WHY AND HOW TO AFRICANIZE WESTERN DEMOCRACY: RE-DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE CONTINENT VIA TRADITIONAL LEADERS

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By Chris Zumani Zimba (UNILUS-PHD Scholar; OSNA-MA; UNZA-BA; and ZIDIS-CERT)

Introduction

Given that we defined and discussed what constitute Africanization of western democracy in the previous article, we believe that it is now ripe for us to discuss how this hybrid political project can be pragmatically operationalized. Overall, the argument remain that various Western democracy promotions in African under the auspices of the Bretton Woods flags can be consolidated and guaranteed to deliver in the region if the political architects of this project could build it on the ancient foundations of traditional structures and other local systems.  Practically, this could be implemented in one of the following approaches:

  1. Africanization of Western democracy through federalism and Chiefdom decentralization:

Switzerland where frequent referendums form the main basis of legislations for national and local governance could be a classic example on how to Africanize western democracy into the hands of the local people. As small as it is, Switzerland has 27 unique traditional democratic political systems constituting of one (1) federal-national system and twenty six (26) cantonal-states systems. With reference to governance decentralization, many African states could learn something from the Swiss unique direct democracy model which treasures frequent referendums and popular initiatives on national, cantonal and communal levels especially if this could be operationalized at chiefdom, district or provincial level. In a federal system, senior chiefs could play a critical role in supplementing and sobering democratic systems and practices if they could be given more legislative powers or/and executive latitudes as equal actors alongside elected political officials.

What is wrong with constitutionalizing referendums or other forms of direct popular participations at chiefdom, district or provincial level where collective villages, townships or district could have legislative powers to decide their own welfare and destiny? Operationalizing a Swiss like direct democracy model at chiefdom, district or provincial level could make Western democracy more acceptable and sustainable in most parts of Africa because of the following two main reasons.  (i) Most Africans are permanently attached to chiefdoms and fully respect these ancient structures with their blood, clanships, ethnicity, names, languages and personal identifications. (ii) Generally, Africans are culturally heterogeneous and traditionally conservative to the extent that this decentralization of power at chiefdom or district level would make them embrace and defend democratic tenets with easy in their respective different indigenous cultures and traditional styles. In this way, western democracy will be customarily be contextualized, locally impregnated and operationally consolidated as well as sustained under a federal government.

  1. Establishment of traditional leaders as permanent legislators in a bicameral system:

What is called the ‘house of chiefs’ in many African states today is a locally perpetuated colonial structure that could be used to restore legislative powers for and to traditional leaders on non-partisan and non-elective basis if transformed to become part of the mainstream legislature.  What is wrong with creating a two chamber legislature with a lower house (for elected parliamentarians) and an upper house (for chiefs and other non-elective actors) in Africa like in UK? The sad political reality is the betrayal and mockery were most European and American democracies have true faces of European and American culture while African democracies have no indigenous and traditional governance colours. As substantive legislators in a bicameral system, chiefs could possess equal powers with politicians on crucial governance matters like administrative laws for land, minerals, forest, fish, alcohol, investment priorities, education, public health, citizenship or the regulation of national taxation, smoking, marriages, war, budgeting, external borrowing and infrastructure development in line with broad federal binding guidelines.  Such political modifications and institutional integrations where chiefs participate in bicameral legislatures could localize and solidify Western democracy in many African unitary states without any doubt.

  1. Establishment of traditional leaders as permanent legislators in provincial parliaments in a federal system:

In an event that a state decide to adopt a federal system like in the case of the United States of America, such African countries can Africanize and consolidate their respective state or provincial democracies by designating key traditional leaders as permanent legislators in provincial parliaments within the broad African federal system. In the United States, each state has its own parliament and is governed by the regional laws that are initiated, debated and passed by the state parliament. For Africa and with the inclusion for key traditional leaders as equivalent legislators on a non-elective basis, Western democracy could ride on this model to become more legitimate and sustainable in the region.

  1. Establishment of traditional leaders as permanent top executives under the provincial and districts governments

Whether in a unitary or federal system, the substantive role of chiefs in governance can be restored on non-elective basis either as permanent chiefdom superior leaders or district executive kings where they could constitutionally be mandated to perform similar roles as designated top government officials.  It cannot be wrong to Africanize western democracy by infusing chiefs as regional royal governors at executive level on equal basis with cabinet ministers, district governors or elected local/regional politicians. Certainly and by pragmatically integrating them into mainstream local governance, this can give and boost the legitimacy and credibility of democracy in many places across the region.

  1. Other proposed models of Africanization of Western democracy

In addition, there are could be other models that can be piloted in the quest for Africanization of Western democracy such as (i) Establishment of a council of senior traditional leaders to embody the head of state role on a rotational basis; and (ii) Establishment of traditional leaders as permanent top cabinet ministers under the central government. In other words, it is important to remain intellectually generous and open minded of how to Africanize and consolidate democracy in Africa.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we realize that one or a combination of the above recommendations could be pivotal and ripe in promoting and consolidating Western democracy in Uganda, DR Congo, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Lesotho, Morocco, Ethiopia, Botswana, or Nigeria if properly and objectively executed. This approach is critical and important because, as long as Western democracy remained Western in Africa, its lifespan will be made very short while its purpose, relevancy as well as efficacy will be aborted either in the foreseeable or unforeseeable future in many parts of the region. Hence, Africanization of Western democracy in these proposed models.

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