Foundation for Democracy In Africa
Institute for Democracy Appoints Director
Gershwin T. Blyden, a pharmacologist, physician
and democracy advocate, has been appointed Executive Director of the Institute
for Democracy, by the Institute's Board of Directors. Dr. Blyden will
oversee the Institute and provide guidelines for the future development
of programs in Research, Education and Administration.
"Ensuring democracy in Africa," Dr. Blyden says," is an important task." He describes democracy as "a technique, instrument and mechanism" which can be used "to enable the people of Africa to participate in their own growth and development." Dr. Blyden's ancestors migrated from West Africa, as free slaves, to the Dutch Virgin Islands in the 18th Century. His grandfather and father were born in the Virgin Islands but the family soon moved to the Bahamas, where Edward Wilmot Blyden, the famous historian and member of the Blyden clan, earned a reputation as a defender of civil and human rights.
Dr. Blyden says Africa is "an evolving continent" which has the right to be given "maximum opportunity for development." "We want to awaken and optimize the talent and latent geniuses of the people." Back to contents
SUPPORT AFRICA, INVEST IN THE FUTURE
In three years, a new millennium will begin, ushering in new models, accelerated change and increasing renewal in a geopolitical context that will be radically different from that which humanity has known. But Africa is handicapped. Political instability continues to discourage investment and creativity in the continent. Human potential is under-utilized, government policies do not address the people's needs, political corruption is common. Social infrastructure is decaying. Liberia, Zaire and Burundi are torn apart by ethnic strife. In Algeria and Sudan, religious fundamentalism has turned murder into an art and industry. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, which was praised in the 60's as "a potential success story" has become an abominable society where life is lived on the dangerous edge of a knife. Even in Mali and South Africa, where democracy seems to be prospering, the future is uncertain. Hunger is a constant feature in Central Africa, just as violence, disease and the oppression of women and children have become a scourge across the Continent. The consequence is prolonged misery for African families.
Long term development for Africa cannot be achieved in this atmosphere. FDA seeks a new Africa: democratic, stable and competitive, and a better deal for the African people.
You can help make the difference through your membership
in FDA. Members will receive free information, educational materials,
research reports and participation in FDA conferences. You are invited
to join any of our membership categories-- Student (US$10); Grassroots
(US$25); Advisory (US$500); Corporate (US$1,000); Trustee (US$2,000).
Or you may send donations. Your charitable contribution will be tax deductible.
For additional information, please contact: Desmond
Liaison Foundation for Democracy
-COLIN EGLIN, Member of The South African Parliament argues that his country's Constitution does not reflect any classical model, but the experience and diversity of the South African people---
THE FOUNDING PROVISIONS
The South African Constitution does not fit into any classic constitutional mould.
It is neither classically federal nor unitary, presidential nor parliamentary, liberal nor conservative.
It does not embody a complete separation of powers - yet it avoids an excessive concentration of powers.
The Constitution reflects the realities, the needs and the aspirations of a culturally and ethnically diverse society that is emerging from a 350 year era of colonialism culminating in 45 years of apartheid.
It recognises the overwhelming urge of South Africans, not only to get rid of a racist past, but to create circumstances in which all citizens can live with dignity in a society based on equality and freedom.
It recognises the desire of South Africans to have a constitutional order that is truly democratic, meaning not only representative but transparent, responsive and accountable.
It accommodates the diversity of language, culture, religion and indeed of political persuasion in a manner which will enable this diversity to enrich and unite rather than divide and weaken the broader South African nation.
While South Africans, in drafting their new constitution learned much from the achievements- and from the mistakes- of many other countries, the new Constitution is uniquely South African both in spirit and content.
Thus the Founding Provisions are:
"The Republic of South Africa is one sovereign democratic state founded on the following values:
a) Human dignity, the achievement of equality and advancement
of human rights and freedom.
TO ENSURE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
In order to limit the excessive concentration of power and at the same time to accommodate regional and community diversity, the Constitution provides for government to be structured at three distinct spheres, mainly national, provincial and local.
Having thus separated, the Constitution requires that each sphere not only respect each other's functional integrity but at the same time cooperate with one another in maintaining national unity and in pursuing common objectives (Chapter 3: Cooperative Government.)
The Constitution incorporates an extensive Bill of Rights which sets out the rights of people not only in the field of individual civil liberties but also in the fields of language, culture, religion and socio-economic rights.
The Constitution, being the supreme law of the land, is guarded over by an independent judiciary, including a Constitutional court, that is appointed through the mechanism of a representative Judicial Service Commission.
The Constitution provides for a two chamber parliament, both chambers to be multi-party and elected at regular intervals. The National Assembly is to be elected on the basis of proportional representation through a national common voters roll. The National Council of Provinces consists of delegates directly elected by each of the nine Provincial Legislatures.
The National Executive consists of the President, who is elected by the National Assembly, and who except when acting as Head of State, acts together with the members of the Cabinet which he appoints.
Both the President and the Cabinet Ministers- and indeed the Public Service for which they have political responsibility- have to act in a manner that is transparent and are directly accountable to the National Assembly and its committees.
Indeed the National Assembly elects the President and, by a vote of no confidence supported by the majority of its members, can require the President to resign.
In order to reinforce the concepts of transparency
and accountability the Constitution makes provision for a number of "state
institutions supporting democracy."
PROVINCIAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The nine Provinces each have their own elected legislature and an executive which is accountable to that legislature.
The Provincial Governments have extensive legislative powers which are scheduled in the Constitution but which are made subordinate to national legislation when defined matters of national interest obtain.
While Provincial Governments and Local Governments have only limited powers of taxation the Constitution makes provision for "the equitable division of revenue raised nationally among the national, provincial and local spheres of government."
The Constitution provides for Local Government, known as municipalities, to be established for the whole territory of the Republic.
Subject to the stated status of municipalities and the objects of Local Government, national and provincial law is required to provide for the structuring and establishing of the municipalities.
The elected legislature (council) of a municipality and its executive "has the right to govern, on its own initiative, the local government affairs of its community, subject to national and provincial legislation, as provided for in the Constitution. National and provincial government may not compromise or impede a municipality's ability or right to exercise its powers or perform its functions." Back to contents
ACCOMMODATING CULTURAL DIVERSITY
The Constitution accommodates cultural diversity while avoiding formalising or constitutionalizing 'cultural groups'.
It allows cultural diversity to be expressed in a voluntary, organic way by securing the rights of citizens either individually or collectively as communities to "enjoy their culture, practice their religion and use their language" and to form "associations and other organs of civil society." Further, it prohibits the state from discriminating against its citizens on the grounds of, inter alia, ethnic or social origin, religion, culture or language.
The main sections in the Constitution dealing with cultural, religious and linguistic diversity are the following:
WILL IT SUCCEED?
I believe that the new Constitution provides a sound basis for representative, transparent and accountable democratic governance under the rule of law.
It also provides meaningful protection and the promotion of the fundamental rights of South Africa's citizens.
It attempts to accommodate cultural diversity in a positive way that will enrich the society and encourage national unity.
Of course, a Constitution is merely a framework within which government and evolutionary development can take place. It cannot dictate to, or impose on, an unwilling society. Indeed in the case of the South African Constitution, other than the founding provisions, it can be amended by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
Whether the South African society will sustain the democratic ideals enshrined in the Constitution will depend to a lesser degree on the Constitution and to a greater degree on the leaders and the people of my country and their ability to address the socio-economic imbalances, the yawning gap between the few rich and the many poor, that exist today in South Africa.
We can speculate whether it will succeed in providing an effective democratic framework.
And in due time history will provide the
3. 1) There is a common South African citizenship.
6. 1) The official languages of the Republic
are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsongs, Afrikaan,
English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.
9. 1) Everyone is equal before the law and
has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
15. 1) Everyone has the right to freedom
of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
19. 1) Every citizen is free to make political
choices, which includes the right-
3) Every adult citizen has the right-
30. Everyone has the right to use the language to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.
Culture, religious and linguistic communities
31. 1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious
and linguistic community may not be denied the right, with other members
of their community, to-
185. 1) The primary objects of the Commission
for the Promotion and Protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious
and Linguistic Communities are-
186. 1) The number of members of the commission
for the Promotion and Protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious
and Linguistic Communities and their appointment and terms of office must
be prescribed by national legislation.
211. 1) The institution, status and role
of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognized,
subject to the Constitution.
Role of traditional leaders
212. 1) National legislation may provide
for a role for traditional leadership as an institution at local level
on matters affecting local communities.
235. The right of South African people as
a whole to self-determination, as manifested in this Constitution, does
not preclude, within the framework of this right, recognition of the notion
of the right of self-determination of any community sharing a common cultural
and language heritage, within a territorial entity in the republic or
in any other way, determined by national legislation.
"The South African Constitution does not fit into any classic constitutional mould. It is neither classically federal nor unitary, presidential nor parliamentary, liberal nor conservative." Back to contents
THE CARE, MANAGEMENT, AND CONTAINMENT OF HIV INFECTED PATIENTS IN AFRICA: A NEED TO REEVALUATE PUBLIC HEALTH POLICIES
-Anthony Okonmah is a consultant to the HIV/AIDS clinics in the United States. He is a member of the Board of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa (FDA) and a former Research Scientist with Schering-Plough Research and Baxter Diagnostics.
It has been estimated that 27.9 million people in the world are known to be infected with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). About 68% (19 million) of this population are in Sub-Saharan Africa. The total number of adults known to have developed AIDS is approximately 6 million; 4.5 million (75%) of this are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most affected are children. Out of the 1.6 million children who are known to have AIDS in the world, 1.4 million (85%) are again local to Sub-Saharan Africa. (Source: The Hopkins HIV Report Vol 8, #3, Sept. 1996)
For these reasons, it is important that public health priorities should be well focused and planned in lieu of limited financial and medical resources and facilities to accommodate the research and development of drugs needed to prolong and improve the quality of life of the infected individuals. Now, the question remains, what can we do to help this situation? It's believed that the public health programs in most of these African countries can definitely use some help in prioritizing the allocation of human, material and financial resources in order to be efficient with disease prevention and control. Several questions need to be addressed and several factors need to be recognized and considered when making decisions about prioritizing health care monies in each of the African countries.
Factors such as demography, education, geography, culture and long-term benefits of therapeutic measures in that environment are crucial. The demographic characteristics such as sex, age, income, and family size need to be considered. The educational background of each segment of the population also need to be determined in order to better design a program that will benefit the masses of the people. Identifying the location or geography of the HIV infected population will be equally important in order to determine and follow the movement or the crossover of the virus from the infected population to the non-infected area of the locale. Religious beliefs vary among all of the African countries. The effect of the various cultural beliefs on the spread of HIV needs to be acknowledged before policies are formulated. Cultural sensitivity is important for the preventative programs to be accepted.
Each country will need to determine its individual disease profile-determine what is curable and what is not curable. For example, if people are dying of E.Coli or any other infections that are known to cause diarrhea and extreme dehydration, it will be reasonable for the government to invest its resources in making the water supply system good, purifiable and subsequently potable. The goal will be to try as much as possible to keep the people healthy, i.e., protect them from getting sick and keep their immune system as healthy as possible. Each country needs to spend its limited resources in creating an environment that is clean and less infected with bacteria, viruses and protozoa.
The creation of an effective garbage collection and disposal system should be a major priority in the quest to keep the environment clean and almost germ free. A less germ-infected environment will help the HIV infected population to stay away from the local hospitals so that money not spent on treating infections can be used for other worthwhile projects.
Investing resources in prevention, by educating the population about disease prevention, especially the HIV infection and most importantly, educating and training some trainers, such as nurses, doctors, public health workers and teachers about HIV prevention, care and management would be beneficial to the African population in the long run. These trainers can in turn train other people. It has been determined that the most cost effective way of fighting the HIV disease is through education. It is in no doubt expected that an effective preventive method will definitely show the slowing down of infection. Teaching and encouraging behaviourial changes such as delaying sexual intercourse relationships and/or increasing the use of condoms needs to be encouraged among teenagers, since the determined age group of the newly infected people are between the ages of fifteen to twenty.
We know that problems of substance abuse is a worldwide problem. Over 60% of people infected with HIV are also known to be drug abusers. The suggested prevention program should support an effective community-based strategy that will prevent more teenagers, i.e. high-school and university students from becoming infected with HIV. Most of these teenagers contracted the virus through contaminated hypodermic needles used in injecting drugs such as heroine into their body, or via sexual intercourse with an HIV carrier. These sexual encounters are known to frequently occur when students are under the influence of drugs due to their impaired judgment. An extensive drug education and treatment program needs to be created in order to reduce the rate of HIV infection among the teenage population.
Educating the masses of the people about the relationship
of substance abuse to HIV infection must be an achievable goal for each
of the countries in Africa. Drug treatment programs like the methadone
clinics are known to have an impact at reducing the rate of HIV infection
among drug users. The rationale behind the methadone approach to solving
heroine problems is believed to be more sound than just telling the drug
users to clean their needles with a bleaching agent, thus supporting their
habit. The methadone treatment will help contain the spread of HIV more
than any other method tested thus far among intravenous (I.V.) drug abusers.
This unique characteristic of HIV epidemic should be enough to encourage the re-evaluation of the public health policies and programs in various African countries. This should be determined not only by physicians but also nurses, dentists, health practitioners, physician assistants, teachers, local native doctors and midwife nurses. Showing a complete cultural understanding and compassion for people living with HIV will be required when defining public health policies in developing African countries.
The growing presence of HIV in Africa will necessitate
the need to train trainers as quickly as possible. By the turn of the
century it's believed that the spread of HIV will have attained the highest
epidemic in Africa. The strain of HIV in Africa is the type known to be
common among heterosexual individuals. It is important that everybody
becomes involved and knowledgeable about HIV prevention, care and management.
Mothers known to be HIV positive must avoid breast feeding their babies.
Babies should be protected from contracting the virus by early exposure
of the fetus to AZT treatment, and by giving birth via Caesarean section
rather than vaginally, due to a high concentration of the virus in the
cervical blood supply.
Regarding possible treatment of the virus itself, it will be considered a miracle to see HIV patients in Sub-Sahara Africa become opportune to be treated with the latest anti-retro viral therapy, i.e. combination drugs, nucleoside analogues and/or protease inhibitors. The efficacy of these drugs is yet to be determined among this group of patients. The CD4/CD8 profile tests and the HIV-RNA or DNA-PCR (known as viral load test) are normally used to determine the effectiveness of the anti-retro viral agents in persons living with HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, the cheapest way to contain this disease is to teach prevention as quickly as humanly possible among the African population.
A short course on the preventive aspects of HIV disease should be taught to all health care professionals, teachers, mid-wives and most importantly, the local native doctors. The mode of infection, spread of HIV, the potential carriers and the possible techniques that can be introduced to contain or reduce the rate of infection must be emphasized in the course, including the use of condoms.
Considering the population at risk in Africa, testing the blood sample of the general population is important but may be expensive. The recommended Elisa test and the western blot confirmatory test can be equally expensive too unless it can be subsidized by an established organization such as the United Nations, Organization of African Unity, World Health Organization and the International Red Cross. The reliability of the new but simple saliva test has not yet been confirmed although this would have been more practical and less expensive. The pre-test and the post-test of all the HIV infected individuals will be highly recommended along with adequate counseling of the tested individuals. Back to contents
Ms. Margaret Dongo, 37, is the first independent member of the Zimbabwe National Parliament, representing Harare South. Ms. Dongo fought as a guerilla soldier during Zimbabwe's struggle for independence in the 80s; and later worked in the Pensions Department Patriotism, and the urge to serve drew her to politics. She joined ZANU (PF), the ruling party of President Robert Mugabe. In Feb. 1995, Ms. Dongo left the party in protest over what she described as corruption within its ranks. She was condemned by party members and victimized. But this did not stop her from contesting in the April 1995 parliamentary elections as an independent candidate. She was declared a loser. Unconvinced, Ms. Dongo took her case to the High Court, alleging electoral irregularities. The court ruled in her favor, declaring her winner. The ruling party annulled the elections. In a by-election in November, that year, Ms. Dongo eventually realized her dream. Today, she continues to participate in Zimbabwe's democracy as a lone voice for public accountability and as a role model for younger women. Ms. Dongo represents Zimbabwe in the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian Group Back to contents
-Chris Durant is the Executive Vice-President, on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa.
There is no reason why the great continent of Africa should go through the approaching 21st Century in the state that it has been for so long. Second-class economies, political tyranny, social depression, poverty, etc., appear to typify the nations of the African continent as their inherent characteristics. As time goes on, and the world changes from one moment to the next, the time must come for significant change among these nations of Africa.
A great deal of African nations are plagued with human rights violations and destitution none of which is the fault of the African people. Africans face the dilemma that they have been experiencing not because they are lazy or incompetent, but because they have never been given the opportunity as a society to participate in any decisions or policies which affect their welfare, quality of life and future. In many cases they have no control over their destinies, as they never exercised the God-given right to participate in the democratic decision-making. Many African nations have never had democratic forms of government.
Many of the governments of the African nations today exercise a system of leadership that fosters instability and insecurity for the society in which they exist. The people are now well aware of the futility and danger of dictatorships, military governments, communism, etc. The totalitarian engine of the USSR, once the mother of communism in the world, has been brought to a grinding halt after a hopeless struggle to maintain its power and hold on its citizens. The Soviet Union's periphery of communist allies soon fell by the wayside after the death of communism. The struggle for democracy in nations where there is none is perhaps at a all-time high. Throughout Africa, people must become aware of their need to take charge of their destiny, if not for themselves, for their children and their children's children.
Obviously not all democratic countries are enjoying viable economics, but no one can doubt or ignore the fact that economically powerful nations of the world today have democratic forms of government. Democracy for African nations would not only be of humanitarian benefit to the people of Africa, but is an absolute necessity if the nations of Africa are to join the mainstream of the global economy. Democracy will not solve many of the problems that African nations face, but with a democratic form of government, where citizens freely and regularly choose their leaders and participate in decision-making, a foundation for more smooth transition toward development will be possible.
Most European-Americans and Asian-Americans have other countries to which they can look and reflect as the home of their forefathers and their proud origins. They can relate to these nations as their original home and place of their cultural birth with ease, due to their cultural link and the developed societies that these countries have fostered. Almost all European-Americans can claim heritage anywhere from the European continent, Asian-American from Asia and Hispanic-American from either Europe or South America. Note that these areas of the world have societies which benefit from governments that embrace democracy.
However, it has been difficult for African-Americans to have such a relationship with their motherland. It should be the responsibility of African-Americans, with the resources and economic freedom in the United States, to consolidate in the realization of democracy in Africa. The strength in numbers is real, the opportunity is here, and the time to export democratic capitalism into African countries is now. The overall economies of African nations have significant advantages to foresee when considering the implementation of culturally based democracy. With democracy comes more stable government and less volatile changes in power which promotes several benefits which include foreign investment, international trade and tourism. For instance, many exportable goods produced in African countries would impact the World's markets on a more profound level once democracy has been implemented and consummated.
The continent of Africa represents a great frontier of history, culture, and spiritual values yet untapped by the world, and ultimately stifled by the void of democracy.
"Democracy for African nations would
not only be of humanitarian benefit to the people of Africa, but is an
absolute necessity if the nations of Africa are to join the mainstream
of the global economy."
STRENGTHENING THE ROLE OF THE OAU IN ELECTION MONITORING
-Kassim Mohammed Khamis is the Second Secretary at the Embassy of Tanzania, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Since African nations were created during "the Scramble for Africa" in the late 19th century, they have never in general terms, been in harmony to mark and enjoy their progress in all fields of life. There has been a worsening political situation causing internal strife and instability as well as deterioration of economic and social life.
The weak situation borne out of inadequate political systems, has indeed been the major source of almost all the problems facing Africa. Many declarations, resolutions and forums like, The African Charter for Popular Participation, The Declaration on the Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes Taking Place in the World, The Cairo Agenda For Action, The International Conference on AFRICA'S IMPERATIVE AGENDA held in Nairobi in 1995, etc. have all reiterated the same problems. They have recognized that democracy, and good governance are among the most essential factors in Africa's socio-economic development and urged to be promoted.
Therefore, one cannot ignore or deny this fact that the fundamental problem which needs urgent attention more than anything else in Africa of today is political settlement. Unfortunately, for a long time Africa has not been able to address this issue which has remained since colonial days. Even after independence, African countries preoccupied with independence and other issues, failed to give it a fair attention. It is only after recent global political changes that signs of hope and concerns have re-emerged. Democratization has become a compulsory assignment of the day and Africa has been obliged to take the new course.
A sound political system is the pillar of any stable state. It ensures good governance from which peace, stability and unity of the concerned society are derived. It is necessary also for laying down good policies and efficient government machinery. These are essential in our contemporary environment to attract foreign aid and investments. Hence, if the Continent is in political crises no progress can be achieved without first keeping the house in order. This is the time for the Continent to realize its potential and organize itself for sustainable development. It is believed that this issue can be well handled by joint efforts between the OAU and its member states through the assistance of the International Community in enhancing democratization. However, democratization is a process which culminates through organization of free elections.
Multiparty elections as the first essential stage towards the process needs proper consideration. It should be the first development project receiving the highest priority.
B. PROBLEMS FACING DEMOCRATIZATION IN AFRICA
When Europeans colonized the continent, they introduced their own kinds of institutional structures and ruling systems. These were the components of western democracy. However, as it was not in their interest, they did not venture to go a long way to establish real democratic values which would include structures of accountability.
After experiencing evils of colonialism, Africans, prompted by contemporary international environment, undertook to fight for their independence. The aim was to organize their states better in order to achieve socio-economic development. Unfortunately, they could not be successful. After the independence, the Cold War had its own impact. The East-West tension caused a sort of confusion which destabilized African countries and made them fail to create strong governing systems.
Meanwhile, most of the African leaders who took power after independence tried to monopolise power. They extended favours to members of their families and suppressed the slighted sign of opposition. This led to bad governance including lack of accountability, rule of law, as well as violation of human rights. The systems however, could survive as long as the leaders maintained their loyalty to those who kept or helped them to sustain power. Each camp also left its "friend" free from any unnecessary disturbances, lest one would divert the obedience and loyalty to the other camp.
This trend of events had serious implications to Africa. Firstly, traditional political systems were disturbed. Secondly, democracy which is widely accepted to observe good governance could not get chance in the Continent even among those states which favoured the Western Camp. Thirdly, other systems too, including the Socialist one could not be firmly established. The leaders in the quest for preserving their personal interest in most cases became authoritative. They kept alternating between the two ideological camps depending on where one could get support to enable him to continue ruling. The only way left to change the government in power was through armed forces.
As a result, Africa could not enjoy political stability. This led to weak governments causing internal ethnic and religious clashes, interstate borders and ideological conflicts, poor economic performance and hence general social unrest.
2. New Era of Democracy and Multiparty Elections
The collapse of the Eastern Bloc marked the end of the Cold War and ideological competitions between the East and the West. The new era calls for the revival of democracy. On the other hand, the failure of the African countries to realize development under their nationalist leaders has also contributed in urging the pace of the new wave of the democratization process. Thus, in Africa the process is rapidly prompted by both internal and external factors. Those countries which had earlier resisted democracy now found themselves under immense pressure to pave way for democratic changes.
Yet, the way to bring about these changes has not been smooth. Countries have been obliged to embark on multiparty elections which have experienced their own problems.
In Africa, multiparty elections are a new phenomenon. There are countries which have never practiced them before. Therefore, it is not well experienced and some times has caused problems. In this case, it requires understanding and adequate preparations. These should include improving capacities of organizers and political parties, as well as education for the voters and the whole public.
Due to their underdevelopment, African countries have neither enough funds nor basic facilities for carrying out multiparty elections. Some countries cannot print even a ballot paper without external assistance. It needs experts and equipments including vehicles, data processing machines, registration books, ballot papers and boxes etc. which most of the countries cannot afford.
Foreign groups, while trying to help, interfere in local interests. Others promise assistance , but refuse to follow through. Hence, foreign aid, if not well coordinated has its negative aspects.
Some other groups which have been trying to offer genuine assistance including physical presence on the fields, have sometimes been of no great help. They offer unharmonized approaches. Sometimes, they have been taking things lighter, hesitating to accept or uncover the truth when necessary and even standing aloof when problems arise. Ultimately, their much needed assistance which they offer go wasted.
On the other hand, mal-administration and practices in multiparty elections are issues which go far beyond lack of experience and sufficient funds and facilities. The countries have emerged out of colonialism and just recently from the Cold War paradoxes where the New World Changes have found the nationalist and other authoritarian rulers still in power. Now, the challengers of democracy have become a tough examination and the leaders have not been able to allow smooth conduct of democratic elections. To them, allowing changes means losing opportunities and powers. In a situation of this kind, multiparty elections become confrontations and war fields. The rulers are ready to use even foul means to fight their opponents who take them as a threat and enemies, while the opposition groups label elections as wars of liberation.
Such factors have continued to hinder democratic elections as countries concerned have not been able to acquire proper assistance.
C. THE OAU INITIATIVES IN PROMOTING DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS
The year was the turning point for democratization in Africa.
Earlier, in 1989, the OAU "under the formal mandate to monitor compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 435" participated in elections in Namibia. The organization participated in elections in the Comoros, in February and March 1990. The Secretary General "took responsibility of responding positively" to the request of the then Acting President of the Islands, Mr. Said Mohammed Johar, who asked him to send observers to Moroni. When he reported to the Council of Ministers (in February 1990), he was not only congratulated for his decision, but was also urged to proceed with such initiatives as requested by the Member State. From this move, election observing exercise acquired legitimacy. Any other Member State when in need, could send an invitation to the Secretary General as per the created precedence.
Further, the OAU in the same year supported the UN African Charter for Popular Participation and adopted the OAU "Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes Taking Place in the World". These accelerated the democratic process as African leaders committed themselves to "further democratization" including consolidation of democratic institutions by popular participation.
As the need increased, the Secretary General Dr. Salim A. Salim felt the importance of improving the OAU performance. He organized, on 21st May 1992, a meeting in Addis Ababa which brought together member states' government representatives and members of the General Secretariat for a brain-storming exercise in election monitoring. During the Council of Ministers held in Dakar in June 1992, the delegates welcomed the role played by the OAU. They "encouraged the Organization to continue its efforts in the direction."
In the same spirit, the OAU established in 1992 the Inter African Cooperation and Policy Harmonization Division. This new institution was, among other things "to monitor policy developments in Member States and...be responsible for promoting the coordination and harmonization of national policies and fostering African political integration". It later on became a sort of preparatory office for OAU teams participating in election observing exercise.
In the same vein, Dr. Salim A. Salim took another initiative of convening a training seminar on election monitoring in Africa from 14th to 18th September 1992, in Addis Ababa. The seminar -"The Evolving Role of Intergovernmental Organizations in Election Monitoring" - was aimed at the OAU to seek "the practical experience and expertise of AAI, NDI and other International Organizations to assist the OAU in building an institutional capacity to observe and support democratic elections in Africa." After the seminar, Ambassador Osman, the then OAU Assistant Secretary General, declared the OAU's determination and responsibility of ensuring free and fair elections. He also defended the Organization's decision to adopt quiet diplomacy in its endeavours.
In December of the same year, the OAU inaugurated its formal guidelines governing the election observing process. The organization specified mandates, rights, obligations and other procedures to be followed by OAU teams.
Moreover, the OAU efforts got new encouragement when its
Council of Ministers agreed in 1994 on The Cairo Agenda For Action. This
put more emphasis on the process as the Ministers resolved to:
Meanwhile, Member States at their individual level have shown considerable transformation. They have set on reorganizing their governments through multiparty elections to ensure democracy and popular participation, a phenomenon which was hitherto unacceptable. On the other hand, some 28 African countries adopted in March 26, 1994, "the Inter-Parliamentary Union Declaration on Criteria for Free a?d Fair Elections". In his introductory statement to the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Advisory Committee on November 22, 1995 the Secretary General reported that the role of the OAU in this regard has been increasingly sought and so far the Organization has been involved in election observing in about 24 member states.
Nevertheless, things have not been moving smoothly. The OAU has not been able to record high standards of performance due to various adversities which include shortage of manpower and resources. Meanwhile, demands from the member states continue to increase.
D. WHAT COULD BE DONE
Almost all forums within and outside the OAU have expressed the need for enhancing democratization to ensure good governance. Multiparty elections being the important initial step towards realizing the goal has already been accepted by the OAU members and is in full support of the International Community. Apart from that general support, Dr. Boutrous Boutrous Ghali has just recently inaugurated the UN System-Wide Special Initiative on Africa. This is a twenty-five billion US dollar programme which is to "be backed by a year-long effort to all UN agencies to mobilize world-wide political commitment and support for Africa's development." It covers, among other things, peace-building, national reconciliation and "strengthening the capacity for governance" by creating effective institutions through democratic electoral process.
While the OAU seems prepared to undertake peace programmes through its Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, conducting democratization and electoral process in particular is yet to be adequately institutionalized. Perhaps the following could be considered with a view of strengthening the OAU and its General secretariat to under take the objective successfully: A Change of Policies In his June 1995 article (to the Ethioscope), - "Africa in Crisis, Response of OAU and Future Challenges" - the OAU Secretary General Dr. Salim A. Salim accepted that political instability in Africa has been on increase since 1990s. In dealing with the situation he underscored the need to do things by new modalities. This is to enforce popular participation in government affairs and diverting the OAU from its old perspective of being "largely a political institution dealing mostly with African government representative" to bring it closer to the people.
Democratization process in Africa is one area which needs a new approach. The new partnership ideals described by Dr. Salim call for transparency and for the OAU to move closer to the people. The act of conducting multiparty elections is an aspect of popular participation intended to create good governance. This has already been agreed in the Cairo Agenda For Action. It is therefore, supposed to be handled publicly and transparently. It goes without saying then, that the quiet diplomacy in which "the OAU did not believe in prescribing any formula for propaganda and publicity" has been alienating the Organization from the public and is obsolete. There is a need to work in transparency to enable the OAU to observe free and fair elections, build its confidence and encourage democracy - its own objective.
However, the OAU as an intergovernmental organization cannot work effectively in this manner unless the Member States themselves also make some effort. It is necessary for them to create an environment which will enable the Organization to work transparently and efficiently. They involve the Organization in all stages of the electoral process, like creation of national electoral commissions and the related laws etc. Member States should honour and make use of the OAU suggestions and make final reports of its observing teams open to the public. They should also agree on the criteria for free and fair elections.
Moreover, the policy of talking election observing as a mere confidence building measure concentrating just on verifying elections has proved inadequate. It has minimized the greater role which elections could play in the whole democratization process, conflict prevention, management and resolution.
These policies need a review. As a matter of fact, they were adopted when election observing was still an experiment to the OAU. Extending the Role of Election Monitoring
As part of the democratization process the way election observing is carried out now is insufficient. It should not just be verifying or observing but also making follow up before and after the elections to ensure establishment of democratic governing institutions.
As a means for conflict management, the exercise should include bringing together all groups concerned for reconciliation. They should then be urged to participate in elections, while proper assistance is rendered to make the exercise successful. In addition and as a mean for conflict prevention, election monitors should as well, maintain their contacts and presence after elections to monitor the situation. It is necessary for them to continue advising and assisting the new government in power to proceed with democratization and try to divert their attention from any revenge attitudes which could come up as a result of the past history. The experience has so far shown that some of the new leaders after coming to power try to hinder the democratization process. Strengthening Institutional Capacity
Apart from the OAU's general policies as suggested above, there should be a formal adoption of a resolution to endorse the matter. This will commit members more firmly and specify new obligations. The organization is expected in this new dimension to include rendering electoral assistance as part of peace initiatives and the democratization process. It is hoped that since Member States will be receiving material assistance they will be motivated to cooperate more closely with the Organization in these endeavours. OAU success in this aspect will relieve member states not only from donors' direct pressure of economic conditionally but also help smooth conduct of the exercise by supplying logistics. It may also reduce donors' direct interference in the internal affairs of the Member States.
Electoral assistance will not include only funds and other
logistics for those countries which cannot finance the exercise but also
assisting the whole democratization process including election monitoring
programmes. These may involve establishing, training, and upgrading local
electoral and other institutions which promote democratization. It will
also involve public education to promote the culture of tolerance and
understanding the whole system and essence of multiparty democracy. The
idea here is for the OAU to develop expertise to assist Member Countries
create efficient local manpower and strong capable institutions for carrying
out the process on self-reliance basis. This is important because Africa
should not forget itself and depend very much on foreign aid. The donors
may sooner or later feel fatigued to assist on a permanent basis. It is
obvious that when countries' local institutions become full fledged and
build their confidence, states will no longer seek foreign observers.
Consequently, the main thrust of the OAU should be to promote local institutions which are involved in democratization. This can be done by the OAU establishing networks of all electoral organizations in Africa and help them accordingly.
These efforts however, will require a well established and better equipped institution within the OAU General Secretariat to handle them. It is necessary therefore, to have an election monitoring system or unit formally established. It will no doubt, demand a proper study for its institutionalization, financing and operational details but may assume such roles as previously outlined. In addition, they may embrace self- strengthening activities like recruiting experts and consultants on the field, establishment of information system on electoral issues to include databanks and a mechanism for their exchange with other related organizations, coordination of technical assistance with the International Community, updating existing guidelines and all necessary facilities for the institution to perform its duties effectively. In this view, the role of the System will be wider to cover a spectrum of daily activities. Keeping Standards
The experience so far shows that the OAU is also less effective due to lack of specific standards to guide it in conducting electoral process. All what is known is for the OAU just to respond to an invitation sent from a member state in demand and then act according to that government's wishes. In very rare cases, when the OAU found itself entangled in a dilemma opted to draw up specific agreement with the government conducting elections before deciding to take part.
The OAU principles in the democratization process are clear and known. They cover popular participation, human rights, rule of law and in general terms aim at free and fair elections. These have been agreed by all member states at their different sittings. Therefore, electoral standards can be specified and drawn up along the lines of these agreed principles to guide the Organization in this respect. Otherwise, the OAU can just adopt the Inter-Parliamentary Union Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections (see annex), the way it adopted the UN Charter for Popular Participation. In any case, this declaration has already been adopted by more than half of the OAU Member States. Dealing with Human Rights Violations
In spite of the general agreement on the need for democratization certain governments have not shown willingness to allow the new political process to take its course smoothly. The leaders play foul including violation of human rights And their own constitutions during the electoral process and after. Africa has been named to be on high records of human rights violations. Unfortunately, the OAU in certain cases, has not faced the situation boldly. While the recent trend has given the Organization a credit for condemning unconstitutional acts like military coups one would wish that the OAU maintains such boldness and condemn all kinds of unconstitutional activities.
It is widely accepted that once African countries have allowed Multiparty democracies they have moved a big step forward in the democratization process. But there should not be an oversight on the fact that this stage has been reached after a pressure was introduced by the New World Political Changes. Therefore, a kind of motivation is still needed to urge certain governments to embark on the process peacefully. This can be one way to cushion foreign pressure. Otherwise, if Africa cannot do it by itself, the donors will continue to press on it and perhaps more severely.
On the other hand, the OAU General Secretariat can be a little aggressive by taking liberty of trying to take part in elections conducted in Africa. It is well accepted that the OAU as an intergovernmental organization is guided by principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of members states. However, in this particular issue the situation is not so much like interfering in internal affairs of any state. The organization's Secretariat has already acquired legitimacy to take part in elections conducted in Member States. Although, it is supposed to get an invitation for the purpose, this does not stop it from REQUESTING participation. After all, the OAU participation in election is financed by the OAU itself and not necessarily by a member in demand. Studying from current situation no Member State can turn down the OAU request because of the following reasons:
i) All members have agreed on the OAU principles of popular participation, human rights, rule of law and democratization through free and fair elections. It is therefore, expected that everyone would adhere to them.
ii) It is difficult for the governments in power to sustain dual pressure - that of internal opposing groups as well as that from the International Community on conducting genuine elections. This is so especially when comes to the question of foreign aid.
iii) The OAU objectives are not to make any member country to changes its laws or force them to conduct the exercise irrespective of their sovereignty. But help them achieve peaceful elections according to the country's own laws.
iv) OAU itself finances its observation missions.
Nevertheless, in case, the government concerned turns down the REQUEST, the OAU will obey it will not take part. Cooperation with Other Institutions
It has been registered that there has been no strong or consistent cooperation among bodies which supervise multiparty elections in Africa. In most cases each group/organization takes it own way and finally comes out with its own assessment and statement. Some cases have indicated that this situation has not rendered any help to a country in the process especially when groups differ in their final statements. The teamwork of donors and foreign observers in the exercise is important as it ushers to efficiency and successful performance.
Normally, groups which participate in elections in spite of some other differences, all have one same goal of promoting democratization. It was expected then, that cooperation among them could be stronger. This is so, especially if OAU could work closer with them and contribute in coordinating their efforts. The OAU has an obligation from its members on the matter and with the new ECA Strategic Directions as well as the UN Special Initiative on Africa the idea appears more plausible.
ECA has already committed itself to undergo enormous reforms aiming at "Serving Africa Better." Among the guiding principles in this renewal process the PARTNERSHIP where the OAU stands at a better chance for the role. This is significant because political issues (such as democratization and election monitoring) are basically not the ECA's fundamental objectives.
Equally important, the ECA role in the new UN Special Initiative of Africa "will be the lead agency in coordinating and carrying out programmes in two areas- South Cooperation, and Strengthening Civil Society for Development". It will join the OAU and regional media groups to develop communications for peace building, and cooperate with the World Bank, UNHCR, UNDP and other agencies in programmes for reforms in civil service systems, judiciary and electoral systems.
However, while the OAU has been named to join ECA in developing communications for peace building no mention has been made to involve it in strengthening the capacity for good governance through the electoral process. OAU being the collectively chosen institution by the African governments to undertake the exercise, while itself needs some assistance could work together with the ECA and other agencies. Past experiences, for example the elections in Namibia in 1989 indicate that the OAU can cooperate with the UN institutions successfully in this field.
One could suggest that once the ECA is now going to be very much involved in these activities, there could be joint efforts organized under one unit of lets say, OAU, ECA and UNDP etc., for electoral process and democratization in Africa. The idea appears plausible because already there are joint programmes and even secretariat among some of them (e.g. ECA/OAU/ADB joint secretariat on implementing the Abuja Treaty). What is suggested is to have democratization also considered for joint initiative to make it successful. The unit could be the one already suggested to be promoted in the OAU General Secretariat or any other jointly created for that purpose. Beside other mentioned obligations, it can serve as a liaison among all related agencies or groups involved in promoting the process as envisaged in the UN Special Initiative of Africa. The major aim will include also to study, monitor and evaluate the whole programme of democratization and "Strengthening the Capacity for governance" in he Continent. Cooperation with governments, regional and local indigenous groups involved in this aspect will be the main focus in order to assist them both financially and technically to boost their performance. The idea could also facilitate the mentioned OAU-ECA cooperation in the field of peace building as electoral process can play a significant role in it.
It is very much believed that today's unorganized system of electoral process in Africa tends to create a chaotic scene which is of no help to the continent. This is caused by the involvement of too many scattered foreign groups in the Continent all trying to do the same thing. It is therefore of crucial importance for the OAU to take lead and harmonize all those involved in election monitoring in the continent for an effective performance. Conclusion
Africa is very much under-developed. This situation, to a great extent, has been caused by conflicts and strife borne out of inadequate political systems. There is a general consensus on the matter and even on how to deal with it. This is why the international community has shown a supportive gesture to the democratization process in Africa. International organizations such as the UN, Commonwealth, the Arab League, the OAU as well as, the nongovernmental organizations and individual countries have undertaken to assist democratic elections in one way or another.
Unfortunately, these efforts have not been very successful. The countries concerned have faced a number of problems and have failed to get proper assistance. Those who have been assisted are not well organized and generally they are scattered with their activities not coordinated.
The donor's pressure on democratization,
the recent UN Special Initiatives on Africa and the ECA's new strategic
directions are an encouragement toward realizing the objective. However,
there is a lot to be done as far as the OAU is concerned in order to make
it successful. The OAU has to study the real problems facing democratization
and multiparty elections in the Continent and address them effectively.
This could be done by the organization to organize itself adequately and
explore the above opportunities properly. In so doing closely with UN
agencies, nongovernmental organizations and other relevant institutions.
There is hope for success.
Investment Climate and Opportunities in Africa
The Business Corner will provide a brief overview of some
significant developments and investment atmosphere in each of the African
countries. We hope that the information provided will be useful to encourage
and to allow for a possible expanded trade and investment in Africa.
Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as ZAIRE
Congo is the third largest country in Africa
and endowed with such natural resources as copper, cobalt, coffee, petroleum,
diamond, arable land and abundant fish in its waters. Despite the current
war and unstable political and economic environment, Congo remains one
of the best place for investment, trade and commerce in Africa. Congo's
debt arrears, damages to the economy, infrastructure and the trade channels
seriously contribute to the reduction of Congo's exports potential, but
it will improve with time.
FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA
- Fred Oladeinde is the President of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa (FDA).
The Foundation for Democracy in Africa (FDA), a Washington
DC-based non-profit, non- partisan organization, founded in 1994, recently
established the Institute for Democracy at the St. Thomas University Campus,
in Miami, Florida, USA. It will develop programs for research and educational
purposes and educate the world about democratic trends in Africa. The
Institute will be challenged with creating innovative democratic approaches,
to solve the socio-political and economic problems of Africa.
"Africa's condition can be traced to the menace of military intervention and single party authoritarian regimes." Back to contents
-Reuben Abati is a Nigerian journalist studying at the University of Maryland on a Humphrey fellowship.
The last American president to pay any serious attention
to Africa was Jimmy Carter. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson
and Richard Nixon - particularly Kennedy - wooed African leaders and provided
various forms of assistance to the continent's newly independent states.
The United States needed to keep African nations out of the way of Soviet
communism. By 1980 the continent was pretty much divided ideologically,
with the United States gaining an upper hand over the Soviet adventurists.
No coherent policy
Everywhere but Africa
Support for dictators
It is instructive that Africa's people continue to look
up to the United States. I recall that in 1993, my compatriots trooped
to the American embassy in Lagos, as the country suffered political tension,
to plead with the American ambassador to ask Mr. Clinton to save Nigeria.
America's silence then and now remains a puzzle.
It is not too late. Mr. Clinton has another
chance to keep his promise and take Africa along on that "bridge
to the 21st century." The 105th Congress also has a great opportunity
to correct the charges of U.S.-centrism that were often leveled against
for Democracy in Africa(IDA) is the "think tank, do tank" arm
of the Foundation for Democracy in Africa(FDA). IDA was established to
create innovative democratic approaches to solving Africa's socio-political
and economic problems. IDA is responsible for conducting training and
research and educating both the private and public sectors on/about Africa.
All further inquiries should be directed to:
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