VOICE of America’s Straight Talk Africa host Dr Shaka Ssali says most of African leaders fail to defend democracy. And the celebrated journalists says African elections are a sham as they mostly reflect the will of those who count votes.
Meanwhile, Dr Ssali says he has, in his journalism career, interacted and compared notes with Africa’s best minds.
Speaking on Diamond TV’s programme dubbed Costa hosted by Costa Mwansa last evening, Dr Ssali observed that most of Africa’s elections were merely selections because they do not reflect the voters’ precise will.
“The reason is that they (most African leaders) are not confident of who they are. [That’s why] they tend to be autocratic. They don’t do what democracy requires you to do which is consulting the people, listening to the people and they are not in the business of [upholding] accountability. Yes, they will call for elections but really, what sort of elections are those? Are they qualitative elections? Do you find a situation where the results of some of those elections reflect the will of the voter, the will of the people or do they simply reflect [the will] of who counts the votes? That’s why you find in most African countries the incumbent president not losing elections because those elections are basically sham elections; they are selections,”
Dr Ssali said when asked whether or not he saw a sign of African leaders trying to clamp down on democracy by curtailing freedom of expression and media freedom.
“I’m not talking about any particular president or any particular country. We have 54 member countries of the African Union and I do not think that you’ll find more than 15 countries out of those that practice a semblance of democracy as it is described, for example, by one American President Abraham Lincoln who said democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people. [But] the problem is that democracy has ended up being a government of some people, by some people, through some people.”
He added that many Africans did not have opportunities to get an education that would help them to learn and know more about the world they lived in.
“They do not have the kind of information that is required in a democratic society so that you can actually make your leaders accountable because at the end of the day, in a democracy it is the people who have the power and not their representatives, not their presidents, not the judges and what have you. But in reality, it is the other way round; the people who are supposed to be employees of the people are the ones that have power. These people are probably socially, politically and economically insensitive to their own people; they don’t care! It’s just about me. This black American preacher, the Reverend, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, said ‘injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.’ What is needed in Africa is economic justice,” Dr Ssali noted.
And Dr Ssali indicated that he has had an “incredible” journalistic opportunity to learn more about Africa.
“I have had the intimidating experience of interacting with some of Africa’s best minds. I have had the opportunity to interact and compare notes with people that I could hardly dream about. So, it has been an incredible opportunity for me in terms of learning about my continent, learning about the people of Africa and the people who interact with Africa because Africa is not isolated,”
Meanwhile, Dr Ssali advised nascent journalists to research on topics they report on and to be assertive during their course of duty.
“Once people know you as a journalist, especially if you have integrity…This can happen to any journalist anywhere in the world. It’s not only African journalists. You have to practice your journalism in a manner that at least reflects the kind of knowledge that you have. You have to somehow portray yourself as being authoritative in what you are doing – you are a professional. You have to rank very high and that means you have to read a lot, by the way. Make sure that you do not go to interview any newsmaker or any individual, unless you have done your homework on what makes that person tick or not tick,” said Dr Ssali.
“You don’t have to necessarily be aggressive [but] you can be assertive and that will show the knowledge of what you are talking about.”