By Glanis Changachirere
We are living in a world where the majority of the electorate and the consumers or benefactors of government policies are popularly known as the born free generation. In Sub-Saharan Africa this particularly refers to generations of young people born after political independence. And young people constitute 70% of the region’s population, qualifying it as the youngest globally. The irony of this is that young people remain the least represented and least active in democratic processes across the continent. In the current context where democracy is generally facing a decline in the continent, the youth generation is blamed for lacking an understanding of political ideology, hence older generations remain gatekeepers of political processes that shape the nature of democracy in the continent.
I do not intend to demean our political orientation, but the way I have seen the unfolding of African politics, especially in the 21st century, I would argue that our politics is no longer rooted in any strong political ideology. As such, in the absence of political ideology as a grounding force in a context where electoral democracy takes precedence, I think ensuring human dignity and people’s freedoms in totality should be the pivotal point of our politics. Here is why I think so:
Politics in Africa in the 21st century has become a zero-sum game in which those who control state power and its security machinery are driven by the desire to continue holding on to power for personal benefit. Their continued hold on power benefits them in numerous ways as follows; it gives them the power to enjoy control and ownership of a nation’s economic resources; gives them immunity from the countries’ judicial systems; helps them thwart the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens, to ensure the poor remain poor so that they feel indebted to the politicians at the dangle of a once off carrot – the Stalinism approach to attract political support of the poor. Above all, the bonus is for all these issues to help them stay ahead of alternative political players, young people included. They do not care about social rights and neither do they care about citizens’ political power outside the ballot and their ability to keep them on check. The rampant levels of corruption and approach to political power across the continent is a testimony to how politics has become a zero-sum game. It is a politics that does not seek to uphold any Ubuntu or democratic value. As a result, the majority of younger generations do not relate with such a type of politics, which continues to fuel youth apathy in political and democratic processes. For young women, the political space becomes a no-go area as the political culture is characterized by violence.
Faced with such a reality, it is important that the young citizens of Africa take responsibility to reclaim their power and chat about the course of their countries and what they stand for. Defending and promoting our values of Ubuntu that ensure human dignity, freedoms and citizen agency in our societies should be the basis of our politics. Acknowledging that democracy and respect for human rights and freedoms is no longer a foreign concept in the continent, but is really who Africans are, have always been and should remain, as defined by the underlying concept of Ubuntu which unites Africa.
As the World commemorates World Youth Day for Democracy, how young people should reclaim and reposition themselves to restore democracy in Africa becomes the question central to our challenge. The question indeed presents young people with a huge task that requires a critical thought process and reality check. First, I think that it is a question that requires us the young citizens of Africa to take responsibility at a personal level. Second it requires that those who are organizing to defend and promote our Ubuntu values of freedoms and human dignity critically reflect and challenge our approach to such a political context.
As part of that challenge to community organizer strategies, it is key to ensure that we challenge our own prejudices to avoid reinforcing the same oppression that we are fighting against. We should ensure that as we struggle for democracy, our actions and spaces must encourage inclusion of all young people, and resist from resorting to violent measures and discriminating young women in the process.
Young people need to be mindful of the rhetoric that politics is a dirty game and need to not forget our collective duty to shift that mindset within ourselves, as it fuels apathy and throws away our responsibility to step up in the political arena and take charge to shape a political culture that reinforces democracy, for our benefit and that of future generations to come. The time to act on the challenge is now and young women and men should start daring to occupy the political arena and strengthen our civil actions towards reclaiming democracy. And taking lead in all fronts to steer the continent towards its democratic future. It is #YouthNow, to guarantee the future of Africa’s democracy by providing leadership today, the present matters!
*Reposted from blog with author’s permission*