The African Debate

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The African Debate

  1. 1. OSISA-TIA Radio Collaboration Draft Brief for Country Debates April 2012 Money Power Sex Debate Series: Has Democracy Brought Blind Hope? BackgroundAll over the world, democracy is pitched as the ultimate salvation of the state. It is the panacea forpolitical problems; the benchmark for social progress; the pathway to economic success. In Africancountries, the notion of democracy rode the high-spirited coattails of independence. With nationalgovernment structures freed from the heavy presence of colonial masters, democracy promised anera of state-sanctioned freedom: one in which citizens could claim their power to get what theyneed, from governments that they want – governments that were answerable to people, not theother way around.But today, this hopefulness is steadily giving way to frustration with leadership that is anything butanswerable. Such frustration is building alongside the awareness of how Africa still remains, in manyways, colonised by the West and increasingly by emerging powers such as China. As the callouspower of the global economic system becomes more evident, the tantalising promises of democracyring more hollow.Political personalities have often been the scapegoats for this disenchantment, but scrutiny isincreasingly paid to the paradox of systems that promise freedom while sustaining – and in manycases, reinforcing – inequality. Even among what are regarded as Africa’s most establisheddemocracies, systemic inequalities along the age-old lines of gender and race persist with breath-taking candour.Seun Kuti, Nigerian musician and son of the late Fela Kuti, references this disenchantment whenexplaining the inspiration behind his latest album, ‘From Africa with Fury’ – a title he chose toconvey the building frustration of young African people with a system that has failed them at alllevels. Kuti says, “In Africa we do not have leaders, we have rulers. These rulers first serve theinterest of multinational corporations and western powers before they consider the welfare of theirpeople. People had forgotten this. Democracy brought some blind hope…”These debates will explore the questions: has democracy brought blind hope? How do the triumphsand failures of democracy manifest around the axes of money, power and sex? Do deeper problemswith global economic dynamics get overshadowed by the hyped-up pursuit of national‘democracies’?The questions are not just public, but also profoundly personal. How does the idea of ‘democracy’interact with more deeply-rooted prejudices, such as patriarchy or homophobia? What is the role ofthe individual in sustaining political systems, for better or worse?Most importantly, if democracy has brought real hope, how can this be strengthened to redressinequalities? But if it has brought blind hope, where is the real hope to be found? These questionsand more will be examined in light of current affairs in each of the countries where debates will betaking place, all of which are identified as ‘democracies’: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
  2. 2. OSISA-TIA Radio Collaboration Draft Brief for Country Debates April 2012 South AfricaAs one of the last countries in the continent to gain independence from white minority rule, SouthAfrica’s peaceful transition to democracy in 1994 was celebrated as a landmark success in theAfrican struggle for freedom and equality. South Africa is not only held up as the shining example ofa successful African democracy, but also possesses one of the most liberal constitutions in the world,with freedom of expression and assembly in the country unlike anywhere else in the continent. Butdespite all of this, the reality of many South Africans when it comes to basic public services such ashealth, education and housing, is not a pretty one.While democracy heralded the end of institutionalised racial oppression, the sustained economicoppression that characterised the apartheid era persists to this day. The gap between South Africa’srichest and poorest is the biggest of any country in the world. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE),aimed at redressing this inequality which was initially manifested along racial lines, has onlymanaged to enrich a select elite. Tensions around ownership of land and mineral wealth hang overpublic discourse, and have contributed to an unprecedented rift between the youth league of theruling party, and its elders.This debate will explore the question “Has democracy brought blind hope?” as it relates to thedynamics of wealth in South Africa. The following questions could be posed: - Is there more power in your vote or in your bank account? - Are changes in political leadership enough to create successful democracies? Why or why not; and how does this lead us along the path towards equality? - If simply changing political leadership is not enough, are more large-scale economic interventions needed – such as the nationalisation of mines that has been advocated for by the ANC Youth League? Why and what could such interventions look like in South Africa? - Is the democratic system, as it currently stands, able to accommodate such interventions? - What is a possible solution? - How do South African youth feel about inequality in their society? Do they avoid it, accept it or confront it? How and why? - Nomalanga Mkhize, a historian and public intellectual recently suggested “class suicide” as the biggest meaningful step that middle-class black South Africans can take to make a difference. Do you see this as a step in the right direction? Do you see it as one that would gather support? - The criticism has arisen in South Africa (as in many countries across the continent) that people are quick to blame government for their troubles, but slow to self-organise. Is this true or false and why? How could and should it change? - Thinking back to a few decades ago, do you think that young people today have the same sense of political agency? How is this tied to the realities of democracy and inequality? - Would you want to re-imagine a different system of governance for South Africa – if so, what would it be; and what practical steps could be taken in that direction?
  3. 3. OSISA-TIA Radio Collaboration Draft Brief for Country Debates April 2012 Kenya Kenya, long regarded as one of the most stable democracies on the continent, shocked the world in 2008 when then-incumbent president refused to concede power, a move that triggered civil violence and bloodshed. A power-sharing agreement between the presidential rivals was brokered as a solution to this crisis, a move that, it has been alleged, allowed both sides to sweep the post-election violence under the rug. In response, the International Criminal Court singled out four high-level political figures that are thought to be responsible for masterminding the post-election violence, and have laid charges against them for crimes against humanity. On one hand this has been praised as a blow to impunity, particularly as the list includes some of the country’s wealthiest elite. On the other hand, it raises a question of whether a democracy can be considered legitimate in the absence of effective systems for justice. The ICC trial is just one of many issues complicating the landscape as 2013 elections approach. With the recent announcement of oil in the country, the costly war with Somalia, and the country’s long-standing battle with corruption, 2013 elections are sure to be heated. This debate will explore the question “Has democracy brought blind hope?” in light of young Kenyans’ past experiences with elections; views on their country’s democratic system; and hopes and fears for 2011. The following questions could be posed: - What has democracy meant to the daily lives of Kenyans over the years? - In the context of the 2008 post-election violence – do you think societies can function as democracies when their justice systems are lacking? - What are your views on the ICC indictment of Kenyan leaders? What impact is this likely to have on how people conduct themselves in future elections? - Do you believe ‘power sharing’ has worked for Kenya? Why or why not? - In the light of 2007/8 and things that have unfolded since – how do feel about the 2013 elections? Will they bring an opportunity for meaningful change? - How do you foresee the discovery of oil potentially affecting these elections? - Do you think that young Kenyans are politically active enough? Why or why not? What role could/should they be playing the country’s future. - Would you want to re-imagine a different system of governance for Kenya – if so, what would it be; and what practical steps can be taken in that direction?
  4. 4. OSISA-TIA Radio Collaboration Draft Brief for Country Debates April 2012 Ghana Ghana was the first African colony to gain independence from European rule, and has since cemented its position as one of Africa’s model democracies. In the lead-up to elections in late 2012, a Germany-based index that is used to monitor ‘good governance’ worldwide recently ranked Ghana at number 19 out of 128 countries worldwide for political transformation. But this political transformation has not filtered down to the lives of many women in Ghana, where, to quote the recent words of a regional minister, “womens emancipation is still "several miles away" from the "finishing line". This is manifested in the struggle to improve access to education for women in Ghana – not just due to lack of resources, but also the lack of cultural appreciation for education of the girl-child. Witch hunts in Ghana, in which communities target women for nebulous crimes, are also on the rise. The most recent case involved a teenage girl who was driven out of her community under accusations of using witchery to gain her exceptional intelligence. Democracy gave rise to the establishment of a ministry specifically dedicated to the rights of women and children – but the small budget means that the Ministry’s programmes are largely dependent on donors. The Deputy Minister, however, recently blamed ‘religion and culture’ for the continued human rights abuses of women in Ghana. This debate will explore the question “Has democracy brought blind hope?” in light of the status of women in one of Africa’s most stable democracies. The following questions could be posed: - Can democracy work for women in the context of patriarchal societies? What has the Ghanaian experience been? - How do religion and culture interact with Ghana’s democratic system? What does this mean for the women of Ghana? - Do young people today still hold onto religious and cultural views that reinforce patriarchy? How do they reconcile this with other ‘modern’ views around democracy, freedom and equality? - At the start of the 20th century, one of Africa’s most famed warrior queens, Yaa Asantewaa, famously admonished Ghanaian men for their cowardice in confronting colonial powers. She subsequently took over leadership of the Ashanti rebellion against the British, until she was finally exiled. Asantewaa is still celebrated in Ghana today – but has her legacy survived? What are some positive stories of women’s emancipation and leadership in Ghana’s present- day democracy? - Would you want to re-imagine a different system of governance for Ghana – if so, what would it be; and what practical steps can be taken in that direction?

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