Democratic Process Between Africa and the West – By Girma Degefa Geda
I believe, in our world, there are powerful and weak nations; as a nation beyond being rich and poor, there is no nation which has less value than others.
The majority of nations have genuine constitutions and rule their territory in the name of the people for the people’s interest. The fake mostly depends on their military powers, killing, jailing, and torturing tactics. These are similar behaviors of all countries categorized as Western or African.
However, concerning the Democratic process, in most of Africa getting a registration, a legal document or a certificate could take more than a year. Nothing works according to the country’s election process law that was approved by the Parliament or House of the People’s Representatives. When you gathered, documented and sent five thousand, ten thousand or more signatures based on the electoral board law to establish a new political party, the government officers who have been assigned purposely in the electoral board office by high level leaders to make hard times, do not sit back and follow up on the entire movement of the unborn organization which applied to be born. They try to block the due date or to abort the healthy pregnancy process of the party which has been going in the perfect track to be a new peaceful competitive political group of the country.
First, a bad guy in a good office labeled half of the collected signatures as forged or fake. Second, the other bad guy who has a beautiful office room next to the other trouble maker in the electoral commission board would ask the organizers of the newly formed party to change their party’s name into like night, hell, hopeless, instead of powerful names like unity, freedom democratic, equality, social justice and light. Third, the party’s logo should be changed from brighter sunset, candle and industrial gear, stars and butterfly into scorpion, cobra, crocodile, flies and others. Fourth, those guys who hide under a big table pointed their figures at the party’s internal or organizational rules, regulations, agreements and structure that was approved and signed by the founders, members and supporters. These are pre-organization problems. How long could it take to eradicate this kind of same old, non-sense and negative activity from the countries which have beautiful democratic words on their national constitutions? To be truthful, nobody knows or has perfect answer. In contrast, in Western countries no body has the power to play childish games to make baseless allegations, to intimidate, to harass and to waste time on the well respected judiciary system in the name of the people who want to stay in power forever. Getting a license or a legal permit to run as powerful opposition party isn’t a big deal in Western countries.
In addition to the difficulties of getting a license, campaigning for election is among the hardest activities in any part of Africa in the election season. The main stream media organizations, electronic and printed, are owned by the government, the killer ruling party and the richest individuals who were born and raised by the ruling party leftover from scratch. Those selfish and greedy individuals previously had high level positions, their chain of association, relation or affiliation with the government cells still fresh, and in most cases they get a huge under the table fund or budget from the government account to mislead the people and stigmatize the opposition party members. In Africa, most of opposition party representatives are running without the help of mass media, except a few liberal and independent free newspapers. Unfortunately, the circulation of the majority of liberal and free newspapers does not go further than the boundary of the capital and some big cities. That is it!
So, they use their little money and retirement benefits to meet the citizens to express their party idea and why their party opposes the drivers of the country and to indicate their future plan and point of views in different approaches. Horse, mule donkey, camel and the 60′s or 70′s English made old land rovers hit the remote and rural areas of the nation. Then, how many campaigners could come back safely to their home, see their children and wives, meet other friends in the party’s headquarter and had a chance to involve in community activities? Time will tell! Even though, most of the mass media organizations in the Western countries are privately owned, like Africa, some shows their biased reporting and pro-ruling party activities. But every candidate or political party could get a chance of debating, expressing ideas, interviews and no one would be labeled as evil rather than as a human. Their campaign’s are safe and they have a chance of seeing their families back again.
In Africa, during vote casting period, highly paid election observers and elders who were recruited by the government and trained how to steal votes, they don’t witness. They wear clean cloths and show their seriously folded foreheads to their vote caster citizens to create fear and trouble inside the vote casters mind. Nobody says anything, because beside those good looking trouble makers plenty of heavily armed soldiers or rebels wait for their gun’s snack or lunch. Some elders try to show the voters where to mark on the candidates list. Some try to make marks on behalf of senior and illiterate citizens other than their preferred candidates. Some are waiting for sunset to grab all the ballot boxes, run into undisclosed area and start the counting process in the dark place without any witnesses beside them. The most surprising thing, it is a crime to investigate the ballot box before the start of voting process to know whether it has nothing forged voted or pre-filled cards inside. Any way, before mid night the governing party declares a winner and gives endless warnings for its citizens. Curfew and marshal laws are expected. For example, what happened in Ethiopia?
In Ethiopia, in May 2005, national parliamentary election, the main opposition, CUDP, Coalition for Democracy and Unity Party, gained a landslide victory over the ruling party. In the capital city alone, CUDP got 37 seats from 38 constituents. The other main opposition party, UEDF, United Ethiopian Democratic Front, won several seats. Who were the losers from the government side? Speaker of the House, Defense Minister, Education Minister, Internal Revenue Minister, Information Minister, Capacity Building Minister, Mayor of the capital city, Governor of the Oromia state, Social Affairs Vice Minister, Energy and Mine Vice Minister, Internal Revenue Vice Minister, Deputy mayor of the capital city, high figure officials from Ministry of Health and others. Assume what next? The Prime Minister showed up through the only national TV window, gave his last killing words for his nation and banned every right including a right of peaceful gathering.
After his televised speech, all parts of the capital city were invaded by several uniformed army brigades and plainedclothe security agents. Huge modern tanks, armored vehicles and small pick ups with killer heavy calibers rolled over entire city neighborhoods. Temporary and make shift military camps were erected in every location. New concentration and torture cells opened. Then, unfortunately, shooting erupted throughout the nation, 193 peaceful and unarmed demonstrators were killed by sniper sharp shooters in the capital alone, 763 were injured in national level and more than 40,000 citizens were arrested with in a short period of time, mostly youngsters in the eyes of international community who promised democratic process in Africa.
Every where fear … hopelessness … a talk of death and jail. Members of the winner opposition political party, CUDP, who got seats at the parliament decided no to be part of the parliament until the loser government promised and showed exercising the genuine rule of laws for the whole citizens. Then, the killer group opened the gate of notorious jail and sent the winners, mostly well educated and prominent persons of the land. Most losers filled the House as a winner instead of going to their final destination, exile or jail. Independent and liberal journalists who played a big role in building the democratization process of the nation and on the dissemination of the truth concerning the May 2005 election were ordered to follow the CUDP members to jail. What followed? They were charged with Genocide and treason. “Wow, democracy in Africa!”
In Africa, there are so many countries who share this bad fate, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad and Uganda are some of them. In Zimbabwe, the leader, Mr. Robert Mugabe, has been ruling that nation more than twenty years. The Eritrean president has been in power almost eighteen years, even without a fake constitution like others. There is no constitution in Eritrea. In Eritrea, commission established, the people of Eritrea discussed and voted on the draft of their constitution but the president hold it as a hostage for more than ten years. Why? The drafted constitution allows him to administer that country only two terms of each five years. Instead he ruled the tiny Red Sea state which is separated from the north part of Ethiopia, with a law that he had written on A4 size paper during his time as a rebel in jungle. President Yuweri Musevine of Uganda, the former rebel leader, since 1986, Army General Al-Bushier who held power in successful coup has been president of Sudan since late 80′s. Ethiopian Prime Minister like his former ally, President of Eritrea, had ruled almost eighteen years. On the other hand, in the Western countries vote casting and vote counting process looks excellent. In most cases the whole process would be peaceful. However, in the United States of America in the 2000 election, the vote counting process wasn’t good as the world expected from the Western, well developed and democratized countries. It was looked like some where in Africa, andcompared to African democratic process, there wasn’t a single bullet fired in the USA air.
Watching most African leaders leaving office peacefully would be day time dreaming. Some of them decided to lead their nation by mass killing and mass jailing up to their death. Some of them haven’t retirement plans and retirement season destinations, because they know what could be the reaction of the ordinary citizens if they retired and tried moving here and there without a dozen of tanks and killer squads. So, until they hold and taste a glass of their death and are nailed in side their coffins, they lead their nation like a hero by mass killing and mass jailing. That is “democracy,” and thanks to some western administrations for their endless blessings and non-stop encouragements of those leaders, people are still suffering and losing their precious lives, hope and future in the name of democracy, but without a democratic process. The principle of democracy that the Western countries have been trying to help flourished in Africa wouldn’t successful until the originators of the democratic process fully support, look after, and terminated their priority national interest ties with those killers, torturers, and deeply corrupted African leaders.