Democracy is ill; it needs a doctor!

Irate traders in a Ugandan constituency protesting high taxes on food recently ganged on their area Member of Parliament and beat her up thoroughly when she tried to stop them. Now isn’t that real democracy, after-all the concept ‘dēmokratía’ is about ‘people power’ and here, they were simply disciplining their non-performing ‘servant.’

Irate traders in a Ugandan constituency protesting high taxes on food recently ganged on their area Member of Parliament and beat her up thoroughly when she tried to stop them. Now isn’t that real democracy, after-all the concept ‘dēmokratía’ is about ‘people power’ and here, they were simply disciplining their non-performing ‘servant.’

That people could beat up a leader they elected ‘freely,’ is quite shocking but it also summarises everything wrong about democracy; it’s ill and urgently needs a doctor!

If you look around the world, wherever ‘democracy’ has passed lately, it has left a trail of violence, bloodshed and chaos that has left thousands dead; the democratic process of finding leaders has become one complete failure and a mere fuss about ‘people power.’ 

The vote has become a commodity for the highest bidder and politicians are mere investors, either looking to double their profits or safeguard their investments. So, election victory is not for those who genuinely seek to serve society but rich participants able to swing election outcomes through bribery and on winning, the process of recovering their investment starts.

Hon. Robinah Nabanja was beaten up by the same ‘majority’ that sent her to Parliament which shows disconnect between so-called democratically elected leaders and their electorate. But if the vote can’t produce respectable leaders worth the title ‘Honourable’ then something is surely wrong with the process through which they emerge.

In many ‘democracies’ today, politics is a means to get rich and politicians earn some of the fattest salaries at the cost of good doctors and teachers who serve the most fundamental needs of society. As a result, good doctors and teachers, fed up with non-responsive systems are resorting to politics to get their hands on resources so they become wealthy; a wrong precedent.

During her beating, the Ugandan MP claims she lost six million shillings (about $2,400) and her smart phone and she rushed to a local community radio station where she demanded that the host opens the telephone lines for people to call in and express their ‘regret’ for her ordeal. One caller used the opportunity to say that the money she lost wasn’t hers but belonged to taxpayers that she couldn’t protect from an exorbitant taxes regime.

Like most things, democracy too was imported to our countries and each country has interpreted its ‘user manual book’ differently to different results. For instance people on the outside like to criticise Rwandan politics as quiet and uneventful but they also agree that it produces better results in form of public goods and that’s not by accident because holding public office in Rwanda means serving public interest and those who have tried to enrich themselves at the cost of Rwandans welfare have ended up in abyss.

Suspect democracies yield suspect leaders and suspect results. A country’s democracy should be judged by its results not how many terms a person has served. In Rwanda, the results of our democratic model over the past twenty years are acknowledged though grudgingly by even the staunchest critics. On one hand, they agree that what has been achieved in a short time is unprecedented yet the same mouths accuse the administration responsible for that success of being ‘undemocratic.’ How could one have it both ways?

In Rwanda, we have a high breed democracy with Rwandan characteristics. There’s no fuss during elections, politicians don’t move around with bags of money to shop for votes since they don’t have it anyway and the ten opposition political parties work closely with the ruling party to serve Rwandans. Rwandan politicians earn least in the region, they live modestly yet serve earnestly and chances of being beaten up are few.

The problem with ‘democratic elections’ today is that they would possibly give one a ‘majority victory’ but not legitimacy or charisma because of a suspect election process. For instance, the charisma and connection that President Kagame enjoys among Rwandans, few politicians can ever obtain from just an election. His love and determination to serve, his courage to stand up for Rwandans and his boldness to defend Rwandan interests is something that democracies elsewhere have failed to produce.

So democracy is not about mere elections and noises of the majority, it should be about the quality of an outcome seen through the nature of leaders produced and their accomplishments for society. If the vote can’t give us these things then democracy is ill.

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