What is Democracy?
Democracy is a system of government that bases its legitimacy on the active participation of the people in the structure of governance and societal development. Three elements characterize universal democratic values: (1) competitive, free, and honest elections; (2) the principle of political and legal egalitarianism; (3) protection of fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Authoritarian rulers display a false sense of superiority by systematically using physical and psychological oppression to grab and keep power. Whether a country experiences a lack of economic perspectives depends on factors such as low education and lack of critical consciousness.
How to promote and protect democracy?
1. Educate and empower citizens to own their destiny
Education (formal or informal) is associated with three fundamental pillars of democracy: conscientiousness, humanity, and freedom. Educated citizens can dismantle the machinery of oppression and play an essential role in defending society against the mainstream culture of intolerance. This could explain why authoritarian regimes have no interest in educating their people. The dissemination of democratic values finds its rationality in the contradictions of authoritarian rulers who use a false notion of popular sovereignty to maintain a power that they gained under suspicious conditions. By its capacity to help citizens to react to change and transform the culture of fatalism into a culture of engagement, knowledge is a tool for humanizing society because it serves as a springboard against the abuse of authority. Hence, critical political consciousness must be at the heart of teachers’ professional development programs. To be effective, awareness of democratic rationality should extend to villages, hills, and hamlets where a substantial percentage of the population lives. AUFD’s model aims at heightening African citizens’ understanding and awareness of the many aspects of democratic citizenship. Building a free society in an ethnic identity instrumentalisation environment and gender discrimination requires active citizen engagement whereby people have esteem and love for their country.
2. Democratize political engagement
Conviction-driven political engagement is a luxury among African rulers. They share the same fundamental beliefs that make citizens with conviction undesirable in their own country. In most African countries, the time devoted to politics appears more prominent than democratic and economic development time. This could explain why they are among the poorest countries in the world. Breaking these patterns and establishing rules and norms that promote women’s, youth’s and people with disabilities’ participation in the political process will help to strengthen society. A relevant solution to status-quo-seeking states is to democratize political and civic participation while building solid institutions that will offer equal access and opportunity to all. Moreover, studies show that policies that help close gender gaps and improve youth’s and women’s participation in politics achieve a greater good.
3. Democratize health and economic access
Experience shows that political fairness can be achieved by formulating a set of legal and regulatory frameworks that will break the pattern of an unconstitutional power grab, renegotiate executive-legislative-judiciary relations to heighten checks on executive authority, ban unlawful weakening of opposition parties, and institutionalize public policymaking. However, it is largely admitted that democracy without improvements in health, technology, and the building of a more inclusive economy will not help a society ensure conditions that enable economic freedom for all citizens. Nepotism and rulers’ incompetence are impeding creativity and making inequality worse in Africa. Recognizing weaknesses in the system and addressing the symptoms of low government accountability can increase the trustworthiness and legitimacy of the state in the eyes of investors. An intelligent government must also take advantage of the different instruments that make it possible to use public resources to attract foreign investments. This can be accomplished by using foreign aid wisely and making public-private partnerships (PPP) with more advanced countries a real coalition for building human, industrial and technical capacities.
4. Build an effective African civil society movement
The root cause of injustice, inequality, and poverty is political, so we need political solutions to combat political misery. Especially when it is common knowledge that most African countries are ruled by an emotionally and professionally incompetent political elite that takes pleasure in oppressing the people they vow to protect and serve. For that reason, national priorities should not overshadow strategic goals as experience shows that disorderly democracies have spillover effects in neighboring countries. AUFD supports the vision of a stronger and united African Civil Society, driven by high standards of ethics combined with a noble sense of civic duties, that will strengthen and support individual and collective efforts. The vision refers to an array of signatory entities, including civil society organizations, the private sector, professional or community organizations, etc. that would pass formal resolutions to defend common democratic values and principles. Member organizations will be fully engaged as equal partners in the sustainable development of the continent.
5. Create a global ecosystem of shared values for the betterment of humanity
Offering a trustworthy account of critical behaviors that are causing systemic chaos in most natural resource-rich African countries is essential to curving poverty. Without question, humanity needs a foundation of shared values for democracy to become a universal value. Hence, the strategic interests of industrialized countries should not come at the expense of humanity. The notion that foreign aid provided to Africa fosters the ill-minded political agenda of the rulers (at the expense of freedom, democracy, and development) is a matter of public knowledge. In doing so, heads-of-states of liberal societies become accomplices of behaviors that cause harm. A superpower concern over global peace and security should uphold the rights of the oppressed and help to dismantle the culture of political impunity. Due to institutionalized oppression and massive corruption, developed countries should integrate funding for democracy education and civil society strengthening into their foreign policy institutions. Partnering with organizations such as AUFD that are seeking to spread democracy and empower citizens as key means to achieve sustainable development is one way to sustain the benefits of foreign aid.