I wanted to write purely about democracy this week, but the Arsenal kit deal dominated the news, so I found a way to marry the two stories as they are linked. The backlash was delayed but came with the same vitriol as was to be expected “Britain gives money to Rwanda which they waste on sponsoring Arsenal FC” They linked the usual human rights headlines to this story, the coverage was just so racist and patronizing and made me sick. There is an anti-development aid agenda at play, there are many who oppose the giving of aid on any grounds, they want the EU to drop its UN target of spending 0.7% on development. They point every aid recipient country as corrupt, all the money is wasted, the aid is pointless. Due to austerity their ideas gained traction in society, they linked lack of services to aid. Rwanda has done tremendously well in reducing aid-dependency from 80% to 17% but most Westerners believe that “the only reason your government exists is because of us.” As John Humphreys arrogantly said. The idea that we exist because of aid is a lie to cover up their lack of relevance in the modern world. They say that Rwanda has failed democratically, yet democracy is failing in the West, it is bringing fascism, neo-fascists, Trumpists, Brexiteers, and policies that damage their nations long-term. Yet we are told that democracy, like fate, must just be accepted, even when it wants to destroy society it must be obeyed. That is because democracy in the West has been completely corrupted and coopted by the moneyed elites and people are turning to facism. Rwanda, like the West, has its own history of fascism and genocide so we cannot accept it.
What is democracy?
We have always assumed we knew what democracy is, the growth of technology has blurred the line with the public and private spheres, people now have direct access to their leaders, can affect policy in real time, people can collect in massive numbers to remove a government. Electoral democracy was a solution to a geographical and logistical challenge. Local committees are naturally democratic, every person has the right to speak, each person have one vote, the effects and burdens are felt equally in the community due to proximity. As the numbers go up not everyone gets a chance to speak, your vote counts less, so you elect a leader to represent you in a wider political sphere. This is where true democracy falls apart, the elected leader is now left to decide and balance needs of the voters. Government is just not responsive in this digital age, the old style democracy imposed on us is failing, it has given in to identity politics, we have codified tribal identities and we are institutionalizing them. The rise in identity politics is a reaction to the state not being responsive, so they revert to their past identities which have now been digitally connected. Democracy has its myths; democracy brings automatic development, democracy produced the industrial revolution, Africa is poor because it is not democratic, so it’s our fault. If only we could be like the White man then we’d be free of poverty. Yet Western democracy cannot survive without cheap African minerals to subsidize it, they have very few resources, we have everything. The price of their freedom is our oppression. P.D.D Peace, Democracy and Development, all need to be in balance for social harmony, none is more important than the other, though we put democracy on a pedestal above the others, one cannot eat democracy, hunger removes any chance of peace, development cannot make up for the other two.
The body politic
Governance is what allows millions of individuals to combine into a super-organism, much like the biology lessons in class, a nation is like a body, it must perform certain functions to survive. One might look at China as undemocratic because they don’t imitate the west, but their governance structure performs all the functions needed.
Movement – Government must be flexible, the system has to be able to adapt and move. Any system that is static doesn’t survive long. Government must be functioning.
Respiration – there must be a free-flow of ideas, ideas are the life-blood of government, you need ideas to solve problems, you need free flow of information to breathe in new ideas.
Sensitivity – a government must be equipped with all the sensory organs to get feedback, in order to react in time, to be fully aware of opportunities and threats, and seek solutions.
Nutrition – the government must be sustained by local taxes, like in biology, dependence makes you a parasite. Local taxes give democracy legitimacy, aid dependence kills democracy. There is no aid-dependent democracy on earth, he who pays the singer picks the song.
Excretion – Government must be able to get rid of bad leaders and bad policies.
Reproduction – government should be able to produce future leaders and the skills base needed to help the future generations.
Growth – there must be growth, economic, social, and political. Democracy is a means to an end, not an end in itself, it is there to help us get from here to the Promised Land. When it stops growing, it begins to die slowly.
Defining African democracy
Democracy is failing in the West, but in Africa we are having a mini-revival, in the last year we saw big giants go down with minimal fuss. Dos Santos, Mugabe, Zuma, DeSalegn, Yaya Jammeh, to name a few. We tried to copycat democracy, right down to the wigs, maces, order order, the right honorable gentleman, blah blah. We wrongly believed that our cultures were not democratic, Ubuntu shows us otherwise. Ubuntu was developed during the Bantu migration, it was a set of codes that allowed people to journey long distances and settle most of the continent. In Ubuntu – I am because you are, we have resolved the balance between the collective and the individual. Western democracy is based on the rights of the individual, but we all interlinked, our actions affect others, other people’s actions affect us. We have a real balance between people, the west upset that balance during colonialism, chiefs and bigmen were chosen to speak for us, and our social fabric broke down. In Ubuntu no one is left behind, the migration taught people that you can be strong today but weak tomorrow, so I can’t leave my brother behind because tomorrow it could be me. Western democracy demands that one side gets power and ignores the other 45% and rewards his/her voters and deprives the other half. That is a recipe for disaster. Soon we will have e-democracy, no more use for politicians, just bureaucrats connected directly to the masses who vote in real time, allocate resources in real time, and take political decisions in real time. The outdated model of democracy is dying, we, as Africans must define a new course based on our Ubuntu principles. As for aid, if the West wants us off aid then 3 simple things can develop us better. Firstly, pay a fair market price for our commodities, stop evading $200bn in taxes in Africa, invest in Africa, and lastly Visit Africa, even better, Visit Rwanda.