By Engel Nawatiseb
The Vice President of Swapo Party, Dr Hage Geingob , says the strengthening of democratic values within the global society promotes human dignity, stability and development.
Geingob stressed that the same values should recognize and command respect amongst fellow citizens.
The Member of Parliament recently slammed critics suggesting that he and other Swapo members have been caught in an undemocratic political “web” and remained speechless in an “opportunistic” manner.
Geingob blasted one critic, namely South African based Dr Josef Diescho for conducting “misanalysis” on his political foundation.
According to him, democratic rule and governance are clearly manifested in the Swapo leadership style similar to the African way of upholding democracy.
“It should be stated that Africa is on the march and that democracy is taking root on the continent – we are taking an active role in identifying and solving our problems. Africa and Africans are now determining their own narrative and defining our own and taking responsibility for our progress,” said Geingob.
With the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), he added, Africa has clearly set an agenda for development but will continue to work in partnership with the international community although the partnership in Africa’s context should be based on mutual respect and mutual accountability.
Pointing to the economic sector, Geingob felt that although some economic progress has occurred, poverty remains the root cause of Africa’s problems.
According to him, the positive growth seen in recent years falls far short of the seven percent growth that NEPAD says is necessary.
Higher economic growth is essential to make investments in health and education that will improve the well-being of people.
“We are observing a continuance of the dependency syndrome, whereby African leaders and governments ask partners for assistance without bringing their own resources on the table,” he said.
Geingob said the expansion of electoral democracy is evident with more presidents given retirement packages upon leaving office while there is less tolerance for corruption and there is a greater demand for transparency.
He stressed that non-state actors are playing a more active role, and there is greater respect for and the upholding of human rights and civil liberties and the press is increasingly vibrant with more free speech including criticism of leaders.
The African Union (AU) and regional organizations, he added, are taking the lead in crisis situations.
The AU this week dispatched an envoy to calm the post-election stalemate that caused rioting and violence in Kenya, killing almost 600 people recently.
On a continental level, the AU is increasingly setting a normative environment that promotes good governance and democratic participation, hence the need for regional cooperation and continental and regional institutions to promote and support unity and democracy in Africa. Geingob pointed out that regional economic groupings have also been active in trying to improve governance and democratic participation as well as further development on the continent.
“Amongst many others, they have promoted the harmonization of economic policies, and collaboration on law enforcement and political agreements concerning migration and the movement of people. Recognizing that there can be no development without peace and security, both regional organizations and the AU have been actively engaged in peace negotiations and in peacekeeping operations.”
Geingob, also the first Prime Minister of Namibia, represented the African continent at many international forums including the summit of the Community of Democracies in NewYork, USA recently.
He said the Community of Democracies could promote the institutionalization of democracy in Africa by encouraging and supporting the efforts of those working for democracy and political inclusion on the continent.
The progress already made should be acknowledged and governments should be encouraged to strengthen democratic processes, systems and institutions.
This is important to encourage the spread and deepening of democracy throughout Africa and the world.
Other valuable assistance the Community of Democracies could render is to advocate action on the part of the international community to advance both democracy and development in Africa.
It could encourage greater levels of financial and logistical support that would enable the AU to undertake peacekeeping operations and promote stability on the continent.
According to Geingob, increased assistance would help African countries reduce poverty and meet millennium goals while support for NEPAD could signal a determination to help Africans help themselves.
Partnership support could equally enhance market access for African products and reduction in subsidies by industrialized countries would create a more equitable international trading regime in which African countries can compete.
“The Community of Democracies can also support Africa’s march forward by forcefully campaigning a write-off of African debt so that countries can again begin with a clean slate. These measures are important because prosperity will support and sustain democracy in Africa.”
Geingob went on to say: ” Building institutions of democracy takes time, it is also costly, which makes it a particular challenge for African countries given the level of poverty. But the seeds of democracy have been planted in Africa, and there is no turning back now, progress may be uneven and slower than one might like, but nonetheless it is progress.
“For this reason, we can be optimistic about Africa, but for optimism to yield results, we must face up to the challenges and redouble our efforts to address them.”
An independent analyst on democracy in Africa, Abdoulie Janneh is of the opinion that the immediate challenge facing African countries after independence was to recreate, from colonialism, appropriate state systems and institutions that would respond to the great expectations of freedom and development that independence was supposed to bring.
The objective realities of state capacity, he said, and the determination of the erstwhile colonial powers to maintain exploitative economic and political relations with their former colonies were instrumental in undermining African states “efforts” at development.
But for Geingob, in most African countries, people are demanding better services from their governments and civil society is finding its voice and governments are finding that they have to actually deliver on their electoral promises.
“Our party is a living example of the implementation of the promises contained in our election manifesto, and although development does not translate overnight, visible positive changes were introduced after independence by the Swapo Party Government,” said Geingob.
Turning to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Geingob stressed that forceful action against the HIV/AIDS pandemic is another challenge because without concerted action, it could continually threaten to undo the hard-won gains made.
“We still have not fully come to terms with the potential effects this disease can have on the continent. HIV/AIDS is not a health problem, but a political, social and economic problem that must be placed front and centre of our efforts and those of our partners,” said Geingob