Sadiq Manzan identifies 5 important points in the ongoing discussion on democracy. An Ivoirien graduate student of creative writing at the University of Toronto, he obtained his first degree in English Literature from the University of Abidjan in 2002
The on-going debate on African democracy and development (led largely by Professor George Ayittey, Professor Edmund Abaka and Professor Edward Kissi) is stimulating and frustrating at the same time. The debaters are all very well informed, so it is intellectually stimulating to read what they have to say. But, it is also frustrating because it is difficult to see how and why they can passionately disagree on some very basic facts about Africa. Iíll explain this by listing these facts, as I see them:
1. African 'traditions' (however one defines them) cannot be ignored if the continentís societies and countries are to achieve sustainable development. In order words, you can only construct a building on the ground, not in the air. I think this is what Amilcar Cabral meant when he said that you should always "start a journey from where you are."
2. Some African traditions, such as unbridled patriarchal "gerontocracy" and subordination of the youth and women, are destructive and stand in need of change.
3. Africa is diverse, not homogenous, but there are also broad historical, political and economic similarities. In other words, Africans are not identical (there is no continent, country or community where everyone is identical) but most Africans face common problems, etc.
4. Africans, like people everywhere in the world, cannot thrive on the belief that lasting solutions to their problems will come from outside.
5. The deep inequalities in Africa between the elite (both urban and rural) and the ordinary people (both rural and urban) constitute impediments to the enjoyment of full democratic rights and freedoms, even where formal democratic processes and structures are in place.
I am sure that others can discern additional facts that the professors will agree on. My questions, then, are: What exactly do they disagree on? What are the critical issues waiting to be debated? Another question: Why are all the debaters men? What do our women professors have to say? Are we missing something by their absence? How can we have a truly "democratic" debate without hearing the women's perspectives? Will the esteemed professors be kind enough to answer these questions?