Mr Frederik Willem de Klerk, former President of the Republic of South Africa, on Tuesday said African countries might need to evolve their own special forms of democracy to suit the special needs of their people.
He said: “I have the greatest admiration for both the American and British democracies but the point I am making is that they should not be so quick to pontificate to Africa”.
Mr de Klerk said this in Accra during the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) post Supreme Court verdict lecture on the theme: “Fostering peace, national cohesion and reconciliation after the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana”.
He said that there was often an enormous chasm between western protestation of democratic rectitude and their actual practices back home.
“The fact is that there have been many unseemly episodes in the recent democratic history of the United States. The success of candidates is all too often determined by the size of their election funds and the effectiveness of their spin doctors,” he said.
“Constituency boundaries are routinely gerrymandered to benefit incumbents and there have been frequent allegations of jiggery-pokery – even in the outcome of presidential elections,” the former President said.
Mr de Klerk said the British democratic system took hundreds of years to evolve – and in the process there were revolutions and deposition – and at least one king had his head chopped off.
He said: “In particular, it is important for African democracies – with their complex multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious populations to avoid the trap of majoritarian domination.”
Former President de Klerk said many of the problems that continue to beset African countries had their origins in the fact that colonial borders often encompassed widely different cultures and religions one of the perennial problems is the accommodation of this diversity.
He said democracy worked well in relatively homogenous societies where parties are elected into government on the basis of their policies – rather than on ethnic or religious affiliations.
Former President de Klerk said it did not work so well in societies that are deeply divided by racial, religious and linguistic distinctions.
He said in such societies, minorities often find themselves in a situation of perpetual exclusion from government because of their inability to secure parliamentary majorities in general elections.
“Dominant majorities – often spurred on by hubris or historic grievances – are too often inclined to ignore the interest of minorities and to impose their own will and agenda on society as a whole. We are now watching what appears to be the unraveling of Egypt’s brief experiment in majoritarian democracy,” he said.
Former President de Klerk commended Ghana for being one of the first African countries to adopt a robust multiparty democracy since 1992.
The lecture was attended by former President J. A. Kufuor and was chaired by Dr Charles Mensa, IEA Board Chairman.