Africa, which arguably constitutes the biggest part of the so-called third world, and has time and again been demonised by ‘the powers that be’ of being a jungle, where the powerful minority take the lion’s share, while the rest share the next-to-nothing left.
At least literally, democracy is defined as a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally- either directly or through elected representatives- in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It is basically, the “rule of the people.”
Over the years, some countries have been perceived, or rather imposed themselves as “mentors” of democratic values, to the extent of regulating democracies abroad, and removing governments at their whim in the name of enforcing democracy, and not necessarily with consent of the people.
The examples are many over the years; the 1953 Iranian coup, foreign involvement in series of coups in Latin America in the 1970’s and the recent so-called Arab Spring uprisings, you name it.
At face value, one would think that it is a good thing. The media would conveniently brand the concerned governments as vultures, who have preyed on the suffering of their people to bloat their bank accounts overseas.
On the other hand, human rights groups would be ready to jump onto the opportunity, elaborating subjective reports to stick the knife deeper, definitely for their own survival.
With these at hand, and obviously any clash of the concerned governments with the “mentors” is an excuse of teaching them a ‘democratic lesson’ by removing even a democratically elected leadership by any means, guerilla, staging military coups, among other unorthodox means. Ironic uh?
The reason behind, as always is democracy; giving rights to the oppressed and creating a new democracy through elections.
All is good so far. The next step would be the same “mentors” helping the newly elected governments to start working.
But this does not work everywhere; Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have been the examples to show that uprisings followed by elections are not enough to make a change.
Just last month, a US citizen and former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA) released leaks about the US foreign spying programmes, even to its citizens.
As it is, Edward Snowden is now in Russia where he has sought asylum after his own government made it clear that he would upon arrest be charged with treason among other crimes.
Add onto this the Wikileaks saga that has left the whistleblower’s Australia-born founder Julian Assange stuck in the compound of the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK for over a year and the highly publicised Bradley Manning trial in which the former intelligence analyst is accused of passing classified documents to Wikileaks.
If the right to information and freedom of expression are paramount to any human rights and by extension democracy, why are Snowden and Assange asylum cases?
I believe a country’s democracy is its ability to offer to its citizen equal rights and justice.
It is not some set standards from some other countries that would come as judges to the rest, as what happens behind the scenes might not be democratic as well. It is also the satisfaction and trust of the citizens in their governments, because they understand better their situations.
To sum it all up, there is no giant in democracy and democracy should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, as context of an individual country matters to come up with the benchmarks of democracy.
The world would be a wonderful place if everyone respected the varieties.
The author is a Medical Doctor based in Kigali.