BBC kicks off new monthly program “Africa Debate” in Accra
Participants at the maiden edition of the BBC Africa Debate held in Accra have expressed divergent opinions on whether an African spring, just like the Arab Spring which rocked some north African countries last year is necessary.
While some opined that sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed a number of changes in its democratic dispensation, which can pass for an African spring, others argued that the continent is bedeviled with dictators and leaders who are unwilling to relinquish power and as such must be forcefully removed from office.
A Ghanaian economist who is the author and President of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC, Dr. George Ayittey who was on the panel for the debate, noted that only 15 out of the 54 countries on the African continent can be classified as democratic whiles only 6 out of that number can be described as truly free.
Dr. Ayittey who has championed the argument that "Africa is poor because she is not free” argued that black Africa has had its revolutions in the early 1990's which in his opinion was an African spring.
According to him, the African spring of the early 90's resulted in a peaceful democratic change which saw dictators putting up fierce resistance to any constitutional change in their respective countries.
Ugandan opposition activist and coordinator of the Activists for Change Movement, Anne Mugisha, in her submissions noted that an African spring was needed not because some African countries are tired of seeing the same face on television, but because successive governments in some African countries have not been responsive to the needs of their people.
A fellow at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Ghana, Dr. Michael Whyte Kpessa indicated that “democracy is a process and not an event” indicating that over the last three decades, several African countries had made giant strides in their democratic dispensation.
Dr. Kpessa opined an African spring was not necessary as several countries on the continent had embraced democracy forcing repressive nations to do same.
Kuseni Dlamini, a South African political analyst, who was also on the panel noted that an African spring could not be possible in sub-Saharan Africa because the level of development, education and technology in the Arab world is higher than that in Africa.
He however indicated that a spring should be about the citizenry making their demands for a change in government or otherwise and not the killing of leaders as was the case of Libya.
He called for a more integrated approach from African countries and leaders to deal with the challenges of disease, poverty and democracy.
Retired diplomat, Dr. K. B Asante called for change among Ghanaians, noting that Ghanaians must be allowed to make their own choices. He advocated for a new governance order which should shy from the democratic ideals of the United States and Britain – since Ghana has adopted portions of both countries' governance system in its governance process.
Other speakers including the National Youth Organizer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Anthony Kabu identified youth unemployment as one of the biggest threats to African democracy.
According to him, should an African spring arise, it will be because successive African governments have failed to address this issue of youth unemployment.
The debate also saw various speakers championing the African cause, free from foreign intervention and calling for the removal of African leaders who are unwilling to relinquish power.