Selected students and faculty of the African University College of Communications (AUCC) have participated in the inaugural edition of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) monthly debates at the Kofi Annan Centre for ICT Excellence in Accra, Ghana.
The debate dubbed “Is an African Spring necessary,” was broadcast to about 166 million worldwide BBC listeners and was set in motion by comments from a level 400 student of AUCC, Mr. Bernard Torgbor, who argued that he thought an ‘African Spring’ was uncalled for because there “are better ways to for Africans to their problems without having to move to the streets and ultimately spilling the blood of innocent citizens”.
One of the three discussants of the debate was Dr. George Ayittey, Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC who has consistently championed the argument that "Africa is poor because she is not free."Dr. Ayittey opined that attempts by African countries to democratize had led to different types of ‘springs’ or ‘revolutions’ which had yielded mixed results of either peaceful elections as occurred in Benin in 1991; fierce resistance to change by dictators as occurred in Sierra Leone (1991-2002); the replacement of one dictator with another dictator as is currently happening in Uganda; or a situation whereby dictators clawed their way back to power as Matthew Kerekou did in Benin (1972-1991, returning in 1996) or as Denis Sassou Nguessodid in Congo Brazzaville (1979-1992, returning in1997). According to Prof. Ayittey, democracy could be attained either through majority vote or by consensus. He revealed that consensus as a governance model was widely practiced in Africa before colonialization through the chieftaincy system and advocated that Africans should be left free to change the way they wanted to change and not be forced to accept western forms of democracy which was primarily through majority vote.
The director of students of AUCC, Mr. Ogochuckwu Nweke also reiterated Dr. Ayittey’s views that it was high time Africans went back to the use of consensus as a form of governance.
On the other hand, Ms. Anne Mugisha (Ugandan opposition activist and coordinator of the Activists for Change Movement that organized the "walk to work" protests in 2011 in Uganda) who was also a discussant at the programme, was of the view that a revolution was necessary in African countries like Uganda where the constitution could be changed at will by the leaders to make room for the legalization of the oppression of citizens.
Another member of the panel, Mr. Kuseni Dlamini (South African political analyst) was of the view that Africa has already had its spring during the 1990s when military government in countries like Ghana and Benin accepted multi-party democracy.
At the end of the debate, it was clear that an overwhelming majority of the audience, which comprised mainly of academicians, tertiary level students, senior journalists and representatives of political parties in Ghana, were of the opinion that an ‘African Spring’ was highly unnecessary although a few among them thought that a revolution of some sort was needed in specific African countries.
The debate facilitator was BBC presenter Alex Jakana.
By Barbara Gyamfi