“… With hindsight though, it makes interesting reading in Africa when a losing incumbent quickly puts an ex-parte motion in front of a judge who they think is “one of them”, you expect a swift judgment in their favour, influenced not by the law, but by other interests. This scenario seemed to have happened, but in Ghana, it failed.
The judge looked at the officials from the ruling party whose president was still in office, and threw out their case citing law as his authority.
Ghana triumphed again because elsewhere, ruling parties are not known to rush to court when they are threatened with loss of power due to electoral defeat,” Kofi Bentil, a lecturer and consultant in Business Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Ashesi University and the University of Ghana Businesses School, said while analysing the 2008 election in Ghana.
There have been difficulties in Africa, to gauge the level of democracy particular countries have attained. This is mainly because the definition of democracy whether denotative or connotative, depends on the people defining it.
The recent elections in Ghana saw Prof. John Atta Mills (NDC), elected as the new president after a re-run. He beat the New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo who allegedly conceded defeat in the interest of the country.
Ghana has been referred to as the icon of democracy in Africa. Do not ask the tools used to measure the democracy, but the Western observers attitude towards the process of government change. The attitude could be as erratic as it could be correct.
So what is democracy? There are definitely different circumstances in every country, which compels its people to define democracy the way they do. In general, however, democracy contentiousconcept that is hard to define though we all agree and understand its meaning.
The paradox is therefore that everyone claims to support and love democracy, yet we fail to have a consensus about what it means.
Of course, people who argue that a country like Ghana, which had a different political party leader, take power after ‘smooth’ elections, is good enough to count as a democracy, base themselves on the traditional definition of democracy.
Traditionally, democracy is defined as the rule of people by the people and for the people. This is of course in line with the thinking of the democratic philosophy, most famously advocated by the likes of Jean-Jacques Rosseau with his Social Contract theory.
We do not seek to contradict the definition, but do not allow its ‘blind’ following either. What we would call true democracy, is one that allows change with popular support. Though it is normally done through elections, democracy cannot be reduced to elections alone.
This is where we go wrong-we should go further to exploit other dynamics in a social setting, which real depicts democracy. The myopic view of democracy in our societies has continuously undermined the very foundations of democracy- the ability to choose and the ability to change.
Let us take an example of Rwanda. It would be so incorrect for such a post genocide society, to rely ‘entirely’ on the traditional definition of genocide.
We cannot at this level, determine Rwanda’s degree of democracy on elections (though of course the country has had a number of successful elections at all levels, as demanded by the traditionalists).
The problem in most of Africa and the sub-Sahara in particular, has been idealising elections as the symbol of democracy. It brings about fundamental errors on the nature of democracy.
Democracy goes beyond all deceptively misleading definitions offered by many scholars in elections. What has Rwanda done for instance in this line to qualify to be called democratic in our own context?
The country has managed to build a public climate of tolerance and debate as well as establish new institutions to hold politicians and government officials permanently, to account for their failures.
Furthermore, here is a nation managing to transcend its bad history. It has changed the history of ethnic hatred by ushering in, a spirit of forgiveness, solidarity and trust, which is paving way for reconciliation and democracy.
So much as, we agree that Ghana is truly heading for a better direction as far as democracy is concerned, for it to be an icon of democracy in Africa; it has to reflect it within people’s lives.
A number of examples in this effect include; whether politicians in Ghana and other countries live according to their promises after attaining people’s mandate/winning elections. This is supposed to be the bottom line-the yardstick.