Top of the Blogs 2017 #9

Also available in Deutsch

This week’s Top of the Blogs is all about empowerment of citizens. The first three blog posts all discuss obstacles a (so-called) democratic society has to face. Be it the implementation of fair elections, the acceptance of an apparent unpopular vote or the way a child becomes an engaged citizen. The fourth story tells us about a woman who has empowered herself and become the first female mine-owner in West Africa.

Rwanda’s election outcome is already decided
“More of a coronation than real contest,” author Filip Reyntjens quotes the Kenyan daily The Standard in his blog post about Rwanda’s presidential poll slated for 4th August. A constitutional amendment was made in 2015 concerning presidential term lengths. The changes effectively allow President Paul Kagame to stay in power until 2034, by which time he would have ruled Rwanda for 40 years. All this is underscored by the latest Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) report in which Rwanda got a mere two out of ten for “free and fair elections” and “effective power to govern”, and three for “association/assembly rights” and “freedom of expression”.

Democracy – the worst form of government…
A short, but crisp piece by Jacques Rousseau, lecturer at the University of Cape Town. He argues that “you can’t like democracy only when you happen to agree with the decisions taken by an electorate”. Taking the Brexit as an example he makes clear that Parliament would be acting without a mandate if it were to ignore the vote. Even though there were many opinions about what went wrong with campaigning, the simple majority vote and uninformed voters to explain the decision away. However in a democracy one respects the voter’s will, no matter what, says Rousseau.

Malawi set out to give students skills to support democracy. But it’s not been easy
Raising children to be democratic citizens is not an easy task, especially in a patriarchal society like in Malawi. Author Peter Ngwinjo W. Namphande, lecturer at the University of Malawi describes a big gap in what pupils are taught about democracy and what they experience in reality. Children are brought up to conform to dictates of adults and are cautioned against questioning their decisions. A further consequence is that students will acquiesce to authoritarian practices from people in positions of authority. This may facilitate the resilience of autocratic practices – in schools and beyond, Namphande speculates. To tackle this problem he suggests that teachers should be sensitised to resolve tensions between the roles of students as young citizens and as children.

West Africa’s first Woman to own a Mine
From modelling to mining: quite a change in daily business, but Guinean Tiguidanke Camara has become West Africa’s first woman to own a mine. The entrepreneur who has been ranked by France’s weekly Jeune Afrique among the 50 most influential businesswomen in Francophone Africa, has also become a role model in a region where more than 80% of girls are illiterate. Furthermore she supports women’s co-operatives and business associations.

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