The issue of democracy continues to generate heat and passion, with a new contribution by Dr. Kissi:
I read Dr. Abaka's piece on democracy in Africa with considerable interest and I am very surprised that such a thoughtful piece has generated "considerable uproar" in some quarters on the net. It is sad that one statement in an excellent comparative analysis of the history of democracy as a political system in some Western societies and African states has provoked harsh sentiments. I did not take it that Dr. Abaka was dismissing democracy as a mode of social organization for Africa. NOT AT ALL. Nor do I see his article as disdainful of the hungry. He poses series of interesting questions: Who should be the beneficiaries of democracy "as a way of life" and "as a political system" in Africa? In his article, he demonstrated that democracy, whichever way one sees it, should benefit the poor and hungry as well as the rich and well-educated.
I see his piece as exhorting African states and leaders to make democracy meaningful (yes useful) to those living in rural areas and sometimes surviving on air-diet (very hungry). I think I get the sense in which Dr. Abaka made the statement that seems to have stirred embers up on the net. Dr. Abaka is correct in arguing that the hungry may not see the importance or relevance of democracy as a political system, in their lives, UNLESS AND UNTIL that system brings them tangible benefits, economic, social and political. As Dr. Abaka stated, respect for the human rights of the poor and hungry are examples of those tangible benefits that democratic Africa should strive to bring to its poor and hungry. That does not mean that Dr. Abaka is dismissing democracy as irrelevant or unhelpful in Africa or to the continent's poor. As I read his piece, he is simply stating that the well-being of the hungry should also be a supreme objective in democratic nations. In short, the "least" (poor, hungry, peasants etc) among us should deserve the same care and regard that we accord the top (elites, merchants, politicians) in our societies. This is a noble idea that deserves praise rather than criticism.
Remember that Dr. Abaka also stated that unless African leaders work "assiduously" to address poverty and gross mismanagement, democracy would be a sham. In other words, it would not benefit the ordinary people that democracy should also serve. Remember the questions he posed: "Whose democracy is it: the ruling elite, mercantile elite, working class or society writ large"? Dr. Abaka recognizes that democracy should benefit the society at large and he makes a strong case for the poor and hungry to be at the center of our democracy discourse. Afterall, it takes more than the educated, rich and powerful to create a democratic society. Abaka's piece proposes a more inclusive form of democracy for Africa---one that makes democracy a way of life as well as a political system that benefits people in urban areas as well as those in rural societies. My peasant mother in rural Ghana would agree with Dr. Abaka.
Unlike some who read Abaka's piece and got upset by it, I sought to understand his statement "democracy is useless to the hungry" in the broader context of his contribution. I think those who have lambasted him for just that single statement did not read his piece carefully. His point is simple and noteworthy: democracy should bring tangible benefits to the poor, and African states should strive hard to make the plight of the poor and hungry the centerpiece of their quest. If they fail in this, their democracy would be meaningless. When Kwame Nkruma said that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa, he was not dismissing the independence of Ghana. He was linking it to another larger purpose. He was putting it in the framework of a larger mission. Abaka was doing something similar.
The feeling that democracy should also benefit the hungry----which Dr. Abaka expressed----is different from an idea that democracy is alien or unimportant to Africa that some have unfortunately and mistakenly attributed to him.