The introduction of Western democratic ideals, in most of Africa has not been followed with the supposed benefits that have occurred in western liberal democracies. Since the European industrial revolution took place, do we need Western democracy to transform African economies?
The ongoing turmoil in Kenya and other trouble spots in Africa, have served to demonstrate that, there is hardly any country whether assumed to follow western economic and political principles or not, that is immune from instability.
Unlike any other African country, Kenya adopted western free market principles following the decolonization of most of Africa.
Thus the long period of economic progress and political stability in Kenya, was assumed in some quarters to be a resultant effect of adherence to western economic and to a less extent political values. This was not the case in other countries that adopted soviet style socialism.
To underline the importance of western economic and political reforms as a sure route to social economic transformation, western governments and their moribund financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank attached such specific conditions to aid.
For developing countries most especially in Africa to receive western development assistance, they had to carry out political reforms that were in tandem with western liberal economic and political ideals. These included freeing of political parties and an introduction of multi party elections with a commitment to free enterprise economics.
This was done without assessing the viability of the western democracy in African societies. Some politicians in African countries initially argued that African societies did not have well developed social classes on which political party affiliations and interests would be based.
It was argued in some quarters that political party identity would take tribal and religious loyalties. The post election violence in Kenya where people were targeted along tribal lines seems to validate this line of thinking.
The most pressing issue for African countries like Rwanda in my view is economic transformation and development and not western style democracy. The great Asian tigers ably demonstrated to the rest of the developing world, that you do not have to look west to develop your economy from third world to first world.
The fact that the Malaysian former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed managed to achieve high levels of economic development for his country, without recourse to the western way of doing things is telling. He is credited for engineering Malaysia’s rapid modernization and promoting what has been termed as “Asian values”.
The experience of Malaysia goes a long way to demonstrate to the rest of the developing countries, most especially in Africa that we do not have to adopt wholesale what is sold to us by western countries as the way to go; that is if we are to realize the much sought social economic transformation.
African countries like Rwanda have had their own home-grown methodologies of resolving disputes like the Gacaca judicial system. This can be replicated in other fields. The fact that countries in the Far East, seen as authoritarian have made great strides in as far as economic development is concerned should serve as a reminder that it is possible even in Africa.
It had been hoped in the past, that the western model of democracy was the key to political stability and eventually development once complimented with free enterprise market economics. However, evidence as seen through what has happened in Kenya and what happened in Ivory Coast a couple of years ago suggests the opposite.
The above scenario shows that African countries have to develop their own indigenous democratic value systems, which are in line with the social realities of the African people. After all, most of the divisionism that has been reflected in, inter and intra ethnic conflict in most of the African countries, was planted and propagated by western colonial interests.
In the interest of colonial domination, the colonizing powers sought to divide the colonized peoples in order to be able to control and govern them in their disunity. This shows that the resultant tribal clashes like we are witnessing in Kenya may be a hangover from the colonial past.
Never-the-less it is important that African countries continue to engage with western countries at the political, economic and other levels since we are living in an increasingly interdependent world.
More important still, Africa has to realize that African problems especially in regard to economic development and transformation have to be undertaken by Africans themselves.