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Democracy: African governments lack trust, says Lumumba

Pan-Africanist and human rights activist, Patrick Lumumba, has said that the deficit of trust in governance in many African countries is impeding democracy and development on the continent.

Lumumba, who is a Founding Trustee of the African Institute for Leaders and Leadership, stated this in a keynote address he delivered at the second edition of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation Democracy Dialogue Series held at the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board Tower Hall in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Thursday.

The theme of this year’s dialogue was “Breaking New Grounds in the Democracy-Development Nexus in Africa”.

The former director of the defunct Kenyan anti-corruption commission pointed out that trust was one majority element lacking in African governments and democracies, adding that the time had come for Africa to examine what constituted democracy.

Lumumba, while commending the GJF for organising the democracy dialogue, said, “We are assembled here to remind ourselves that the reason why we lament about Africa is that it appears that the systems of governance that we inherited, and that we have been deploying for our benefit continue to put us at the foot of the ladder. We do not complain because there have been no changes or improvements in our circumstances.

“This continent of Africa, this continent that is divided into 54 countries, is it not the time that we must examine what constitutes democracy? Is there something in our tradition of governance that we can take and help how we govern? Is there something like that?

“That is the question I want us to consider. Is there a possibility that the elections we hold, that we do not understand, are the disrupters of our democracy in Africa? That we spend so much time in them? And that the only thing that is lacking in African governments is actually trust. Do we trust each each other?”

Speaking at the forum, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, described the theme as “most appropriate and timely” as the dialogue took place at a time when the avowed goal of entrenching democracy and sustainable peace in West Africa was being put to a stern test.

He said, “Unconstitutional change of government, which involves military coups d’etat and unconstitutional maintenance of power by incumbents, have been on the rise in the recent past in Africa generally, and in West Africa, in particular, military coups have heightened insecurity, stagnated growth, increased poverty, inequality and limited popular participation in governance.”

Touray however said that ECOWAS was delighted with the Democracy Dialogue as it would lead to concrete proposals to optimize the nexus between democracy and development in Africa.

In his remarks, former President Goodluck Jonathan stated that the GJF annual Democracy Dialogue was not aimed at bringing any nation down but rather a forum that brings together stakeholders across Africa to critically examine issues of democracy, interrogate the practice in Africa and make suggestions where necessary.

Jonathan, who is the Founder and Chairman of GJF, said the theme of the dialogue underscored the fact that “we need to see democracy beyond elections and critically look at the nature of our elections and what happens after elections by way of governance.”

He said, “The dialogue is not meant to bring any nation down; it does not target any particular country or group. The focus is mobilizing citizens through effective conversations with the mind of setting an agenda for the political development of the continent.

“Leadership should work towards ensuring that democracy translates into economic well-being of the citizens. We need to look at the gap in our democratic systems and seek to understand why democracy in many of our societies has been unable to guarantee peace and economic growth for the citizens.

“Democracy should be able to encourage development and help ensure social growth of the society. Democracy is about the people and should be able to uplift the social condition of the citizens. Democracy draws its strength from the people; we must work to ensure that its impact in the lives of the people is felt and appreciated.”