• July 17, 2023

AFRICA DRIVE FOR DEMOCRACY ELDERS’ RETREAT INNAUGURATION

AFRICA DRIVE FOR DEMOCRACY ELDERS’ RETREAT INNAUGURATION
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JULY 17, 2023, ARUSHA

 

Thank you for your warm and kind introduction.

Her Excellency Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania;

His Excellency Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique;

His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania;

His Excellency Hailemariam Dassalegn Boshe; former Prime Minister of Ethiopia

Our host, the Honourable John Mongella, Regional Commissioner for Arusha;

Officials of the Region;

Fellow advocates for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I feel truly honoured, and it is truly humbling to be in this company of distinguished champions of democracy and aspiring African leaders. Your work, your vision, your commitment to the cause of democracy, good governance and the rule of law, provide so much comfort and optimism for a more peaceful, united, well-governed and prosperous Africa.

As we embark on this historic Africa Drive for Democracy Elders’ Retreat therefore, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to our dear sister, Her Excellency President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, the Government and people of Tanzania, for the warm and typical African hospitality with which we have been welcomed in this strikingly beautiful sister republic. Madam President, we are very pleased that you made time out of your very busy schedule to come all the way here, to be with us, in this famous Arusha of natural attractions, and home to the famous Mount Kilimanjaro. Thank you very much!

We cannot thank enough our esteemed statesmen, my dear brothers, for dropping everything else, not just to join us, but more importantly, to enrich and guide our conversation and approaches. Please, a round of applause for the Elders. I strongly believe that there is a lot we are going to gain from their rich and inspiring experiences.

Madam President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I would like to extend profound thanks to the organisers – The Centre for Strategic Litigation, the Institute for Security Studies and MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation – for providing this platform for us to constructively engage and inspire each other, as we, in our diverse ways, work assiduously to improve democratic good governance in Africa, which lies at the heart of our shared aspirations.

 

But I am not surprised at all, we all share the reality that there is so much going on in Africa that leaves our people with more questions than answers. Developments such as the recent war in Sudan; the persisting conflicts in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and other countries; the spread of violent extremism, the increasing poverty and economic hardship, have left societies and families devastated and buried in the ashes of pain and abandonment.

In the heart of these developments, is the rapid decline of democracy, manifested through state capture of democratic institutions. Legislatures and judiciaries which are supposed to check the excesses of the executive are, in many cases, leading the charge in breaching constitutions to favour undemocratic practices, such as entrenching leaders against the wishes of their people, or use pandemics to their advantage to suppress the opposition and dissenting voices. We are witnessing electoral commissions doing the bidding of incumbent; state security suppressing opposition leaders and supporters.

As a direct impact of this, we are experiencing a growing contention between the state and its youth, civil society and the media, all of whom are increasingly being muzzled. This has, in some instances, paved the way to the re-emergence of the military in several countries on the continent.

But as an anonymous writer noted: “Democracy is a slow process of stumbling into the right decision instead of going straight forward to the wrong one.”  The good news is, the AU and its RECs are far advanced in reviewing their ‘Democracy, Good Governance and security Protocols, which are aimed at effectively responding to the ongoing ills afflicting Africa’s democracy. It could be helpful, however, for those reviews to be expeditiously concluded and rolled out so that Africans could see that something is being done to halt the democratic decline, and restore our beloved continent on the desired path of good governance, peace and development. This will require making the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) more effective and cascading such structure to the regional bodies.

 

Achieving this requires like minds, strong commitment and collaboration. This is why I would like to acknowledge the West African Elders Forum, under the auspices of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, for its noble efforts in mediating political transitions, conflicts and in promoting democracy. The Brenthurst Foundation, based in South Africa, has also been paying particular attention to the nexus between bad governance, insecurity and poverty. We are all in this together because we believe in the transformative power of democracy; because we believe that democracy is not just a system of governance; it is a vehicle of hope, progress, and social cohesion. It empowers individuals and communities alike, and gives them a voice and agency in shaping their own destinies.

No doubts, democracy is not without obstacles, but together, we must confront the challenges that threaten its very foundations – Poor leadership, ineffective citizenship, poverty, corruption, political polarisation, rogue elections, and all their attendant ramifications of social unrest and political instability. It is our collective responsibility, as leaders and advocates, to tackle these issues head-on and work tirelessly to build resilient democracies that leave no one behind.

There are many ways this could be done. This retreat provides a credible and potent platform to explore these solution, harness our influences and pave the way for a future where democracy thrives across the African continent. As we embark on this journey, let us remember the millions of Africans whose faith in democracy is weakening. Let us remember the millions of fellow Africans, who, owing to bad governance, are being pushed away into the hazards of Mediterranean Sea and the hostilities of irregular migration. Let us keep in our thoughts citizens who are routinely forced from their homes, whose livelihoods are destroyed, who are unlawfully incaserated, wounded and killed by those who are supposed to be the ones to protect them.

I am confident that the Africa Drive for Democracy Elders’ Retreat will serve will lay the groundwork for a legacy of democratic values that will resonate with the aspirations of this and future generations.  As it is said, “let the people think they govern and they will be governed.”

Thank you once again for your warm welcome, and I look forward to the engaging discussions that lie ahead. Together, we can forge a path towards a more democratic, inclusive, and prosperous Africa.

Thank you very much!

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