Sophomore Speech: Liberal Democracy or Consensus Democracy for Africa

Photo by Sam Lee

Liberal Democracy or Consensus Democracy for Africa
By Muhammed Sabally
Sophomore Speech Finalist

As the annual sophomore speech finals have come to a close, Denebola got the opportunity to obtain each finalist’s transcription and recording of their speech. Sophomore Muhammed Sabally’s speech entitled Liberal Democracy or Consensus Democracy for Africa, enabled him to finish in second place. Read Sabally’s speech below:

21 out of 54 countries in Africa, could be considered liberal democracies, out of these 21 states unshockingly only 9 are considered flourishing liberal democracies (The Future of democracy in Africa, ISSAfricaTV). Additionally, for there to be a successful implementation of a liberal democracy, there needs to be elections but post elections in Africa are marked by violence, the ever growing concern of the validity of the elections results, and even the beginning of civil wars.This is the reality of Liberal democracy in Africa and that’s why my stance is Liberal democracy other wise known as Western democracy does not work in Africa and hence should be eradicated at all costs.Instead, Africa should resurrect their own form of democracy which is a consensus form of democracy, that was used in pre-colonial Africa.

       Western Democracy gives the majority the privilege, to put a leader in power while disregards the views of minority groups.Although this is a very effective form of government in most Western countries.In Africa,far too many presidents often abuse this power to their own interest or in some circumstances to the interest of the president’s tribe rather than the interest of all the citizens of that particular state. According to a CNN article on democracy in Africa,President Kenyatta of Kenya, President Biya of Cameroon are examples of Presidents that use their nations resources to help their tribes rather than investing it on national development. Moreover, It is almost impossible to have free, fair and transparent elections in Africa. This doesn’t come as a surprise, knowing that the most rigged election of modern history happened in Africa, in Liberia, 1927. Where Charles D.B king former President of Liberia was elected. Mr.Charles supposedly got 240,000 votes even though there were less than 15,000 registered voters. Although this is a very extreme case and some of you might say 1927 is a long time ago but just as recently as 2011, President Museveni of Uganda allegedly rigged the results of the presidential elections.

The inevitable occurrence of post elections violence is also a major problem. Nigeria, a country with one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, has seen violence 7 times out of the 8 elections they have had post-colonialism. Even countries that are practicing liberal democracies such as Senegal saw violence in the streets during their elections in 2012.

Africa is a continent known for having different tribes and ethnicities. Some of you might have learnt in history class, that during the Berlin conference, when the European were up Africa into pieces like the way you would slice a pizza. The Europeans paid zero attention to the ethnic boundaries in the continent, which led them to create countries that have rival tribes, or too much of one tribe in one country and a little in the another. This obviously affects Africa today, from a political standpoint, as ethnic divisions play a huge part in hampering the success of liberal democracy.In a liberal democracy, a majority of people can use their power to oppress minorities, This is called majoritrianism. Ethnic majorities  usually have the most control in almost all African governments, these ethnic majorities usually oppress minority ethnic groups in the country. This was the reason behind the unforgettable, devastating,heartbreaking the Rwandan genocide in April 7th 1994. Which involved the mass murder of members of the Tutsi tribe by the members of the Hutu tribe who were the majority in the government of Rwanda.

     The alternative form of democracy that African nations should use is a consensus form of democracy which allows and considers the use of diverse views from every aspect of a state. In a traditional African society, a chief is chosen from a council of elders. The council of elders are representatives from the different villages or clans. If issues arise, the chief cannot take any decision without consulting the council.As claimed by an article on cnn, this system of democracy was used by the Ashanti of  Ghana, The Zulus of South Africa, the Igbo of Nigeria and many other african societies. In practice, different provinces in the state will select a representative from amongst themselves. The different people that are chosen are placed in a National Council. In this council is where a President is selected and decisions are taken by consensus which means every single one of the representatives agree on the solutions of issues affecting the nation. This system will make sure they do not have to spend millions on elections that prove to be a source of harm.It will also make sure that every group’s needs are being met. Which will see national harmony among citizens.

However, critics say that this form of democracy might hamper national development, as it might include people that are selfishly motivated to destroy national development. In a traditional African society, leaders are chosen by their credibility, honesty and their understanding of the interest of the people. If Africans select these type of individuals, they will easily circumvent this problem.

Africa should implement a consensus democracy to be able to achieve efficient, successful peaceful and developed states. On an ending note I thank you all for your kind attention.