If Voting Changed Anything, They’d Abolish It

You don’t need an Einstein, a Pythagoras or Darwin to figure out that western Democracy is a semantic anomaly that only works in the West. There are a lot of factors that can contribute to this. There are cultural, historical and interest based types of democracy, but not as we have been told. Even the layman in the street can summarise the tenets of Democracy as “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. That will do for me. The West has always been preaching the art of democracy to Africa since the days the Whiteman visited the shores with the bible in one hand, and the whip in another. Since then, Africa has always been lead to believe that Democracy is the best and only prescription that can cure its societal ills. What many fail to remember is that, Democracy existed in Africa even before the arrival of the slave and colonial masters.

Back in the day, the African landscape was demarcated into kingdoms and Empires; ruled by Kings and queens. Their geographical boundaries were determined by the strength of their respective armies. It was therefore not surprising that Africa, like the Roman, Greek, or British empires all saw their fair share of the rise and fall in political pendulums. Sumanguru in Songhai Empire, Mansa Musa in Mande empire, and Sundiatta Keita in Mande empire were to name but a few, had their own well established forms of democracy; when Europe was going through the Dark Ages. These kings and Queens had their courts that were filled with representatives from Vassal states. The kings and Queens gave Royal Accent to all decisions that were made from a consensus point of view. The type of democracy that existed then may not have been the same with current or western versions, but they had the fabric and foundations of what passes for democracy today.

The difference between democracy then and now is that, democracy is only democracy if it passes the acid test, set by Western Standards. Is anybody watching the goings on in Burundi? Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. The war was between Tutsis and Hutus, but the war spilled into Burundi because they both share common ethnicities. What followed was to become Africa’s largest genocide in modern times. The United Nations chief told a packed stadium of sombre and weeping Rwandans on a Monday the world would “never again” let genocide tear their nation apart, at a ceremony marking 20 years since 800,000 people were butchered.

The immortal words of “never again” was as a result of the indelible mark that was left on the conscience of the world and the UN in particular; as the world sat by and watched these people slaughtered each other with reckless abandon. You would think that such bitter lessons would have been learnt; but no. Today, the same world is watching as history is about to repeat itself. The people of Burundi are experiencing a replay of what befell them 2 decades ago. But what is their crime? All they did was to ask that the constitution and their constitutional rights be observed, upheld and protected. This is because, they were told that “Democracy” was the way forward. They are now asking for that, but standing in their way is President Pierre Nkurunziza, who had been in power since 2005, announced on April 25 that he would seek a third term in office. This is in blatant contravention of the Arusha Accords that ended Burundi’s civil war in 2006.

What is going on in Burundi was best described by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Thursday that “Burundi is at bursting point”. In the recent past, the UN has backed and requested the African Union to play a pivotal role in dealing with Africa’s perennial crisis and penchant for political chaos. You might be forgiven to think that this must have come about as a result of crisis or donor fatigue; that the rest of the world might be suffering from this cursed continent. Recent deployments in places like Darfur have been carried out by the AU with relative success. Unlike Darfur, Burundi has strongly objected to the plan of sending 5,000 peace keepers to protect civilians. President Pierre has described such a move that has been backed by the AU and Security Council as “an attack” on his country. As if to take the p..s, the government official Phillipe Nzobonariba told the BBC that the legal process should be followed, and suggested that a peacekeeping force would be better be employed in Rwanda.

This is not only a blatant affront to common sense but a senseless disregard for human life. It its nascent state, it may be as a result of the pursuit of democratic principles. It is just a matter of time before one the political figures gives it an ethnic flavour, to allow for the floodgates of hell to open. We should not forget that President Nkurunziza headed the rebel army that left an estimated 300,000 people dead during the 1993-2006 civil war. The question that is on the lips of every well-meaning human being is, why is the AU, the UN and the world at large allowing one blood thirsty and powered drunk twit, to hold the world to ransom? President Pierre should be told that he would be held responsible for the loss of every human life lost, and that his visit to The Hague will result in spending the rest of his life in prison. This is one man who should be hanged before he his tried in court. He should know the outcome of his actions; that in the end he will pay for his deeds.

Burundi is a major test case for the continent as a whole. If the world fails to address this case, it would set a precedent that Africa could ill afford. The world does not need an approval from Burundi’s powered drunk maniac to send in troops and prevent the avoidable deaths. We saw what happened in Cote D’Ivoire when the world dragged its feet. Burundi should be made an example. If Burundi fails as a result of the world’s inaction, those High Priests of the Sermon of Democracy might as well pack up and leave Africa and Africans to butcher itself to extinction. If this maniac is allowed to get away with this, it will not only undermine the Arusha accord; the very cornerstone of Burundi’s democracy but will also serve as a blueprint for other African leaders.

“Pseudo democracy is prevalent in Africa where, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the neo-liberal ideals pushed by the west demand that every country should be a democracy. To fit in with the prevailing trends, many putschists and armed “revolutionaries” who would have otherwise simply declared themselves presidents for life in the past, had to shed the combat fatigues and pretend to engage in democracy. Through force and fraud, they perpetuate themselves in power, all the while professing to be democratically elected”

Genuine democracy requires more than just elections-and certainly more than just false choices. Democracy requires that people have the genuine and free choice of how and by whom they will be governed. There must be constitutional limits on power, respect and guarantees for individual minority rights. There should be an independent judiciary and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights, as well as enforce their obligations, equally and fairly. Cerrtainly no democracy is perfect, but most of the professed democracies on the African are very far from perfect. We understand that but………………

The world needs to wake up and wake up fast. Burundi might be a small impoverished state with no value or of any interest to oil, diamond or resource curse based groups in the west. It is the potential rippling effects of this crisis for the continent at large that seem to create a doomsday scenario. Burundi, Rwanda, Africa and Africans at large were once told; “NEVER AGAIN”. It is time for the UN, The AU, and The SECURITY COUNCIL to step up to the plate. We know that the west is currently dogged by the world’s newest scourge called ISIS in the Middle East. It is easy to see the society for self-preservation flying sorties to sort out ISIS. Let’s face it, there are oilfields to protect there for God’s sake. Burundi may not have much to offer on the world stage, but failure in this small African state will undo all the efforts that have been put to make Africa look like a place worth inhabiting. Failure here will not only be a red flag but may serve as a blue print for future political gymnastics on the continent. The 2nd World War left us with a valuable lesson:

“FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE COMMUNIST, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT-BECAUSE I WAS NOT A COMMUNIST;

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS, I DID NOT SPEAK OUT-BECAUSE I WAS NOT A SOCIALIST;

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT-BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST;

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT-BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW;

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME-AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK OUT FOR ME. (Martin Niemoller)

FOR EVIL TO PROSPER, IT TAKES THE GOOD TO DO NOTHING. You once declared “NEVER AGAIN”. PROVE IT.

Don’t forget to turn the Christmas lights off before you leave the room.

Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

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