23 February 2010

Article: Should Africa be held to Western standards?: No

Just over a year ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation's "Focus on Africa" magazine, a quarterly publication of the BBC World Service, carried a debate titled "Should Africa be held to Western standards?" (19 [4], October 2008: pp. 36-7).

The debate was republished on 16 October 2008 under the headline "Head to head: African democracy" on the BBC News website, where it can still be read free of charge:


Lead (on the website): "Almost two decades on from the difficult birth of multi-party democracy in much of Africa, the BBC's Focus on Africa magazine asks whether the continent should be held to western standards of democracy?"

The "Yes" position (p. 36 in the magazine) was taken by an African American, the "No" position (p. 37), which interests us here, by a black African, Reason Wafawarova.

Excerpts: "There are a few factors that make Western-style parliamentary democracy a facade at best in Africa. Many African states are still struggling to become nations after the damaging imposition of colonial boundaries. Without national unity it is futile to preach Western-style democracy in these countries. It is best to first establish clearly what the various tribal groupings want collectively. [...] Evidently the Western social order is not necessarily the same as that found elsewhere in the world. As such, many people are simply not prepared to pretend to be Europeans in the name of so-called democracy.

"The West cannot democratise the world on matters such as morality, culture and freedom. These are value-based aspects of social life that vary from country to country if not village to village. [...] Africa has an opinion of its own and Africans have their own homogeneous aspirations towards happiness and prosperity. They do not need Western aid in defining what happiness is. It is the sometimes subversive interference in the internal affairs of African countries that undermines the democratic process on the continent. The argument that the West cannot leave Africans killing each other is puerile. One only has to look at how often Europeans have killed each other in the past, but also how they continue to kill people of various nationalities across the world today. [...]

"Lastly, democracy is now viewed in line with human rights and the West seems to preach the primacy of individual rights over collective rights. African culture is a collective system that views the well-being of society as being fundamental to the well-being of the individual. This is why there is a tendency to check individual freedom in the interest of peace and stability. This is often interpreted as repression, yet in Africa it is about the maintenance of order. [...] Considering all these factors it is difficult to believe that Western standards of democracy – to which the world is subjected today – will ever in essence facilitate any form of meaningful democracy in Africa."

Zimbabwean-born Reason Wafawarova is a Marxist/Pan-Africanist political analyst and freelance journalist now living in Sydney, Australia.

No comments:

Post a Comment