Is Democracy A Luxury Africa Can Afford ?

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Written by Staff

From TheVoice. Story by Dotun Adebayo.

Democracy is a luxury for developing nations, said Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean leader who died recently.

He’s credited with turning his city state from a colonial backwater into one of the most economically successful countries in the world. But that came at a cost to democratic ideals.

If you opposed him you got locked up in jail without trial. He publicly flogged juvenile delinquents and, heaven help you if you didn’t flush the public toilet after using it. And yet, Singaporeans were mourning his death like it was all a price worth paying to make them one of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced countries.

Is democracy sometimes a luxury for developing nations?

Dr Henry Kissinger seems to think so. Over and over I pressed him on the undemocratic excesses of his good friend, the late Singaporean leader, but he refused to denounce the methods used to turn Singapore into a country where there are no beggars and no homeless (you can get locked up for that too in Singapore), stating instead that Lee Kuan Yew was faced with difficult circumstances that called for drastic measures, however unpalatable.

Is democracy a luxury that only developed nations can afford?

It’s a question to every African. In a time of crippling austerity where we see tens of thousands of Africans prepared to risk life and limb crossing the hazardous Mediterranean Sea in flimsy vessels, just to beg a bread in Europe, it’s a question worth considering. If our people can be rich, giving up a penchant for Western democracy and our legal rights might be worth it.

Like in Gambia, a country where the people better watch what they say if they don’t want the country’s military dictator to shut their mouths for them. People are still poor in Gambia but the country is West Africa’s most successful tourist destination… And with 10 or 20 more years of authoritarianism Gambia might be the African Singapore. It’s certainly small enough.

As my 14 year-old said in our family’s pre-election debate around the kitchen table recently: “Basically everybody wants to earn as much money as possible….”

Yes, but at what price? Hands up all those who say they would rather be rich than live in a democracy with a rule of law.

Read more at TheVoice.