Author Archives: Papua Post

Why Western-style democracy is not suitable for Africa

In the West, the basic economic and social unit is the individual; in Africa, it is the extended family or the collective. –George Ayittey

(CNN) — Western-style multi-party democracy is possible but not suitable for Africa.

There are two forms of democracy. Democratic decisions can be taken by majority vote, which is the Western form. It has the advantage of being transparent, fast and efficient. But the downside is that it ignores minority positions.

The alternative is to take decisions by consensus. This has the advantage of taking all minority positions into account.

However, the demerit is that it can take an awfully long time to reach a consensus the larger the number of people involved. Nevertheless, the Nobel Peace Committee and the World Trade Organization (WTO) all take decisions by consensus.

So too do many traditional African societies. Just because a group does not take its decisions by voting does not mean they have no understanding of the essence of democracy.

In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the winds of change swept across Africa, toppling long-standing autocrats.

In our haste to democratize — and also as a condition for Western aid — we copied and adopted the Western form of democracy and neglected to build upon our own democratic tradition.

The Western model allowed an elected leader to use power and the state machinery to advance the economic interests of his ethnic group and exclude all others: Kenyatta of Kenya and the Gikuyu, Moi of Kenya and the Kalenjin, Biya of Cameroon and the Beti, Eyadema of Togo and the Kabye, to name a few.

Virtually all of Africa’s civil wars were started by politically marginalized or excluded groups.

At Africa’s traditional village level, a chief is chosen by the Queen Mother of the royal family to rule for life. His appointment must be ratified by the Council of Elders, which consists of heads of extended families in the village.

In governance, the chief must consult with the Council on all important matters. Without this council, the chief is powerless. If the chief and the Council cannot reach unanimous decision on an important issue, a village meeting is called and the issue put before the people, who will debate it until they reach a consensus.

The village assemblies exist among various African tribes including: the Ashanti of Ghana, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Somali, the Tswana of Botswana, the Shona of Zimbabwe, the Xhosa and the Zulu of South Africa.

If the chief is “bad” he can be recalled by the Queen Mother, removed by the Council of Elders, or abandoned by the people, who will vote with their feet to settle somewhere else.

Traditionally, African kings had no political function. Their role was spiritual or supernatural — to mediate between the cosmological forces: the sky, the earth and the world, each of which is represented by a god.

The king’s role is to propitiate these gods and maintain harmony among them. If the sky god is “angry” there will be thunder, heavy downpour, floods, etc. That would mean the king had failed to perform his function and off went his head (regicide).

Africans could have built upon this system. In the West, the basic economic and social unit is the individual; in Africa, it is the extended family or the collective.

The American says, “I am because I am.” The African says, “I am because we are.” The “we” denotes the community.

So let each group choose their leaders and place them in a National Assembly. Next, let each province or state choose their leaders and place them in a National Council.

Choose the president from this National Council and avoid the huge expenditures on election campaigning that comes with Western-style democracy. Those resources can be better put to development in poor African countries.

Next, let the president and National Council take their decisions by consensus. If there is a deadlock, refer the issue to the National Assembly. This type of democracy is in consonance with our own African heritage.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of George Ayittey’s.

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  3. facebook.com Tribal Models of Democracy 1
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Why Western-style democracy is not suitable for Africa was originally published on PAPUAPost.com

MOU between Israel and PNG will enable Visa Free Travel

EMTV – According to a press statement by the Papua New Guinea Israel Jewish Council, ‘Israeli Nationals will not require visas to enter PNG ports for 60 days and PNG Nationals will not require visas to enter Israeli ports up to 90 days.’

The Visa Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic, Service/Official and National/Ordinary Passports, is an agreement that was signed between Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato and his Israeli counterpart.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill stated that “…there will be no more visas required for Papua New Guineans and no visa required for Israelis coming to PNG, so you can arrive here without a visa and you can automatically come and visit the holy sites — so that’s very good news for Papua New Guineans.”

The agreement between the State of Israel and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is seen as a boost to bilateral relations.

“It is important that our diplomatic relationship to be lifted to the next level — we want to open up a new embassy here. We are hoping that Israel will also open up a small embassy in Port Moresby for the Pacific region.” He added.

Israeli President, Benjamin Netanyahu, reaffirmed PNG that Israel was willing to give it a prime spot at Jerusalem, and not Tel Aviv where all other diplomatic missions are located.

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MOU between Israel and PNG will enable Visa Free Travel was originally published on PAPUAPost.com