NEWS COMMENTARY DEMOCRACY VERSES DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONTEXT OF THE AFRICA REPORT DEBATES.
''Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely'', simply, drawing from the opinions of British Moralist and Historian, Lord Acton, African governments are inclined to subscribe to democracy as a tool for development. However, some are asking whether Democracy is getting in the way of development, giving the bureaucratic bottlenecks and the structured way of getting things done. The Africa Report in association with Mo Ibrahim Foundation launched the first in the series of Debates in Accra to provide the platform for African leaders to talk tough on development. President Mahama had the honour to set the tone for the debate.
In his speech, he alluded to the man behind Singapore's success, Lee Kwan Yew. Lee is described as the man who transformed a mosquito-ridden colonial post, Singapore, into a prosperous financial center, dubbed today's global power house. Although, he faced criticism for stifling the media and remained harsh to his opponents, Lee remains the architect to Singapore's prosperity.
Can we say the same for Ghana's Dr. Kwame Nkrumah? Some argue that Dr. Nkrumah was an autocratic leader, and yet nearly sixty years after he gained independence, Ghanaians are still drawing on the achievements of Osagyefo. The question still remains, What sort of a political system would generate the greatest economic and social benefit for Africa?
This is where one can agree with President Mahama when he stated concluding his speech at the Africa Report Debates that, Democracy is not a straightjacket phenomenon. It must be allowed to evolve and Africans must study and bring the best practices to their respective countries, reminding all that he remains a ''social democrat''.
Truly, democracy requires development, and both must move in tandem. Here, the quality of delivery is considered very important? What is democracy without results, What is democracy when majority of the people are hungry? Bread and butter issues should be answered in a democracy. Democracy should not only be about the ballot box, it must serve as a guarantee to the people that their rights are protected on a continuous basis, where their decisions for a decent life impacts on them daily. Citizens must have their freedoms, and opportunities must open up for choices.
Of course, across the continent, there are cases of non-functional democracies, where the political leaders who claim to be ardent of democracy provide no political space for their citizens. Political space and inclusiveness is critical to the question of whether democracy as a form of governance is the best way to promote development. Democracy obviously requires development. When it comes to investing in Africa, the number one concern to the investors is the ability to operate in a politically stable climate.
The African Report Debate has provided a wake-up call to African leaders to be more responsive to democracy and development. Democracy in itself should be seen as a process and the fight for a better one, must be the responsibility of all on the continent.
Participation is fundamental to get the process going and this is where the media have the responsibility of educating citizens on the need to seek accountability from governments. Proponents of democracy say, Africa can leap frog into developmental transformations, provided its leaders possess the wherewithal to make this happen.
With only nine years in office and sixty years on, Ghana is still benefiting from some of the concrete policies and infrastructure put in place by founding father Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, so given the advancement in technology today, African leaders have no excuse, but to gird their loins and put themselves to the task to make democracy and development more meaningful to the people. Democracy is a process, and Africa needs to learn from the mishaps of forbears and commit to resolving the mirage of persistent economic struggles on the continent. Political leaders must make the democratic governance institutions work for the people!
BY: REBECCA EKPE, A JOURNALIST.