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Opinions Sat, 17 Dec 2011

The Tragedy of African Democracies: why the best doesn’t mean good

As the curtains draw down on my serialized syndicated articles, I feel profoundly satisfied that I did embark on this journey and have been able to open up space to ask my own questions and the ones I have heard many of my compatriots and other Africans asked many a time.

Since I started the series, I have received an avalanche of responses through emails; some in derisive tones with threats from those who believe our human conditions as they stand are without blemish, others from those who think I am doing a great job. Then another group – some media outlets – who wants to own my work so I will write to the specifications of their in-house style, and they would have proprietorship over what I write for a fee. To the first group, I say they have the platform to a rejoinder, if they consider my rendition as falsehood. To the second group, I say words of encouragement alone are not enough; roll up your sleeves and let’s get into the trenches and debate the issues. To the final group, “I WRITE WHAT I LIKE [ONCE THE FACTS ARE UNQUESTIONABLE]” (Steve Biko).

There is no doubt that civic engagement remains a very important aspect of the democratic adventure. It is through these processes that individuals and groups are able to identify and address issues of public concern to them and their communities. Issues of education, corruption, the state of the media, brain drain and its related topics, the economy, regionalization, are but a few of the topics that are so dear to my heart, and I would continue to comment on them as long as I continue to breath.

I am not sure anybody expects me to remain silent when my tax is being expended to sponsor scholarships for friends, party apparatchiks, and relatives who do not deserve it in the first place. I remember when the President of the United States was in Accra in 2009, the highlight of his message was “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, but strong institutions.” But two years on many are disillusioned by the sheer lack of will power to effect the changes in some of our institutions to make them functional. Indeed, this might deprive those who benefit from the mess of weak institutions of their corrupt benefits.

As the 2012 draws closer, I urge every citizen to engage in the discussion of the important issues that have implications for us all – Education, National Identification, Water and Sanitation, Unemployment, Corruption, and many more. The right to speak is not a lodestone to attract assassins at our doors. Let’s open up space and break the culture of silence. If we die speaking against the evils of men in leadership, let the fate of the befallen ginger the living to carry on with the struggle. Those beating the war drums, those united at the party level in their evil, those marshaling ethnic forces towards the 2012 should be ashamed of themselves. They should stop the divide and conquer messages and let’s examine who has removed more of our youth from the streets into jobs, let’s examine what alternative educational policies there are, etc.

To you my brothers and sisters in Cameroun, Togo, Zimbabwe, and to all those still languishing under the yoke of Africa’s surviving fiefdoms and dictatorships, remember the struggle to overturn a system that continues to feed the corrupt and their allies is not an easy one. Thousands have shed their blood to erase oppressive regimes in the Arab spring. We in Ghana have been fortunate to have had a benevolent dictator who relinquished power without the drop of a single blood. But our best – as a democracy – is not good enough. We still have our tragic stories of institutional failures. But it is your duty to challenge the status quo if anything has to change.

Finally, let the angels enjoy in the high heavens for the birth of our Lord Jesus, but to you men of goodwill on earth, let your lot be good health, peace, and love. Merry Christmas!!!

Prosper Yao Tsikata

Columnist: Tsikata, Prosper Yao