. The events of the last four years in the United States of America is proof, if any were needed, that democracy shall survive and thrive. A section of naysayers may even have a point or two to prove the fallacies of democracy. One them is that even the system with the longest tradition of democracy, checks and balances could be rocked to its very core as events at Capitol Hill on January 6 showed.
Home of democracy
The very home of democracy has been left battered to its very foundations by a band of entitled men and women who believe democracy is exclusive, colour-coded and for a select minority.
From our Gangilonga Rocks vantage point, we could not help but marvel at the misguidedness of our later-day nationalists who exist in Africa’s young 60-year-old nations, which brings me to elections held in Tanzania on October 28, 2020 and in Uganda on January 14, 2021.
If the holding of elections every five years, or, as in America’s case, every four years, is evidence of democracy working, then democracy in Tanzania and Uganda is working very well indeed. Unfortunately, and as we have also seen in Guinea, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and elsewhere on the continent, the holding of elections, is, in itself, not an exemplification of democracy.
In this part of the world, those who find themselves in political office by whatever means become the wielders of power, wisdom and resources, while, inevitably, those who for whatever reason find themselves off the eating table become the pet peeves of those in power.
To complement and complete the jigsaw puzzle, those who hold political power have millions of “loyalty miles” followers. These loyalists believe that the strong-arm tactics of their all-knowing leaders are the salt of democracy.
Did democracy die at Capitol Hill on January 6? The millions of followers with a democracy death wish would say “yes”, just like the 75 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump. In their tunnel vision, democracy died just because rogue elements briefly took over the citadel of democracy in the US.
In their view, peace is exemplified by the absence of conflict. That Tanzania has had no post-election violence can easily be taken to mean that democracy is at its best.
This lot forgets, for example, that in Uganda elections were being held at gun-point with electoral officials and everyone else reminded not too subtly that might is right in the Pearl of Africa.
They forget that when authorities shut down the Internet access under the guise of dealing with security threats, they are engaging in acts of disruption of freedom of information and that without access to information democracy is undermined.
A “democracy” that arbitrarily arrests journalists and ensures very limited enjoyment of freedom of expression is, to all intents and purposes, the antecedent of democracy.
We now believe that since the January 6 incident the United States of America has lost its holier-than-thou aura, which made it pontificate about democratic ideals. We think it makes us similar and equal even in the chaos that is associated with democracy.
It makes those of us who are trigger happy to justify how we have hounded those with whom we have political differences and opinions. It makes us quick to defend the use of “justifiable means”, also known as force by security forces to quell those who raise their expendable heads.
Former US President Donald Trump exhibited the kind of strongman mentality that is prevalent in Africa by not accepting that he lost an election, and encouraging his supporters to freely go on the rampage at the seat of American democracy. Needless to say, reaction around the world was a mixture of horror and glee.
Good governance is not a preserve of the United States of America, and those of us using January 6 to justify atrocities we unleash at our citizenry are way off the mark.
Folks, the hallmarks of democracy are alive and well.