IN the spring of 2004 while studying in Birmingham in the English Midlands, I was taken aback to see the police in running battles with would be members of the British National Party (BNP). The latter had just left a rally so I was told, organised by the BNP.
The running battles were not in themselves a surprise. The only surprise was that those people were not being allowed to express themselves. Why? Because they were spreading hate speech and targeting immigrants and other minorities.
I have been part of many public political protests and demonstrations in the West and I have over time learnt that, you are allowed to express yourself almost in every way or fashion that you may deem fit- save for hate speech, endangering security of other citizens and wanton destruction of property.
The latter three usually attracts the most vicious reaction from a usually restrained police that even the loss of life is likely. There will be usually an inquest and the judge will usually conclude that the police acted reasonably given the extenuating circumstances. I have never seen any human rights organisation raise a finger.
There is a reason for this; human rights organisations meant for the western world are a rarity, if they exist. The assumption is that the western system is the benchmark for all that is humane, free and fair.
In other words democracy is the West and the West is democracy and it is unheard of that citizens’ rights may be infringed upon; although it happens as frequently as it does in other parts of the world.
There are two standards; the one that is prescribed for Africa and other weak states and that which is practiced at home. In the West, democracy is open to reason, has leeway and room to manoeuvre in dealing with issues.
What is prescribed for us is rigid, un-representative and insensitive to the needs of the people. If we set clear criteria for participation and rules of engagement, then, they are either draconian or fall short of democratic standards.
When they rig elections in the US, it is an electoral system that has been overtaken by time. When the same electoral system produces similar results in Africa, then we are primitive, autocratic and given to tribal conflict.
What I’ve never been able to understand, is why the West will not allow their right wing partisans, the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to campaign for political office, yet they want us to allow our own version of neo-Nazis to vie for office in the name of democracy.
What is the difference between the Genocide against the Tutsi and the Holocaust? Hate speech in English is no different from hate speech in Kinyarwanda.
If the west can freely keep their political lunatics in check, why cant we? Shall we sacrifice the majority of our people, who have endured untold suffering, at the hands of political lunatics so as to remain politically correct in the eyes of a few suits in some Western capital?
If democracy is what we are being told it is then, it’s the height of absurdity. True democracy is that which puts food on the table, money in our pockets and being able to sleep knowing you will wake up alive the next day.