By Janina Broker
The beauty of democracy is the inherent mutual relationship necessitated for it to actually exist. There is a consensual relationship which makes governments and the people equally dependent upon each other.
The people need the government and its strategic work in delivering an acceptable society through the allocation of economic resources, but the government can only do so when democratically elected and given the power and support from the people. This bond is vital for democracy to continue to flourish.
The citizens must play an active role in any democracy; in politics and in civic life. Mutual dependence must indubitably be the fundamental relationship between those who govern and those who are governed – after all, the politicians are elected to represent the people.
The right of the citizens to hold their leaders accountable for their actions when in office is necessitated in any democracy. Moreover, there must be rule of law that shall apply equally to all, and human rights must be protected. These are the commonly agreed to standards that must accompany any democracy.
This utopia (yes, I do believe that true democracy with all of its features is utopia), however, it is never flawless in practice. The specific condition of the participation of all citizens in political and civic life that must underpin every state that calls itself democratic is what I want to highlight here.
Having inevitably heard several pre-election debates and sentiments expressed whilst here in Ghana so close to the presidential election, I discern an overwhelming majority of people being of the opinion that politicians lie and they are good for nothing. The infrastructure is poor, the supply of electricity unreliable, and so on. Promises are made, and promises are broken.
Can an individual change this? No. Politicians can, they make the promises. But wait, weren’t the politicians dependent upon the people to be able to exercise this kind of power? Is the role of politicians not to represent and serve the people? Yes!
And this essential part of any democratic society must not be undermined! The responsibility is twofold. Politicians should be held responsible for their actions by the citizens, but unfortunately this does not always come easy. Nonetheless, this is a democratic necessity.
In existing democracies today, both new and old, clashes between governments and citizens occur repeatedly. In France, they termed the violent riots in the suburbs of Paris in 2005 an “urban warfare”. In Sierra Leone, the struggle towards peace and real democracy took over 10 years and the World Bank claims the main reasons for the conflict was corruption and alienation.
More recently, the fatal clashes between South African miners and the police in August of this year shook the not too long ago apartheid-ruled nation – no matter the reason of the dispute, they do indeed also occur under democratic reign, and they never truly come sudden.
Societal and economic problems are hotbeds for social mobilizations, whether peaceful or violent in nature. Governments need to be sensitive to issues of social dismay, and aware that the people of any state in this world will not accept being mistreated or disrespected.
The people of any state make up the society without which the government would not exist at all. In a utopic democracy, violent clashes between government and citizens would never occur, because mutual respect and dependency would reign.
If citizens feel that their voices are being heard, and the government realizes that at all times, then they should be accountable for their decisions and actions before its citizens, so that social and economic issues prompting citizens to adhere to violence would be very rare.
Being that Ghana has such a fantastic history of peace, relative to other countries on the continent, the democratic dispensation in Ghana sets a great example for other nations, although there is a long way to go. But if Ghana can be an example for other nations, as well as inevitably move their own country forward by pushing the government through peaceful means, mobilization without violence would grow stronger and the accountability of politicians would be impelled through the demands and expectations of the citizens.
My point is that the frustration of any one group of citizens in any society must be channeled into something constructive, letting the frustration not only get a forum for discussion, but moreover be turned into non-violent practice to enable the strengthening of the voice of citizens. Even though all governments might not welcome this, it is a crucial part of democratic practice.
International pressure can only do so much, because never will a government be forced to stand accountable for their actions, in a way that the very citizenry that elected them to power will let them know that they (citizens) are not satisfied.
I am not suggesting that inducing any government in the world is an easy task, as democracy, regardless of how advanced and deep-rooted, is always a two-sided practice. One side alone cannot achieve democracy on its own.
Regardless, in any one society of this world, the true meaning of democracy must never be forgotten. It is a constant process of interaction, and neither one of the sides must forget the importance of the role that they have in achieving the best society possible.
Ghana already possesses so many great features of a true democracy and has been successful in maintaining peace. Ghana has been doing comparatively well on issues of accountability and transparency. Welfare is on the political agenda and the rhetoric of political leaders displays high ambitions regarding the development of the welfare system.
What is more, the natural resources of this country can support the nation and its citizens, and also create a truly prosperous democratic and welfare state. Never should the citizens of any country undermine the beauty of freedom of speech and thought, opportunities and choices, and never should one be afraid of embarking on a road of change for the society that is ones’ home.
Ghanaians live in a country were these opportunities exist, and were despite issues of corruption and broken promises by politicians, the opportunity to make change a reality is very much present.
I have always had an interest in societal issues, and even though some people claim they have no interest in what is commonly referred to when mentioning the word ‘politics’, I have always stubbornly withheld that everyone is indeed interested in politics. Politics is everything around you, it is the bed you sleep in and the job you go to, or the job you lack, it is the power cuts that you live with, it is the education you receive or the difficulty for you to attain same. Nothing can be separated from politics, except for love, maybe.
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