Abdulai Mansaray: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 February 2021:
The US Senate is about to start the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Trump has hurriedly assembled a second cartel of attorneys to fight his corner, after the first batch declined to use his now infamous “Stop the Steal” argument as the main basis of his defence.
No one needs a reminder that after failing to prove his bogus claims in courts that the election was fraudulent, Trump became the chief conductor of the January 6th events. The world watched in disbelief to see the High Priest of democracy, defile and desecrate the alter of democracy.
Thankfully, Trump and his acolytes failed, although the battle goes on. Following that sad day, many wondered whether America has the moral authority to comment on other democracies around the world. No one needs a reminder or a catalogue of America’s flirtation with democracy throughout the world over the years.
It is an irrefutable fact that America has pursued democracy, the American version by clandestine means, including coup d’états, internal uprisings, mutinies, etc. The joke is that due to covid travel restrictions, America decided to organise one at home on January 6th instead.
But January 6th was no laughing matter; for the implications and repercussions of Trump’s transgressions will have far reaching rippling effects around the world. Although January 6th was an American affair, “what happens in America stays in America” does not seem to portend. As if on cue, but more ironically, the military in Myanmar has seized power and detained prominent members of the ruling party, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The coup follows weeks of intense friction between the army-backed opposition and the government. After losing the parliamentary elections, the army backed opposition demanded a re-run of the elections, citing widespread fraud, just like Trump. The electoral commission did not back their call, hence the military takeover. Sounds familiar? Ehn……sort of.
This sounds like the military in Myanmar read chapter 4 of Trump’s manual. Is anyone still in doubt that Trump is a dictator with American citizenship?
President Joe Biden has understandably wasted no time in condemning the military, that “force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election”, and that “The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”.
The United nations, The UK, and European Union leaders have all condemned the military take over. Is it not refreshing to hear the world sing in one voice……again? What would have been the response from Trump, if he had been in charge? Flowers for the coup leaders?
Meanwhile, China, Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand have described the military takeover as “an internal matter”. Hazard a guess on the common denominator.
It is barely two weeks since Joe Biden officially became the 46th President of the United States. It is barely three weeks since America withstood an attack on its democracy. As a self-proclaimed Chief Rabbi of democracy, and after conducting a domestic test drive on how to overturn the will of the people and failed, America is now called upon by default, to do the same abroad. It is not surprising that President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions on Myanmar. America was instrumental in forcing the then Burma to the table of democracy, with life denying sanctions. It finally shed its military rule in 2011 and this saw the lifting of sanctions and return from political wilderness.
So, is Myanmar about to become the first graduate from Donald Trump’s University? Are the military leaders trying to test the pulse of American democracy? Are they testing America’s supposedly return to world leadership, a position that Trump so recklessly relinquished?
Just when you think that Joe Biden’s in-tray from Trump is chaotic enough, another slip lands on his desk. When you consider that among others, Biden has to renegotiate the Iran Nuclear deal, return America to the Climate agreement, re-jig trade deal with china; in addition to domestic issues around immigration, Covid, Trumpism etc, you would be forgiven to think that Biden’s job advert should have read “ An experienced political handyman required. Previous applicants preferable”. Joe Biden has his hands or his desk full; and I am beginning to lose my propensity to envy him.
But there is also the small matter of Aung San Suu Kyi, now detained leader who gained universal support during her 15-year detention until her release in 2010. She became an icon of democracy and a beacon of light, especially for women in politics. She even received the Nobel Peace Prize for her steadfastness. She epitomised and personified the fight for democracy.
Sadly, and rather disappointingly, she went to bed with the military leaders immediately after she became one of the ruling members. Not only did she refuse to condemn the atrocities against Muslim Rohingya minority, but Aung San Suu Kyi also became the chief apologist for the military leaders. Now she is about to find out “that no matter how well you swim beside a crocodile, he is not your brother”; and that “leopards never change their spots”.
What does this mean for other regions, especially Africa?
Contesting election results is a favourite past time in African politics. We use them as curtain falls to mark the end of election cycles and the unceremonious exits of opposition leaders.
But with Africa having monopoly on the longest serving rulers in the world, fed by their unquenchable thirst to remain in power till death us do part, what does the future hold for this continent? We saw how the military made a dash for power in Mali.
In the recently concluded “selection” in Uganda, Museveni 76, detained his challenger Bobi Wine before, during and after the “selection”. With the likes of Alpha Conde 82 (Guinea), Paul Biya 87 (Cameroon), Alassane Quattara 79 (Cote D’Ivoire) etc, all taking matrimonial oaths to die in power, will the army be the new format to contest election results? We all hope to God -no.
Considering that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms, no one is advocating military rule, which is equal to the worst civilian rule. With the exception of Kenya a few years back, it is an alien concept to overturn election results that favour the incumbents.
With Trump and his acolytes ready to fight on with their ideology of America First, the test for America is now universal. Trump spent his four years disparaging allies and embraced authoritarian leaders. The Capitol riots damaged America’s tag as the beacon of democracy.
But as Biden embarks on telling and showing the world that America is back, the crisis in Myanmar and Russia will test Biden’s credentials to show that America is back.
Many will be encouraged by his election as a champion of democracy, while the January 6th insurrection will give a reference point to those who question America’s position as the self-proclaimed beacon of democracy.
Joe Biden should take comfort, that the world is with him, and ready to speak with one voice. Sometimes, politics can be too important to take seriously.
Don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
Mr Smith, you are spot on in your observation about the lack of separation of powers in the three arms of government in some of our African countries . Democracy and the respect for the rule of law is a slow process to build. Once it takes root, it is hard to uproot. There was a time Africa used to be plagued with Military coups and civil wars. Since the end of the cold war, we have seen a drastic reduction . In some African countries, freedom of the press and respect for the rule of law is a huge challenge for journalists and the civilian population alike. Rome wasn’t built in one day. It takes hundreds of years to try and make it perfect, With trials and errors. And learning from your mistakes. Naturally, humans are always evolving. And adjusting to challenges at all times. Even the United States – more than 200 years of its foundation, is still trying to perfect their union. Its a painstaking, grueling and slow process.
For Sierra Leone, we started experimenting with it after the end of the brutal RUF civil war. So I will say our democracy is still in its infancy stage. There are lots of trials and tribulations ahead, but if we stay focused our country will get there. That is why we pressed Bio to obey the constitution and respect the rule of law. The building blocks are there. His government and any other future governments, just have to build on what is already written in our constitution. That is the only way we can guarantee the princple of government of the people, by the people and for the people. More than anyone, our country deserves it. If these principles are adhered to strictly, and term limits observed without any form of collusion with the military like in the case of Zimbabwe during the Mugabe era, the militay came out before polls and suggested if the opposition wins under the leadership of Morgan Tasvangiria, they will not support that transition and will not accept him as their commander in Chief. Because majority of the high ranking Commanders of the military were former comrades that fought with Mugabe during the Rodeshian, now Zimbabwe liberation wars under the ZANUPF party.
We see the same thing happening in Uganda as the military took sides with Museveni, their former comander of the rebel NRA that fought their way to Kampala to overthrow the then military leader Tito Okello in 1996. Museveni, was asked back then why not negotiate? His answer was, the trouble with African leaders, once they taste power, they don’t want to give it up. Today those words sound hallow, given Museveni don’t want to give up power. He recently promoted his son to the top echelons of the military. So he is guaranteed support, never mind what Bobi Wine and the young electoate that wants him out think. Power corrupt, power corrupt absolutely.
I beg to differ with the OP. A semblance of democracy has taken root. The issue at hand is the corruption of the African political elite.mAlpha Conde,Ouattara, Museveni et al were all champions of democracy, however, they were corrupted by power.mAn analysis of what causes the above scenario, would reveal that to the African mindset, presidential elections are tantamount to democracy. Therefore, as long as there are regular elections and time limits. All is okay.
The concept of democracy is based on the rule of law, which is backed by the seperation of powers, that is the judiciary, legislature, and executive branches should be seperate. Unfortunately, the above scenario is non-existent at the current time.
No one expected Trump to concede for losing the November 2020 presidential elections. For months leading up to the November election, he told the press he will not concede if he loses, because it means the election has being rigged by the Democrats, the Liberals and fake news media. It is not his style to concede anything, even in the face of defeat. Let’s face it, even when he won the election against Mrs Clinton back in 2016 and went on to occupy the White House, Trump throughout his four year term continued to promote mad conspiracy theories about the elections he won. Here is a man ewho wants to have it both ways. Have his cake and eat it too.
The rot to American democracy did not start with Trump, but it was put on steroids by his pronunciations, helped by an army of conspiracy theorists, that inhabit the ecosystem of the Internet and who believe the 9/11 attacks were staged. He is all given oxygen, thanks to social media platforms. Back in the 70s and 80s, Africa had more life presidents than the few we have today. His behaviour emboldened the Generals in Myanmar, a country of 54 million people, that was experimenting with democracy after it was ruled by an oppressive Military dictatorship from 1962 to 2011. Now they have just gone back to what they are used to. Paul Biya, Conde, Museveni and Ouattara are endangered spices in the political climate we are in today.
Democracy and the rule of law has taken firm roots in the continent. Any ruler that tries to undermine those pillars that underpinned those democratic principles will find themselves on the wrong side of history. And the young ones demand more freedom and accountability from their governments than any other time in the history of our continent. Any president who stands in the way, deserves to be shoved out of the way.