Can Africa plausibly find common ground for a common future? Unity requires more than intra-African co-operation or opening borders – it needs a foundation of common values. “Africa” must stand for something. This has been recognised, implicitly and explicitly, by the African Union (AU) since its founding. In 2011, an AU Summit was dedicated to “Greater Unity and Integration through Shared Values”. It pledged to “promote and encourage democratic practices, good governance and the rule of law, protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for the sanctity of human life and international humanitarian law, as part of efforts for the prevention of conflicts.” Unity features prominently in the continent’s current 50-year developmental blueprint, Agenda 2063.
These are worthy objectives, aligned with the demands of African and international governance and human rights agreements. And the values they represent are far more in evidence in Africa today than they once were. Multi-party politics is ascendant, and, in contrast to the laissez faire approach of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity, coups are forthrightly condemned. However, there is still no strong condemnation of leaders tampering with constitutions to circumvent term limits.
But it is increasingly recognised that democracy implies different things in different environments. Democracy should not be equated with “freedom” – recent history has shown that electoral regimes can coexist with authoritarian governance, producing what has been termed “illiberal democracy” or “competitive authoritarianism”. The standard of constitutional governance, the willingness to allow citizens to form pressure groups and of the media to report and comment are arguably better gauges of countries’ values than holding elections.
Source: Mail & Guardian
Author: Terence Corrigan