Akwasi Aidoo of Ford Foundation in New York sees flaws in Abaka's characterization of democracy:
This discussion on democracy in Africa is vital, and I want to thank you for making it possible.
As someone who sits so far away from Africa and African politics, I thought I would simply keep quiet and listen to those who have something revealing and insightful to say. But, alas, some of the statements here border on the scandalous. Here is one (by Dr. Edmund Abaka): "...democracy is useless to the hungry." In the last 20 years, I've traveled to all African countries, closely observed 10 of them transit from various forms of dictatorship to a measure of democratic governance, and lived in five of them. Everywhere I have seen democratic transitions occur, I've seen the "dirt poor" embrace its arrival, heard them ardently wish its continuity, and on occasion felt that they were willing to fight passionately for its healthy growth. Why? Undoubtedly, they want to see their lives improve materially, but they also want to do that in freedom. Not having to endure the sight and fear of loved ones being hurled out at the crack of dawn for beach-front executions, living in fear of faceless "security" people who are accountable to no one except the fearless-leader (more of a dealer than a leader, actually), being able to freely protest poverty-enhancing government policies, etc are all very important to any chance that the poor and hungry people of Africa may have to struggle for improvements in their material conditions. This, I believe, is partly why they queue patiently for hours to vote whenever they get the opportunity to do so. In that sense, Kwame Nkrumah's call, "Seek ye first the political kingdom," is indeed relevant (contrary to what Dr. Abaka says).
I think that the challenge we face is to deepen and broaden democracy, not question its relevance. Forty years ago, we faced the challenge of making independence more meaningful to our less-privileged compatriots. By and large, we failed to meet that challenge (due to a variety of reasons). Today, we face a similar challenge: how to make democracy more meaningful to our people. Whether or not we can rise to that challenge has a lot to do with the extent to which we are prepared, as intellectuals, to recognize and defend the normative value of democracy as such.