Thomas C. Mountain
Western style “democracy” is destroying Africa. It seems everywhere you look in Africa you see elections marked by violence and bloodshed. “Buy, rig or steal” is the name of the game and if that doesn’t work, send in the French army and UN “peacekeepers” and rocket the presidential residence and just take over by brute force.
“Democracy” is supposed to mean that the leaders of a nation do what their people want them to do.
If you ask almost all Africans what they want most from their leaders they will tell you;
1) Enough food to eat.
2) Clean water to drink
3) A roof over their heads
4) Accessible and affordable medical care
5) Education for their children
Elections are way down on the list of grassroots African priorities.
Food, water, shelter and medical care, if a countries leadership is getting these priorities taken care of then they are actually practicing democracy and if they don’t provide these services to their people they are not democratic, no matter the praised heaped on them by their neo-colonial masters in the west.
All of the nations of Africa except one are caught in the western elections trap. And all of Africa except one is bleeding, and in more than one way.
Many if not most African countries pay more in interest on their debts to western banks than the combined total of all expenditures on medical care and education.
Many if not most African countries suffer from food dependency, they do not grow enough food to feed their people.
Many if not most African countries are economic basket cases, even Nigeria with its oil, staggering from one western bankster emergency bailout to another.
Everywhere you look in Africa it seems you see conflict and war and everywhere you look you see western style “democracy”, elections.
It is so bad then when an election is held without a major outbreak of violence it is considered a “victory for African democracy” even if the serving president is the only one on the ballot (see “Liberia; Plenty ‘democracy’, No electricity”).
After WWII, the western colonialists found out the hard way that they couldn’t continue to militarily occupy their “possessions”, so they created neocolonialism to control Africa and used western style “democracy” to run it.
Traditionally, Africans practiced their own forms of “democracy”, most often via a council of elders persuading all parties to arrive at a consensus where everyone got something.
It wasn’t a win or lose situation like takes place in a western style election.
Being that all parties agreed to the final decision, all parties were duty bound to respect and enforce what they had agreed to, and thus the peace was kept and folks got along with each other.
As for national decisions, there were kings or high chiefs who almost always consulted a council of tribal or clan elders. In many societies, and this was a society of villages, there were oftentimes chiefs, but still the most often used dispute resolution was consensus, a mediation by elders. Peace was maintained and societal unity preserved.
Western “democracy” in Africa creates just the opposite. In Kenya, the Kikuyu, an ethnic minority installed in power by the departing British empire has to win the election or risk losing everything to their larger tribal rivals, the Luo. The result? Elections and thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. This upcoming election may see even worse.
The Congo? Ethiopia? Even that supposed success story for African Democracy, Senegal, saw blood in the streets.
Yet there is one island of peace and stability in the midst of all this chaos and crisis. One place where the people of the country, especially the people of the villages, still some 70%, will tell you that the government has kept its promises, and the proof is there for all to see. The solar powered wells, the micro dams for irrigation, the medical clinics and schools, all are spreading to even the most remote villages.
HIV/AIDS down by 40%, the best in Africa by a mile, malaria mortality down 80%, the biggest breakthrough in malaria history. Maternal and infant mortality seeing “remarkable improvement” (from the World Bank, no less) and the Millennium Development goals all on track for achieving. And on top of this, the fastest growing economy in Africa.
The one real success story in Africa and the only country NOT to have elections.
Maybe, just maybe, not allowing western “democracy” is what it takes for Africa to succeed.
Eritrea and Eritreans want nothing to do with neocolonialism and “democracy” western style. No thanks, we have our own version of democracy, real democracy, and our people are seeing the benefits.
Paradise? No, life is still hard for most, but the very poorest are the priority and their lives have changed, dramatically.
In Africa the poor are most of the people and if you are not taking care of them first and foremost, you are NOT democratic.
If elections mean democracy, and sick and hungry children in their millions is business as usual than Eritreans will tell you to keep your “democracy”. This is about Africa’s one “undemocratic” country, where peace reigns and our lives are getting better, especially for those most in need.
Don’t shoot me, I am just the messenger, though a real believer in the message. I have lived here in Eritrea since 2006 and am telling you what I have witnessed and come to believe in.
Instead of falling into the western “democracy” trap, try taking an unbiased look at a role model here in Africa instead of another African victim, bleeding from neocolonialism.
So before I finish, let me pass on what is probably the only reliable firsthand account of how that Founder of American Democracy, Thomas Jefferson treated “his” Africans:
“After dinner the master [Jefferson] and I went to see the slaves plant peas. Their bodies dirty brown rather than black, their dirty rags, their miserable, hideous half-nakedness, these haggard figures, this secretive anxious air, the hateful timorous looks, altogether seized me with an initial sentiment of terror and sadness that I ought to hide my face from. Their indolence in turning up the ground with the hoe was extreme. The master [Jefferson] took a whip to frighten them, and soon ensued a comic scene. Placed in the middle of the gang, he menaced, and turned far and wide (on all sides) turning around. Now, as he turned his face, one by one, the blacks changed attitude; those whom he looked at directly worked best, those whom he half saw worked least, and those he didn’t see at all, ceased working altogether; and if he made an about-face, the hoe was raised to view, but otherwise slept behind his back”.
This firsthand account is from a founding member of the French “Society for Friendship with Blacks”, the first French antislavery organization. His name was Constantine Volney, and he was the publisher of that African-Centered classic historical work, “Ruins; Or, Meditations on the Revolutions of Empires” in 1791. It is a fascinating account about his visit to Africa’s Nile Valley before the last major desecrations began.
Being an honest, antiracist historian, Volney believed, based on what he saw with his own eyes in the Egyptian tombs and temples, that civilization began in Africa, on the banks of the Nile River.
In his own words; “It was there that a people, since forgotten, discovered the elements of science and art, at a time when all other men were barbarous, and that a race, now regarded as the refuse of society, because their hair is wooly and their skin is dark, explored among the phenomena of nature, those civil and religious systems which have since held mankind in awe”.
“Ruins” was one of the most widely read historical texts of the late 18th and early 19th century. It was published in 6 languages in over 15 editions.
Volney was eventually driven from the USA by the forerunner of the Undesirable Aliens Act, passed by a slave owner Congress still having difficulties achieving a good night’s sleep, haunted by dreams of the revolution in Haiti and the slaughter of their fellow slave owners by their erstwhile captives, Toussaint and his fellow Africans.
It remains a bitter fact that the works of Volney, one of history’s truly great scholars, remains a mystery to most all of today’s students.
To say that Thomas Jefferson was in any way a “progressive” in his day is to fly in the face of all that Volney stood for. Let us use Volney’s first hand recollection to once and for all provide a proper burial for the idea that the USA was founded by persons of noble character or democratic principles.
The USA was racist in essence at birth and remains racist in essence today. That despite a black American President, a black American Attorney General, a black American Supreme Court Justice, a black American UN Ambassador and multiple black military generals, it is only an illusion that anything has really changed for the masses of black folk in the USA.
And they want to export this slave owners’ democracy to Africa? At least here in Eritrea “we the people” know what we want and that is real democracy, taking care of all our people, starting with our neediest.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent western journalist based in the Horn of Africa, and has been living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya in 1987. Read more articles by Thomas C. Mountain.