Corruption, terrorism, threats to Africa’s democracy – Rawlings, Mark
President of the Senate, David Mark; former President of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings; and Chief Ernest Shonekan, have identified political intolerance, corruption and terrorism as major threats to democracy in Africa.
They spoke at an international conference on ‘Emerging Democracies in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities’, organised by the National Institute of Legislative Studies in Abuja on Monday.
Mark cautioned those in opposition parties to be wary of intolerance and uncontrolled criticisms in order to cultivate the right atmosphere for democracy to flourish.
Rawlings, on his part, noted that corruption, electoral fraud and weak institutions would not produce democratic benefits, while Shonekan said poverty was a major threat to democracy as “it (democracy) does not thrive on empty stomach.”
Mark said the durability of democratic regimes was determined by the cultivation of certain supportive attitudes and values among leaders and the followership.
He said, “Where leaders and citizens fail to internalise these attitudes and values, such as the rules of political competition, tolerance for opposition and dissent, and the use of negotiation, dialogue and consensus building as means of handling conflicts and grievances, democracy can hardly flourish and endure.”
He also admitted that there was overwhelming evidence to show that threats of democratic relapsed into authoritarian rule were real in emerging democracies, citing events in Mali, Mauritania, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Niger.
Shonekan, in his address, said, “It must be noted that democracy does thrive on empty stomach. Therefore, democracy in Africa will succeed more if it improves the conditions of living of the people; if physical infrastructures are improved upon, particularly if there is improvement in the health caredelivery; and if there are job opportunities for the teeming unemployedyouths across the continent.
“Also, religious fundamentalism is posing serious threat to democracy in parts of the continent, particularly in West Africa, North Africa and in the Horn of Africa. There is, therefore, an urgent need by the countries concerned to constitutionally separate the state and religion and also enforce the provisions of the constitution in this regard.”
Rawlings, in his presentation, strongly condemned the use of money to buy votes and the lack of appropriate punishment for corrupt political officeholders, saying it would lead to underdevelopment.
He said, “We cannot continue to pay lip service to the strengthening, empowering and independent management of our multiple anti-corruption institutions. We live in countries, where poor, petty thieves get imprisoned for several years while businessmen, who evade taxes in millions of dollars or a politician, who misappropriated millions of state funds escape punishment.”