From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Liberia’s former minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, has identified six factors that can help foster democracy in Africa as well as help peaceful transfer of power in the continent.
In a keynote speech, The challenges of power transfer in Africa, delivered at a World Understanding Symposium, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lagos, recently, Ngafuan said first and foremost, the ruling class and the opposition must uphold the tenets of democracy and that elections, when conducted, must be regular, transparent and credible.
The former minister also said for democracy to thrive, the Judiciary must be strong, independent and impartial.
He added that it is important to build strong, countervailing institutions as well as making life after government attractive.
Most importantly, he said it is important to consider limiting presidential terms to a maximum of two terms only.
Ngafuan praised the continent for evolving a “completely new Africa” which has embraced democracy than dictatorship and military regimes, and said he was happy that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) “are no longer the bad boys clubs dominated by leaders who ascended to and maintain power by force of arms.
Speaking on how the ruling class and the opposition can uphold democracy, he said: “Although there are other processes that constitute major elements of democracy, the casting of the ballot is the best expression of the democratic right of a citizen. Therefore, elections must be held regularly and must be transparent and credible. The constitutions of most African countries set clear timelines and dates for the hosting of elections, but some African leaders find the most frivolous of excuses not to hold elections on the constitutionally mandated date. The regularity of elections reduces uncertainty.”
To support a virile democracy, Ngafuan posited that, the role of a strong, impartial, and independent judiciary in ensuring peace and order when issues emanate from the electoral process cannot be over emphasized. Judges must be able to rise above all selfish inclinations and uphold the truth no matter the circumstances. In order to gauge the strength and impartiality of the judiciary, the crucial question we must ask is whether the judiciary has the courage to uphold the election results when the facts at their disposal would justify such a decision or whether they would have the courage to annul an election result when the facts at their disposal justify annulment.”
He also believes that is important to make life attractive for former public office holders. “Many countries provide for pensions and other retirement benefits for former leaders in their constitutions and statutes. Maybe, in some countries, there may be a need to review such packages in order to make them more attractive. Besides pensions, former leaders should be treated with respect and given due courtesies and not be subjected to humiliation on account of frivolous and trumped-up charges of corruption and abuse of power as successors engage in “winner’s justice” on their predecessors.
“Finally, I believe one easy way to measure the strength of a democracy is to count the number of past democratically-elected presidents who live freely and proudly in their own countries. In many countries across the continent, that number is increasing. In places where a few strong-men have attempted to torpedo the smooth transfer of power, they have been roundly condemned by Western countries and the United Nations. The condemnations and rejections from African countries and the African Union (AU) have been even more vociferous and categorical. In other words, as time eventuates, we are taking front steps, not back steps, on the path of democracy and the peaceful and routine transfer of power. In this day and age, Africa cannot afford to turn back on the path of democracy.
Source: News Now/ The Sun Online