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Intolerance Contravenes African Traditional Values. Don't You Agree?

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

In many African countries, intolerance by ruling governments is increasingly becoming common in almost all spheres of human life. That is despite recent Constitutional reforms that paved the way to modern multi-party democratic systems. So far, there are three broad manifestations of intolerance by some ruling governments in Africa, namely:

1) Intolerance against legitimate contribution by official opposition parties in policy making and implementation

2) Intolerance against people's individual choices and decisions about their lives and society at large hence individual freedom

3) Intolerance against freedom of press

We will elaborate as thus.

First, some African governments hence ruling political parties have been accused of disrespecting and systematically harassing opposition political parties through using national security organs like the police as if they were their affiliates, buttressed often by absence of independent judiciaries. Particularly, members of parliament belonging to opposition parties, including their leaders, are perpetually arrested by police and prosecuted for exercising their Constitutional role of keeping ruling governments on their toes through criticizing what they believe to be incorrect government moves. As such, many ruling governments are becoming increasingly authoritative and dictatorial, becoming almost totally intolerant to any views from the legitimate opposition camp and the public, that differ from those of their own.

Second, some African ruling governments are said to deny citizens their individual freedom, often in the guise of ensuring national cultural continuity, peace, and national security. Using this excuse as rationale, some ruling governments in Africa are busy telling their people what to do with their lives through patronizing prescriptions about appropriate lifestyle, dressing styles, what to say in public, what to post on the social media, etc.

Third, suppression of freedom of press by ruling governments is becoming increasing common in some African countries. Journalists who publish locally or internationally, material that among others: criticize government's policies or actions; reveal blunders or weaknesses of governments or leaders; or simply present views different from those held by governments or leaders; are often persistently harassed by security agents in various ways or even prosecuted for fabricated crimes. Also, news and media companies that publish material that are seen as hostile to governments, are either suspended or closed down.

From the foregoing, some ruling governments in some newly democratizing African countries clearly violate individual freedom and the very essence of concept of multi-party democracy. In countries like Tanzania for instance, there was, reportedly, more individual freedom during the one party system than at the moment. Tanzania adopted multi-party democracy in 1992. The reason for this situation in Tanzania could be that the one party system then partly borrowed from the African traditional model of governance and development under the iconic banner of Ujamaa. That allowed for some traditional African values that embodied patience, tolerance, dialogue, respect, empathy, etc. to flourish within the modern one party society. During that era, people talked to each other with respect even if they had different views about things and situations. The political elite were also flexible, so when time rendered the one party system irrelevant, they accepted it with dignity and peacefully allowed a shift to multi-party democracy.

The questions we are emphasizing here and proposing a debate about them are these.

1) Why are ruling governments in some African countries with multi-party systems becoming increasingly intolerant about things that existed hitherto emergence of multi-party democracy, that former one party governments successfully reconciled without making big deals about them?

2) Given the fact that previous one party governments in Africa often embraced to certain extents traditional African ways of doing things as illustrated by the case of Tanzania, could one argue that intolerance by ruling governments witnessed in some democratizing African countries at the moment, contravenes the very African traditional values and norms that the governments paradoxically claim to safeguard?

Lets us debate this!

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